BMW introduced the world to the F 800 GS in 2007. European countries received a production version in 2008 and by the time it reached American shores in 2009 it was one of the most anticipated bikes of the year. And then time marched on.
For those of you too young to remember, the adventure class looked wildly different 10 years ago. In 2009, BMW was relatively unchallenged in the adventure motorcycle segment. KTM had just released the 990 Adventure and Suzuki had the V-Strom line, but it could be argued that BMW owned that market niche.
Over the past eight years, we’ve seen huge growth in the adventure segment and the relatively unchanged F 800 GS has grown long in the tooth. BMW was apparently aware of this as well because a lot of the changes announced for the new 2018 F 850 GS and F 750 GS motorcycles address the outgoing bikes' shortcomings.
The delineation between the two bikes remains similar. If you are primarily sticking to the asphalt while tackling the occasional fire road, the F 750 GS offers cast wheels and less suspension travel for a more street-oriented experience. The F 850 GS will offer spoked wheels and a long-travel suspension for tackling the obstacles you might run into when riding off-road. Both bikes will have new varying style offerings for 2018, but the off-road-oriented Rallye option that we originally saw introduced in the R 1200 GS is reserved for the F 850 GS.
The new F 850 GS and F 750 GS will share the same engine: an 853 cc parallel twin with dual counterbalance shafts and a 270/450 degree firing interval, which BMW claims will help to smooth out the experience for the rider. From my experience with the old F 800 GS, the engine characteristics reminded me more of a large dirtbike than a smooth road-going machine, so it’ll be interesting to see the actual result of these changes.
Power output varies between the two new models, with the F 750 GS laying claim to 77 horsepower at 7,500 rpm while the new F 850 GS boasts 95 horsepower at 8,250 rpm. For those of you doing the math, that’s a 10.5 percent increase in power over the previous F 800 GS, which claimed 85 horsepower at 7,500 rpm. Torque has increased by 10 percent as well and now peaks at 68 foot-pounds on the F 850 GS and 61 foot-pounds on the F 750 GS.
Let’s pause for a second here to consider where all this power is climaxing. The new F 850 GS isn’t making maximum horsepower until 750 rpm higher in the engine’s rev range and peak torque is pushed to 6,250 rpm, 500 rpm higher than the F 800 GS. So while BMW has increased power on these new models, they appear to be a bit higher strung than previous versions. I would love to see a dyno chart to get a better view of the picture BMW is painting with this new engine.
From what I can discern from the press release, it looks like the electronics on these models are more of a refinement than a revolution. Rain and Road modes remain standard on both bikes with Pro riding modes remaining an option. On the 850 GS you now get an additional three options: Dynamic, Enduro, and Enduro Pro (Enduro Pro is not available on the F 750 GS). Aside from the Dynamic setting (think “Sport”), this naming convention is unchanged over the previous bike. BMW has made no mention as to whether the modes themselves will differ in their response over the previous version.
ABS remains standard and is now joined by BMW’s automatic stability control (ASC), which was previously an option on the outgoing F 800 GS. The new 850 gets better offerings for optional safety equipment in the way of BMW’s dynamic traction control (DTC) and ABS Pro. Both DTC and ABS Pro up the ante over their base counterparts by factoring lean angle into the equation.
Electronics will now be controlled by an optional 6.5-inch full-color TFT dash. Details are a bit fuzzy as to how cell phone integration will work but it looks like BMW’s eCall system will be an option, as well. This system allows for a rider involved in an accident to call for help via a satellite-supported tracking system installed on the motorcycle. Like a built-in Spot tracker unit, this is something that could be wildly beneficial to adventure riders.
BMW refers to the new frame as a “steel bridge frame in monocoque construction.” In normal speak, it looks to be a twin-spar pressed steel frame which utilizes the engine as a stressed member. The sub-frame looks to be a separate unit constructed of tubular steel. With changes to the frame come changes in steering geometry and BMW is promising a “more precise ride.”
The biggest change that I can see that will affect handling is the new placement of the fuel tank. Gone is the underseat tank design, which is now replaced with a traditional fuel tank in between the steering head stem and the seat. BMW claims an improved center of gravity over the previous generation of F-bikes.
I am left wanting more information about the changes made to the suspension. BMW mentions a new “upside-down telescopic fork plus double-sided aluminium swinging arm with central spring strut for more sensitive response characteristics” in the highlights section of the press release but doesn’t go into any further detail. It looks like electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) is still available at the rear but what I really want to know is changes have been made to address the shortcomings of the previous front end.
It’s clear that the changes made to the 2018 line of BMW’s F-bikes is much further reaching than previous facelifts we’ve seen in the past. With fundamental changes to the engine, chassis, suspension, and electronics, these new models will be exciting additions to the adventure community in the coming year.
BMW is no longer alone in the adventure segment. There is now stiff competition from nearly every manufacturer, with bikes that run the gamut from street-going touring bikes to competitive off-road machines. The F 800 GS has always done a good job of splitting that line quite well. We are now left with the question as to whether all of these changes will continue that tradition or push this bike further into a different direction. I look forward to getting an opportunity to ride one to find out.