Forks are unadjustable, while the rear shock has rebound and remote preload. It’s not glitzy kit, but the shortage of adjusters and gold bits doesn’t mean ‘budget’ – action is good, and the mix of control and comfort is almost cock-on.
Chassis balance is a highlight: the F900XR can be flicked about easily regardless of speed or surface, yet always with total composure and confidence-boosting manners. ESA is optional (rear shock only), but while it allows a sportier set-up the XR feels nicest on the regular settings. There’s no shortage of real-road braking power and feel from the four-pot Brembos.
It’s a big-bore job on the parallel twin from the F850GS, displacing 895cc and making 68 pounds-feet of grunt and 105bhp. It feels free-revving and crisp under hard acceleration in first and second, though the sparkle fades in higher ratios; however, the twin makes up for this with roll-on flexibility and accessible thrust of normal riding.
And the deep rumble from the 270˚ crank makes it the best-sounding parallel twin BMW to date. Throttle response in Rain mode is super-smooth; there’s a tiny off-on step in Road mode, but you get used to it within a few miles. Get the Riding Modes Pro option and the extra Dynamic mode gives more direct response but brings a snatchy action too.
The donor F850 engine (and the F800 before that) are proven and dependable, so we wouldn’t expect issues with the 900. Specific power (bhp-per-cc) is modest and it’s not a highly-strung unit.
Chassis parts are good quality, switchgear and dash are as used across BMW’s range, and the level of finish is like you’d get on a specced-up R1250GS costing almost twice as much.
Our sole BMW F900XR owners' review gives the bike 4 stars out of 5.
List price for the base model is dead in-line with rivals, and the F900XR matches them on equipment levels too. There are various accessories, with pre-configured packages offering the best value.
BMW residual values are strong too, so it won’t depreciate like a Yamaha Tracer 900 or Suzuki V-Strom 1050.
BMW F900XR - Your questions answered
First published 5 June 2020 by Mike Armitage
Based on the BMW F850GS, it was interesting to see how this all-rounder would perform. Could a re-hashed adventure bike really be more than the sum of its borrowed parts and challenge Yamaha’s Tracer 900? And from just £9825, would the expected BMW 'premium' feel be intact?
The answer to both is a definite yes. Riding the new F900XR at its launch and doing hundreds of (pre-lockdown) UK miles showed it to be fabulously agile, easy to ride, high quality and amazingly rounded.
And performing so well in tests has lead to a stream of questions from readers, so it’s time to answer the biggest ones...
Is it entertaining enough in twisties?
The XR is staggeringly light-footed and has proper quality suspension. It flits from side to side and alters course effortlessly, yet manages to be totally stable and composed even at big lean (and it gives loads of confidence in the wet). Plenty of grab from the chunky Brembo calipers, too.
So yes, it entertains, though you have to be willing to work the 900 quite hard for it to really feel perky on squirming B-roads. The twistgrip needs to be wrenched as the exciting bit of the 895cc twin’s claimed 105bhp is all hidden in the last 20% or so of throttle travel.
How does it rate next to a Tracer?
It’s ruddy close. There’s nothing to separate the F900XR and Yam’s three-cylinder Tracer 900 on comfort, wind protection, engine performance, ride quality or price.
They’re both staggeringly competent all-rounders. It’s overall character that splits them: the Tracer feels sportier, livelier and faster (even though it isn’t), while the F900XR is more agile and even easier to ride at low speed, and much more composed in slippery conditions. Riding every day? Get the BMW. Weekend toy? Go Yam...
Is it worth the price difference compared to the naked F900R?
Oh yes. Clearly, if you’re after a naked bike the BMW F900R self-selects. But the XR version is far better – not just because its fairing means greater all-round ability, but because it’s dynamically far superior.
The F900XR was the intended outcome when BMW converted their F850GS into a pure road bike; the point of the project was to build a little brother for the S1000XR and create a bike that could steal customers from Yamaha’s Tracer 900 (which is massively popular in Europe).
And so the XR feels like a wonderfully well-developed and together bike. BMW then reshaped the new adventure-sports XR into the ‘dynamic roadster’ F900R – and it hasn’t worked, despite changes to the geometry, suspension and riding position. Steering is weighty, handling far less agile. It feels like a best effort from the leftovers.
What’s it like compared to the BMW R1250GS?
The BMW R1250GS is unique: its ShiftCam engine has huge stomp, its load-separating chassis gives a surreal floaty ride, and it manages to feel sizeable and nimble at the same time. The F900XR shares the GS’s ability to feel weightless as soon as you pull away, but is otherwise a different experience.
The engine is calmer and less in your face, the chassis has a conventional feel, and it’s far more compact. At 30kg lighter the XR is easy to manage at low speed (and in the garage) though, and it’s as much fun down a knotted road. Dash and controls are the same, and it’s as comfy too – as long as you get the optional tall screen.
Is it a proper, classy, high-spec BMW?
Fear not – the XR is keenly priced for a BMW (list and PCP are nigh-on identical to a Yamaha Tracer and Honda Crossrunner), but this isn’t a budget offering. Quality and finish are as good as any BMW, and you get the colour dash used on the 1250s with phone connectivity and switchgear control, riding modes, traction control, a great two-height screen, LED lights and many ex-works seat height choices.
Options on top include extra modes, semi-active suspension, dynamic traction, cornering ABS, cruise, quickshifter, keyless ride, heated grips...
The F900XR boasts an adjustable (and effective) screen, two riding modes, colour TFT dash with oodles of data and phone connectivity, multifunction switchgear, ASC, ABS, full-size grab handles, and LED headlights that are closer to sunlight rather than piercing white (so the surrounding dark doesn’t look as black).
Options and accessories put the F900XR ahead of alternatives, and include everything from luggage, centre stand and different seat heights, to heated grips and cornering lights, through to electronic suspension, cruise control, quickshifter, dynamic traction, cornering ABS, keyless ride… hey, it’s a BMW. Did you expect anything less?