New F850GS Short Term – Initial Thoughts
Contributed by: Pete Stace-Smith (Ambassador- High Road Vancouver & Langley)
After owning, riding and loving a 2010 F800GS for the past 9 years and 45,000 km, I wanted to update my ride to a newer version. There had been many changes in the 8 generations of GS’s after mine and the new F850GS was yet another big leap ahead of my current bike.
My 2010 F800GS. The moto that took me on many great adventures.
This “mid-sized” adventure bike market had expanded quite a bit over the past few years, so I looked closely at the other offerings from Honda, KTM, Yamaha, Triumph, etc, as well as the new F850GS. I’ve got to say that after riding my F800GS for all these years and enjoying it so much, I was already leaning towards the BMW line unless one of these other brands really WAS better. BMW had consistently set the benchmark for mid and big adventure touring motorcycles, and for a good reason.
After looking at all the other brands and moto’s at the motorcycle show and spending a lot of time on the Intenet watching reviews of these other bikes by qualified editors from motorcycle magazines etc I zero’d in and re-confirmed that the new F850GS really was the best choice for my next 10-year bike. With the thought that “we live but once” and I wanted to continue my adventures on something newer and as it turns out safer, I ordered my new F850GS earlier this spring.
My new 2019 F850GS – fully loaded and out enjoying my first big adventure on it.
At the time of ordering the bike, there were a few additional fully functional items that after years of having on my older bike I knew I just had to add. These included changing the tires over to more aggressive gravel friendly tires, a skid plate, engine guards, metal insert type hand guards, rear racking for bags, and of course tour bags. After looking at these for a few years and using them on my “small bike” I made the change over to the BMW Atacama “soft panniers” (instead of TourTech hard alloy cases). So far these are awesome! Other small additions are more personal – suited to my specific bike set up, and these changes or additions included oversized Fastway footpegs, a hard-wired and powered RAM mount for my Garmin Montana GPS, my SPOT mount, AltRider headlight protector and oversized rear brake tab. As you can tell, all of these items are not “farkles” but truly functional additions to an already awesome moto.
So… now that I’ve got my first 5000 Kms on this new bike, and 3,000 of this was on a week-long camping adventure trip – with full tour gear – I think I can safely share with you my initial thoughts of this awesome new motorcycle.
First the PLUSSES;
- The huge improvements in safety technology, including programmable ABS braking and the various settings of Traction Control and Automatic Stability Control (that knows what’s going on when the bike is leaned hard in a corner and adjusts and tunes the above mentioned ABS and Traction Control quicker than you ever could ever react in a sketchy situation. I love it !!!
- Having multiple “ride modes” at the push of a button near my right grip including “ROAD” “RAIN” “ENDURO PRO” etc that automatically adjusts power output, traction control, and ABS is just good peace of mind. Those smarty pants German engineers have done good work. I switched modes on the fly many times after popping off a gravel road onto paving, or visa versa. FUN !!
- Electronic Suspension Adjustment… after selecting one or two riders, with gear or no gear, road or off-road, etc, the suspension completely adjusts to factory pre-set heights and spring rates. A big step up from a single wind knob on the rear of my F800 to tighten spring pre-load only, and no front suspension adjustment period.
- Cruise control. I didn’t think I’d ever need or want cruise control on a moto, but OMG is it handy on the highway or cruising through small towns to think about a speed you want and simply touch it to lock on. Small adjustments up or down – or complete and quick shut off is done a bunch of different ways and is very intuitive.
- The linear strong power… I believe this moto is close to 20 HP higher than my old F800GS, but it doesn’t hit hard like 20 horse more may if not designed right. This bike just continues to develop strong usable power and torque from about 3000 RPM up… and boy does it GO !!!
- Gear Shift Assistant (Speed Shift) Pro… I smile here as when the sales guys were telling me about this, I shrugged and replied that I knew how to use a clutch and that “feature” didn’t really interest me. Boy was I wrong. When a quick “get up and go” through a few gears is needed (highway on-ramp) to be able to simply hold the throttle open and shift seamlessly IS smoother than using the throttle and clutch. Same with heavy downshifting and braking… just close the throttle and start banging down through the gears. The computer auto blips the throttle at key shift points, and not only does it WORK well, but you’ll sound like an absolute pro shifter. Ahhh, technology.
