BMW F900XR (2020 - on) Review
- An excellent everyday motorcycle
- Makes us wonder what S1000XR is for
- Also check out our long-term test
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The 2020 BMW F900XR was developed as a defined model in its own right. It’s not just the F850GS dressed up to rival Yamaha’s hugely popular Tracer 900, nor is it trying to be a mini-S1000XR. Using a big-bored F850 engine and the same frame, it’s a fabulously composed and usable road bike.
- Related: BMW F900XR news
Though the engine doesn’t always feel desperately fast, it makes up for it with flexibility, efficiency and just enough character. Handling is light and agile, yet with utter composure and stability, while the effective screen, balanced ergonomics and decent ride quality make distance work a breeze.
During 2020 we're running a BMW F900XR TE on our long-term test fleet to see what it's like to live with. For the latest, click here.
Watch: BMW F900XR video review
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
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?
|Engine type||8v DOHC parallel twin|
|Frame type||steel bridge-type|
|Fuel capacity||15.5 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm USD fork, no adjustment|
|Rear suspension||monoshock, adj. preload and rebound (optional ESA)|
|Front brake||2 x 320mm discs, four-pot calipers, ABS|
|Rear brake||265mm disc, one-pot caliper, ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55 ZR17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||50 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£93|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£8,500 - £9,900|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||104 bhp|
|Max torque||68 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||170 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2006: updated F series introduced using a new Rotax-built 798cc parallel twin and solid-handling twin-spar chassis. There’s the half-faired F800S sportsbike and more upright F800ST sports-tourer.
- 2008: F650GS and F800GS adventure bikes launched with a new trellis frame. Both use the same 798cc engine despite the names – the 650 version has a lower state of tune and more basic, commuter-focused chassis.
- 2009: F800R roadster (basically a stripped-back F900S) joins the range.
- 2011: F800S discontinued.
- 2013: heavily revised F800GT replaces the F800ST; F800GS also updated, and the F650GS becomes the F700GS.
- 2018: more capacity, new bridge-style frame and complete chassis refresh turns the F800GS into the F850GS. New 270˚ firing interval gives the parallel twin the sound and feel of a V-twin. F800GT discontinued.
There’s a naked version called the F900R. It’s the same platform, but with shorter-travel suspension, more aggressive riding position and more front-biased weight distribution. It’s still as sure-footed and stable, but with more weight on the front the steering feels heavy and the chassis less nimble.
MCN Long term test reports
MCN Fleet: Covid Travels for the BMW F900XR TE
It’s my first big riding adventure of 2020. In a 'normal' year I’d have already clocked up thousands of touring miles but 2020 is proving to be anything but normal. Like many, my dreams of far-flung foreign adventures have been quashed. Ever-changing government guidelines mean I don’t feel comfortab…
Owners' reviews for the BMW F900XR (2020 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their BMW F900XR (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
The bike is fantastic for everyday riding. The electronic package is second to none and feels much plusher than the venerable Tracer 900 which I also tried before settling on the XR. My only complaint is that, despite being advertised as a feature on the TE spec, HSC Pro isn’t actually available on the XR.
Powerful front anchors, but you need to pull on them a fair bit and there’s a dead band in the lever. I have the dynamic ESA but leave it in Road most of the time and it seems fairly adept at dealing with the terrible British roads.
Very tractable engine. 3rd gear is good for 20-70mph.
Still early days, but everything seems solid. Although, one of the hand guards did come loose after just 45 miles.
Got a bit of a discount, but nothing special. Approx 5%.
My bike is fully loaded TE spec machine. However, I was disappointed to learn that HSC Pro (Hill start) is not a feature on the XR, despite being advertised on the BMW Motorrad website. If that’s important to you, it’s something to be aware of.
Buying experience: Originally had a bike on factory order but cancelled because of lockdown delay. Luckily, I found a bike that was in stock and ready to go. Handover was only last week, so social distancing rules meant I was not able to set foot inside the showroom.