BMW's 2019 F 850 GS was launched in Australia in the toughest of conditions, to prove just how versatile this full bore adventure machine is... Test by Heath Griffin, Photography by Dean Walters

Middleweight bikes in any category of motorcycle are traditionally seen as a stepping stone and are generally used for a transitional period to allow their owners to gain experience with more power and weight than a LAMS bike before moving on to a full sized big bore machine.

Well, the new F 850 GS challenges this tradition by bringing to the table a level of off-road capability that no large capacity adventure bike can hold a candle to, while still maintaining outstanding all day touring capabilities.

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS is a highly capable off roader. The knobbies are a zero cost option as well.

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS is a highly capable off roader. The knobbies are a zero cost option as well.

Equipped with long travel suspension, cross-spoke rims, optional tubeless knobby tyres (with which our test bikes were fitted, and are a zero cost option), and the only 21in front rim in the BMW range, the F 850 GS is by far the most truly adventure capable machine in the Motorrad stable.

It’s not that it isn’t still perfectly capable of commuting, scratching, and being ridden all day in comfort, two up and with fully loaded panniers, it’s just that it shines so much in the dirt it seems a shame not to divert off into the bush as often as you possibly can.

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS Australian Launch was held in Victoria's Macedon ranges.

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS Australian Launch was held in Victoria’s Macedon ranges.

Located in the picturesque Macedon Ranges, approximately an hours drive NW of Melbourne, our test route was designed to demonstrate just how much adventure can be had on BMWs new mid-sized machine. Covering 200km of mostly off-road riding our day was to take in just about every type of challenge an owner is likely to need to deal with, and the F 850 GS handled everything we could throw at it with surprising ease.

 

Spidi Sale

 

From flat out wide-open fire trails, to tight, twisting bark busting single track, deep mud filled ruts and steep hill climbs with slippery descents the F 850 GS instilled confidence and displayed amazing composure in almost every situation.

2019 BMW F 850 GS - Testing included a huge variety of different conditions and some really challenging sections

2019 BMW F 850 GS – Testing included a huge variety of different conditions and some really challenging sections

2019 BMW F 850 GS – THE RIDE

For me the highlight of this package is undoubtedly the all-new 853cc parallel twin engine. With a 90 degree crankpin offset and 270/450 degree ignition spacing, the layout closely mimics the sound, feel and character of a V-twin layout. Twin counterbalance shafts keep vibrations to a minimum, and any slight vibration you can feel through the ‘bars is low frequency and never becomes intrusive.

2019 BMW F 850 GS - The all-new 853cc parallel twin engine, with a 90 degree crankpin offset and 270/450 degree ignition spacing

2019 BMW F 850 GS – The all-new 853cc parallel twin engine, with a 90 degree crankpin offset and 270/450 degree ignition spacing

Producing 70kW (95hp) at 8250rpm and 92Nm of torque at 6250rpm, the motor is punchy and torquey right through the rev range and is so flexible it seems perfectly matched to any situation. Need to crawl through tight first gear single track or up steep slippery hill climbs? No problem, there is plenty of smooth, traction rich drive right from idle.

Want to show off to your mates, power sliding out of your favourite fire trail bends? Or make up some time blasting along wide open outback dirt roads? The F 850 GS has got you covered.

The F 850 GS produces 95hp, while boasting DCT and ASC

The 2019 F 850 GS produces 95hp, while boasting DCT and ASC

The outstanding multi-level DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and ASC (Automatic Stability Control) are able assistants in all this, helping to keep you safer and maintain forward drive while still allowing plenty of sideways drift and rear wheel steering capability.

RbW throttle is smooth and snatch free even from fully closed and the all-new anti-hop clutch has an incredibly light feel and worked flawlessly in all conditions.

Both the F 750 GS and F 850 GS include a RbW throttle and extensive electronics

Both the F 750 GS and F 850 GS include a RbW throttle and extensive electronics

Speaking of the DTC, there is a lot of rider aid technology on this bike, which certainly helps in keeping a heavy, powerful bike under control in challenging situations. Pre-set rider modes include Rain and Road as standard, with Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro modes available as optional equipment.

We used mostly the Enduro Pro mode throughout our test, which allows the rider to pick, choose and customise settings for the throttle response, DTC and ABS Pro, which allow for tuning these systems to specific conditions and rider preferences.

