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:||£280|
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||£280|
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)
4 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:||£280|
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.