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Review: BMW F 850 GS
The 850 GS is their version of an off-road focussed middleweight adventure motorcycle.
What is it?
First things first, yes, there are two different versions of the middleweight GS. One is called the F 750 GS, which is more road focussed, makes less power and gets slightly less equipment. The F 850 GS is more off-road focussed, makes more power and gets more equipment and is one lakh more expensive at the showroom. What you see here is the F 850 GS in Rallye style colours, which is my personal favourite, and It costs 12.95 lakh (ex-showroom, India).
What powers it?
BMW has plonked a 853cc, parallel twin motor in the 850 GS, which makes 94bhp and 92Nm of torque. The numbers are pretty much at par with the likes of the Tiger 800 and Africa Twin and like the Tiger, it is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Bottom-end responses need you to work the revs, but the mid-range makes up for that little hitch. There’s plenty of grunt on offer, although I wish the top end was smoother. You notice this on the highway, where you tend to rev the motor past 7500rpm and feel a buzz build up at the pegs and the handlebar. This and a gearbox that doesn’t match its peers in terms of smoothness makes it less than ideal for road use.
Do the electronics work?
There is no escaping the fact that all new motorcycles have loads of electronics. In another year or so even our small capacity motorcycles will sport a basic level of electronics. However, what manufacturers work hard towards is making these safety nets virtually invisible. BMW has done just that with the F 850 GS. While the basic version would get only ‘Road’ and ‘Rain’ modes, this one gets two additional modes – ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Enduro Pro’. The names are suggestive enough and they work flawlessly. Apart from allowing more give with the electronics, these modes also turn up the volume on the high mounted exhaust to make it more raspy and push out the odd pop and bang routine. Moreover, the big jog dial and direct control for ABS, traction control and rear suspension setting makes this the easiest interface to use.
How does it do off-road?
If there is one thing that impresses more than everything else, including the cool BMW Rallye colours, it has to be the inherent balance of this set up. You feel perfectly attuned to the bike from the word go. It is one of those, feels like an extension of your arm sort of situations, although I could never imagine what a 230-kilo arm would be like. Let me not digress though, the F 850 GS is incredibly easy to live with, whether you are navigating slow urban traffic, narrow dirt trails or gravel-ly country roads. Setting it to ‘Enduro Pro’ mode is more than enough to have fun on the 850 GS with the tail end hanging loose. There are options to switch off electronics completely, but the preset worked very well for me.
And on the road?
While the F 850 GS works very well on the dirty stuff, it comes shod with proper road tyres. Despite the 21-inch front, it takes on corners well and the narrow front tyre allows for change of direction without much effort. Heat management isn’t too bad either for a motorcycle of this capacity. However, once you are out on the highway, the windscreen proves to be too short and wind resistance builds up rapidly as you pick up speed. As mentioned earlier, the 850 GS also works best in the midrange, vibrations higher up in the rev range become noticeable.
Equipment seems pretty good
Apart from the trademark GS silhouette, the F 850 GS gets proper wire spoke wheels. In case you are wondering, you still get tubeless tyres. There is no adjustment for the front forks, but the rear spring and damper can be adjusted. The 6.5-inch display is bright and looks great with option of connectivity through a Bluetooth app. The 860mm seat height isn’t as high as it sounds, thanks to how narrow the bike is, however, there are options for lowering the seat even further. The rubber inserts on the footpegs are easy to remove and put back and you are better off swapping the windscreen for a bigger one. For some odd reason, BMW has decided to equip the off-road focussed GS with on-road tyres, which is a bit of a bummer. The only other bike that offers more is possibly the Triumph Tiger.
Should I write a cheque?
Apart from the fact that this is lighter than using a R 1200 GS, and feels surprisingly comfortable in the dirt, this is a slightly more affordable entry point at 12.95 lakh (ex-showroom, India). If you are the kind that prefers small village road and staying off the beaten path, the 850 GS is perfect. Or, it will be once you swap the tyres. However, if you want to tour on highways, the F 850 GS isn’t quite the obvious option. We will need to find out, won’t we?
Price: 12.95 lakh (ex-showroom, India)
Engine: 853cc, 2 cyl, water-cooled
Fuel tank: 15 l
Kerb weight: 229kg
Tyres: 90/90-21 (fr); 150/70-17 (rr)
Seat height: 860mm