Although I do not have the BMW F850GS to review yet, the specs and images are out there, and on this day that I get a step closer to finishing my F800GS, I cannot hold myself but to make comparisons.
In my modest opinion, there have been a few mid weight dual sport bikes over the years that might forever rank as Dual Sport Royalty. The DR650 (1992), XR650L (1992), XT600E (1990), KLR650 (1987), KTM 640 (1997). Yes, I left couple more out of the lot, but these ones for some reason are closer to my heart. However, we all need to agree on one thing, from their first model, they are all more than 20 years old!
Yes, there have been some newer models that have been incredible. The KTM 690 (2008) XT660R (2004) - I’m not a fan of the XT660 Tenere - the HP2 (2002) and on a more hefty side, the KTM 990 (2003) and the F800GS (2008) but also those, already have a few years under their belts.
For those of us that have been waiting to see a proper new age dual sport bike that would take the throne away from the old models, year after year we wait. Sadly, that day seems like it may not come.
Last year Honda debut the new Africa Twin. A fantastic piece of bike, powerful, well balanced, with electronics for all tastes, but heavy. Not when compared with other models, but when put on the scale with dual sport royalty. A bit underwhelming when compared to the hype of the previous year's prototype that left us all waiting to see a bellow 200kg machine.
This year, Yamaha and KTM presented two prototypes that can finally get some new blood on the throne, but we have seen in the past that from prototype to production much may happen.
All eyes turned to BMW, with 10 years of the F800GS knocking on the door, the F850GS should be something to look for! However in the end…..
I obviously have not had the chance to try the new F850GS, but considering that from the get-go it has less fuel capacity than the F800GS and is heavier, I will not put my money on the electronics to turn the tables and take the throne away from the bikes of the 90’s. So what can a pure dual sport lover do if he wants a bit of new tech and engineering with the capabilities of the bikes of old? Build yourself or own bike as many of us have done for the past many years. That's exactly what we did with the Tea2Wine F800GS.
Looking at our bike and comparing it to the F850GS, I cannot stop myself from feeling we went the complete opposite way of the stock BMW middleweight for 2018.
Minimal electronics. Yes, I do want GPS, lights and a central brain on the bike for fuel injection. But that's pretty much where it ends. No traction control. No ABS. No electronic suspensions. The purists will say that fuel injection is a problem, and 15 years ago, I would agree. Today? It is extremely reliable, and I do look for innovation and tech improvements when I can. Fuel injection is a plus for me, but everything else?…
Yes, the new age off road ABS’s, traction controls, intelligent suspensions and what not make your life a breeze. But if these bikes are meant to aim at dual sport riders, they should focus on what we like and actually do. Or at least have a model suited for us. No dual sport rider worthy of the name wants those heavy gimmicks. Took us too long to learn how to clutch, brake, and push the throttle properly off road. It is where the fun is!! Why would anyone want to give the fun part to a computer?!
Is it safer for those that have not yet mastered the arts of off road driving, or does it portrait the feeling of safe? If one knows how to ride a DR650 for instance, one knows how to ride any dual sport or off road oriented bike. But can we say the same about the generations of riders that will rise from electronic off road aids? Is it safer to give people a computer that self-drives the bike, or would it be safer to sell an off road course as part of the bikes extra packages?
I’m not saying that people cannot develop skills with these new age dual sport bikes, but if half your skill comes from the computer, you only developed half. And for those that can ride without the computer aids, throwing a computer into the miss may, just may remove half the fun. Are we really making the market and the bikes better, or are we deliberately mistaking ourselves?
Fuel range is key for adventure riding. I mean, no fuel no miles, right? I know I was not the only one baffled by BMW’s decision of making the F850 tank smaller than the 800, and we definitely went the other way. Our 800 now gets a 24 litre tank that combined with the 207kg wet of our final product, will give an incredibly extended fuel range. Yes BMW is saying that the new bike will consume less, making the little tank worthwhile, but… at what range of RPM? It is a heavier bike than the F800GS, and not much more powerful, especially if we remember that the Rotax engine is capable of triple digits of horsepower as it did on the Husqvarna Nuda. More power, less weight, and more fuel would be the combination to go. Or at least I would expect so. Let's see what Yamaha and KTM will do on that for next year.
The future is always an incognito, anything can happen, but the present still struggles to beat the royalty of the 90’s dual sports. Do you think the future will ever manage?
We believe we modified our F800GS to what we would have liked to see on the models 10th anniversary. A more pure reminder of what dual sport is. At least for us.
Watch the full video at https://youtu.be/n4oKfZ-S0-k