2019 BMW F 850 GS - well thought out, easy to use switchgear that is great quality.

2019 BMW F 850 GS – well thought out, easy to use switchgear that is great quality.

One example of this is the ability for Dynamic Traction Control to be manually turned off, which is the recommendation when attempting steep hill climb situations, as you don’t want to risk losing critical momentum if the rear tyre starts to lose traction and the DTC kicks in and pulls power out of the engine.

 

CF Moto 650 GT

 

Enduro Pro mode also allows ABS to be active on the front brake only, so that you can lock the rear brake to assist in turning the bike quickly on corner entry. Just be aware that rear ABS should be disengaged with caution, as locking the rear in the wrong situation can quickly get you into trouble on a bike with this much size and weight.

Enduro Pro mode, which comes with the Riding Modes Pro option offers

Enduro Pro mode, which comes with the Riding Modes Pro option offers front only ABS, while DTC can also be disabled

Another new electronic feature on the F 850 GS is BMW’s Gear Shift Assistant Pro, which is available as an option with the Dynamic Package and Lights Package. This system was fitted to our test bikes, and allows clutch-less shifting both up and down gears.

This brings me to my one and only complaint about the entire machine, and that was a slightly notchy shift action when attempting clutch-less gear changes in certain conditions.

The Dynamic Package and Lights Package includes - Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Gear shift assistant pro, Riding modes pro, ABS pro, Daytime riding light, White LED indicators

The Dynamic Package and Lights Package includes – Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Gear Shift Assistant Pro (quickshifter), Riding Modes Pro, ABS Pro, Daytime Riding Light and White LED indicators

Now it must be kept in mind that these bikes had zero kilometres on them at the start of our test, so this action may free up a little over time, but I did find the shifts a little harsh at times when I got lazy with them, and there were some circumstances, such as when trying to maintain smoothness and traction on slippery gravel corner entries, where I found it advantageous to still use the clutch for downshifting.

In all other conditions the Gear Shift Assistant Pro worked flawlessly, and the clutch-less downshift is a fantastic option to have when you need to get down a gear or two in a hurry, such as when you overcook things a little coming into a tight corner entry hard on the brakes, or if you lose momentum on a steep hill climb. In those situations it’s priceless not having to worry about using the clutch, and I would definitely have this option fitted if I were buying one of these machines.

For expert riders there will be situations where disabling the electronic aides helps in really rough conditions

For expert riders there will be situations where disabling the electronic aides helps in really rough conditions

While we’re on the subject of deceleration, the brakes and ABS are another really strong feature. I was especially impressed with the front brake and ABS performance. At 229kg fully fuelled the F 850 GS has a lot of momentum when you get it into fifth and sixth gears on more open trails, and there were a few times during our test when I left my braking point a little late and started to have visions of a brand new BMW cartwheeling through the trees in embarrassing fashion.

I needn’t have been concerned though, as the twin 305mm rotors with two-pot Brembo calipers always got me out of trouble. These provide ample stopping power and impressive feel and modulation, while the unobtrusive ABS helped ensure I never had a single front-end lock-up all day.

Dual 305mm front rotors, two-pot Brembo calipers & 21in spoked front wheel for impressive stopping power backed by BMW ABS and great off road handling.

Dual 305mm front rotors, two-pot Brembo calipers & 21in spoked front wheel for impressive stopping power backed by BMW ABS and great off road handling.

BMW had asked Chris Urquhart from adventure rider training and tour specialists, GS Off Road, along as one of our sweep riders, and he assured me you can in fact grab a fist full of front brake with this system and the ABS will not allow the front to lock. I must admit I didn’t quite have the courage to test that theory, so if you want to give it a go please do so at your own risk!

 

Spidi Sale

 

One of the reasons I did get a little over ambitious on the brakes a few times is that the all-new chassis and suspension give such a nimble and lightweight feel that it becomes easy to forget you are on a full sized adventure bike.

The 2019 F 850 GS is a hardcore adventure bike that will get you more places than the bigger GS range.

The 2019 F 850 GS is a hardcore adventure bike that will get you more places than the bigger GS range.

