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ADV Bikes2019 BMW F850GS: Honed and Refined, But Is It Really Better?

2019 BMW F850GS: Honed and Refined, But Is It Really Better?

We test the latest high-tech middleweight Adventure Bike from Zee Germans.

Published on 11.14.2018

Ahh, Zee Germans; a nationality that is known for their precision engineering and ingenuity. One that also gets stuck in their ways and tries to reinvent the wheel from time to time. If that reinvented wheel works, but not well, the Germans will perfect it until it becomes so good that many may consider it a new standard.

Example A: The BMW R80G/S; a motorcycle with a shaft drive and massive horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine that would later grow in size and an A-arm Telelever front suspension. A motorcycle that performs twice as well as it should off-road. Example B: the Porsche 911 with its rear (over the rear tires) mounted engine, like putting the carriage ahead of the horse. Two designs that went against the grain and the laws of physics, but that were later perfected to a level that the brand purists stand behind as much as the Germans who’ve engineered them.

So what happens when the Germans take a page out of the playbook everyone else is using? BMW did this in 2009 when they built the S1000RR; a sport bike in a conventional four-cylinder, aluminum chassis, chain-driven configuration. In 2010 it went on to win all but one of the FIM Superstock Series races and won the 2010 championship. In 2004 Porsche sold its first Carrera GT, a traditional mid-engined layout supercar that was capable of 1.35 G’s of lateral grip and still sits firmly in the top 50 fastest production car lap times of the Nurburgring 15 years later!


At this point, you may be asking yourself where the hell am I going with this. Well, BMW built the outgoing F800GS in a weird time (the market crash of 2008) with a few quirky design features of its own. Its gas tank was located under the seat instead of between your legs where it normally sits. The exhaust system was on the “wrong side,” and in defiance of using a chain drive, they mounted it on the right-hand side of the bike while every chain drive on the planet runs along the left-hand side of the swing arm. These design choices gave the original F800GSs their “German” flair.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
All-new 2019 BMW F850GS in GS Rallye Light White with gold rims.

In walks the 2019 BMW F850GS, and guess what? It has a conventional motorcycle layout. The gas tank is between your legs, it doesn’t have a single-sided swing arm, the exhaust and chain drive have been swapped to the “normal sides,” yet it still feels German… in that “we did it better” kind of way.

What’s Different?

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
The BMW F850GS receives a boost of 5 hp and an additional 2 ft-lbs of torque compared to the outgoing F800GS.

The parts that carry over from the F800GS to the F850GS are nill. It’s an all-new motorcycle. The frame, suspension, engine, software and hardware are all new. Looks-wise, there is a strong resemblance to the R1200GS due to its “fly line,” essentially, the line that runs from the beak to the tail when you look at it from the side.

If the F850GS looks small, it’s because it is, and it’s small in all the right places. The seat height, for instance, may sound a little high at 33.9″ but when you realize that it’s .7″ lower than the outgoing F800GS you may warm up to it a bit. It feels like the shortest and least intimidating middleweight adventure bike on the market. Since the gas tank has moved from under the seat, the rear subframe and seat are much narrower. The seat is not adjustable but with options to get a low seat (32.9″), a comfort seat (34.4″) or the flatter, taller profiled rally seat (35″), there are plenty of options to get that seat height or seat-to-peg ratio into the goldilocks zone. Lastly, if you opt for the low suspension kit, you can get the seat as low as 32.1” on the F850GS, but note that the low suspension kit is only available in the premium package and loses the electronically-adjustable shock from the premium package.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
The F850GS loses 1.1″ of suspension travel up front and gains 0.1″ travel at the rear compared to the F800GS.

