2022 BMW F 900 XR And BMW F 850 GS Adventure: First Ride Review

BMW Motorrad recently launched the updated versions of the F 900 XR and the F 850 GS & GS Adventure middleweight motorcycles, and they come with much better kit as standard at a much more attractive price point. So do they make the ideal entry points for a new comer in the world of big bikes? We find out just that.

By Mihir Barve


12 mins read


Published on May 6, 2022

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  • The BMW F 900 XR is great in corners, but its suspension lacks comfort.
  • The F 850 GSA's larger tank returns 50% longer range than the F 850 GS.
  • All 3 bikes get the pro package as standard.

BMW Motorrad's middleweight adventure touring range promises different flavours for different riders. There's the BMW F 900 XR, a sport touring motorcycle, which promises sporty handling, superb road manners and yet all the electronic bells and whistles of any contemporary premium touring bike. On the more versatile side of things are the BMW F 850 GS, and it's even more off-road and adventure-ready twin the BMW F 850 GS Adventure, promising all-round capability to challenge the very best in the middleweight adventure segment. There's also the question of how these bikes will be, as someone's first big bikes, someone who would be thinking of graduating from smaller bikes.

Being a new comer into the world of motorcycle touring, I've always wanted to try out how big bikes felt like. Which is why when I got the opportunity to go for the first ride experience of the updated 2022 BMW F 900 XR and the F 850 GS twins in BMW's Exclusive Riding Experience event in Kerala, I was very excited. The question on my mind while heading there was, can the F 900 XR or the F 850 GS Twins be the right entry point for a newcomer in the world of big bikes?


The BMW F 900 XR is very welcoming, and doesn't overwhelm new riders.

First up was the BMW F 900 XR. Our ride began in the twisty mountain roads of Kerala, and the first thing that came as a revelation was just how easy it was to lean into corners. I finally understood what the buzz surrounding the Michelin Road 5 GT tyres was all about. There's superb grip on all kinds of surfaces the hilly roads offered, and offered the confidence to up the pace around the twisties. The sticky tyres coupled with the higher set handlebar translates into an extraordinarily fun experience riding it in twisties, without the seating position being too uncomfortable for your back.  The BMW F 900 XR was also the least intimidating looking of the three bikes we had to ride during the course of the day, and the sport tourer instantly made me - a novice in the world of big bikes - feel at home.

Also Read: 2022 BMW F 900 XR Launched In India; Priced At Rs. 12.30 Lakh


The TFT display has a lot of menus and is very intuitive and easy to use.

All the three updated middleweight models arrive here in their top-spec Pro versions, and get almost all of the older optional kit as standard, and that too at a reduced price tag. Starting at Rs. 12.30 lakh (ex-showroom), the F 900 XR has a crisp TFT display with an interesting dial-like controller which is very intuitive to use, and also has BMW Motorrad connect. The bike has several riding modes too, including Road, Rain, Dynamic, and Dynamic pro. The rear suspension is electronically adjustable on the go, and has preload presets for single rider, rider + pillion, and rider + luggage, so you won't have to fiddle around with settings too much. There's also other inclusions, like ABS Pro, center stand, pannier mounts, and a comfort seat.


All 3 bikes get electronically adjustable rear suspension as standard.

At the start of our ride early in the morning, the weather was misty and cold, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to test out the heated grips. It comes with three levels of heating and can be controlled by toggling the dedicated button. The multiple buttons on the handlebar make the switchgear look a bit cluttered. And there's a long list of controls to choose from, including a button for the heated grips, riding mode selector, traction control, the dial to control the display, cruise control settings, suspension preload, menu switch, as well as the obvious ones like the turn signals and high beam switch. But they're very intuitively placed and won't have you looking at them while you're on the move. The fit and finish on the motorcycles is unsurprisingly top notch. The bikes also get key-less ignition and a key-less fuel filler cap, raising its premium quotient.


The switchgears on the 3 bikes look cluttered, but they're easy and intuitive to use.

