BMW F850GS (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.

 

Even with the strength of the sales chart-dominating BMW R1200GS, its smaller stablemate, the F800GS was still a grand success for the 10 years it’s been around.

All good things tend to be updated and when BMW showed the world its F850GS earlier this year, the smaller GS became a whole lot more tempting than its larger capacity and more popular mate especially for those slightly intimidated by the 1200’s size and buxom horizontal cylinders. If you opt for a decent spec then the tech list is, for most of us, like a restaurants’ wine list – full of things we pretend we know about.

After the media launch you asked to see it up against the Honda Africa Twin (Adventure Sports) and Triumph Tiger 800, so we obliged. And threw in a KTM 1090 Adventure R for good measure – check the video. The first three are new-for-2018 models while the KTM is a year older but without doubt the crown-bearer of this so-called middleweight adventure sector so off from BikeSocial’s HQ in Peterborough we set with mid-Wales our destination, taking in motorway, A-roads, twisty B-roads and some loose gravel-based off road trails.

 

BMW F850GS (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review
Full UK road test of the 2018 BMW F850GS…with a little bit of off-road too | BikeSocial

 

Price

Despite a sub-£10k starting price of £9875, the standard bike is just that, fairly standard. The F850GS Sport is priced from £10,755 and comes with Dynamic Traction Control, three extra riding modes - Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro as well as ABS Pro, Gearshift Assist Pro, Heated Grips, LED Headlight, Daytime Riding Lights and LED Indicators. On the test bike for this review, BMW included Comfort package (Centre stand, tyre pressure computer, heated grips and keyless ride – even though it certainly had a key!) and Dynamic package (Pro riding modes inc. DTC, ABS Pro and Pro shift assistant. That’s ‘quickshifter’ to everybody else). Which all rounds the price tag up to £12,750.

 

Power and torque

93.7bhp @ 8250rpm and 67.9 ft-lbs @ 6250rpm is a hearty increase over the 85bhp @ 7500rpm / 61 ft-lbs @ 5750rpm of the outgoing F800GS represented by the 55-extra cubic capacity care of the increased bore and stroke of the redesigned parallel twin. In the Dynamic riding mode, the throttle response is sharp and livens up the tight and twisty curves of the Welsh countryside, working in harmony with the 229kg of very well balanced (wet) weight.

Given the range of riding modes on offer with a flick of a button, the power impact adjusts accordingly so when moving from road to dirt the throttle application softens and is just one of the key features at the BMW’s disposal. As you’d expect from a car-focused company, the technology, ergonomics and screen on offer here is second-to-none.

 

BMW F850GS (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

A brand-new motor for 2018; the new 853cc twin-cylinder features a whole heap of changes from the outgoing 798cc version including more horsepower and more torque. A new crank layout, firing order (270/450 degrees) and two balance shafts make for a more entertaining character, a throbbing soundtrack when on the pipe plus added smoothness. It’s oh-so easy to use too – very compliant and amenable. The twin is vibe-free, pokey when required and eerily quiet off the throttle. It’s a breeze to ride without luggage and a pillion which should be its natural state. Any more weight and the torque might not be able to offer a similar level of dynamism. Cruising around the Welsh valleys and the natural curves of the road mean every rider is forever switching direction while on or off the throttle yet the BMW laughs in the face of potential hazards.

Using the whole rev range in the lower gears brings rewards – aurally and physically. The quickshifter is just ok in low revs but with a new and lighter slip and assist clutch action, I’d recommend a quick flick of the lever between first and second both up and down the ‘box for a more refined transition. Or you can just brace for the jolt.

 

Economy

Given that the BMW can hold just 15 litres of unleaded it does use it economically with mpg’s ranging between 55 - 63mpg recoded on test which equated to approximately 170 comfortable miles before that orange light glows and you immediately start worrying about the nearest petrol station – don’t panic, you still have a good 40 miles left and the striking TFT display offers a count down.

 

BMW F850GS (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

The pièce de résistance is the superb electronic suspension package. Yes, it’s another extra on top of the stock bike but worth every penny because it transforms the bike. ‘Dynamic’ mode is soooo appropriately titled because of the way it transforms the throttle sensitivity and firms up the suspension encouraging a sportier stance behind the bars and more aggressive steering and braking along some of the finest B-roads in Europe (fact; The AA named the B4574 from Rhayader to Pontarfynach in their Top 10 Most Scenic Roads in the World).

Do you know what I like about BMW? It’s their attention to detail. Drop the old F800 (or F700 for that matter) and you’d be picking it up on its left side, a common occurrence in the muck and mud, and that meant leaning the hot exhaust against you – so with the F850 (and F750) the exhaust is on the other side and the chain has switched sides too. Neat.

 

Comfort

An impressive riding position with multiple seat height options (815 – 890mm thanks to various seat options, though bear in mind these are separate seats and not one that is adjustable) gives plenty of leg room even for me at 6ft tall. The ‘waist’ between the front of the seat and the fuel tank is narrow enough and the peg position, while high enough not to be dragging on the floor at lean (see the Triumph for evidence), still allow for a good amount of leg room. The lack of leg-stretching after 150 motorway miles is testament to the BMW’s comfort. The bars are set at an ideal distance from my body and are wide enough to store all those fab buttons and gadgets. Heated grips, easy-to-use instruments, a clear and bright display all makes for a comfortable and pleasing ride but the teeny tiny screen is a waste of effort.