BMW flat-out did an excellent job making the F850GS feel smaller and more compact while not cramping up the rider or making my 6’2″ frame feel oversized. The gas tank is down to 4.0 gallons (previously 4.2 gallons), but when coupled with a theoretical 57 mpg fuel consumption rating, your range anxieties should subside. The BMW crowd typically loves a large capacity fuel tank, but consider your actual intentions of long-range travel before criticizing this one. In practice, carrying a 1-gallon fuel canister for longer rides is easier than always dealing with the added size and weight of a large fuel tank between your legs.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
The new F850GS has more durable wheels, a better wheel load distribution, improved ground clearance and a lower seat height.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

The handlebars have just the right amount of bend, rise, and width for my taste. I never felt cramped while sitting or like I had to reach or bend over while standing. If you’re the type to insist on bar raisers and wide bars for “body positioning” and “turning leverage,” be my guest, but I would recommend 10-20mm risers at the most. What I did enjoy is the cockpit feel or lack thereof. While sitting, the profile of the gas tank is low, and you don’t feel locked into the F850GS. The same goes for the dashboard and low windshield when standing. The F850GS has the least amount of hardware interference I’ve ever experienced on a mid-sized adventure bike. The gas tank has well-thought-out knee indentations for standing that should work with almost all rider heights, unlike some bikes that have a hard ridge right where taller riders knees want to be.

Just over the bars is the new optional 6.5 inch TFT display that is absolutely gorgeous. While some people will scoff at these and say “I just want an analog tach and speedo,” at no point did I have a hard time reading this display, even covered in dust with the afternoon sun directly shining in its iPad-like face. Accessing menu options with a single menu button and the bar-mounted multi-controller wheel is straightforward and took just minutes to get the hang of.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
The full-color TFT display was easy to read in a variety of light conditions.

The TFT display will integrate with your smartphone while using the BMW Motorrad Connected app via Bluetooth. You’ll then be able to access your contacts and media while displaying call status and navigation. While I didn’t have enough time to dive deep into all of these features, the ones I did access worked without issue.

Another technology item people love to hate is the keyless ignitions (Premium Package only). While my personal experiences with keyless bikes have ranged from quirky to downright miserable, the transponder key fob worked flawlessly for over 30 journalists at the press launch for both the F750GS and F850GS with dozens of starts and stops each. The Keyless Ride system also allows you to open the fuel filler cap and operate the steering lock without mechanically using the key.

Ride Modes

Before we get into what it’s like to ride, we should address the ride modes. All F850GSs sent to the US will be in a Select or Premium Package (the base model will not be available unless you are ordering it and waiting for delivery.) Therefore, all F850GSs will come to the US with the coded plug for unlocking Pro modes. Below we have a break down of the modes to save you from having to read through all of them but let’s talk about the Enduro Pro mode for a bit.

2019 BMW F850GS Ride Modes
F850GS Ride Modes Breakdown (click to expand).

Enduro Pro is an unlocked customizable ride mode that saves the settings once they are changed, even after the key is turned off. It should also be noted that whatever ride mode you are in, when you shut off the bike, will also be the mode that the bike is in when you turn it back on (thank you BMW).

For throttle response, you have two options: a soft mode which isn’t too soft, and a dynamic mode with snappy response and improved exhaust note. ABS pro has two options: The first is an ABS Pro profile for loose surfaces with knobby off-road tires that switches off the rear ABS and allows for much less interference (skidding but not full lock) of the front tire and loading the front suspension to increase braking performance; the second option is profiled for street tires in an off-road setting and gives you the opportunity to disengage the ABS to the rear wheel or not.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

The Dynamic Traction Control is a bit of a mystery for me at this point. In Enduro Pro mode the traction control is on by default, but in a “Dynamic Traction Control” mode, you can toggle the traction control off with a single button on the handlebars (or turn it off in the menu and it will stay off even after the bike is shut down.) The menu will then show on the TFT display that the traction control has been turned off and will illuminate a warning light on the right-hand side of the dash confirming this. However, from a standstill on a rocky uphill with 2000 RPMs dialed in and the throttle going all the way to stop once the clutch was engaged, the F850GSs “Dynamic” traction control still interfered somehow.

This may be due to the lean angle sensors for the ABS and DTC. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as a full throttle uphill climb from a standstill would have typically ended in the loss of traction with either a tip over or the digging of a massive hole in the side of a hill causing the rider to get stuck. I wasn’t the only journalist to experience this but we were not able to dive into this further without more testing time.

