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2022 BMW F 850 GS & GS Adventure First Ride Review: Spirits of the wild

I recently shared my experience riding the 2022 F 900 XR but that was not the only vehicle that I got to experience that day. There is a part two to that story and it involves things becoming messy! The other bikes that were waiting for me were the F 850 GS and GS Adventure. Now, I am no expert on off-road riding or a graceful rider on rocky terrain. But I do know that it requires a capable coupling of man and machine to conquer the road never taken. So, as I was handed the key to the 2022 BMW F 850 GS Adventure, in the middle of a jungle, I just stood there, contemplating my life choices. The massive motorcycle in front of me could put my slender frame to shame and the woods around me were full of difficult terrains, slush and happy to oblige leeches! Realising that this could be an experience of a lifetime, I got on the saddle of the bike and took on the unknown.

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Design and kit

Before I tell you about my riding experience, let us talk about the bikes themselves. Visually, there is not much separating the current models from the outgoing ones. The F 850 GS is available in a single Racing Blue Metallic colour while GSA owners can pick from two colour options – Kalamata Metallic Matt and Black Storm Metallic. Both bikes get a brilliant 6.5-inch full-colour TFT display and excellent levels of finishing all around. There is an LED headlamp at the front and an adjustable windscreen. I did get to ride the GSA once the sun had moved below the horizon and I was not super impressed by the throw of the light. It is usable and very bright, but the ability to see a little further would have been welcome.

Differences between F 850 GS & GS Adventure

The two bikes, however, do have some differences when compared to each other. The first thing that you will notice is the GSA’s bigger 23-litre fuel tank compared to the 15-litre one on the GS. This means that once both bikes are fully fuelled, the GS weighs in at 233kg and the GSA tips the scales at 248kg. Due to the change in the fuel tank size, the GSA gets a different tank design and a metallic panel on either side, along with additional bracing. Even the seat height on the GS is 15mm lower than the bigger avatar which has a seat height of 875mm.

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Time to rock!

Powering the F 850 GS and GS Adventure is the same old 853cc parallel-twin engine that makes 93.8bhp of peak power and 92Nm of peak torque. The difference is that it now is BS-VI compliant.  While the engine is capable of being a great unit when riding around on-road and even going over 200kmph, that is not what we were there to see. What we wanted to find out was how good the bike is when it comes to going off-road. The trail we were at had a few different routes and courses that one could take. We began with the easier ones and gradually took on more challenges as we found our confidence.

Engine895cc, parallel-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Seat height860mm (GS), 875mm (GSA)
Front tyre90/90-21
Rear tyre150/70 R 17
Fuel tank capacity15 litres (GS), 23 litres (GSA)
Weight233kg (GS), 248kg (GSA)

There is a good amount of grunt lower in the rev range and if you are mindful enough, the bike will not stall. Even a novice rider like me was able to use the throttle and engine braking to make my way through the narrow ditches. There was a point where we had to climb to the top of the mountain. The trail was narrow and uneven, with the path taking a steep upward angle as we got closer to the top. One mistake and we could find ourselves tumbling down the side. Thankfully, the GSA maintained its composure and with some careful control, was able to climb up and come back down.

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As expected, there are a bunch of riding modes, including the Enduro Pro mode. This mode allows the user to set the engine response, ABS and traction control system to their liking. There is also a button on the handlebar to toggle the traction control on the fly. When set to Enduro Pro, the electronically adjustable rear suspension is at its maximum height. The suspension setup works in tandem to take care of all the undulations and helps you maintain a composed riding position. Both bikes come with a spoked 21-inch wheel at the front and a 19-inch one at the rear.

After having ridden the GS Adventure for the majority of the trail, I finally got a chance to try out the less intimidating F 850 GS. The difference in proportions and dimensions was immediately apparent. I could grip the tank more easily, the weight was a lot more manageable and I felt much more confident throwing the bike around the verdant green terrain. Even after being caught off-guard by a few naughty rocks on a narrow trail, I was able to reign the bike back in. As a matter of fact, on our ride back to the resort, I was back on the F 850 GSA and riding through the mountain roads reaffirmed my perception that the bigger bike would be much better suited for long highway hauls while the nimbler F 850 GS was a better pick for off-road escapades.

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Final thoughts

Just like the 2022 update for the F 900 XR, the newer F 850 GS and GS Adventure come with the same engine that is now compliant with the latest emission norms. The bikes are being offered in one trim that gets all the features. Talking of price, the regular GS costs Rs 12.5 lakh while the GSA costs Rs 13.25 lakh, both ex-showroom prices. There is no doubt that these bikes are worthy of the GS name and can power through some of the most difficult terrains. I would recommend picking the F 850 GS if you want to have fun in the dirt or climb to the top of mountains. However, if long journeys across states are what you desire, the GSA will help you swallow more miles between each stop. 

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