The throttle feel on the F 900 XR is very progressive, and not very linear. At the initial turn of the throttle, the power delivery is very calm, which makes the throttle effortless to use in traffic conditions. Open the throttle more, and the 895 cc inline-two engine comes to life, putting out 104 bhp at 8,500 rpm, and 92 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm. The BS6 compliant motor is very tractable and refined too. You can hold high gears at very low speeds, and the engine doesn't feel jittery at all. And if that's not how you like to ride, even the second gear can easily see you into early triple digit speeds without the engine feeling out of breath. Even at peak engine rpm, the vibrations at the foot pegs are negligible and are non-existent on the handlebar. For someone looking for performance, the F 900 XR does not disappoint.

Also Read: BMW R 12 Trademark Filing Hints At New 1,200 cc Cruiser


Riding the sport tourer in the winding sections of the mountain roads was a delight.

At these high speeds though, some problems with the bike came into my notice. For starters, the two-step adjustable windscreen - though very easy to toggle on the go - simply isn't large enough to push enough wind away from you. So if you are sitting in the upright posture this bike is best ridden in, there's a lot of wind blast felt around the sides of your helmet, creating a vibration-like movement. It does a good job at keeping the wind away from your upper body though, and it's easy to look through it too. The progressive throttle has a very long travel too, and on long highway cruises it won't be the best mate for your right wrist. These niggles can be fixed with some aftermarket accessories like a quick throttle or a larger windscreen though.

Also Read: Bookings Announced For 2022 BMW Motorrad Touring Range In India

While the F 900 XR feels very planted on almost any kinds of roads, the suspension feels a tad stiff, translating even the smallest bumps through to the rider's body. While the bumps don't unsettle the bike in the slightest amount, it's not as comfortable for your back as the GS twins, and might not be ideal for long multi-day tours. Stand up while riding though, and the bike glides over broken roads without ever losing composure. The handlebar is nice and high too, making it easier to let your knees do the work of the suspension. There's also ample amount of space to move around on the saddle, but the pillion seat is too small and will be best suited for short trips.


Riding through the twisties, we reached the off-road trail which was specially curated by 'The School Of Dirt', who organised the whole ride, and it was time to swap the BMW F 900 XR for the BMW F 850 GS Adventure. Right from the moment I approached the bike, I was wary of its size. It is huge! In fact, it's much bigger than it looks in the pictures. At 875 mm, the seat height is really high too, and the width of the bike also doesn't allow your legs to go straight down. I am 6 feet tall and my bike had the lowered seat option fitted - which lowers the seat height by 20 mm - instead of the standard 'comfort seat', and still I couldn't get both my feet on the ground, which makes it very intimidating to get along with, especially for a novice who hasn't had any exposure to big, burly adventure bikes.


We put the F 850 GS Adventure through mud, gravel, and a lot more off-road sections, and the bike never broke a sweat despite the road biased tyres it was running.

Most of the off-road trail had moist rocks covered in moss, with patches of mud, loose dirt, and gravel in between, and the GSA pushed through everything with ease. Its off-road tractability is almost contrasting to its intimidating looks, and once you get going, the bike doesn't overwhelm you. But it's the slow and tricky trails and downhill sections where the GSA feels too big in terms of size, and with most of the weight placed higher up, the balance shifts quite dynamically when the bike is at crawling speeds. The engine guards are well placed though, and should you drop the bike on the trail, it will most likely not damage the motorcycle.


The BMW F 850 GS Adventure also had the additional LED fog lights, which were missing on the GS.

The F 850 GS and GSA also has a muscular exhaust note which is very different from the XR's calmer sounding exhaust, and suits the visual loudness of the motorcycles.There are 6 riding modes on the GS twins, including dedicated Enduro and Enduro Pro modes, especially tuned to handle off-roading duties. Even in the Enduro Pro mode, the traction control is still on, with intervention levels at the bare minimum, but it can still be turned off, if you wish to take full control of the motorcycle.


The BMW F 850 GS Adventure handled the climb up to the hill top without any drama.

