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First Impression - 2019 BMW F 750 GS and F 850 GS

Inside Motorcycles just got back from the media press launch for the two newest middle class adventure bikes from BMW Motorrad and thought we’d give our digital followers a sneak peek at our first impressions of the new entry level and mid level BMW adventure machines. You can read the full detailed review of the new machines in an upcoming issue of Inside Motorcycles.

As I mentioned in my Inside Line editorial in the last MX and Off-Road issue, the adventure bike segment has been growing substantially. BMW bikes have always been at the forefront of this segment since the mid 2000s when the British television series Long Way Around with Ewan McGregor was on the air. Following the series, the show made middle-aged men part with their hard earned money by flocking to the nearest BMW dealership to plop down deposits on a shiny new 1150 GS.

This launch was focused on the entry to mid level products from the BMW line, the F 750 GS and F 850 GS. Both machines are brand new and have some substantial changes from their F 700 and F 800 predecessors. There are also a lot of shared components between these two new models.

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The F 750 GS is slotted into the “mostly on road with occasional off road” category and BMW is targeting new motorcycle riders as well as the female segment with this model. The stock low seat height of 815 mm (optional lowering kit drops the seat height to 770 mm) is going to be welcome news to riders with a short inseam as it allows them to have a confident connection with terra firma when stopped at a stoplight or uneven off-road terrain. The narrow midsection also makes it easier to reach the ground. The motor, an 853 cc power plant that shares the same displacement with its bigger brother, with different intake and exhaust cams, puts out a respectable 57 kW (77 hp) at 7,500 rpm. The motor is free revving with a crisp throttle response, however you do have to get into the upper two thirds of the RPM range to stay in the meat of the power. This allows new or inexperienced riders to progressively explore the motor’s characteristics as they get more comfortable on the machine. On the road, the bike feels light and flickable and surprisingly very fun, even for experienced riders. Fitted with street rubber, the tight and twisty roads put a smile on all the journalists’ faces. When taken off-road, the F 750 GS can definitely hold its own, and we had no trouble navigating the gravel roads and rocky double tracks of Colorado and Utah, even with the street tires. When pushed on the off-road terrain, the cast aluminum 19-inch front and 17-inch rear rims, already mentioned street tires, rear shock and telescopic 41 mm fork and quickly reach their limit when ridden in more technical terrain or by a more aggressive rider in the 180 to 200 lb range.

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BMW Motorrad sees the F 850 GS fitting the ADV spectrum just below the flagship 1200 GS where the F 850 GS is equally comfortable on road as well as off-road. This statement quickly becomes apparent, as soon as you have a look at the components on F 750 GS’s bigger brother. The cast aluminum rims are replaced with cross spoke wheels and the 850 gets the more off-road oriented 21-inch front wheel but sticks with the 17-inch rear, USD 43 mm front fork and beefy rear shock, paired with the very capable 853 cc 70 kW (90 hp) motor. The stock seat height is 860 mm, 45 mm taller than the F 750 GS but in line with other manufacturers’ bikes in this category. Suspension travel is also increased and respectable at 204 mm/219 mm front/rear compared to the F 750 GS, which comes in at 151 mm/177 mm. The F 850 GS is truly a lot of fun on- and off-road, with good power to make it fun on the pavement and to spin the tires in the dirt when you turn off the traction control for maximum fun factor.

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The stock electronics package comes with two standard riding modes on both machines (Rain and Road) and optional Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro mode for the F 850 GS. Our test machines were equipped with the Enduro Pro option and we were very impressed with its customization capability for turning off traction control and ABS to suit different riding terrain.

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When you combine a very capable pair of motorcycles with the BMW brand that prides itself on being a premium brand, you may expect the price to be out of range. However, you might be surprised. The F 750 GS starts at a Canadian MSRP of $11,200 and the F 850 GS at $14,800. If you want to load up either model with every option available, the price will go up by an additional $4,600.

2019 BMW F 750 GS
MSRP: Starting at $11,200
Colour: Light White, Austin Metallic Yellow, Stereo Metallic Matt
Engine: Liquid-cooled in-line twin
Displacement: 853 cc
Power: 77 hp @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 61 ft-lb @ 6,000 rpm
Frame: Bridge-type frame, steel shell construction
Weight: 224 kg (493.8 lb), wet
Seat height: 815 mm (32.1 in)
Suspension (front): 41 mm telescopic fork
Suspension (rear): Single shock adjustable for spring pre-load and rebounds damping
Brakes (front): dual 305 mm discs with double-piston floating caliper
Brakes (rear): 265 mm disc with single-piston floating caliper
Fuel Capacity: 15 L