 

 

 

Equipment

From heated grips to electronically adjustable suspension and what appears to be a 6.5” HD TV impersonating an instrument panel that can act as a telephone or media centre too, the BMW comes up trumps. As you’d expect from the German marque. It blows the Honda and KTM – it’s rivals on this test – into the water. The Triumph’s is good, very good in fact, but not quite in the same league as the BMW. Operating it is relatively simple, there are still a plethora of buttons, switches and dials which may prove daunting to begin with but the whereabouts of the traction control or how to find the current tank’s mpg all becomes second nature soon enough.

Gear assist pro is a little clunky in the low revs but, like most systems, works perfectly when under plenty of load. Then there’s the neat touches like LED headlights and indicators while options include an extra three riding modes on top of the two standard ones, plus tyre pressure sensors and keyless ride. It has all the tricks…but at a price.

 

Off-road tendencies

Despite the wire-spoke wheels and semi-rugged appearance plus the fact that it’s the 850 and not the 750 (cast wheels), the BMW is never going to conquer the rugged hills but when met with some light trails or gravelly roads then a flick of button and the rider mode can be changed to Off-road and away you go. Such a simple transition and the results are beneficial too. It’ll soak up the bumps with that plush electronic suspension and the stock Bridgestone A41’s are decent enough to plough through the smaller, slippery stones. Faced with anything thicker or stickier and it might struggle but on the easy stuff and for a less proficient off-roader like me I soon gained confidence with the electronic assistance. Give the throttle a big handful and the rear would spin enough to make you feel like a Dakar god but you know the clever computer would be chuckling inside thinking ‘I’ve got this, you muppet!’.

The standing position was easy to acclimatise to with the bar raisers, footpegs and narrow-waisted seat/tank ideal to control the weight as the bike moved around beneath. The rear brake lever and gear shift are adjustable making it even easy to cope with, bespoke for your liking, sir/madam. It’s a manageable machine and unintimidating, even for an off-road muppet like me.

On the test we were tempted to swap the OE rubber on all four bikes for some Pirelli Scorpion’s kindly donated by the Italian rubber firm but in the spirit of fairness as well as the fact that most owners of these four bikes wouldn’t be swapping tyres when going on the rough stuff, we stuck with the originals.

BMW are rumoured to be producing an F850GS Adventure which could well be in the public domain within the next 3 weeks and that could be the answer if potential F850GS customers fancy a bit of off-roading too.

 

 

 

2018 BMW F850GS verdict

For a highly capable bike that is very easy to ride and less imposing both physically and price-wise than a 1200GS, then the 850 is a marvellous and logical choice but only once it’s been specced properly, though that would equate to £3,000 over the starting price. With a comfortable riding position, a suite of electronics to match the 1200 and lovely, smooth engine, there aren’t many better choices for a sub-1,000cc off-road looking on-road adventurer. Yes, it has the right look, ride height, suspension adjustments and electronics to conquer green lanes and dust tracks but to satisfy any more severe off-road requirements, look out for what BMW must surely announce soon, an F850 GS Adventure. It’s a little bland to look at but a treat to ride.

 

Three things I loved about the BMW F850GS …

• Strong, versatile engine

• Suite of available electronics

• Plush riding position

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• Fly screen and its wind protection

• Uninspiring styling

• Tank range

 

2018 BMW F850GS spec

New price

From £9,400 (£12,750 as tested)

Capacity

853cc

Bore x Stroke

84 x 77mm

Engine layout

In-line twin-cylinder

Engine details

Water-cooled 4-stroke, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts, dry sump lubrication

Power

94bhp (70kW) @ 8,250rpm (A2 restriction available)

Torque

68 lb-ft (92Nm) @ 6,250rpm

Top speed

125mph est.

Average fuel consumption

69mpg claimed

Tank size

15 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

200 miles

Rider aids (as tested)

Comfort and Premium packs plus TFT and Connectivity

Frame

Bridge-type frame, steel shell construction

Front suspension

43mm Upside-down telescopic fork. 204mm travel.

Front suspension adjustment

n/a

Rear suspension

Cast aluminium dual swing arm, central WAD spring strut. 219mm travel.

Rear suspension adjustment

Spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable, rebound damping adjustable

Front brake

2 x 305mm discs, two-piston sliding calipers. ABS (dynamic optional)

Rear brake

265mm disc, one-piston caliper. ABS (dynamic optional)

Front tyre

90/90 R21 Bridgestone Battlax Adenture A41 R

Rear tyre

150/70 R17 Bridgestone Battlax Adenture A41 R

Rake/Trail

28°/126mm

Dimensions

2305mm x 922mm 1356mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1593mm

Seat height

860mm (four other options from 815 – 890mm available)

Kerb weight

229kg

Website

www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk

 

To insure this bike, click here

 

PICS: Chippy Wood

 

BMW F850GS (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review
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