How It Performed

The new chassis is a steel bridge monocoque design. Honestly, I don’t care what it is; I care how it feels off-road. During the press launch, we rode a lot of two track that was heavily water damaged. Choosing the worst line through it gave us a feel for what it would be like to ride the F850GS on some of the most rocky jeep trails.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

In my opinion, The single most important number for how a motorcycle feels off-road is the rake angle of the front suspension. There’s a reason that all true off-road motorcycles and “good” adventure bikes hover around the 27-degree mark. The larger the number, the more stable a motorcycle will feel. It also affects front end traction in mud and sand tremendously. The tradeoff is slower steering on-road, but I’ve yet to say that I think an adventure bike’s steering feels too slow on the street, it’s an adventure bike after all. BMW’s F850GS has a rake angle of 28 degrees and it feels fantastic

Because of this, The new F850 is flat out one of the most confidence inspiring middleweight adventure bikes I’ve ever ridden off-road. What gets me most excited about this bike is not only how good it feels off-road, but also how easy it is to ride. Some of the first techniques you need to master as an off-road adventure rider are slow, tight-radius turns, and braking and stopping without putting a foot down. In this case, the F850GS has an advantage over the old F800GS in slow speed stability, making it easier for newer riders to learn these essentials.

Being approachable is a good thing for adventure riding and riders. The easier it is and the more fun it is to ride your ADV bike the more you’ll do it. By following the recipe to build a motorcycle without trying to engineer the crap out of it, BMW has been able to focus on engineering the crap out of a proven design.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

Weighing in at 504 pounds wet, the new F850GS is 25 pounds heavier than its predecessor. Yet it feels lighter and less intimidating than the outgoing F800GS by a significant amount. In fact, the F850GS feels lighter and smaller than any of the other 750-1000cc adventure bikes currently on the market.

The riding style of an adventure motorcyclist is easy to spot. We stand up everywhere, and while that is the proper technique for low traction environments, it’s not the only way to skin the cat. The F850GS is one of only maybe 2.5 adventure bikes I’d consider riding sitting down on and sliding the rear like a flat track racer on smooth ground. Being able to ride the F850GS off-road while sitting demonstrates the stability, proper weight distribution, and optimal rider ergonomics of the redesigned bike. In short, the F850GS is really good at gravel and dirt roads at regular, high and very high speeds sitting or standing.

What about when the road gets not so normal? In rougher terrain, the new front and rear suspension are surprisingly well sprung and valved. In the case of a few more modern motorcycles that I’ve tested it seems manufacturers are getting better at building a suspension that will perform right out of the box for someone who weighs more than your average horse jockey, and BMW is on the right track as well.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

The Premium package trim level bikes have the next-gen Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) shocks mounted to the rear of the F850GSs. This ZF manufactured rear unit adapts to every type of riding scenario with the push of the mode button. It doesn’t just set itself to a “mode” and stay at that setting. It takes inputs from itself with a spring travel sensor and adjusts damping according to road conditions. It also works in conjunction with data from the lean angle sensor, ABS, ASC, and DTC to offer the best possible settings for performance, traction, and comfort.

The one major, drawback to the F850GSs suspension is that it lost 1.1″ of travel compared to the F800GS on the front end, even though the rear suspension is continuously in a state of infinite electronic adjustment. The front forks are NON-adjustable. That makes the F850GS the only adventure bike at this price point and class with non-adjustable front suspension.

By the numbers, the F850GS has 8″ of travel up front compared to the F800GS which had 9.1″ of travel. The F850GS has .1″ more travel at the rear than the F800GS at 8.6″ of travel, and has 9.8″ of ground clearance while the F800GS had only 8.5″.

So what does all that mean for the F850GSs off-road handling?

