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:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£250|
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||£96|
|Annual service cost||£250|
|Used price||£7,500 - £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: Auf Wiedersehen Pet! Fond farewell to the BMW F900XR
It was a difficult year to put miles on a long-term test bike and I've given it back feeling like I had much to learn. Here's a timeline of what I did manage to acheive with the bike and you can find more detailed entries below. Jump to previous updates Update one: Introducing the BMW F900XR TE Upd…
Owners' reviews for the BMW F900XR (2020 - on)
9 owners have 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:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£250|
Clutch is an issue
For a sports tourer it’s a bit of a hard ride even on the softest damping adjustment
Clutch works intermittently with the gearbox putting out some interesting grinding noises (only done 4000 miles and not an adjustment issue) not bad enough to get it into BMW yet. Watch this space.
TFT display is awesome
Buying experience: Dealer. £8000 1 year old.
Annual servicing cost: £250
It's just a great all rounder. The mounts for the standard panniers are pretty discreet so with panniers off it is an agile sports bike for twisties or good on the morning for getting between traffic. Put the panniers on and you've got a highly capable fairly well shielded tourer. It really is the jack of all trades. Other than riding off road I haven't found anything that it isn't flippin' good at.
Front brakes are phenomenal. Great progressive feel. They're not snatchy and are great in the wet and after a long hard slog down the twisties. The ABS and DTC are unobtrusive and work nicely in the background. Back brake is pretty solid and one of the better rear brakes I've had on various bikes. My only complaint on braking is the front suspension is pretty soft and it does nose dive quite a bit so you've got to be careful at slower speeds at it will affect balance. But it's something you get used to... Just be gentle.The only thing that lets the bike down as far as comfort goes is the seat. It is like sitting on a plank of wood. On my old Nc750 I could sit on it for hours. On the low seat after a couple of hours I'm in pain. Ever the standard seat I test rode wasn't much better. Definitely look at getting a 3rd party seat.
A really forgiving engine that doesn't judder regardless of how low you let the revs go. Hugely versatile as it pulls at pretty much any gear / speed combination.Being euro 6 compliant it runs really hot and you get some serious heat coming off of it. When the fan kicks in you get all that heat over your legs which is great in winter..... Not so great in summer.But it's so smooth for slow speed manoeuvres, copes with any amount of weight, it's exciting when pushed, smooth when cruising. It really is a cracking motor.I don't have the quick shifter but the gears are smooth, I don't have issues finding gears or neutral. Clutch isn't particularly heavy so there's no issues with hand fatigue over prolonged rides.
Everything feels premium. At the end of the day BMW have a reputation to uphold and they've done just that. I haven't come across anything loose, rattling, corroding or looking worn even after several thousand miles. I had a minor paint issue on the front bracket the brake calipers and front forks mount onto. I'm talking about a tiny paint imperfection but it could've potentially led to corrosion but BMW replaced it with absolutely no questions asked.
A full service with brake fluid change was £250. With just the oil and filters and minor tinkering etc it is £150. Bigger services with fork fluids etc are more. But it probably averages out to about £250 to £275 per year.Ok it's not the cheapest bike in the class. But you get a lot of bike for the money and with the build quality and just well thought through features, handling and performance I don't feel ripped off. I feel very happy for the price.
The screen is the star of the show. Love the well thought through BMW Connected app on the phone that will display turn by turn navigation on the screen via Bluetooth. So no wires, no mess, no ugly phone mounts etc. Love the keyless start. Didn't think I needed it but now I have it I couldn't live without it.The discreet pannier mounts really make it the jack of all trades. Sport bike and tourer.Love the windscreen that adjusts with a quick flick of a lever. Not the best screen, even at 5'8 I'm not the tallest bloke in the world and on the high screen setting I get a face full of buffeting. I find it is nicer on the lower setting as it hits my shoulders but at least the air flow is smoother so no buffeting.
Buying experience: The BMW dealership is faultless. The buying experience and the warranty work and two services I've had are up there with the best service I've ever received.
Version: T E
Annual servicing cost: £150
One of those great 'bike for everything' type of bikes.
This is one of my main reasons for buying. Ride quality is composed and comfortable, the esa rear suspension giving a perfectly supple ride.
Lovely engine, very responsive and virtually identical in overall power and torque to a Suzuki V.Strom 1000 I had. Ok, a bit more power would be nice but its only a 900 twin. Fast as you need up to around 100mph, then loses its ability to thrust forward although will get up to 130 no problem if you have enough road. But it doesn't get up to 130 in a flash, like my ancient zzr600 does.
At only 1500 miles its too early to evaluate reliability, but the engine and various parts including electronics have bern in use for years on other bmw bikes so im assuming long term reliability is going to be good.
1st service at £150 is identical to the 1st service on a new V Strom 2017.
Mega well equipped, but then I did pay for top spec. Centre stand, esa suspension, heated grips, tracker and keyless start are the things ide most miss. But there's loads more!
Buying experience: Excellent because I knew what I wanted and Bowkers, Preston gave me a very fair trade in price.
Really nice looking bike, especially in red. Has a solid quality feel and looks well put together. Just run in and had first service and the MPG is well into the 50s. Only reason I gave it 4 instead of five is the seat, easy to sort but you shouldn't have to at this price. I want to do some touring and after sorting the seat this should be prefect.
ESA not as good as on my GSA but still no complaints. Brembo brakes so they're about as good as it gets.
Plenty of power and surprisingly smooth for a twin, still has a bit of a bark in the exhaust and you can feel its a twin which I like.
