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BMW F850GSA Exclusive Review

Review Date - 1st March 2019

By Mark A Collins

A picture of Mark Collins, the author of the review

You're probably asking yourselves "who’s he?"

Me, I'm just like you lot, a fun loving biker who started off on the dirt as a teenager and just never stopped riding motorcycles.

Current Bike : BMW F800GSA – 63 plate

Clubs : Iron Butt Association & Chunky Tread Motorcycle Adventure Club.

Favourite Places : The UK. It has so much to offer and living in the Peak District is a joy. I do like to venture to other places but due to work commitments it's usually Europe.

Just recently I was in the position whereby I had to take the wife's BMW F650GS for its annual service which was going to take approx 4hrs. Those nice folks at Allen Jefferies in Rotherham said "take this out for a good run and let us know what you think?"
 
Even more fortunate for me was the fact that the wife's bike required new head bearings. It had gone over its scheduled time and could not be completed until Monday at the very earliest. This meant I was forced to keep this machine for a few days as time had run out to complete the bike service and repair. 

An air of giddiness came over me but then a thought of dread from telling the wife she would not have her bike to ride over the weekend soon ensued. While I was gearing up at the dealership ready to leave I asked "are you sure its OK to take for such a long period?" 
"Oh yes it's yours to ride until your wife's is ready"
"And would you mind if I give it a good comparison to the one I currently own?" 
"Not a problem sir take it and have fun."

Anyway lets get down to the nitty gritty business of reviewing and comparing this all new machine to the older version which in itself has become an icon.

The F models started out back in 1994 with the single cylinder F650 Funduro range then the GS versions came around 2000. But it wasn't until 2008 that the twin cylinder Rotax engined versions were launched. The smaller F650GS twin & the F800GS twin soon became popular machines for those of us that liked to do a bit of off road and load them up with all the camping gear for a good tour.

Then came the "Adventure model" in 2013 and by then one or two changes had been made to this model in comparison to the 800GS. Mainly a larger capacity tank and changes to the indicator switch system that some found a little clumsy.

It was around this point 2013/14 that I was looking for a change in machine myself as my current bike was a Honda CBF1000. I was feeling like something was missing and despite the fact it was a good touring machine the urge to swap was overwhelming.
 
Having tried out a few different machines from those all too familiar marques I hadn't considered BMW even though my brother in law had an F800GS and the popularity of the big beast machine that had done the long way round series. I'm afraid to say they hadn't stuck me as a bike building company but more as a car manufacturer.

Boy how wrong was I. The machines they develop and build are superb and unique, love 'em or hate 'em they are a bit like Marmite!!!

Marks orginal F800GSA and the new model beside it
Again the old and new versions of the 800 side by side
Looking at these machines side by side they have done a great job of trying to keep the look style and vibe of the old versions, even though from top to bottom and back to front the new versions are a complete redesign. So before I start to head off down the road with stats and performance figures lets take a look at some of the changes that are visibly noticeable.

The bars, clocks and front end from Mark's older 800
The old analogue clocks with on-board computer display, keys below the handle bars with a din socket 12v output.
The bars, clocks and front end on the new model Mark is reviewing
New TFT display but this is an optional extra, din socket moved forward to left of TFT display and this model boasts key-less ignition

The front from the old 800 has black rims and standard spokes
Black rims with conventional centralized spokes and tubed tyres, upside down forks and Brembo brakes with ABS system on the 800.
The new 850 has spokes set such that it can take a tubeless tyre
Gold anodized rims with new outer edge spokes and centre hub unit system and tubeless tyres, similar forks and brake system as to the old version.

The left side and gearshift of the old 800 and the new 850
The right side between the bikes shows clear differences in the frame and swingarm
The rear between the old and new shows the change in spoke setup and a move to anodised rimsLooking at the pictures above its blatantly obvious to the changes made from the all new designed power plant, the frame and a reversal of the drive and braking system to the flipping sides of the exhaust pipe, even the position of the swing arm to accommodate the cat converter.

The sub frame and pillion footrests are different and most certainly the panniers from the old model won't be fitting the new version so that is something to bear in mind when shopping for your luggage system.