Well, if you were to try to calculate the negatives, there are very few… First, let me explain that I have adjusted the front suspension on every motorcycle I’ve ever tested, owned, or even borrowed. Not just because I can but because I’m picky, and weigh 210 pounds without gear. On the F850GS, I couldn’t even find a place to bottom out the front end while pushing the bike well past its marketing aspirations. The F850GSs front suspension will be more than adequate for 95% of the people who buy one and their intended uses.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

What the fork does do is run out of travel as it packs down riding fast through choppy terrain. Adjusting out some of the rebound damping would probably solve some of this problem from the front end if it were available. And when we asked what was new in the front suspension at the pre-ride briefing, BMW was not able to expand on this other than the difference in travel. That being said, by my seat-of-the-pant-suspension-dyno-meter, it’s all new inside the 43mm tubes when it comes to the springs and valving. Despite the reduced travel, the F850GS front end is an improvement over the F800GSs when it comes to out of the box performance, stability, compliance and bottoming resistance. We could get upset about the lost travel but the ease of use and confidence boost the 850 gives vs. the F800GS is much more important to the people who are going to buy these motorcycles. Fun fact: the average age of an F850GS purchaser is four years younger than the average age of all other BMW buyers…. at 51 years old according to BMW.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle
At the heart of the F850GS is a 270-degree 853cc in line twin engine pumping out 90 hp and 63 ft-lbs of torque.

The new motor is only rated at 90 horsepower. I say “only” because the new engine feels miles ahead of the F800GS’s 85-HP 180-degree parallel-twin lump. The significant changes to the motor are the 270-degree firing order and a more-compact design; think race bike V-Twin sound that is quelled by twin counter-balancers. The new motor is so smooth that I found myself in 4th gear going 100 mph and I wasn’t looking to shift into 5th, let alone the imaginary 7th gear I’d be trying to shift into on the F800GS.

The new throttle-by-wire system has a natural feel. While I still wish someone would figure out a 1:1, no-interference setting for an engine’s throttle response, the F850GSs throttle by wire seems to adapt to a rider’s throttle inputs and speeds. For instance, should you find yourself cruising at an average pace and want to ask the throttle for full power, it feels as if the first twist of the throttle is not as sharp as the second no matter what mode or engine profile the F850GS is set to. That’s why I would call the throttle by wire “adaptive.”

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

The transmission on the F850GS feels wider than the F800GSs did. First gear is down to almost the equivalent of going one tooth down on the front sprocket. The lower first gear will help with low-speed maneuvering and starting on uphill grades from a standstill. I found the F850GS harder to stall at slow speeds than most adv bikes and never had a stall due to a rear wheel lockup. The credit to this is the slipper/assist clutch in the new bike. Not only does it have reduced lever pull but it also slightly disengages to allow clutch slip during heavy engine braking to keep the rear wheel from chattering in on-road situations, and prevents stalls due to rear wheel lockups in off-road scenarios. It won’t stop you from stalling all the time, but having a little forgiveness in the clutch is a benefit worth mentioning.

The F850GS has a quick shifter, but it doesn’t work by cutting the ignition for upshifts. It works by modulating the throttle-by-wire system which “auto blips” the throttle for clutchless downshifts. A side effect is that it also does a bit of a “rev match” on downshift, meaning the chassis never really gets upset during aggressive braking and late downshifting – a feature I didn’t know I wanted until I had it.

On Road Test

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

Blasting down the road drafting your buddies just below the F850GSs top speed of 125 miles per hour brings us the F850GSs next win: on-road handling.

On the road, the sacrifice of an inch of travel up front may have been the most substantial pay off for the F850GSs handling. The front end feels planted and sporty. We pushed these bikes hard during testing, and the F850GS felt better-than-good in all aspects of road riding. It’s stable at any speed, no hop or bounce from the front or rear end. Even late braking into a turn it didn’t bounce, wobble or push at any point. It handles better than many sport touring bikes do out of the box, and the only small complaint would be a bit of fork dive due to the initial brake bite being better than expected.

Yes, the brakes. While they may look a little puny compared to other OEM’s that use the massive four-piston Brembo Monoblocks, the two-piston floating caliper dual Brembos up-front grabbing twin 305mm floating disks, manage to scrub speed better than they should. While BMW could have slapped on high-spec, street-bike style, radially-mounted calipers, I feel the choice to run the floaters makes for a better option off-road, and never left me wanting on-road.

