It can be a bit odd when it comes to reviewing or analyzing a motorcycle. Trying to be impartial or neutral in your approach can get kind of cloudy because I always have a preconceived notion of what I think the bike should do because of what category the bike is placed into or what kind of hype has surrounded the launch. And depending on how much time you get to spend on a machine you may not get to see some of its finer points (or failures) if you don’t get it into certain situations in the allotted time you have with it. As luck would have it, similar to my FTR 1200 review I was able to spend quite a bit of time on the bike. Well over 2,000 miles and a trip across four states got me good and acquainted with the ole 2019 BMW F 850 GS.

I hadn’t spent a lot of time on adventure bikes but I've had the itch for a while to throw a leg over one, and the new crop of middleweight adventure bikes really had my ears perked up. But I wanted the full experience, on-road touring to get to that special spot and off-road adventure to take me into the backcountry. Lucky for me, I got just that experience. I won’t get too far into technicalities of the bike, if you want that smash that video play button for the nitty gritty details. I’ll break down the on and off-road side of things strictly from the gut  experience, no weights and measures just a gut check for a fun experience.

The On-Road
When it came to riding an adventure bike this is the part of the experience I had given the least amount of thought to. When I thought of riding a bike like the F 850 GS it was always visions of dirt roads and cow trails leading off into the mountains. I had never taken the time to consider that you are going to probably spend most of your time on the pavement. My biggest mileage day on the Beemer was 715 miles across TX into southern CO. An ADV bike isn’t exactly what you’d have in mind for putting on big miles on the concrete with but as it turns out it's an extremely good touring bike. The seating position was fairly neutral although slightly tipped forward. The wind protection was better than expected and didn’t fatigue me at all. However, in high winds across the prairies of Wyoming wind was a factor, blowing the smaller bike (510 lbs. wet) around a bit. The cross wind problem was compounded by the extra area of the Givi Trekker bags. The power of the Parallel Twin was adequate, a little soft on the bottom end but it pulls hard through the midrange all the way to the top. When you're running along at 85 mph or so and whip out in the passing lane to get around a truck it has the power, it just has to wind up a little. The load capacity was exceptional with the Givi bags, tank bag and my 30 liter Kriega bag. Even with my tent and camping gear there was plenty of space and tons of tie down spots (something that has disappeared from traditional touring bikes). Range was no issue with the Beemer cranking out over 50 mpg. The tank capacity of just under four gallons was plenty to get you a good distance out of each tank. In addition to being the control station for the electronically controlled suspension and ride modes, the TFT dash also integrated into both my phone and helmet communicator, allowing me to stream music into my helmet while keeping my phone charged at the same time. The electronic cruise control was the best I have used on any bike, meaning it was extremely accurate and easy to use and made the 700-plus mile day a breeze. If I weren't spoiled enough with the fancy electronics package I was also treated to the wonderful world of heated grips. On a 48 degree Colorado morning the heated grips were just what the doctor ordered. Combined with the wind protection from the handguards I was nice and toasty blasting through the Colorado mountains. The bike makes the transition nicely from long haul touring bike to a bit of a corner carver in the twisty stuff. It is by no means flickable but is still very planted when ripping through a corner. The front suspension unfortunately isn’t adjustable and the softness that I would later appreciate in the dirt makes the bike a bit sluggish from side-to-side, but once in the corner the bike rails through no problem. Riding aggressively you're gonna want to rev the motor a bit and keep it north of the 5k mark and it will respond quickly and pull hard through the exit of the corner. Overall I was most surprised by the on-road capability of the bike. It’s an excellent touring bike with plenty of bells and whistles and a capable bike in a corner albeit no scalpel.

I was SO stoked to put this bike through the off-road paces and was lucky enough to do large sections of CO trails in the Rockies as well as my backyard trails here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Even got to do some moto-camping off the BMW. The first trail I headed down was a sandy trail outside of Lake City Colorado and it became quickly apparent to me that the stock Michelin Anakee 3, while a fine on-road tire, left a little to be desired in the loose dirt and sand. But after a day in the Colorado dirt I settled into the tires a bit and started to appreciate the off-road skills of the F 850 GS. While not the lightest middleweight ADV bike the BMW is still only about 510 lbs. fully fueled. At the time I was loaded up to the gills with luggage and camping equipment. Even with the full load I switched the bike into ENDURO mode, left traction control and ABS on, and worked my way through the mountain trails from Lake City to Leadville, CO. The soft front suspension I didn’t really care for on the street shined in the trails, eating up rocky terrain and settling the bike nicely through ruts. Camping off of the bike was a highlight for me. Rolling up in the woods and throwing up your tent wherever you find the best view is pretty rad. Back in the South Dakota hills I took the bike to the woods sans luggage and found myself running without the traction control more often than not but utilizing the ABS even though I wish the rear brake was a little stronger and the brake pedal a little higher. It’s easy to get comfortable on the bike in the dirt, and after a short time in the hills I was looking for things to jump and corners to slide through. THIS is what I had always thought of when I thought about owning an ADV bike. The bike is narrower than it looks, especially when standing up on it, which makes it easier to control and makes it feel small. The engine is punchy in the woods and power delivery is predictable. The tires were the limiting factor...I threw on some Avon Trekrider 50/50 tires and headed back into the dirt. The difference was significant, the bike responded quicker and gave me more confidence to ride aggressively. If it were up to me every ADV bike would have at least a 50/50 on it straight out of the box. As much as I was surprised by the on-road capability of the Beemer, to me I think you buy this bike for the off-road ride. While it's no dirt bike it allows the flexibility to confidently take the turn off onto the trails and get through the forest to the perfect backcountry camping spot with confidence.

On the road I was surprised at the touring prowess of the F 850 GS and happy with its abilities to get through a corner with some speed and feel planted. Off-road, once the 50/50 tires were fitted it acted like a completely different machine in the dirt, and while not as agile as a straight-up dirt bike it proves very capable in the woods. As far as ADV bikes the BMW doesn’t surprise you (and that's a good thing) it just does everything well. The electronics package is a standout and in typical BMW fashion fit and finish is top notch. The base price is just over $13k, which is less than I imagined it would be. Our unit as tested was a touch over $17k with all the bells and whistles, but I think if you're going to own a BMW adventure bike you should experience all those bells and whistles. My ultimate judgment on a bike is fun factor and the Beemer and I started off a bit slow in the fun department but ramped up quickly. Fun was had in just about every situation as I came to appreciate the many personalities of the F850GS. It’s like the quiet mailroom clerk whose name escapes everyone who you see at the club on the weekend who secretly is a party animal. You just have to put it in the right situation and turn it loose.

Gear Bag

Bell MX-9 Adventure DLX MIPS

RSD Johnny Jacket

RSD Strand Gloves