Ankle-deep mud, loose gravel, steep uphill sections, the F 850 GSA handled it all, and with nonchalant ease. Our test  bike was fitted with road-biased tyres, but just dropping the tyre pressure a bit was enough to see this bike get enough traction to go through all the rough stuff. The large fuel tank on this bike gives you almost 50% more range than the standard F 850 GS, but if you plan to take it off-road more often, the lighter F 850 GS would be a better choice since it's just as capable and easier to work with, and Rs. 75,000 cheaper too.

Also Read: 2022 BMW F 850 GS And F 850 GS Adventure Launched In India; Prices Start At Rs. 12.50 Lakh


The F 85 GS is considerably lighter and narrower than the F 850 GS Adventure.

After the off-road experience, it was time to experience the F 850 GS Adventure on the highways on the way back. The focus of the additions in the 'Adventure' sibling of the F 850 GS is not towards improving its off-roading abilities, but are to improve its long distance touring abilities. With the larger fuel tank, you'll end up making fewer stops on your way on a long road trip, and the addition of the LED fog lights helps with increasing the visibility at night too. The wider windscreen compared to the standard GS is also very helpful on highways, and I couldn't feel any wind even at mid triple digit speeds.

The obvious advantages of the GSA also have a 'large' negative effect on it though.The 853 cc inline-two engine, while effortless on the highway, feels buried under the weight of the 248 kg F 850 GS Adventure. The same engine that generates 94 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 92 Nm of torque at 6,250 rpm feels way more peppy on the standard F 850 GS, which weighs 233 kgs. So if you don't mind making extra pitstops on your highway cruise and a little wind hitting your helmet, the F 850 GS would be a better choice. After all, a 15 kg weight loss does seem to make a world of difference, especially out on a trail.


The BMW F 850 GS is easier to live with, and the only big shortcoming of it compared to the GS Adventure is a smaller fuel tank and a smaller windscreen.

There's very little to complain about the GS twins. The suspension on these bikes soak up everything, even large potholes and bumps. They get all of the upgraded equipment as the BMW F 900 XR, with multiple off-road focused additions. Priced at Rs. 12.50 lakh (Ex-showroom), just Rs. 20,000 above the F 900 XR, the F 850 GS is a very attractive deal. Even though the engine generates a little less power on the GS twins, the F 850 GS is almost as fast as the XR, and that exhaust note is very enjoyable too.

So why consider the F 900 XR at all? Well, the answer to that is very straight forward. The F 850 GS, while very capable off-roads and very comfortable on roads, is just not as fun to attack corners on, which is where the XR shines. The popular choice, including of many other media colleagues present at the event - the BMW F 850 GS might be an obvious winner here, but if you are someone who loves cornering, it's the XR which will put a grin on your face, and that is something which is difficult to ignore.

So, to answer the big question, will one of these bikes be the right entry point in the world of big bikes, there's no straight answer. For someone who would be asking that question, it is very likely that it would be the only big bike in the garage for a while, so the wiser option would be to consider its British and Japanese rivals too, before making a decision. The BMW F 850 GS Adventure, though a brilliant mile-muncher and a very capable machine, may not be the practical pick for many. The bike is just too big for everyday use, too hefty to properly enjoy off-road riding, and just too heavy overall.

As for the BMW F 900 XR, the bike is highly enjoyable on the tarmac, has really brisk acceleration and loads of grip, but at 219 kgs, it's not all that big to give you the big bike feeling. The calmer exhaust note doesn't help its case either, and once you get used to it, you'll end up feeling like you're riding a more powerful version of one of the mid-sized bikes.

The BMW F 850 GS however, is the perfect balance between the two. It has a comfortable and capable suspension to do countless miles on any kind of surface and terrain. It is the best off-roader of the three, considering its agility advantage over the GS Adventure, and it's just about big and loud enough to give you the feeling that you are indeed riding a big bike. Its pricing also undercuts many of its direct rivals, which is why it makes for a strong contender for anyone looking for a middleweight adventure bike.


Last Updated on June 22, 2022

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