|   motorcycles home   | |   maintenance & modifications   | |   my wreck   | |   r 1200 gs   | |   k 1200 rs (w/sidecar!)   |


BMW R 850 R

stock 1996 R850R, pic from motorcycle.com

The R850 platform is a highly overlooked (in the US anyway) motorcycle. Released the same time as the original R1100xx bikes, the R850 offered a slightly smaller option for those not interested in the new 1100.

Now, in the US, the model flopped almost completely. The only model BMW imported was the R850R, leaving the highly successful (and later) R850GS and R850C models to languish unappreciated in the US market. All the 850 models have done well in Europe and Asia. BMW still currently offers the R850R in Europe.

"Why?" I hear you cry. I mean, you look at the pic to the right, a pic I grabbed off motorcycle.com of a stock 1996 R850R. It looks fine, right?

It's very simple. Europe has a graduated motorcycle license. That is, you have to have a certain amount of experience with a small bike (and hold the requisite license for a period of time) before you're allowed to ride a larger, more powerful motorcycle. Their insurance rates are graduated as well - and the demarcation between "small" bikes and "big" bikes is about 900cc (depending on the country).

Americans, however, are short-sighted and vain and must always have the biggest engine available in their chosen marque - or if they can swallow their pride and buy a 600cc sportbike, it at least has to have enough horsepower to impress their friends.

But I digress.

The R850 is a wonderful bike - smooth and torquey in the lower gears, with comfortable ergonomics and lots of mod possibilities. Functionally it is exactly the same as the R1100R bike of the same year (in any given model year), the only differences being some of the engine internals like the cylinders, pistons, etc. Outside that the bikes are identical.

The R850 even shares quite a bit of parts commonality with the amazingly popular R1100GS! I know this for a fact, because I put an R1100GS torque arm on my R850R!

Below you can view pictures and descriptions of my R850R, plus some separate pages on repair/maintenance items and various modifications. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or want to chat R850!


This here is my 1997 R850R.
This is what my R850R looked like the day I brought it home (early May 2006). It was previously owned by a guy in Gettysburg, PA that bought it from Bob's BMW (in suburban Maryland) and did extensive modifications on it himself. In the 9 yrs he owned it, he only put 18,405 miles on this wonderful bike!

So... note in this picture the Parabellum Scout fairing and PIAA aux lights. The lights are wired to a static on/off switch, but cannot be turned on with the ignition off. Very smart!

The previous owner (PO) was a tall guy like I am, so he put these sweet footpeg lowering jobbies on the bike. The other side required a matching shifter-lowering jobbie too - the whole kid is made by Wüdo.
Yes, that is a GS handlebar (complete w/hand guards and heated grips) morphed into place on an -R bike. Beats the hell out of the non-adjustable stock 2-piece "clip-on" setup.
They don't call that thing a "Day Long" for nothing.
OK check this out.
This is what the instrument cluster looks like when it's stock. That's right, BMW in their infinite wisdom for several years accentuated the stripped-down look of the -R platform by leaving off a tachometer! They made up for it by having an aftermarket clock & tach kit that was a bolt-on/plug-in thing. My PO, of course, got it.

In the pic of my bike you can also see the PIAA on/off switch. Weird thing though - when the lights are off, the indicator on the switch is green, but it's red when the lights are on. That seems backwards to me.

This is the FIRST time I changed the windshield. The PO gave me two spare shields with the bike - a tall and an extra tall, 20 & 22 inches I think. The first windshield, about 18" tall, put wind directly into my face and buffeted my helmet all around, so I cut it off. See the mods page for more info.
Crash bars! Also by Wüdo.
2nd windshield. The shorty one wasn't giving me enough protection during the colder months - you know, the ones with all the rain. I threw the 20" shield on there - but got all that buffeting back again. I cut the shield down, this time instead of going straight across though, I thought it out and used the bottom curve of the shorty shield to make the top curve of my "middy" shield.

As you can see from this shot of another R850R, the Parabellum fairing is a lot cooler looking than the "stock" BMW add-on windshield, which from what I've heard has really flimsy mounts anyway.

When you have to lube the final drive splines, you've really got to take a lot of the bike apart. You also need cool tools like a "breaker bar" and a "heat gun" - plus a really large socket, dental tools, and threadlocking compound. It takes all of 2 minutes to lube the splines - but a couple hours to dis- and re-assemble the bike to do this very important maintenance item!
I wanted a small topcase to hold minor things like helmet face shields, a spare quart of oil, or a bottle of water for short rides - so I could journey out without both side cases attached.

One ammo case and some u-bolts later, there you go. You can also see the lowered exhaust on the left side of the bike, enabling the use of a full-size case on that side - this is often called the "RT Mod", as -RT bikes come from the factory this way. Check out the pic on the right (again from motorcycle.com) to see what a stock R850R's left case & exhaust looks like.

I wanted to get a bit more ride height and turning stability, but with the Telelever you can't just drop the forks in the triple clamp and achieve either of those things. Instead, what you do is fit a shorter torque arm - that's the thing that goes between the transmission housing and the final drive housing that keeps your rear wheel from skewing out of true when you get on the gas. By fitting a slightly shorter torque arm, you get a slightly taller bike and a bit quicker turn-in when you're on the twisties.
Every proper BMW rider needs a GPS, right? This is actually the 3rd GPS I had fitted to the bike, and the one I currently use. It's a Garmin Streetpilot II+ Color - discontinued, of course, but it works just fine. I originally had it mounted in the middle of the crossbar, but it obscured... everything. On this side, it only blocks the clock.

Which matters not - when I'm out on the bike, I don't give a rat's ass what time it is!!