2019 BMW F 850 GS
MSRP: Starting at $14,800
Colour: Rallye style Tri-Colour, Racing Red, Pollux Metallic Matt
Engine: Liquid-cooled in-line twin
Displacement: 853 cc
Power: 90 hp @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 68 ft-lb @ 6,000 rpm
Frame: Bridge-type frame, steel shell construction
Weight: 229 kg (504.9 lb), wet
Seat height: 860 mm (33.9 in)
Suspension (front): USD 43 mm telescopic fork
Suspension (rear): Single shock adjustable for spring pre-load and rebounds damping
Brakes (front): dual 305 mm discs with double-piston floating caliper
Brakes (rear): 265 mm disc with single-piston floating caliper
Fuel Capacity: 15 L

Friday, 02 November 2018 16:51 Published in Products

First Impression – 2019 KTM 790 Duke

Every fall, Milan, Italy provides the backdrop for the unveiling of the latest and greatest innovations from the motorcycle industry. When KTM rolled the production model of the 790 Duke onto EICMA’s world stage in November 2017, fans of naked bikes stood up and paid attention. Now, almost a full year later, with the production requirements for Europe’s motorcycle-centric population satisfied, the 790 Duke has arrived as a 2019 model in North America. When KTM called with an invitation to test out this machine on California’s sun-drenched twisties, the answer from IM was a resounding “YES!” Our full review will be in your mailbox and on newsstands in the near future, but in the interim here is a First Impression look at this exciting new motorcycle.

Upon initial glance, the 790 Duke fits right into the Duke family, sharing the same aggressive minimalist design right down to split LED headlight, but make no mistake: while the 790 Duke adds to the lineage of a lineup that will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original Duke 620 in 2019, this motorcycle represents a new chapter for Austria’s best-known motorcycle manufacturer.

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Developed with a goal of creating a mid-point in the brand’s street lineup, the 790 Duke is the culmination of over 100,000 man-hours that went into creating this motorcycle. At its heart is KTM’s all-new compact LC8c 799 cc DOHC liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine. In addition to being the company’s first foray into this configuration, the pairing of the engine as a load-bearing element of the chromium molybdenum tubular steel frame is another first for the company. Thanks in large part to this new frame design, the 790 Duke tips the scales with a svelte dry weight of just 169 kg (372.6 lb) and with a claimed 105 horsepower the resulting power-to-weight ratio moves it to the forefront of the highly competitive middleweight class. KTM representatives explained that the engine has been tuned to provide low-end torque without sacrificing the ability to pull power out at the top end. While it is easy to be skeptical of statements like these, it was immediately clear when riding the bike that the 790 Duke delivers on this goal as it pulls hard from the initial twist of the throttle right through to its 9,500 rpm redline.

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Despite having a very reasonable Canadian MSRP of $11,499, the 790 Duke is loaded with standard features including up/down quick shifter, full-colour TFT display, WP suspension, steering damper, ride-by-wire throttle and power-assisted slipper clutch. In addition to Bosch-controlled lean-sensitive traction control, motor slip regulation and ABS, the 790 Duke includes selectable ride modes of Rain, Street and Sport as well as a Track setting which allows complete control over the level of rider aids including the ability to turn off wheelie control. True to KTM’s Ready to Race mantra, the inclusion of a Supermoto ABS setting, which allows the rider to disengage the cornering ABS on the rear tire, as well as the ability to set the shift linkage to a race pattern without additional parts will satisfy even the most dedicated track day enthusiasts. Need further proof of the abilities of this motorcycle? Take a visit to YouTube and check out Chris Fillmore’s record setting 2018 Pikes Peak run. Save for an exhaust system, rear sets, slick tires and removal of unnecessary street-legal components, the bike you see in the video is essentially the same one that is waiting for you on the showroom floor at KTM.

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Anyone who has ridden the 1290 Super Duke or 390 Duke will find the upright, slightly pitched forward riding position very familiar, although the size of the 790 Duke actually feels more comparable to the 390. The ergonomics are very comfortable and thanks to KTM’s forethought to include ample adjustments – four options on the triple clamp plus three further options for rotation – the tapered aluminum handlebar can be positioned to meet a wide variety of physical reaches and riding preferences. Despite being raised to accommodate the level of ground clearance that the 790 Duke’s sporting intentions require, the footpegs are comfortably positioned and riders of various heights reported being impressed with the absence of any leg cramping or fatigue.

So, is the 790 Duke as good in real life as it is on paper? KTM refers to this model as “The Scalpel” which reflects the company’s stated ambition of creating “the sharpest street weapon.” In the case of the 790 Duke, these slick marketing slogans are also accurate descriptions of this motorcycle. From the first corner to the last, this motorcycle impressed with its uncanny confidence-inspiring ability to handle anything that was thrown at it. Light and manoeuvrable, the 790 Duke moves from side to side with ease and tracks perfectly through corners at grin-inducing lean angles. It accelerates with a ferocity that will make its competitors nervous and is built to be equally capable commuting across town as it is carving through canyons or tearing up the track. On top of all of this it looks great, sounds awesome and is surprisingly comfortable. Add in an $11,499 MSRP and it looks like KTM has a winning formula.