The plastics are good solid quality items, only done about 800 miles but so far so good.
Will be using a BMW specialist rather than a main dealer so servicing should be reasonable.
Typical BMW with list of extras but I bought the TE with a couple of useful packs, got £1000 discount which I think made it good value. Don't like the sat nav holder, I've tried the nav 6 but prefer to use my phone which links to the screen to give turn by turn directions, very impressed, always connects and the screen layout is spot on.
Buying experience: Straight forward, gave me the best discount plus free first service and APF 50 treatment,, so happy with dealer experience.
Version: Xr te
Changed from a 1250 gs after the brake calliper disaster to the xr 900. Really great bike apart from one thing. The seat is truly appalling for a premium brand motorcycle. If you can go more than 40 miles without losing all feeling in you bum you are a better man than me.
See above. The seat is crippling. After a 40 mile ride i could just about walk but my other half was in tears. The comfort seat should be the standard and then improve on seats above that
No problems as yet 6 months old
Best feature is the red colour, looks like a multi strada. Bike should have a center stand not as an extra
Buying experience: Vines Guilford. Very good service. Sadly didnt test ride first (corona) Then would have discovered seat is so so bad. In fact worst seat i have ever had and i have owned an r1
Version: F900xr Tour
Annual servicing cost: £500
Stunning bike and the engine is a work of art. Handling is sublime and the ergonomics are excellent, for short riders all the way through to tall riders, due to the fact that there are different seat and suspension options. I am 188cmtall and I had the Comfort Seat fitted, which is more comfortable than standard seat and fits me better. I have a smile on my face whenever I hop on and the electronics are excellent. Very easy to ride and not intimidating but gets the blood racing if you want it too and if you want to cruise, torque is available from low rpm all the way through
Brilliant handling, comfortable, easy to ride and exciting
Fantastic engine. Power available through the entire rev range, really opens up past 6000rpm
Very well built and I can't find any faults at all. Typical BMW quality
I'm based in Australia
I love the different riding modes. I have the full spec model
Buying experience: Bought from Doncaster BMW in Melbourne, Australia. Fantastic experience
Version: Sport TE
Annual servicing cost: £180
Superb machine can’t understand why BMW haven’t sold shed loads! Traded down in size from a 1250 GS and have no regrets. Light weight, plenty of go for real world riding, handing is effortless and brakes strong. Seat could be comfier.
Ride quality is very good from the non-adjustable front forks, BMW have got the settings spot on here. Rear shock is electronically adjustable, I mainly leave it in the single rider setting which I find excellent. Not tried riding with a pillion yet so unable to comment on the suspension for 2 up handling. Front brakes are very strong but do need a good pull on the lever. Rear brake has a lot of travel but is perfectly fine and up to the job. Overall, it’s a bike that just feels right as soon as you sit on it and is completely unflustered in every situation. Easily comfy enough for all day ride outs and would be fine for solo touring. As above, cannot comment on pillion capability yet.
Engine is a peach with loads of character and a great sound from the exhaust. Plenty of power from the 900cc twin and it feels very different to the F 850 GS twin I rode, far more rev happy. It does need revving to the upper end of the range to get the best performance and is more than happy to do so. It’s not the missile that the S 1000 XR is but could still easily get you into trouble with the law if that’s your bag.
Build quality is excellent and feels high quality. Paint looks deep and all the panels fit well. The only issue I've had was a faulty steering lock (replaced under warranty). No issues to date with reliability.
Typical BMW prices but I guess that’s because it’s a "premium" brand. £180 for the first service at 600 miles, next service due in 6000 miles or 12 months. Too early to give an opinion on running costs but I am getting 60+ mpg riding within posted limits solo.
I went for a fully spec’d up top of the range TE model so the standard of equipment is excellent – at a cost! TFT screen is brilliant and paired with a smartphone pretty much leaves the BMW Nav pointless. Love the fully keyless operation, stick the keys in my jacket pocket and forget it. Cornering headlights are not a gimmick and really do work very well. Mine came with Pilot Road 5 tyres which I had on my previous GS and found to be good and confidence inspiring wet or dry. Weather protection is surprisingly very good as it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a fairing. Sport screen works for me in the lower position as it directs wind blast into my chest. Adjustment is very simple with a single lever
Buying experience: Bought new from a dealer. Got a good deal trading in the GS (I suspect they had a buyer all lined up).
Annual servicing cost: £150
Had the bike from 6/2020. Now I am on 11 000km. Excellent all-rounder. Good acceleration, superb brakes and handling. The dashboard is quite nice TFT display with a lot of functions. BMW application let you have navigation on motorcycle display. Very economical bike. All features work perfect. What I do not like is that when hard braking the front feels very soft - when harder/sportier springs are available would definitely upgrade. The low seat is horrible. After 1 hour your bottom is soar. I do 8+ rides a day and after such riding I wonder which is it - the joy from the ride or the seat killing the joy. Looking into upgrading the seat.
Cornering is easy. The torque is superb for pulling after a slow corner. Seat is very unconfortable.
It pull very early until 7000rpm. Very high compression ratio results in being economical even when you play with it.
So far everything works smoothly. 2 Oil changes - one at 1000km and one at 11 000km
Initial pricing seemed a bit high but the bike came with all features included. Service is around 150 euro where I live -work + oil (Bulgaria).
Colorful TFT display. Automatic LED headlights. Adjustable rear suspension - dampening and preload. Center stand. There is literally nothing more to ask equipment side.
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.