Utilising a monocoque, bridge style frame, incorporating the engine as a stressed member, torsion resistant 43mm USD forks with 219mm of travel, plus central mounted rear shock with WAD (travel dependent damping) and hydraulically adjustable preload, this handling package provides a neutral and stable ride at speed, while still being relatively quick to turn through slower, tighter sections.

I found the suspension to be very well set-up as standard for my size and riding ability, as it provided a comfortable and sure footed ride over some pretty serious off road terrain. The forks and shock will call enough if you hit a large sharp faced pothole or log at pace, however that’s to be expected of a bike of this size and weight, and as a whole it does an outstanding job in most conditions on and off road.

Styling for the 2019 BMW F 850 GS is a standout particularly with beefy semi-knobby tyres

Styling for the 2019 BMW F 850 GS is a standout particularly with beefy semi-knobby tyres

It needs to be said I love the look of the 2019 F 850 GS. Especially with off-road tyres fitted the bike looks tough, stylish and purposeful, the new ‘pitchfork’ LED headlight is unique and modern and the whole package looks every bit the rugged outback adventurer that it is.

I loved the race bike look of the Light Metallic White, and the Pollux Metallic Matte looks understated and classy, while the Racing Red Metallic of the base model is not my favourite. Each to their own though. Componentry oozes quality everywhere you look from the bodywork to the switchgear, extra-large TFT dash, and my personal favourite, three-way adjustable heated grips, it feels like a premium package all over.

A high quality TFT dash offers cutting edge technology on the 2019 F 850 GS

A high quality TFT dash offers cutting edge technology on the 2019 F 850 GS

Controls are all in the right places, and are light and smooth to operate, and I felt completely comfortable and in control both in seated and standing positions. The seat is all day comfortable, proven by the nine hours riding on day one alone, although for my 195cm frame the taller seat from BMW’s genuine accessory range would be something I’d definitely add as an option.

In terms of adaptability there are four different height seats to choose from, two different height handlebars, as well as a Low Suspension option available from the factory, so no matter your stature BMW can tailor an ergonomic package to suit.

Lower seat height options are available, as well as a lowered suspension setup

Lower seat height options are available, as well as a lowered suspension setup

Also available as an option is BMW’s 6.5in full colour TFT dash, allowing full integration, monitoring and operation, not only of the bike’s systems, but also your Bluetooth compatible smartphone or device.

With easy, intuitive operation via the BMW Motorrad multi-controller (thumb wheel), mounted on the left handlebar adjacent to the handgrip, it allows on the move, glove-on control over all electronic systems.

2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS

The range of display options and adjustments are far too extensive to fully outline in this article, however highlights include; electronic adjustment of the suspension settings (if fitted as an option) and rider modes, tyre pressure monitoring, plus the more usual expectations such as trip computer, fuel level and range, 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 can also listen to your favourite tunes, talk with your pillion or riding buddies, or call someone for a chat. All operated by your left thumb and integrated display.

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS also offers smartphone connectivity with the free companion app

The 2019 BMW F 850 GS also offers smartphone connectivity with the free companion app

While the majority of our riding was spent in the bush, we did get to spend enough time on sealed sections to get a good impression of how the F 850 GS performs on road.

While the off-road focussed rubber we had fitted for the test is not ideal for sports-touring type road riding, we did have plenty of time on the F 750 GS with road rubber fitted to help give a good impression of on-road abilities with the more road orientated rubber choice.

With the more off-road orientated rubber option the F 850 GS was still formidable on the road, but would obviously benefit from the road rubber tested on the F 750 GS at the same launch

With the more off-road orientated rubber option the F 850 GS was still formidable on the road, but would obviously benefit from the road rubber tested on the F 750 GS at the same launch

As a long distance tourer the F 850 GS does everything you would want it to do. There is plenty of capacity to fit masses of luggage and a pillion, and we had already proven it’s all day comfort on our extended off-road ride.

The small screen gives good protection from windblast up to 80km/h, however for my stature I’d be opting for a taller option screen (available from BMW) for long distance touring where you want to be able to sit on 110km/h comfortably for extended periods.

 

Suzuki GSX-R

 

On road the engine is just as flexible and smooth as it is in the dirt and while it doesn’t produce 1000cc superbike levels of acceleration, it has well and truly enough punch to be exciting and fun for sports type riding. Handling, braking, and, surprisingly, ground clearance are all well and truly good enough to embarrass a few sportsbikes through a winding section of road.