2019 BMW F850GS Ride Modes
Brembo two-piston calipers grabbing twin 305mm floating discs offered ample stopping power both on- and off-road.

Having smashed and broken a few sets of mag rims on adventure rides with other bikes, I can not only tell you about the added durability the F850GS will have with its cross spoked tubeless rims. Tubeless rims are a feature that is currently not available on any other mid-sized adventure bike. I can also tell you that not having a tube in your wheels increases front-end feel and performance. But once you smash or crack a cast aluminum wheel on the trail, you have to put a tube in it to get back home (ask me how I know). Serious off-roaders will want to carry a tube in the off chance they bend a rim, something one of the test riders did with us on the launch. He also smashed his face on his handlebars at the same time, so we’re talking about a tremendous impact. The obvious benefits to a tubeless system are puncture repairs can be done without removing the wheel.

The Competition

Who does the BMW F850GS have to compete with? For that, we have to look at the price tag first. It’s the biggest flaw of all when looking at the F850GS. The F850GSs base price is $13,195, but remember that BMW will not be shipping these to the United States and nor would I recommend special ordering one. So we immediately have to jump to the Select Package for an additional $2400. In the base red color sans handguards, the F850GS rings in at $15,595. Should you go for either premium paint option, the price jumps to $15,870, but you get handguards. Should you want the Premium Package that includes the Keyless ride, LED style headlight, tire pressure monitors, and next gen Dynamic ESA or low suspension options you’re going to need to add $3,450 to the base price. That’s $16,645 for an F850GS in red and $16,920 for the optional colors in the Premium Package. This makes the F850GS the most expensive middleweight bike out there especially when it doesn’t come with crash protection, a center stand, or even a metal skid plate.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

If you’re looking for definitive answers of how I feel the F850GS stacks up against the competition, here it goes:

VS the Triumph Tiger 800 the F850GS will feel more intuitive to ride off-road. It feels like it will be smaller and more confidence inspiring and will be the right choice for anyone looking for a small off-road focused bike for a beginner to intermediate rider. On-road it’s hard to beat the Triumph’s extra HP and Triple engine. At least the passenger foot pegs are removable on the F850GS, unlike the Tiger.

VS the KTM 1090R the F850GS will be much easier to handle off-road for less experienced riders. Think of the KTM as a 1290 frame with a 1090 motor in it, so it really doesn’t fall in the middleweight category and is also the reason I don’t own a 1090R as they are much larger than the F850GS. Just don’t try to drag race a 1090R on your BMW as you will lose.

VS the Honda Africa Twin L1 the F850GS will feel like a better road bike and has the premium parts and electronics to back it up. Off-road, the Africa Twin carries its weight well and is another excellent choice for the beginner rider, but also has the suspension travel to keep the experienced dirt-focused riders happy.

2019 BMW F850GS Adventure Motorcycle

How does it stack up against the old F800GS you have in your garage? If you are a road-focused rider who occasionally does gravel and light dirt, the F850GS is a no-brainer when it comes to an upgrade. Those who are new to medium-skilled off-road riders will find the F850GS a more-friendly machine to ride in the dirt. If you’re an experienced adventure rider, looking to replace your F800GS, I’m afraid that the new 850 is not going to offer a clear advantage for higher-speed and aggressive off-road terrain. Should you find yourself somewhere in the middle of this range, the F850GS is going to be a more versatile bike both on- and off-road.

To sum up the F850GS, it’s not a “big dirt bike” that’s going to change the face of adventure riding by racing on MX tracks and turning into a hoverbike at every rock slide. It won’t be the end-all be-all upgrade to whatever you currently have in your stable. What I’m most excited about when it comes to the F850GS is how well it performs on-road, how easy it is to ride off-road, and how I hope that this motorcycle will get more people out adventure riding because it does so many things well and even a few things better than those who wrote the playbook.