The changes they have made to the F series models could be a real game changer for BMW as they compete in an ever growing market of adventure bikes. For this model I would class it as more of a mid range machine all be it towards the upper limits. I don’t think you can lump it in with 1000cc and upwards machines although I think it would give some of the big boy machines a run for their money.

Right get the tech spec bit done for those of you that are interested in all that sort of stuff!!!

Make Model

BMW F 800GS Adventure

Make Model

BMW F 850GS Adventure

Year

2013

Year

2019

Engine

Four stroke, parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder

Engine

Four stroke, parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder

Capacity

798 cc / 47.7 cub. in.

Capacity

853 cc / 52 cub. in

Bore x Stroke

82 x 75.8 mm

Bore x Stroke

84 x 77mm

Compression Ratio

12.0:1

Compression Ratio

12.7:1

Cooling

Liquid cooled

Cooling

Liquid cooled

Lubrication

Dry sump

Lubrication

Dry sump

Induction

Electronic intake injection, ∅45mm throttle bodies

Induction

Electronic intake injection  

Fuel

Unleaded super, minimum octane number 95 (RON)
OE unleaded regular fuel, minimum octane number 91 (RON)

Fuel

Unleaded super, minimum octane number 95 (RON)
OE unleaded regular fuel, minimum octane number 91 (RON)

Emission

Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3

Emission

Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-4

Ignition

Digital CDI

Ignition

Knock control and oxygen sensors

Starting

Electric

Starting

Electric

Alternator

Permanent magnetic alternator 400 W (nominal power)

Alternator

Permanent magnetic alternator 416 W (nominal power)

Battery

12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free

Battery

12 V / 10 Ah, maintenance-free

Max Power

62.5 kW / 85 hp @ 7500 rpm

Max Power

95 hp / 70.8 kW @ 8250 rpm
OE output reduction 35 kW (48 hp) at 6,500 rpm
OE RON91 unleaded regular fuel: 66 kW (90 hp) at 8,000 rpm

Max Torque

80 Nm / 8.2 kgf-m / 59 lb-ft @ 5750 rpm

Max Torque

92 Nm / 67.9 lb-ft @ 6250 rpm
SA power reduction 63 Nm at 4,500 rpm

Clutch

Multi plate in oil bath

Clutch

Multi plate wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically controlled

Transmission 

Constant-Mesh 6 speed

Transmission 

Constant-Mesh 6 speed

Final Drive

O-ring chain

Final Drive

O-ring chain

Frame

Tubular frame in steel partly carrying the engine

Frame

Bridge-type steel frame in shell construction

Front Suspension

43mm Marzocchi upside down forks

Front Suspension

43 mm USD forks

Front Wheel

Travel 230 mm / 9.1 in.

Front Wheel

Travel 230 mm / 9.0 in

(SA low-slung 210 mm)

Rear Suspension

Double strut swing arm aluminium cast in one piece, preload and rebound damping adjustable (Dynamic ESA)

Rear Suspension

Aluminium double-sided swing arm, directly mounted, preload and rebound damping adjustable (Dynamic ESA)

Rear Wheel.

Travel 215 mm / 8.5 in

Rear Wheel

Travel 215 mm / 8.4 in

(SA low-slung 195 mm)

Front Brakes

2 x ∅300mm discs, 4 piston callipers

Front Brakes

2 x 305 mm discs, 2 piston floating callipers

Rear Brakes

Single ∅265mm disc, 2 piston calliper

Rear Brakes

Single 265mm disc,1 piston floating calliper

Wheels

Front Wheel rim & spoke 21” x 2.15 Rear Wheel rim & spoke 17” x 4.25

Wheels

Front Wheel Cross-spoke 21” x 2.15 Rear Wheel Cross-spoke 17” x 4.25

ABS

BMW Motorrad ABS (switchable)

ABS

BMW Motorrad ABS (switchable)

Front Tyre

90/90 - 21 54V

Front Tyre

90/90-21

Rear Tyre

150/70 - 17 69V

Rear Tyre

150/70 R17

Fork Angle

64°

Steering Head Angle

62°

Rake

26°

Rake

?

Dimensions

Length 2304 mm / 90.7 in
Width 925 mm / 36.4 in (incl. mirrors)
Height 1450 mm / 57.1 in (excl. mirrors)

Dimensions

Length: 2300 mm / 90.5 in
Width: 939 mm / 36.6 in (incl mirrors)
Height: 1437 mm / 56.5 in (excl mirrors)

Seat Height

890 mm / 860 mm / 35 in. / 33.9 in.

