Middleweights

Overview of the 2020 BMW F 900 R & F 900 XR

Jeff Buchanan — Photos Kevin Wing

BMW continues to expand its model line-up with voraciousness, granting customers an ever-widening range of motorcycles to better suit their wants and needs. The result has been an uptick in new riders gravitating toward the German brand due to the offerings of its smaller displacement machines.

The newest bikes in the BMW stable are the F 900 R and F 900 XR. Most notably these machines are true ‘ground-up’ design, and not merely a bored-out 850. I was told by the powers that the new engine only shares one internal engine element with its predecessor.

BMW has always been a brand that invents categories (think GS) and the new 900s are no different. The 900 R fulfills the Middleweight Roadster Segment, while the slightly more aggressive 900 XR is regarded as a Middleweight Adventure Sport Segment. The major difference between the two models is the 900 XR sporting a fairing, which slows into the machine’s bodywork, and an adjustable windscreen (which works decently at freeway speeds).

I’ll jump right in with the visceral report. Both machines are surprisingly responsive, with the 895cc parallel-twin has a radically different level of performance and sound than its predecessor. There’s a lot more punch than just an increase of 50cc. The all-new engine (with forged pistons replacing cast) produces 99 hp (at 8500 rpm) and expresses itself with a dramatically enhanced character in terms of overall response—combined with a lusciously throaty exhaust note. The bike’s temperament has pleasing low-end torque, whether on the throttle or lugging, which makes the bike equally applicable to traffic/commuting to runs through the hills.

Ride modes (applicable on the fly) include RAIN and ROAD settings standard, with optional Pro Modes, which includes Dynamic and Dynamic Pro settings. The change in the character of engine and throttle response is dramatic, allowing the rider to spread the bike’s ride-ability over a customizable range of settings, especially when combined with the two-mode suspension settings (Road and Dynamic) and is especially pronounced with the optional Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment, which is what the bike I rode was equipped with). These mechanical elements are becoming the expected norms in motorcycle engineering, which contribute to riders being able to tailor their rides.

The suspension in factory settings is compliant, however, I did manage on several occasions to smack a road divot or rut, resulting in a jarring bottoming of the rear shock. In one instance it sent a jolt up through the seat and into my spine. Granted, I was carrying some serious speed and hit a fairly serious break in the pavement. So, considering the circumstance, it may be inconsequential to the majority of how people will utilize the bike. The suspension was otherwise impressive, capable of handling some serious canyon running with stability, smoothly soaking up the imperfections of the road.

The F 900 XR

The all-new aluminum bridge frame provides rigidity, which contributes to the bike’s stability at speed, reducing flex when ridden hard in the corners and under power. The balanced handling of the 900 comes courtesy of BMW’s efforts to arrive at a 50/50 weight bias. This critical weight bias delivers a planted feel of the front tire, with excellent feel and feedback from rider inputs. Seat height is a manageable 32.1” for the R and 32.5” of the XR. The ergonomics (seating position in relation to handlebar reach and footpeg placement) provide a comfortable arrangement, allowing for long periods in the saddle without any undue stresses or discomfort.  

The excellent handling is augmented by excellent brakes. ABS standard, the 900’s weight (465 lbs. for the R, and 483 lbs. for the XR) is easily managed by the dual, 12.6” rotors, which are grabbed by 4-piston calipers. Rear brake, which the bike responds to in terms of settling the bike on corner entry, is handled by a single 10.4” disc mated to a 1-piston caliper. 17” die-cast aluminum wheels round out the rolling stock.

The new 900 R and XR represents an expansion of a category that is seeing significant “conquest” (customers coming over to BMW from other brands), buying into the BMW family due to the manufacturer keeping the MSRP as low as possible. The 2020 F 900 R is priced at $8,995, and the XR priced at $11,695.

Both of the “clean sheet” 900s are imbued with a beautiful and highly readable and inclusive 6.5” TFT color dash screen. Both machines have full LED lights standard. BMW has cornered the market on flashy names for their motorcycle’s liveries. The 900 R is available in Blackstorm Metallic, San Marino Blue Metallic, or Hockenheim Silver Metallic/Racing Red. The 900 XR is available in Light White, Galvanic Gold Metallic, and Racing Red.

The F 900 R and F 900 XR combine design, functionality, use-ability, and versatility into their respective packages, providing incredibly impressive performance for the experienced rider while being easily managed for new and beginning riders, providing a motorcycle that can be grown into—which greatly enhances the price point.

BMW is standing behind its marketing mantra of “Make Life A Ride,” by creating two more machines that cater to an important market segment.

The environment where the new F 900 machines are happiest

2020 BMW F 900 R / F 900 XR Specifications

MSRP:$8995 / $11,695
Engine Type:Liquid-cooled, in-line, 2-cylinder, DOHC, 8-valve, 4-stroke
Displacement:895cc
Bore x Stroke:86mm x 77mm
Horsepower (claimed):99 hp at 8500 rpm
Torque (claimed):67 lb-ft. at 6500 rpm / 68 lb-ft. at 6750 rpm
Compression Ratio:13.1:1
Engine Management:EFI
Transmission:Constant-mesh 6-speed
Clutch:Multi-disc, wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically operated
Final Drive:Chain
Frame:Bridge-type, steel shell construction
Front Suspension:Inverted 43mm telescopic fork
Rear Suspension:Cast-aluminum dual swingarm, central spring strut, spring preload hydraulically adjustable, rebound-damping adjustable
Front-Wheel Travel:5.3 in. / 6.7 in.
Front Brake:Dual floating discs, 320mm, 4-piston radial brake calipers, ABS
Rear Brake:Single disc, 265mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS
Wheelbase:59.7 in. / 60 in.
Rake:29.5° / 30°
Trail:4.5 in. / 4.1 in.
Front Tire:120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire:180/55 ZR 17
Seat Height:32 in. / 32.5 in.
Weight (curb, claimed):465 lbs. / 482 lbs.
Fuel Capacity:3.4 gal. / 4.1 gal.

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