BMW F850GS Specs

Engine Type: Liquid-cooled 8 valve, DOHC, in-line twin
Displacement: 853cc
Bore & Stroke: 84 x 77mm
Max. Power Output: 90 HP @ 8000rpm
Max. Torque: 63 ft-lbs @ 6250rpm
Compression: 12.7:1
Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically controlled
Gearbox: Constant-Mesh 6 speed
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Frame Type: Steel bridge frame in monocoque design, load-bearing engine
Suspension (front): 43mm USD Forks
Suspension Travel (front): 8.0 in.(204mm)
Suspension (rear): Aluminum double-sided swing arm, directly mounted, preload and rebound damping adjustable (Dynamic ESA option)
Suspension Travel (rear): 8.6 in.(219mm)
Brakes Front: Hydraulically activated 305 mm twin disc brake, 2-piston floating caliper
Brakes Rear: Hydraulically activated 265 mm single disc brake, 1-piston floating caliper
Tires Front: 90/90-21
Tires Rear: 150/70-17
Wheels Front: Cross-spoke 21 x 2.15 in.
Wheels Rear: Cross-spoke 17 x 4.25 in.
Seat Height Options: 32.1-35.0 in.(815-890 mm)
Width (incl. mirrors): 36.3 in.(922 mm)
Length: 88.8 in. (2,255 mm)
Wheelbase: 62.7 in.(1,593 mm)
Wet Weight: 504 lbs.(229 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 US Gallons (15 liters)
Fuel consumption: 57.4 mpg
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 125 mph (200 kp/h)
Color Options: Racing Red, Pollux Metallic Matte, GS Rallye Light White

Gear We Used

• Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
• Jacket: REV’IT! Trench GTX
• Pants: REV’IT! Globe GTX
• Boots: REV’IT! OutDry Discovery

Photos by Kevin Wing

Author: Steve Kamrad

Steve has been labeled as a “Hired Gun” by one of the largest special interest publishing groups in America. His main focus now is video content creation as a “Shreditor” (thats shooter, producer, editor all in one nice, neat, run and gun package). If he’s not out competing in a NASA Rally Race you can find him on the East Coast leading around a rowdy group of ADV riders. Some say Steve_Kamrad has the best job in the world but he’s not in it for the money. He’s a gun for hire that can’t be bought and that’s the way we like him.

Author: Steve Kamrad

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37 thoughts on “2019 BMW F850GS: Honed and Refined, But Is It Really Better?

  1. Iconic BMW looks and a lot of improvements. I would find it difficult to spend that kind of money knowing engine manufacturing is being done in China. Nothing against it, but they are still charging a German premium for it.

  2. Ok, I’ll bite: I am sure this is a great new motorcycle. I’d like to take it for an extended test drive, no doubt. Is it the only mid-sized adventure bike offering tubeless rims as stated in the article? My DL650 has tubeless rims, and this includes the XT’s spoke rims. It is 35 pounds lighter, has a much larger 5.2 gallon tank on the identical 57 mpg consumption, has a true 1:1 throttle (read: cable) and doesn’t need to imitate a V-Twin feel and sound because it actually has a V-Twin. There are no drive modes to change (who wants to stop and read the manual before turning into a dirt road?), but safety features such a traction control and ABS are all accounted for in the base price. The nicest thing, and the reason why you see these bikes all over the world, is that one can buy two of them for the price of one 850GS (at least in the US), with a few thousand left in the pocket to take the family on a nice vacation. Is the Suzuki a “real” adventure bike? It may lack a few centimeters in ground clearance to the 850, but if adventure means the ability to take it to every possible corner of the world, paved or otherwise, the answer is definitely yes, and it has done so many more times than BMW’s 600-850 series.