Seat Height

875 mm  / 34.4 in
SA low-slung: 815 mm / 32.0 in
SA double seat low: 835 mm / 32.8 in
SA double seat: 860 mm / 33.8 in
SZ rally seat: 890 mm / 35.0 in

Wheel Base

1577 mm / 62.1 in

Wheelbase

1593 mm / 62.7 in

Wet Weight

229 kg / 505 lbs

Wet Weight

244 kg / 540 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

24 Litres / 6.3 US gal.

Fuel Capacity

23 Litres / 6.0 US gal

Consumption Average

4.3 L/100km / 23.3 km/l / 55 mpg

Consumption Average

?

Standing ¼ Mile

12.5 sec

Standing ¼ Mile

?

Top Speed

199.0 km/h / 124 mph

Top Speed

?

As you can see by the stats there's not that much of a massive change but some times just a subtle tweak here 'n there can often make a hell of difference.
 
Handling & stability:
I don't just consider how it handles while riding I also take into account the other manoeuvres that you have to do. Like getting the thing in and out of your garage and the necessary evil of straining yourself while getting it off the deck after that clumsy daft manoeuvre. We all of us have done this at some point or other.
 
Surprisingly the new F850GSA is well balanced despite the fact the petrol tank now sits up front like most bikes rather than the older models which had it slung under the rear subframe. Despite the fact that it's 15kg heaver it certainly doesn't feel like it's made it top heavy. Manoeuvring it around like I normally have to was no more a hindrance with that extra weight.
 
However what I did find while riding it was that the overall handling had somewhat improved and the machine felt well planted to the tarmac, especially at speed. The old model did feel somewhat light in the steering department, the new machine took to the twisty turns I threw it into like a ride at Alton towers. It was definitely on a rail as it swooped from side to side through the bends with a quick flick response that you would expect from a sports machine.
 
And all this was done without even playing with the suspension modes, to which there seems ample adjustments with just a flick of a switch. Dropping it into dynamic mode ups the game yet again and makes it feel more like a sports machine. That said just the basic normal single rider mode ate up all that was chucked at it on all of the uneven potholed roads. It just soaked it all up like the proverbial bath sponge as I glided along as if on a magic carpet.
 
The Brembo brakes as always do the job along with the ABS giving you a flawless response and the confidence to know it's going to stop when you need it to.
 
Performance:
Looking at the stats you would think that the extra weight and the minimal increase of hp and torque wouldn't amount to much. Yet it is quite noticeable really which did surprise me as I expected it to be on an equal par with the old version.
 
Taking it steady for the first few miles or so, getting used to how the machine handled and how low down the rev range I could go before it started to chug and required a gear change, was far better than the old version. It's seemingly very forgiving and no sign of stalling. I was confident that I could stick it in top gear and plod along crunching miles at a steady speed like Mo Farah pacing himself on a marathon run. But twist that throttle and it's no longer that little pussy cat purr as it plods along. It turns to a definite roar of a big cat and before you know it the thing takes off like Usain Bolt out the blocks and hurtling down the road. This had me grinning like Wallace and Gromit.
 
It was not the arm wrenching shoulder dislocating experience that I've had with some machines but it does achieve the hooliganistic tarmac tearing vibe you would want from a machine like this. Anything more would be absurd and unnecessary.
 
The plethora of settings gives you an abundance of choice whether you're on the road or taking it off on the beaten track and into the wilderness. This truly globe trotting machine will go the distance.
 
Build quality & Reliability:
BMW have had massive success with their enduro adventure styled bikes and this is no exception. It has been well thought out and the attention to detail is what you would expect from them. Yet again they have not let the side down.
 
From personal experience the issues I have encountered have been dealt with without any hassle and I dare say this will continue to be the case. Seemingly everywhere I've been there's been a dealership not to far away. I would imagine that they will expand even more with the popularity of their top notch machines.
 
Value for money:
Without a doubt you get what you pay for and this is yet again a solid built machine from BMW that’s worth every penny of your hard earned money. Taking into consideration what else is on the market you get bang for ya buck. I'm not sure many will go for the base model with a starting price around £10.600 when the Rallye TE version is just over £11.000.
 
