BMW Motorrad India invited us to “God’s Own Country”, Kerala, to experience the updated BMW F 900 XR and the F 850 GS. Here are our first impressions.
Story: Azaman Chothia
Photography: BMW Motorrad India
The BMW F 900 XR is a middleweight sport-tourer that was launched in India two years ago, while the F 850 GS has returned to our market in its BS6 avatar. The bikes will be available as completely built-up units (CBU) and deliveries are said to commence in June 2022.
Both bikes have now become even more attractive propositions as BMW Motorrad India are now offering them in Pro trims, which means all of the additional packages will come as standard. For this one-day ride, our morning started with a short ride on tarmac astride the F 900 XR where we covered about 50 kilometres, followed by an exciting afternoon off-roading through some fun trails astride the F 850 GS. Here is our first impression of the new models and, mainly, all the new features on offer.
BMW F 900 XR
I have always quite liked the design of the F 900 XR. It gets a nice half fairing and the bright red colour with silver highlights surely does make it stand out. In this 2022 version, the bike has pannier mounts at the rear and it also sports a centre stand. As part of the comfort package, one of the very important additions we see is the electronically controlled rear suspension (Dynamic ESA).
Swinging a leg over the bike immediately tells you that you are going to have a comfortable ride ahead. The bike places the rider upright and the accessible seat height allows short riders to place their feet on the ground. With the wide and raised handlebar, it is also easy to stand upright on the pegs and get through a section of bad roads when needed. For more convenience, the bike now gets the Keyless Ride feature so that it can be started as soon as the key is within proximity. As soon as you start the bike, the 895-cc twin-cylinder motor comes to life with a raw and gruff exhaust note that becomes engaging when it is revved above 5,000 rpm. It produces 105 hp at 8,500 rpm and a peak torque of 92 Nm at 6,500 rpm.
This motor is a perfect cruising partner because of how effortlessly it works and how tractable it is. As part of the Active Package, the bike now gets two additional ride modes apart from Road and Rain: Dynamic and Dynamic Pro. In these modes, you can feel that the motor has been tuned for a sportier character. Dynamic Pro allows personal customization to suit a specific rider’s preference. As soon as you release the clutch to get going, you can feel a burst of torque right from the low-end rpm range. There is a good amount of power in reserve for quick overtakes and when you really want to hoon around, the front wheel is ready to lift up when you really ask for it. The throttle response is crisp and the gear-shifts are slick. You also get an up-down quick-shifter to make longer rides more fun and less tiring. Because of the sturdy fit and finish, there are hardly any vibrations felt and this made the ride really swift.
When the roads are smooth and twisty, the bike is a real hoot to ride as it facilitates quick changes in direction while being planted through the corners. If you really want to test your skills vis-a-vis those of your riding buddies, a menu in the settings changes the layout on the TFT, mimicking an analogue tachometer that also displays the maximum lean angle you have achieved on either side. Later, when we encountered broken roads and patches of gravel mid-corner, I did find the front suspension a little too soft for my liking as it felt a little unsettling. This also had a lot to do with the fact that the Michelin Road 5 tyres are road-biased. That said, all of the rider aids such as traction control (DTC), engine-brake control (MSR), and cornering ABS did their job really well to keep me safe. The braking set-up is very sharp and all you need for a precise stop is just a single finger on the front brake lever.
Apart from all this tech equipment, you also get stuff like adaptive cornering lights, an adjustable windscreen, heated grips, and more. Overall, this entire package perfectly blends comfort and performance as you would expect of a BMW. At Rs 12.30 lakh (ex-showroom), the F 900 XR promises a bang for the buck when you compare it against the competition. Every biker dreams of owning a big bike one day and with all the expensive additional equipment that BMW Motorrad are offering as standard, the F 900 XR has grown into a more potent machine and surely looks like a sweet proposition if you are in the market for a sport-tourer. We will soon spend some more time with the motorcycle in the city to bring you a detailed review.
BMW F 850 GS
Once we reached the hills of Vagamon in Kerala, it was time to hit the trails astride the F 850 GS. Just like the F 900 XR, the F 850 GS and F 850 GS Adventure are now available in the Pro trim. The list of additional equipment is almost identical to that mentioned in the case of the F 900 XR, so I shall talk about the experience of off-roading on a big and heavy motorcycle for the first time. The blue and silver colour scheme you see this test bike sporting is part of the Style Rallye Package which also includes hand-guards around the brake and clutch levers. In the BS6 avatar, the 853-cc twin-cylinder motor produces 95 hp at 8,250 rpm and 92 Nm of peak torque at 6,250 rpm.
Since it was my first-time off-roading through these trails, the size of the GS was quite intimidating when I first laid my eyes on it. The test bike that I had also had one of the optional seats which increased the seat height to around 875 mm. As soon as I swung a leg over the bike, I had to tiptoe around, but once the bike starts moving, it is so well balanced that you really won’t need to worry about the tall seat. After tackling the easy trail, we found a nice section where we could try to take flight astride the F 850 GS. After a few failed attempts, some insights from the lead riders helped me see what I was doing wrong and correct my mistakes. With the correct technique, it was effortless to get both wheels in the air.
With every passing minute, I started to realise how easy it was to actually ride a large ADV, compared to the smaller ones that I have spent time with. You literally become one with the F 850 GS as it responds so well to any input. The Enduro Pro ride mode was the highlight for me. It allows you to do more than you normally would do off road and keeps you safe at the same time. As soon as the mode is engaged, it gives the rider a message stating that it will allow slides and wheelies irrespective of the traction control system being engaged. This means that you can get on the gas at every turn and power-slide without worrying about losing the rear end. With 204 mm of suspension travel at the front and the electronically controlled rear suspension with 219 mm of travel, the F 850 GS makes any kind of off-road riding a smooth task.
It was time to head to the hardest trail that was selected for us. This trail would take us up a steep incline strewn with large stones. Although I was told to keep the momentum and try to tackle this in one go, I did get stuck when the front end hit a really large rock. The bike allows you to quickly switch off the traction control with the press of a button, after which I had to muscle the bike a bit before I was back to climbing the trail. Once we reached the top, the view was totally worth all the struggle getting there. Even though I was extremely exhausted, I just didn’t want to stop riding the bike. That is just how exciting and engaging the F 850 GS really is.
Towards the end of the day, we inflated our tyres, switched to the “Road” mode and were all set to take a new route back to where we had begun our ride. During the last leg of this ride, I expected to cruise back and take in the view. But the raw nature of the engine in the F 850 GS asks you to push it in the twisties and the way it tackles corners is just amazing. It is one of the most confidence-inspiring bikes that I have ridden and really made me think of owning one.
The F 850 GS is priced at Rs 12.50 lakh (ex-showroom), while the Adventure variant with a larger fuel tank and some additional accessories is priced at Rs 13.25 lakh (ex-showroom). This is great pricing if you consider all the equipment on offer and mainly because of the do-it-all nature of the bike. Be it the tarmac or unpredictable trails, the GS is always ready for the challenge. We shall soon bring you a detailed review wherein we shall list some of the main differences between the F 850 GS and the F 850 GS Adventure, so you may choose wisely before making a purchase.