Heath tested the new F 850 GS for BikeReview.com.au and now he has stepped it up with an F 850 GS Adventure review... Test: Heath Griffin Photography: Dean Walters
After riding the standard BMW F 850 GS a few months back at the Australian launch in Victoria’s Macedon ranges, I was so impressed that I declared it top of my list of potential new bikes to purchase in 2019. Read the 2019 BMW F 850 GS review here.
So when I was invited to test the Adventure version alongside the new R 1250 GS range last month, I was excited to see how it compared to one of my favourite ADV bikes. For the launch report of the R 1250 GS & Adventure see: Launch: 2019 BMW R 1250 GS & GS Adventure Review
Key differences for the F 850 GS Adventure include a larger 23L fuel tank, which increases the range to around 550km, larger two stage adjustable height screen and hand guards for improved wind protection, wide enduro footpegs, comfort seat, engine protection bars and a stainless steel luggage rack.
These features are all designed to contribute to enhanced long distance capability and comfort, so on paper the F 850 GS Adventure looks to be slightly more touring biased than the standard F 850 GS.
Sharing the same all new 853cc parallel twin engine, with 90 degree crankpin offset and 270/450 degree ignition spacing as the standard F 850 GS, you get the same V-twin mimicking sound, feel and character that makes BMWs new middleweight such a punchy, torquey and flexible motor.
The RbW throttle is snatch free even from fully closed and the anti-hop clutch is light to operate and helps keep the rear wheel under control on corner entry. Multi-level DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and ASC (Automatic Stability Control) complement this engine perfectly, helping to maximise grip and drive while still allowing some rear wheel steering when you need it. I love this engine in the dirt.
It’s feel, sound and performance are loads of fun, and it just seems to have everything I need in all off road conditions. On the road it lacks the outright power and torque of it’s R 1250 GS big brother, however you have to be travelling on some pretty open roads at well over the National speed limit to ever find it wanting. A HP exhaust is available as an optional extra and I think the enhanced engine note and character it provides is well worth the outlay.
As with the F 850 GS, BMW’s Gear Shift Assistant Pro is available as an option with the Dynamic Package and Lights Package. This system was fitted to my test bike and allows clutch-less shifting both up and down gears. The system works flawlessly on upshifts under acceleration, and downshifts when braking with a closed throttle, however I did find it a little notchy and inconsistent when using a partial or trailing throttle.
In those conditions I still preferred to roll the throttle a little for upshifts or use the clutch when downshifting for a smoother action, however I’d still want the Gear Shift Assistant Pro on my bike, as it’s a big advantage most of the time.
Again the rider aids and connectivity technology on the Adventure model are exactly the same as the new F 850 GS. Pre-set rider modes include Rain and Road as standard, with Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro modes available as optional equipment. I used mostly the Enduro Pro mode throughout our test, which allowed for tuning the throttle response, DTC and ABS Pro for rider preferences.
With a bit more GS experience under my belt on this test I found some slightly different settings that I felt worked better for me in certain conditions. While on the F 850 GS launch I had turned the DTC off entirely for hill climbs, and mostly ran with no ABS on the rear on the dirt, on the Adventure I experimented some more and found that I could actually leave traction control active even in steep slippery hills and still maintain momentum and drive.
I also started using ABS on the rear wheel on faster sections of dirt, as this helped a lot in keeping the rear under control on hard braking corner entries, and reduced my stopping distances in slippery conditions.
BMW’s optional 6.5-inch full colour TFT dash allows full integration, monitoring and operation of the bike’s systems, and also Bluetooth compatible smartphones. The BMW Motorrad Multi-controller thumb wheel, mounted on the left handlebar adjacent to the handgrip, allows easy control over all electronic systems and is intuitive to use with a glove on while riding, without causing undue distraction.
Highlights include; electronic adjustment of the suspension settings (if fitted as an option) and rider modes, trip computer, fuel level and range, tyre pressure monitoring, as well as the usual speed, rpm, and pace oriented corner by corner arrow navigation via the free BMW Motorrad Connected App. When paired to a Bluetooth equipped helmet or earbuds you have all the same options to communicate on your phone or listen to music or podcasts as you would in a modern car.
Performance of the twin front 305mm discs with two-pot Brembo calipers, combined with BMW ABS system, was faultless in all conditions, and I never found it wanting for power or feel. The ABS is unobtrusive and I couldn’t actually tell it was working, other than the fact I never managed to lock the front wheel under braking no matter how late I left it.
On the rear I struggled to get a good feel for the locking point at higher speeds when the ABS was turned off, however there is a simple solution for that, which is to leave the ABS on, as it works fantastically well to eliminate locking, and also seems to improve feel.
The downside is that I do like to lock the rear to assist turning the bike in the dirt at low speeds, so when the trail is varying you can’t have a perfect setting for all conditions. What would be great is a system that allows the rear ABS to be active at higher speeds, but inactive in tighter corners, and I’m sure the way this technology is heading this will be possible in the not too distant future.
Using an identical monocoque, bridge style frame, which incorporates the engine as a stressed member, as the standard F 850 GS, the Adventure varies only in the increased 230mm travel and slightly stiffer setting of it’s torsion resistant 43mm upside down fork.