    • The DL 650 is not even close to the same level as this bike. Even if you threw suspension on it, and built the motor. You’d still have a Vstrom. It’s like trying to make a Subaru wrx beat a Ferrari. You can do it but it’s not the same. So all you’ve really said is that you have a DL650 and this is how you justify it. Which is fine but if i were to push a vstrom as hard as f850 or a ktm 1090r it would fall short. Quickly. Could i get a used Africa Twin and have 9k left over? Yeah. And do all the things the f850 can do? Yeah. But comparing a DL650 to the rest of the adv market for off road worthiness is not a point you can win with me and i simply won’t agree with you based on experience and knowledge. Budget wise. Sure the dl650 is a good deal and I hope you enjoy it but don’t try to say it’s on the same level cause it just isn’t and quite frankly cant be. I’ve seen people throw 12k at a dr650 and at the end of the day they still don’t have a ktm 690 enduro. I’m a big fan of “if you want a better bike, buy a better bike. Don’t try to build one”

      • Well said and as expected from your previous reviews. To bad the Honda African Twin Adentures Sports wasn’t mentioned in these comparisons. Even though the ATAS may better compare to the new BMW F850 GS Adventure, the ATAS should be referenced here as the additional travel with stiffer suspension is quite compelling in this category even if you don’t need or want the additional fuel range that the larger tank allows. Just bought two of the new Honda’s; a regular AT for my 5’8” wife (replacing an F650 GS Dakar) and an ATAS for my 220 lb 6’1” frame (which replaced a KTM 990 ADV). While we originally thought we wanted the comparable new BMW 850 combination these Honda’s checked all the boxes for us albeit except cruise control. The primary deciding factor being the Honda’s are more off road focused bikes with the longer travel and fully adjustable suspensions. For us it is much better to have the off road performance as we never find our personal limits on road. Weighing in the strength of the Honda dealer network, and the potential service one might need while on travel adventure, the comparisons with the Honda is easy an easy ADV win. As mentioned I had previously owned a KTM 990 ADV, and I still own a KTM 1290 SA (primarily street use), but the Honda ATAS makes me think that a Yamaha 700 Tenere or KTM 700 ADV would be the only more compelling potential,choices when they come out if you are into true adventure. In the current mid class of 800-1,000 cc ADV bikes what the Honda may leave you wanting On ROAD is much less than what BMW would leave you hoping for OFF ROAD.

        • I couldn’t really have said it better myself. The f850 has a lot more electronics and the dash is soooo good compared to the ATAS, but really the ATAS loses on ease of use. It’s a big, tall bike and the 850 is just so unassuming and user friendly. I would take a Honda AT with ATAS suspension and the dct personally for what I would do with it. But looking at the F850 vs your choices…. i think you did just fine.

      • I don’t have your experience or any off-road credentials. One has to define adventure, is it a loaded bike going the distance no matter the road conditon or is it exploring single track trails in the mountains? For me it is the former. Your focus seems more dirt bike oriented. What’s wrong with the very efficient 71HP 650 engine (different engine since 2017 model year)? I drove the 800 series BMW and everything about it seemed cheap and low budget, the motor included. That’s why I am actually curious about the 750/850 which sounds much improved.

        • Nothing wrong with the sv motor. Its the suspension geometry and frame and layout. Things you can’t really change. Even with money. For instance the 850 has an extra inch of ground clearance over the outgoing 800 but yet a inch less travel up front. That’s lay out. The parallel twin has the advantage over the vtwin because its more compact. Therefore you can move the engine farther forward and the gas tank lower behind it for better weight distribution and lower center of gravity. What I’m saying is that you really can’t compare the f850 and your DL650. Yes i agree the f800 felt cheap. Why i reference in the article the time it was built and the manor. The f850 is not cheap feeling or looking or performance wise. It’s still just a tiny tick mark less refined than the 2018 tiger xca in my opinion but it’s not even close when it comes to blasting on the street. But the f850 is easier to ride slow to medium fast offroad after that, if you know what you’re doing the tiger is actually a better fast (and i mean fast) offroad blitzer due to the front wp suspension and extra travel. The DL650 is in a class of it’s own really. Like no direct competition and thats fine and if it does what you need it to do then great. But a DL650 would just get destroyed if i handed one over to a select few. Which is why i think the 790 adventure R is going to be in a class all its own. It’s going to be a nasty, super capable, multi cylinder large dirt bike. Unlike anything other than the old 950 super enduros. Also if a guy with a 990 adventure told me he’s basically got a large fuel capacity 950 super enduro I’d tell him he’s way off too. That’s how good the 950se’s were.