Whichever model you go for there's a good level of standard features and some optional extras don’t cost anything but those that do start around £200.

2 shots of the trick TFT display on the 850 showing all kinds of details
New 6” TFT £595 extra
The standard version of the clocks with needles and lcd
Standard Clocks

It's a bit of a price tag for the new TFT screen but there’s an immense amount of information to be had from it, the mind boggles!!

Verdict: 
The F850GSA is suitable for all that you could possibly want to do on it and more. If it is to be a commuting machine it's nippy, but leave the luggage at home or filtering is a pain. Ideal as a touring machine solo or 2 up. The wife thought it was comfy enough to go any distance. The general ergonomic set-up would see you around the continent or even around the world for that matter. With its large capacity tank combined with a good mpg could see you a good 300 miles easily between fill ups. The most I've ever achieved on my F800GSA is 376 miles on a weekend tour in Scotland but on average its around the 300 mark.

I would imagine that it will be as good off road as its predecessor. Although these machines are big to handle they can take some hammer so don’t worry about skill too much, I've dropped mine a fare few times and it survived. But like anything I guess they're not completely indestructible and do remember to tweak the settings for off road mode as it is a bit disconcerting as I found out once!!!

Conclusion: 
The age old question - would you have one in your garage? The answer to that is most definitely (if only I could afford one). So finally depending on your budget the new model has the upper hand without doubt as it does give a bit more scope with the rider modes and bits like the slipper clutch. But equally the older F800GS and GSA models are excellent, "they all do what it says on the tin!!!"


If you'd like to contribute your own review of a bike you've borrowed, used or even owned then contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Stuart said :-
Thanks for the comprehensive review.

It's the price of the bike that I find off putting and then having to 'spec' it up. I have however just been to my local KTM dealer and they are selling the 'old' 1090 Adventure for £9500, which sounds like a bargain.
5/3/2019 7:21:44 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
£9,500 still sounds like a lorra lorra cash to me! Especially when the Himalayan is around 5 grand fully loaded. That said... the Himalayan won't do 100 and plenty miles per hour and it is not orange either. Horses for courses.
5/3/2019 8:40:25 AM UTC
Steve said :-
Its not only the price that puts me off its the weight, 244kg ! I wouldn,t even think about taking that offroad. And if your not going to go offroad whats the point, a V strom 650 will do the job for 3 grand less. Or if you want to do a little bit offroad while touring how about a new CB500x with the 19" front wheel/tubeless tyres and 50kg lighter.
5/3/2019 9:49:03 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Firstly thanks for the report Mark. It's a nice looking and capable bike, trouble is by the time you've put on the obligatory extras it's not that short of a base 1200GS.
Steve,totally agree, but then again these are not off road bikes, they're adventure bikes. Now we could discuss that all day but Adventure does not equal off road. Adventure for most but not all riders is going to the chippy and Matlock Bath on a Sunday. Just look at the bikes that are 5 years old with less than 10,000 miles to show for it, no diffent to the SUV thing, most aren't enen 4 x 4.
I have ridden off road quite a bit and my weapons of choice were a Suzuki TS250 and a Honda XR400. Sweet, sweet bikes and for off road exemplary, I had legal access to a large part of Cannock Chase and it was lovely to wind these things up on the fast flowing sections, I wouldn't fancy getting 250 kg sideways.
But it's horses for courses and BMW will sell plenty despite there diabolical reliability record.
Just saying.
Upt'North.
5/3/2019 12:24:49 PM UTC
Mark a Collins said :-
Thanks for the opportunity Ren to do this review and many thanks to those that have read it.
It's all food for thought, some people think adventure biking is all about off roading and confuse it with green laning.
Yes I've had mine on green lanes and they take a good bit of handling, it's not about the size of your bike it's how you handle it I find it mind boggling what some folks can do with a big gs, as for me I'm just mad as a box of frogs and will attempt the stupidest things on it!!!
BMW like most other vehicle makers have their problems and I've had a few minor but I can't complain the warranty has sorted that out.
Anyway cheers to all and safe riding
Mark
5/3/2019 8:13:52 PM UTC

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