This slight alteration to the suspension is designed to allow for the increased weight of the Adventure model’s larger capacity fuel tank, while the centrally mounted rear shock with WAD (travel dependent damping) has hydraulically adjustable preload, to allow easy changes when adding a pillion or luggage.
While the F 850 GS Adventure is very similar to the standard F 850 GS in most respects, the extra weight, carried high up, does make a significant difference to the off-road handing characteristics, most notably in low speed and more technical riding situations.
The performance of the chassis and suspension in more open, high speed conditions is still very neutral and stable, and I had masses of fun sliding and drifting this bike through the fire trails, and jumping table drains, even with a full kit of hard panniers on board.
Through single trail and steep hill climbs and descents the higher centre of gravity makes itself felt, and it’s a more difficult package to handle in these conditions than the standard model, however I’d still much rather be on the F 850 GS Adventure in these conditions than any of the R 1250 GS range. The suspension is well set up for the heavier weight in most conditions, however the forks and shock will bottom out if you hit larger obstacles at speed, which is to be expected of a bike of this size and weight.
I love the rugged stylish look of the F 850 GS, and with the huge 23L tank and alloy crash bars the Adventure version looks even more tough and purposeful, especially in the tri colour Lupin Blue Metallic colour version, and with off-road tyres fitted.
The unique pitchfork LED headlight only adds to the modern look of the bike, and componentry is all high quality, from the bodywork to the switchgear and extra-large TFT dash. With three-way adjustable heated grips, comfort seat and adjustable screen you can take advantage of the Adventure increased 550km fuel range to ride all day in comfort.
Controls are light and smooth to operate and were natural to locate and operate in seated and standing positions. I’d definitely add the optional taller seat from BMW’s genuine range of accessories for my 195cm height to be more comfortable, however with four different height seats, two different height handlebars, as well as a Low Suspension option available from the factory, there should be a combination to suit just about any stature.
As a long distance tourer the F 850 GS Adventure provides a significant range advantage over the standard F 850 GS, and aside from low speed manoeuvring around parking lots, or picking it up off the sidestand, the additional weight up top is much less noticeable on the tar than it is in the dirt.
Optional aluminium pannier mounts and a full array of hard panniers and top box provide plenty of luggage carrying capacity and the pillion seat is roomy and comfortable to allow for easy two up adventures. On road performance is very similar to the standard F 850 GS with a characterful, punchy engine which is exciting and fun for sports type riding and handling and braking which are good enough to cut some serious pace through the corners.
On the road the R 1250 GS is still an outright better performer, and will carry a big load more easily over long distances, however the F 850 GS Adventure runs it pretty close in all but the more serious high speed open terrain, or where huge distances are a regular requirement.
The F 850 GS was an absolute favourite when I tested it last year and in most technical aspects the F 850 GS Adventure is essentially identical. The small changes made to the Adventure do make a more significant difference on the middleweight bike than they do on the larger R 1250 GS, which I put down to the engine layout and resulting difference in the centre of gravity.
While on the R 1250 GS the extra weight provided by the larger fuel tank and panniers is barely noticeable, on the F 850 GS Adventure that additional weight positioned above the centre of mass is more intrusive, making the middleweight machine a little harder to manage at low speeds and in tricky conditions.
It’s still every bit as fun, engaging and massively capable as the standard F 850 GS, however the longer range and load carrying capacity of the Adventure model does come at a cost to it’s outright handling performance.
The choice between the two is pretty simple though and it comes down to whether you are going to need the extra capacity of the 23L fuel tank. If you need that 550km range then the F 850 GS Adventure will still provide most of the performance and thrills of the F 850 GS, however if your distance between fuel stops is shorter and you’re not going to be travelling huge distances then the standard F 850 GS definitely has enough of an edge in handing agility to make it a better option for more extreme off road riding.
2019 BMW F 850 GS Adventure Specifications
Colours: Ice Grey, Lupin Blue Metallic, Granite Grey Metallic
Price: From $21,280 RRP Ride Away
Warranty: Three-year, unlimited kilometre
Claimed Power: 90hp[76kw]@8000rpm
Claimed Torque: 86Nm@6250rpm
Wet Weight: 244kg
Fuel capacity: 23L
Engine: Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke engine with four rocker arm operated valves per cylinder, DOHC, dry sum lubrication , 853cc, DOHC, 84 x 77 mm bore x stroke, 12.7:1 compression ratio, Riding Modes, ASC
Gearbox: Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox
Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically controlled
Chassis: Steel bridge frame in monocoque design, load-bearing engine, Aluminium double-sided swing arm
Suspension: 43mm USD fork, 230mm travel, directly mounted central spring strut with WAD, preload & rebound adjustable, 215mm travel
Brakes: BMW Motorrad ABS, twin front disc brake 305mm, two-piston floating caliper, single disc brake rear 265mm, single-piston floating caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Cross-spoke wheels, 2.15 x 21in, 4.25 x 17in , 90/90 – 21, 150/70 – 17
Seat height: 875mm
Overall width: 939mm
Overall Length: 2300mm
Instruments: Digital multi-function display, optional 6.5-inch full-colour TFT screen