  3. Great article and a GREAT looking bike. It should be noted that BMW Motoraad won the FIM Superstock title; 5 of them since they entered the fray with the S1000RR. Not to take anything away from that astonishing motorcycle, BMW Motoraad’s success, or your point, but superstock and superbike are 2 significantly different classes

  4. Hi there, it’s nothing special about a chain on the right side or the exhaust on the left. BMW did it before with the F models and KTMs early models were also build in such way. So nothing new to the F800GS

  5. Written by a true BMW fanboy. I don’t see any mention about the 850 being 30 lbs heavier than the Tiger 800. The “comparison” is conjecture at best and I’ll put my Tiger 800XCA up against it any day of the week, on or off road. Let’s also wait and see if this BMW motor can keep its oil for leaking all over the place like the previous motor.

    • Yeah, anyone who knows me knows that im not a bmw fan boy. The comparison to a tiger 800 is based on facts, especially since ive got a xca in the garage right now on loan from triumph. Never heard about oil leaks on the f800 but since it’s an all new block there will no doubt be all new problems.

  6. Hi, thank you for the review! I look forward reeding more in the future. Here’s my question on this bike. I’m troubled by the position of the exhaust/cat and wondering how would it survive log crossings etc.

    I own a G650 GS and the one other thing that scares me on these bikes is the weight. I have trouble lifting mine on the single trails.. may I just need to hit the gym..



  7. Very nice review. Wondering whether you’ve had a chance to ride a 790 ADV or 790 ADV R. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on how they compare with the F850GS. Thanks!

      • I have ridden them back to back and the 790R is a completely different animal. The F850GS feels heavier and larger off-road, but it’s smoother and more refined on the street. They’ll go to the same places together, but the 790R is the bike you want to be on if the trail riding gets aggressive.

  8. Thanks Steve – great review.

    Despite that i am a 90/10 or 80/20 rider on a good day, I want a tire that will do a good job on all surfaces without having to swap tires all the time (or ever). What tire did you have on the 850 your rode? Doesn’t look like the stock tire.

    Any preferences? I have heard the AV84/85 Trekriders are excellent on both surfaces and maintain a smooth and quiet road presence.thoughts? Others you like?


  9. well time has passed an 3 new bikes will define their categories:

    KTM 790 adv: 50lbs lighter, more powerful, more sophisticated tech and either cheaper of on par. You can’r get Red but they’ll always give you hand-guards.

    Yamaha t700: 70 to 80 lbs lighter, more than adequate power, more elemental tech but also $4-5k less.

    New Africa Twin: same weight, more off road orientated, equally sophisticated electronics, more power, less cost. hand guards available in all colors!

    New cb500x – more offroad orientation out of the box, much simpler, will get you anywhere this machine will, but sometimes slower, 80lbs lighter and less than half the price.

    Nice time to be bike shopping.

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  19. my only complaint is it’s a little big for some of the gnarly rocky single track stuff I ride in central PA …. and it’s tiring to keep picking it up from the snow and mud and snowy mud I’ve been riding in these past two weeks. But that’s more about me (60 years old and 5″8″) and the stock tires than about the bike, which is a dream to ride on dirt, gravel, jeep two-track and pavement.

  20. Quickly. Could i get a used Africa Twin and have 9k left over? Yeah. And do all the things the f850 can do? Yeah. But comparing a DL650 to the rest of the adv market for off road worthiness is not a point you can win with me and i simply won’t agree with you based on experience and knowledge. Budget wise. Sure the dl650 is a good deal and I hope you enjoy it but don’t try to say it’s on the same level cause it just isn’t and quite frankly cant be. I’ve seen people throw 12k at a dr650 and at the end of the day they still don’t have a ktm 690 enduro. I’m a big fan of “if you want a better bike, buy a better bike. Don’t try to build one”

  21. Another “tiny people “focused article, based on the writers view that everybody is 5’6″ with a 30” inseam with boots on. Riders are all sizes, so going rah rah rah for short bikes isnt any better than me saying how perfect the f800gs is for being tall. Maybe we need more objective writers.

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