The F 850 GS's off-road ability is high and expert riders will appreciate the chassis and electronics.

The F 850 GS’s off-road ability is high and expert riders will appreciate the chassis and electronics.

In fact on a lot of our less well maintained country roads the F 850 GS actually has an advantage over the majority of sportsbikes, in its superior ability to soak up surface imperfections without becoming unsettled.

I did notice a slight tendency for the bike to drop into corners a bit suddenly when pushing through tighter corners, however that’s to be expected on a machine with dual-purpose steering geometry.

Dual-sport geometry makes some small compromises to handling at the extremes

Dual-sport geometry makes some small compromises to handling at the extremes, but that’s the nature of the beast

If the vast majority of your riding is on the bitumen two-up then the big brother R 1250 GS may still be a more appropriate choice, however the F 850 GS is extremely capable and fun on-road, so if you want the advantage of being able to enjoy more adventurous off-road riding, then this new middleweight contender from BMW is going to provide significantly more potential in the dirt, while giving away very little to those larger capacity machines on road.

 

Link Macna Summer CE

 

I guess the real yardstick when testing any new bike is the question of whether or not I’d buy one. I can say the answer to that question is a resounding yes. This is an extremely versatile, capable bike which fulfills its intended purpose more than admirably and is very clearly now the first adventure bike you would buy in the BMW range if the majority of your riding is done off-road.

Most of all the 2019 BMW F 850 GS is absolutely buckets of fun to ride in almost any environment, which for me is the most important thing, as fun is the reason we go riding.

2019 BMW F 850 GS in full touring kit

2019 BMW F 850 GS in full touring kit

2019 BMW F 850 GS model variants

2019 BMW F 850 GS –  From $17,990* + ORC
  • Available in Racing Red Metallic
  • Cross Spoke Wheels
  • Two Riding Modes (Rain and Road)
  • BMW Motorrad ABS
  • Cruise Control
  • Heated Grips
  • Standard Seat Height 860mm
  • Low Suspension Option available
2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS Rallye – From  $18,390* + ORC
  • Available in Light White Metallic
  • Cross Spoke Wheels
  • Two Riding Modes (Rain and Road)
  • Cruise Control
  • BMW Motorrad ABS
  • Heated Grips
  • Rallye Package
  • Hand Protection
  • Standard Seat Height 860mm
  • Low Suspension Option available
2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS Rallye X – From $22,305* + ORC
  • Available in Light White Metallic
  • Dynamic Package + Lights Package
    • Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro
    • LED Headlight, Daytime Riding Light
    • Gear Shift Assist Pro, White LED Indicators
  • Rallye Style
    • Hand Protection, Heated Grips
    • Cruise Control
  • Rallye X Package
    • Dynamic ESA, HP Exhaust
    • Navigation Preparation
    • Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Off Road Tyres
    • Standard Seat Height 860mm
2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS Tour – From $21,805* + ORC
  • Available in Pollux Metallic Matte
  • Cross Spoke Wheels, BMW Motorrad ABS
  • Heated Grips and Cruise Control
  • Comfort Package + Touring Package
    • Dynamic ESA, Keyless Ride
    • Navigation Preparation, Centre Stand
    • Tyre Pressure Monitoring
    • Luggage Grid with Pannier Fastenings
  • Dynamic Package + Lights Package
    • Dynamic Traction Control
    • LED Headlight
    • Daytime Riding Light
    • Gear Shift Assist Pro
    • Riding Modes Pro
    • White LED Indicators
    • ABS Pro
  • Style Tour
  • Hand Protection
  • Standard Seat Height 860mm
2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS

2019 BMW F 850 GS Specifications

Claimed Power: 95hp[70kw]@8250rpm
Claimed Torque: 92Nm@6250rpm
Wet Weight: 229kg
Fuel capacity: 15L

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, 204mm travel, directly mounted central spring strut with WAD, preload & rebound adjustable, 219mm travel (Optional: Dynamic ESA)

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

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 1593mm
Seat height: 860mm
Overall width: 922mm
Overall Length: 2305mm

Instruments: Digital multi-function display, optional 6.5-inch full-colour TFT screen

2019 BMW F 850 GS Gallery

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