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2019 KTM 790 Duke
Canadian MSRP: $11,499
Colours: Orange, Grey
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin
Displacement: 799 cc
Power: 105 hp @ 9,000 rpm
Torque: 64 ft-lb @ 8,000 rpm
Frame: Chromium molybdenum tubular steel with engine as stressed element
Weight: 169 kg (382.6 lb), dry
Wheelbase: 1,475 mm (58.1 in)
Seat height: 825 mm (32.5 in)
Suspension (front): WP inverted 43 mm fork
Suspension (rear): WP shock absorber with adjustable preload
Brakes (front): dual 300 mm discs with radially mounted 4 piston calipers
Brakes (rear): 240 mm disc with 2 piston caliper
Fuel Capacity: 14 L

Friday, 26 October 2018 12:48 Published in Products

2018 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S - Initial Impression

A visit to KTM’s North American headquarters in sunny Southern California last week provided a break from Canada’s persistent winter weather and the perfect opportunity to test the brand’s latest adventure bike offering: the 1290 Super Adventure S, which is making its inaugural appearance in Canada as a 2018 model. You will be able to find Inside Motorcycles’ complete in-depth review of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S in an upcoming issue, but we couldn’t wait to share our initial thoughts on this exciting motorcycle. 

Saturday, 07 April 2018 17:59 Published in Industry News

2018 Panigale V4 S - First Impression

When I heard that they lightened the dash by a few hundred grams, with that level of attention to detail I knew this was going to be one serious bike. Actually scratch that, I knew well before the press launch that Ducati’s new flagship superbike was going to be momentous. This is after all Ducati with a heritage rich in racing and phenomenal red paint.

Monday, 29 January 2018 17:57 Published in Industry News

2018 Honda Gold Wing - Initial Impression

This week IM visited Austin, Texas to test the all-new 2018 Honda Gold Wing. Completely redesigned from the ground up, this is the first major update of Honda's flagship touring machine since the introduction of the GL1800 in 2001. Our complete, in-depth review of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing will be featured in an upcoming issue of Inside Motorcycles, but we couldn’t wait to share our initial impressions of Honda’s latest model.

Thursday, 18 January 2018 22:56 Published in Industry News

Honda Unveils All-New 2018 Gold Wing

In a fitting tribute to the country that elevated their flagship-touring machine to iconic status, Honda chose the United States as the location for the global launch of the redesigned 2018 Gold Wing on October 24, 2017 in Santa Barbara, California.

Thursday, 26 October 2017 10:56 Published in Industry News

Press Launch: BMW K 1600 B

As I circulate the fast, long sweeping turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway at speeds that shall not be named for risk of incriminating myself, I smirk as I realize that I’m on a bagger not a sport bike. Simply put, you can corner with confidence at the same speed as most other baggers top out.

Sunday, 27 August 2017 18:25 Published in Feature Stories

Press launch: Kawasaki Versys-X 300 in Utah

Kawasaki has given the Versys-X 300 somewhat of an identity crisis. The all-new 2017 model is positioned as a street bike, and is listed as such on Kawasaki’s Canadian website. But then there are the dirt-leaning dual sport looks, and the marketing imagery of the bike being ridden in the dirt and splashing through mud. You’d be forgiven for being as perplexed as I was about who exactly this motorcycle is intended for.

Friday, 12 May 2017 13:36 Published in Feature Stories

FIRST RIDE: 2017 HONDA REBEL 300 AND REBEL 500 (with photos!)

For the international launch of its fresh, youthful 2017 Rebel 300 and 500 models, Honda chose the oceanfront neighbourhood of Venice Beach, California. The vibrant location, what with its trendy restaurants, cafés and free-spirited community, served as the perfect backdrop for the exciting new Rebel series.

Tuesday, 04 April 2017 17:06 Published in Feature Stories

1903: A Harley-Davidson Cafe - Toronto Grand Opening (Thursday, June 16)

Inside Motorcycles was invited to the grand opening of 1903, a Harley-Davidson-branded cafe on the hip Ossington St. strip between Queen West and Dundas in Toronto. Attended by a mix of Harley reps like new Managing Director Anoop Prakash and Creative Director of General Merchandise at H-D in the US Karen Davidson, media and industry insiders, dealer reps and a gaggle of hip Toronto moto culture enthusiasts, the grand opening featured a DJ, Jumpstart stationary test rides, BBQ ribs and sliders, craft beer, themed cocktails and a whole lot of coffee and snacks that the shop will continue to sell daily.

The vibe of the new venue is relaxed, open, airy and welcoming. Stop by with friends and hang out on the couches or check out the tools and vintage paraphernalia on the walls. It's sure to become a destination for Harley enthusiasts from outside the city as well as a welcoming urban spot for those who make Toronto their home. Check out our gallery from the grand opening!

Friday, 17 June 2016 15:33 Published in Industry News

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