MCN Fleet: Getting dirty with the BMW F850 GS

What is the new BMW F850GS like on the soft stuff

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UPDATE 2: Getting Dirty with the F850 GS

I have to admit that I’m not really the off road type. Sure I was a dirt bike junkie as a kid but my love for off road dwindled and I’ve become more accustomed to the tarmac life. That hasn’t stopped me from the odd jaunt down some green lanes though and when I was offered the opportunity to take the F850 GS on some proper off road trails in the Welsh valleys with BMW Off Road Skills and the amazing Simon Pavey and co I jumped at the opportunity. 

Nervous was probably an understatement, especially with me nursing some bruises from a recent off. But after a 240mile ride to Ystalafera early doors we were soon heading to the off road location and learning some simple bike control and body position techniques. Once I’d relaxed I started to forget that I was on a 229kg ‘road’ bike with indicators, lights and a number plate. So much so that I was soon hitting the 1:3 gradients without a second thought, once I’d done the first attempt with my eyes closed. And we’re talking the sort of hills you couldn’t walk up, and yet stood up with the gas open the GS made light work of them. Loose rocks, gravel, dirt, you name it, the 850 genuinely was a pleasure.

Whilst it is on the tall side for my 5’5’’ stature, I found it easily manageable thanks to its well balanced chassis and grunty new engine, almost feeling like an overweight enduro bike rather than a big road bike. You could leave it in 3rd or 4th gear on the slow sections and thanks to the new engines torque delivery it would chug along with ease. Ground clearance was never a problem either and the suspension was able to cope with the bigger stuff without breaking a sweat.

BMW F850GS slide

Hitting the faster sections was even more eye opening. The Enduro mode is the same that can be found on the 1200GS and we didn’t turn traction control or ABS off all day. It allows plenty of spin to get you out of a rut or up a hill and the ABS is more than capable of anchoring up to a stop without any issues. In addition to that if the rear end did step out the electronics would hold you and allow you to slide the bike or ease off the throttle and it would pull everything back in line. The Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres were fitted for the off road riding but were surprisingly smooth on the road too.

The F850GS flattered me on the rough stuff and boosted my confidence ten fold. So much so that I’ve already been looking at my nearest green lanes. I think that If I’d have attempted some of the sections and tighter undulating turns on the bigger 1200 GS I could well have found myself upside down, but the 850 never felt like it was getting away from me. It coped with everything that was thrown at it, and I genuinely am blown away by that. 

UPDATE 1: The new BMW F850GS is frugal fun and incredibly capable

It’s been a decade since the original BMW F800 GS was presented to the world. For 2018 BMW have given the middleweight its first major update with a newly design 853cc parallel twin engine, repositioned fuel tank, a new bridge-type frame with steel shell construction amongst many other things.

100 miles

 I must admit many of the larger adventure bikes I’ve ridden have proven to either be brilliant, or cumbersome giants on the road. Being 5ft 5’’ proves a challenge before I’ve even started most 2 wheeled machines and whilst the new F850’s standard seat height of 860mm isn’t exactly short person friendly, the narrow tank and seat makes up for this allowing one foot firmly on the ground. A comfy upright position that’s ergonomically pleasing and switch gear that falls to hand, it’s quite easy to feel at home.

600 Miles

 The low non-adjustable screen starts to become fatiguing and annoying at most speeds. Angled perfectly to buffet the head around it’s almost worth removing it completely. You’ll soon forget the wind effect once you reach a twisty road though as the new F850GS has incredible handling. That 21’’ front wheel may be a tad slow to react on direction changes, I’m torn whether to wear my textile adventure suit up zip up the one piece leathers for a B road scratching session. It’s a fantastic new chassis that will suit pretty much any riding style. The TFT screen (which is a £595 optional extra) is incredibly detailed and packed full of useful menus and information.  Without the sat nav, tire pressure sensors, Bluetooth headset and other gadgets it makes me question whether you might opt for the standard screen instead.

F850GS TFT Dash

800 Miles

 The new parallel twin motor in the 850 produces 95hp and 92nm torque, which is more than enough to be zippy from corner to corner on road and getting you in or out of trouble of the loose stuff. Its sound is reminiscent of an old air cooled V-twin, but open the taps and you’re greeted with the bark of a 450 motocross single. The power is smooth and continuous all the way to the red line with peak power at 8250rpm. Whilst the motor lacks a little grunt low down it can still hustle just like its bigger brother, the 1200GS. BMW’s Gearshift Assist Pro get’s a worthy thumbs up allowing clutch-less up and down shifts. Whilst it’s sometime a little clunky and stiff it provides an easy way of getting through the box without making the fingers leave those toasty heated grips on the cooler days

1000 Miles

 Already into 4 figure territory It’s clear to see that BMW have revised their middle weight GS for the better. A few long journeys on the bike has shown that the small 15 litre fuel tank is nothing to worry about. The 850 GS is easily returning figures of 62mpg on a long run. As you approach the 160 mile mark the light comes on and your bum is thankful for a little rest. The seat is soft to the touch but it is a little on the uncomfortable side for longer periods of time. Optional seats are available which may offer more comfort. 


 A taught chassis with fantastic handling, a powerful and economical engine, good brakes and electronic suspension as well as confidence inspiring OE Michelin Anakee 3 tyres it’s a very capable machine. It’s an involving ride and is smooth if somewhat uneventful but that’s where it is so good. It just gets on with the job in hand without kicking up a fuss. A refined finish throughout as one would expect from such an established brand the new 850GS charges into ‘true’ GS territory. 

Joe Dick

By Joe Dick

Former MCN Staff Photographer