First is the issue of seat height. When it first entered the country, it had the high seat version, with a seat height of around 850 to 875 millimeters. The seat height was so high that I could barely reach the ground with my feet when sitting on the bike. This led me to nearly give up on this bike. This year, I unexpectedly had a long-distance motorcycle trip planned, and the current models were all equipped with low seats. So, I managed to find one that I could handle. Generally, for motorcycles, as long as you can touch the ground with your feet, it should be manageable. It’s just that having short legs can be a bit challenging when frequent foot-down scenarios arise during low-speed driving.
Then, there’s the issue of weight. The weight of the 850GS Adventure when fully equipped is 244 kilograms. With a full 23-liter tank, it easily exceeds this weight. At a gas station in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, after filling the tank, I needed to push the bike away from the fueling station. During one instance of pushing with a full tank, the bike slipped, and it reversed on the spot. Luckily, a teammate helped stabilize it; otherwise, it could have been quite dangerous.
Of course, the weight issue is limited to low-speed handling. It doesn’t pose a problem during high-speed or normal riding.
My height is around 172 centimeters, and I can touch the ground with one foot, as shown in the photos. When stopping at red lights, I generally use the one-foot down method for parking, which is more stable than having both feet tiptoeing.
Within the BMW GS series, the water-cooled version is a prominent presence. The new 850GS Adventure comes close to the water-cooled models while retaining the advantages of the older 800 series.
The 850GS Adventure inherits the setup of its predecessor, the 800GS Adventure, continuing to use the 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel combination. The 21-inch front wheel, along with its narrower width, offers significant advantages on unpaved roads. On roads with small potholes, the 21-inch front wheel hardly requires any attention. When dealing with gravel roads in the Gobi Desert, the narrow front tire effectively slices through the gravel.
Another highlight of the 850GS Adventure is its front wind protection. When temperatures dropped to around 10 degrees Celsius in the Gannan area, I was prepared with thick, four-season riding pants. However, I didn’t need them. I wore a lightweight mesh riding suit and long base layer pants throughout the trip. The excellent wind protection ensured that the lower half of my body remained warm. Even when encountering heavy rain on the highway back to Lanzhou, I was wearing only a lightweight mesh riding pants, summer boots, and had left my rain-resistant layer at the hotel. Thanks to the great wind protection and heated handlebars, I managed to endure the pouring rain at 13 degrees Celsius for over half an hour. However, I felt that if it had continued for another half-hour, I might have started to get hypothermic. The highway was crowded with vehicles, and there was no chance to stop and take shelter from the rain.
In this generation of the GS series, if the budget doesn’t stretch to the water-cooled models, or the Adventure variant, then the 850GS Adventure is definitely worth buying. For travel, it inherits the excellent design philosophy of the water-cooled models except for the engine.
The attached images provide a front view comparison between the 850GS Adventure and the 1250GS Adventure.
Considering BMW’s approach to the GS series, I can understand the creation of the 850GS Adventure. KTM’s extreme product strategy also targets a specialized off-road market with the 790 Adventure. The 790’s advantage comes from its lower center of gravity due to its under-seat fuel tank design. The top part of the bike is relatively flat, and the seat-to-tank height difference is minimal, optimizing rider weight distribution for off-road maneuverability. BMW excels at creating versatile warriors, and the 850GS Adventure is a balanced product; perhaps this was the aim of this generation. While there are certainly shortcomings, the most noticeable when I first got on the 850GS Adventure was the soft brake and long front suspension travel, which led to the front of the bike sinking when braking. Hence, I won’t be too aggressive in highway driving (even the Ducati MTS1200 Enduro has this issue; with 160 horsepower, its brakes are even scarier than those on the 850GS). The water-cooled models are better in this regard. Moreover, I’m not sure if it’s due to a domestic restriction, but the engine operation at low speeds is quite unstable, requiring partial clutch control and throttle modulation to maintain consistent power.
This 850GS Adventure won’t likely stay in my possession for long, as it’s not well-suited for city riding. For urban commuting, I mostly use the 400GT. The next time I plan a trip primarily focused on off-road riding, I might try the 790. From the perspective of this trip, I think the 850GS Adventure is a pretty good product.