Test BMW R 850 and R 1100 GS
News from Duckburg
For years, BMW has set the standard for large touring enduros with the R 1100 GS. Now the Munich-based company is presenting a smaller version of the platypus: the R 850 GS.
Sooner or later she’ll get you, some colleagues had predicted. Then she pulls you under her spell.
After all, there must be reasons why the BMW R 1100 GS has been constantly in the upper house of registration statistics since its market launch in early 1994. And now the Munich-based company is pushing a smaller GS, implanting the heart of the R 850 R in the chassis of the big GS sister, leaving everything as it was, except for the shorter final ratio ?? with the tried and tested. “Opening up a successful model to new groups of buyers,” is how Hans Sautter, BMW spokesman, describes this strategy. It’s only logical that the Bavarians also offer a 34 hp throttle variant of the R 850 GS.
It is also logical that the small one cannot hold a candle to the big ones in terms of performance. But more on that later. First of all, it’s all about GS riding, regardless of whether it’s 850 or 1100 cm³. Almost unique, this experience. Just the feeling of powerlessness when you stand in front of this dream of a motorcycle for the first time. Epochal proportions, indeed. A Triumph Speed Triple, for example, actually not exactly dainty, looks like a toy motorcycle next to a GS.
“It sweeps around corners so that you lose sight and hearing,” said the colleagues. But at the latest, when you are desperately looking for support with your toes when you sit down for the first time, you ask yourself how this should work with this motorcycle: The seat height is a proud 86 centimeters, whereby the wide, comfortable seat can be lowered by two centimeters. So bring the boxer to life. Uncomplicated cold start behavior in both engines. Pull the smooth clutch, engage first gear. A faint but audible click – it’s inside. Accelerate, engage, roll away, into Stuttgart’s big city traffic.
Here you can already see that there could be something to the judgments of colleagues. Beautifully enthroned, the best overview is guaranteed in the hustle and bustle of traffic, the heavy steamer rushes quickly through the dense rush hour traffic: the regulated catalytic converter and various special accessories, such as the ABS, drive the live weight of both GS to an impressive 262 kilograms ?? including 25 liters of super on board. But it doesn’t matter. Really not. Like no other manufacturer, BMW seems to know how to breathe light-footedness into heavy motorcycles. But before it can be fully savored in the northern Black Forest, there are a good 50 kilometers of motorway in front of the large enduro bikes.
On these, the GS driver can look forward to the dresser, relaxed seating position and the very good wind protection. The adjustable windshield, however, creates clearly noticeable and audible turbulence. In addition, the handlebars should be a bit narrower and better cranked. The straight line? Stoic. Recommended cruising speed? A good 160 km / h. With both models, this guarantees an almost unrivaled range with high travel averages because of the thick tank: long-distance motorcycles like a picture book, also and especially for two-person operation. Of course, the pace can ?? especially with the 1100 ?? accelerate to over 180 km / h without problems, but then the consumption increases to a good nine liters for both.
After all, the GS pulls you completely on its side on Black Forest country roads. Yeah, she really is a sweeper. The giant glides playfully and with great precision, yes, the giant glides from one curve to the next. Only minimal erection torque when braking in an inclined position. In addition, the GS shines with cornering stability and enormous lean angle. And with their chassis: other enduros with 190 millimeters of spring travel on the front wheel suddenly dive under you like a hunching rodeo horse when you brake hard. Not a GS, thanks to the unique Telelever suspension. It allows a sporty driving style, demands a brisk pace downright. Hard to believe, but this motorcycle makes you forget your private super sports car.
In contrast to this, the GS rides comfortably on miserable country roads thanks to the large suspension travel. And almost foolproof, to which the reliable Brembo brake system in combination with the special ABS accessory that can be switched off for off-road use certainly contributes. A motorcycle made for even the narrowest alpine passes. The adjustable spring elements also deserve praise. Their preload can be adjusted quickly and easily. Detour to ?? mind you ?? easy terrain is no problem. The GS masters graveled passes even with the street-oriented first tires Metzeler Enduro 4, for more severe cases the Conti TKC 80 is recommended.
Nevertheless, the GS models are by no means motorcycles without peculiarities. The feeling for the front wheel, for example, suffers a little from the Telelever suspension. Despite all the safety that the BMW suggests, especially on bad roads, you should not overestimate your own driving skills. And those who are used to quick, hard downshifts before bends from their Japanese have to rethink their thinking on a GS as soon as possible. She absolutely doesn’t like that. She acknowledges such an act of violence with a noticeably restless, stubborn hindquarters. In general, the gearbox: GS driving, that still means onomatopoeic shifting, especially between second and third, regardless of whether you are using the 850 or the 1100.
NIn contrast, the choice of motor is not irrelevant. Because this is where R 850 GS and R 1100 GS driving differ quite significantly. No question, there is no alternative to the 1100 engine for those who are hungry for power. The shirt-sleeved, because quite vibrating muscle man shines with 107 Newton meters of maximum torque, guarantees full thrust from 2000 rpm. On the other hand, beyond 6500 rpm, he no longer likes to get down to business so willingly? the performance offered is still worthy of all honor. The more gentle 850, on the other hand, turns lively and with significantly less vibration into the red area, but requires more switching work (see also box on page 30). In return, the little boxer tends less strongly to the so-called constant speed jolt. The responsiveness of the 850 fuel injection two-cylinder engine is beyond all doubt, albeit without the majestic punch of the large engine. Still a recommendation for everyone who doesn’t care about sheer top performance and instead is looking for an all-round motorcycle with a sophisticated drive. Whether the price advantage of the 850s of 650 marks turned out to be lush? Matter of opinion. Inspire, both do, each in their own way.
Whether a price advantage of 650 marks is enough to warm enough hearts for the R 850 GS? In the case of motorcycles, which with useful extras such as ABS, a well-functioning heated grip or a luggage system cost easily over 20,000 marks, this is certainly secondary. Does the 850 compensate for its lack of performance with its increased running smoothness and maneuverability? A matter of taste. Those who are often traveling in pairs and with luggage will choose the 1100. In any case, the GS buyer opts for an exceptional motorcycle. Because regardless of whether it is a large or a small boxer, the BMW impresses with its balanced driving characteristics, reliable brakes and handling that is unique for this weight class. And ?? Naturally ?? her all-round talent.
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