- Automatic Tire Pressure Sensors that display your front and rear tire pressures up on the dash so you can check these while rolling… that’s just cool. A few times on this recent off-road trip, I thought I may have a flat tire, but scrolling through the fancy TFT screen and checking tire pressure on the fly put my mind at ease and I could understand it was just rough terrain.
- Center stand is now standard… A must on a fully loaded adventure bike. This was a $300-$400 option back on the old F800’s. Nice…
- 3 settings of heated grips… sound pretty posh and maybe unnecessary, but let me tell you. I’ve used them all so far and I like the range of temperature options now available. But then again, I’m a bit of a cold wimp…
- Keyless Ride. Ahh, modern technology. Key stays in my pocket or tank bag.
- LED lighting… Love it. I just like good lighting to be seen better. I hope to not use it at night too much.
- Cross spoked tubeless wheels are just icing on the cake – gold anodized on my color choice of moto. Super strong design. I’m stoked.
- Oh and… you’d laugh. I haven’t figured out how to use the factory Anti-Theft Alarm System, but the new bike comes with it, and I will… I’ve finally figured out how to use most of the beautiful TFT screen display… so please just give me a few more weeks or months. Haha…
And, what I thought maybe some negatives, but really weren’t…
- My first big worry was that the new F850GS had a smaller gas tank than the older F800GS had by 2-1/2 liters, but… due to maybe better EFI programming and/or engine efficiency, I’m still getting 300 + km per tank – which is a pretty good range for an Adventure Moto. Turns out, not really a negative.
- Gas “up high” vs “below the seat”… Again I thought this bike would feel quite a bit more “top heavy” because of this change in design, but in reality, it doesn’t. Actually moving a bit more of the weight forward on the moto eliminated a slight speed wobble that all the older F800’s had between about 115 and 125 km/hr. Not unsafe, but noticeable and annoying… this is now gone. Again, not really a negative.
And the negatives?? Well, to be honest, there isn’t many.
- Weight… the new F850GS is for sure heavier than my old F800GS. The printed data shows that this bike is 35 Kg’s or 77 lbs heavier than it’s older F800 brother was an even more surprising only 7 Kgs less than the R1250GS !! WOW… Once rolling the bike feels planted, solid and even “nimble”, easily as good as the older F8, but you can’t hide that weight at low speeds, pushing the bike around or picking it up (god forbid you have laid it down somewhere)… I’m hoping that means this new F850 is just way “overbuilt” if the weight is that close to its bigger R1250GS brother.
- And Torque… Probably my biggest complaint on the new bike is the lack of torque between 1000 and 2500 RPMs. Getting off the line or starting on a hill involves revving it and slipping the clutch more than I’d ever had to before on the F800. On the old bike, you could almost just dump the clutch and go… it’d just tractor along. If you try this on the new F850 it will immediately cough and stall. Maybe this is something they can adjust with computer programing and engine tuning at a later date? I’ll have to look into that… Again, I’m getting used to it, and someone new to this bike (not having come off an F800) would most likely never notice this, but I have and do.
For me, the many positives (mostly safety related that have trickled down from the F1250GS’s) far outweigh the negatives. It is a very cable mid-sized Adventure Moto that seems like less mass and size than the R1250GS bikes – despite being close in weight. My first 5000 km has been super fun – both on road and off – and I’m really looking forward to another couple of good sized multi day adventure rides coming up soon.
If you are considering getting into this market, updating – like I did – or upgrading from a lesser bike, I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND this new F850GS as a super cool bike to get on.
Get out to your nearest BMW dealer (Vancouver BMW or High Road Langley) and test ride one of these beauties soon. Tell em Pete SS sent you in.
Happy riding, hope to see you out there. Rubber side down my friends,