2019 BMW F750GS & F850GS First Ride
Words by Derek Mayberry | Photos by Kevin Wing
Set against a wild west backdrop of red towering mesas and sweeping valley floors, Gateway Canyon Resort played host to a two-day event where a chosen few were selected to put the all new BMW F750GS and F850GS bikes through their paces. Situated between Grand Junction and Moab, this Western Slope oasis was perfectly suited to test both on and off-road capabilities of BMW’s newly revised middle weight adventure bikes.
BMW of North America Event Manager, Jim Faria, said it best in his product launch presentation, “Adventure is in the name.” True to the nature of adventure riding, not all the bikes got away unscathed. A handful of battered and bruised GS bikes were a testament to the fact that the two-day riding experience was nothing short of an adventure. Jim crafted the perfect route to showcase the abilities of the new BMW middleweights and it was obvious this wasn’t his first rodeo. Fully staffed with a top tier BMW mechanic, a certified medic, and a spare GS bike in tow, we were ready for hell or high water.
Although BMW touts the latest design as “dynamic and masculine”, the new models still carry familiar GS styling cues. From the asymmetrical LED headlight to the beak-like upper mudguard, BMW adventure bike DNA is unmistakable. Those familiar with the GS line will quickly notice the all new steel bridge monocoque frame in place of the earlier model’s exposed trellis style framework. Keen observers will also notice the exhaust has been relocated to the right side of the bike, keeping the hot parts out of the way since most riders handle the bike from the left side. BMW engineers also found room for improvement in the use of a front mounted fuel tank in contrast to earlier models’ rear positioned tank, allowing for better weight distribution, improved center of gravity, and a slightly narrower saddle. Riders familiar with the F800GS predecessor will notice increased power through a 50cc bump in displacement and decreased engine vibration from the implementation of counterbalance shafts. Other notable 2019 model improvements include optimized suspension geometry, a quick-shifter option and an anti-hop (read slipper) clutch.
Over the course of two days and nearly 280 miles, we experienced a myriad of terrain challenges, inclement weather conditions, and enough elevation changes to make even the most seasoned veterans light headed. Both bikes chewed up every bit of loose rocky terrain the trails threw at them. The F750GS handled the first day of off-road duties surprisingly well even though it was fitted with Bridgestone Battlax Adventure tires that are far better suited for paved roads. BMW’s Enduro riding mode was remarkable, offering up the perfect balance of stability while letting the rear tire spin up just enough to help steer the bike around tighter corners. After 45 miles off-road, we eventually found our way back onto pavement. Carving our way through Gateway Canyon, the F750GS hammered through the twists and turns of Hwy141 with confidence inspiring road handling. The bike tipped into corners effortlessly and held a solid line as the punchy parallel twin delivered a surprising amount of grunt while exiting the corners.
The second day of riding was accomplished aboard the F850GS machines. Poised to devour over twice the distance as the day before, I was confident the new GS would tackle the gnarliest obstacles and return me home safe and sound. The first 50 miles were chocked full of loose rocks, deeply rutted dirt trails, and nearly thirty water crossings within a ten-mile span through Onion Creek. The 21” front wheel and slightly taller ride height made light work of obstacles as we pushed through some of the more challenging sections. I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the Metzeler Karoo 3 tires, both on and off-road. It wasn’t long after transitioning back to pavement that I quickly forgot the bike was shod with adventure style tires.
After a much needed lunch break at Sorrel River Ranch in Utah, the bikes got a splash of fuel and we remounted for the second stage of the day’s journey. Flicking the GS through tight asphalt switchbacks, we gradually gained elevation and climbed past La Sal Peak while being pelted by frozen rain. With a couple quick clicks of the ride mode button, I had the F850GS in the rain setting allowing for softer throttle response through the sketchy road conditions. As snow collected along the roadside, the large 6.5-inch TFT display beckoned my attention, flashing temps that hovered just above freezing. Dialing up the heated grips to full tilt, we rolled on. After one final roadside stop in Bedrock, CO to down a hot cup of coffee and wring out our gloves, we eventually broke free from the cold rain and arrived back in Gateway with just over 200 miles on the trip odometer. Chatter amongst the journalist later that evening at the Paradox Grille echoed a common theme; both GS bikes demonstrated supreme off-road ability with no sacrifice to sport-oriented road riding. I couldn’t agree more.
Every mile we log on two wheels makes us better riders and the 2019 BMW GS experience in Gateway, CO was no exception. A considerable degree of my success along the challenging Colorado/Utah border routes can be attributed to the bleeding edge technology BMW packs into these middleweight contenders. From Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro, and a multitude of riding modes, BMW engineering inspires confidence across all levels of experience. You’d be hard pressed to find a better companion when discovering remote corners of the world by motorcycle.
Look for these new models on the showroom floor of your nearest BMW Motorrad dealer and learn more at the link below.