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BMW’s F 850 GS Is Tops for Town and Trail

The German giant’s heavily revised, mid-size GS demonstrated its on- and off-road acumen on a test ride in Moab.

Utah’s Moab region is one of nature’s great wonders. It represents an opportunity for genuine time travel, one where dinosaur footprints can be easily found as we navigate the stunning cliff faces and rocky creek crossings on BMW’s brand new F 850 GS.

Adventuring is deeply engrained in the human DNA. To undertake an adventure is to feed our inquisitive nature, and there’s hardly a better way to do so than from behind the handlebars of a machine that made its name as a genuine world traveler—the F 850 GS.

For 2019, the motorcycle formerly known as the BMW F 800 GS has its parallel-twin four-stroke motor enhanced by 55 cc to 853 cc. This produces a healthy 90 hp at 8,000 rpm and 63 ft lbs of torque at 6,250 rpm, numbers that should prove plenty to get you moving happily to your next off road destination.

The BMW F 850 GS in Moab, Utah.

Motoring through Moab.  Photo by Kevin Wing.

Weighing a claimed 504 lbs ready-to-ride with a full tank of gas, the 850 is substantially lighter than BMW’s R 1250 GS—at 610 lbs—and thus far more applicable to a wider range of riders who may find the, frankly enormous, 1250 simply too much motorcycle for the application.

Electronics abound with the 850. In standard configuration, you’ll get basic ABS and traction control, but up your dollars at purchase and you can choose either the Select or Premium packages—the former coming with heated grips, cruise control, a quick shift for clutchless up and down gear changes, and enhanced traction and ABS settings. The latter gives you everything the Select Package has but adds Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), among other goodies.

The BMW F 850 GS in Moab, Utah.

The bike’s 90 hp, parallel-twin four-stroke.  Photo by Kevin Wing.

Our test motorcycle was fitted with the Premium package, bringing the cost to a touch over $17,000 (with the optional center stand) from the standard $13,195. This makes it one of the most expensive middle-weight adventure machines on the market. Yet those large dollar signs whittle away in the dust, forgotten, simply because the F 850 GS is a staggeringly good two-wheeler for the task. The new motor is matched to a gearbox that has shorter ratios in the first three gears to make off-roading easier, but retains the same fourth to sixth gears of the previous F 800 for comfortable highway cruising.

The chassis is your magic wand—simply point the steering where you want to go and it’ll take you there. With great ground clearance and compliant suspension, the F 850 GS really is a go anywhere bike, matched to electronics that are designed to both enhance safety and the overall ride experience. The 2019 F 850 GS will prove the ideal companion for your next (or first) trip to Moab, or wherever the road may take you.

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