After a much anticipated arrival, I had the chance to test the new 2019 F850GS for the weekend and, well to be honest, I’m a bit confused. On paper the new F850GS shouldn’t be much better or different than its predecessor the F800GS. Let’s quickly review:
||85Hp @ 7500rpm
||90Hp @ 8000rpm
||61ft.lb. @ 5750rpm
||63ft.lb. @ 6250rpm
So that’s what I mean - the new F850GS has only 5 more horse power, 2 more ft.lb. of torque and is 26 pounds heavier. On paper the new F850GS shouldn’t really be any better. Except as soon as you throw a leg over and hit the start button, things get really interesting...
Having owned 5 different GS’s over the years, one of them being an F800GSA, I have come to have high expectations of anything with a GS badge on it. Also, I have to say that if I am honest the F800GSA always was lacking a little character and a little zip. There were some things that I really liked about the F800GS/GSA like how it carried its weight and its 21 inch front wheel. The F800GS/GSA had this very centralized mass that the bike just pivoted around, and that was in large part due to how the gas tank was positioned under the seat. That 21 inch front made off road riding really easy. Overall the original F800GS was really user friendly, easy to ride on or off road, and very well behaved, but like I said, it just lacked a little character. It also lacked some of the features of the R1200GS so it made it easy to justify an R1200GS, especially the water boxer.
Well the decision just got harder, a lot harder. Let’s dive into what the new F850GS really is and what it’s like to ride. First off the styling has been nicely updated, and there is a nice flash of gold bits for the rear suspension (more on that later). Taking a closer look you cant help but notice the new LED headlight, TFT display for the dash, BMW’s Wonder Wheel on the handle bars, and gas cap where it should be. Oh, I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention Cruise Control, Ride Modes PRO, and heated grips (3 levels of heat, thank you very much). Wait a moment, are those crossed spoke wheels just like big brother’s? Why yes they are, and tire pressure monitors. Yeah completely tubeless, the way it should be! Liking this new F850GS more and more and I haven’t even started it yet. One last thing, not to be overlooked, Keyless ride. Hit the button and watch the display come to life; hit the starter button, and things just got REAL. The new 270 firing order and throaty exhaust is fantastic, but how does it ride?
My first concern was the gas tank being in a different location than the F800GS, but my concern quickly went away. The new F850GS still has that nice stable pivoting around a central mass like the old one, and if I hadn’t seen the numbers I would have sworn the F850GS weighed 30 or 40 pounds less. Just rolling through the parking lot doing some low speed maneuvers this bike feels super light and narrow. Out on the road in evening traffic the new engine pulls hard, revs quickly and sounds fantastic. Again not seeing the number it genuinely feels like it has at least 10 more horse power than the old one. The new 850 engine is very lively. Rolling down the back roads tossing it into turns, the wide bars make it effortless and the chassis is rock solid, even if you are horsing it around... not that I would.
Day two, two up. Yep I always have Pillion Girl come with me on a new bike ride. It’s nice to have a second opinion and well, she is super critical (in a good way) and keeps me honest (as in, keeps me from getting over excited about the new shiny object). I indulge her the Pillion Girl Test Protocol. She is a big fan of acceleration, especially on-ramps and a test I like to call “Fun to the Ton” if you know what I mean. So we roll onto the On-Ramp and she gives me the GO sign and I nail it.
Oh, I might have forgotten Shift Assist PRO, yeah hold the throttle at a constant position and upshift “at will” making the “Fun to a Ton” way easy. All I can say is “holy crap”, two up this F850GS pulls hard, much closer to a R1200GS than the old F800GS it replaces. I got a big thumbs up from the pillion position. On the highway the F850GS is perfectly at home, pick a speed, any speed and it’s a very happy bike. Rolling on to pass a Big Rig at 65m.p.h in 6th gear, plenty of power, drop a gear or two and its GO TIME. Speaking of adding luggage or a pillion rider, remember the shiny gold bits at the rear suspension? Well that’s electronically adjustable pre-load just like its big brother the R1200GS. The suspension also has Dynamic ESA. In road mode it soaks up the bumps in a straight line or corner very nicely. Switch it to Dynamic and it tightens everything up making it feel much sportier in the twisty than one might think. Like I said it feels light and spirited riding through the mountains and even two up, is nothing but pure fun. This is a zippy little bike.
Pillion Girl’s feedback:
- This is a solid bike that handles highway, twisties and dual sport equally well.
- It feels light and agile.
- There is plenty of power and brake.
- “Finally! BMW has listened to feedback about their seats.” No trouble walking after 200 miles on varied terrain (including washboard gravel).
- “When Old Ugly (1150 GS) just can’t go anymore, let’s think about one of these.”
How about the other side of the F850GS, the Off-Road side? The Riding Modes which include (RAIN, ROAD, DYNAMIC, and ENDURO/PRO) switchable on the fly, with the 21 inch front wheel make the F850GS right at home when the going gets tough. It felt so natural at riding off-road, I was up on the pegs like it was an old friend with no thought about how to ride gravely bumpy corners, it just did it. I’m not the greatest off road rider but this bike even makes me good.
In summary, after almost 200 miles, is it all sun shine and daisies? Well mostly yes. If I had one thing to pick at, it’s the lack of wind protection or an adjustable wind screen. That being said the air you get while at highway speeds is really smooth. No real buffeting helmet and at 6’5” I feel like that is saying something really positive. So how do I feel? While I kept taking turns to make the way home longer, I was wondering what skid plates and crash bars were available, and wishing that I had waited for the F850GS to come out instead of trading my F800GSA on a R1200GSA (water cooled). Seriously, the decision between BMW GS models just got really hard… Come ride this bike, it’s that good.