Trev tests the new BMW F 900 R
Motorcycle Review By Trevor Hedge
Images by Dean Walters and BMW
Got to say this bike surprised me a little. The press and marketing shots had not really been all that flattering, but in the flesh it actually cuts a very nice profile and the more time I spent with the F 900 R, the more its lines and character charmed me.
Let’s face it, if asked to name a motorcycle brand synonymous with beautiful motorcycles, then BMW would not be the maker that springs to mind…. Yet the F 900 R is a handsome machine and shrugs off the somewhat pedestrian looks of its F 800 R predecessor to cut quite a fine figure.
It looks much better in the flesh than photographers have really managed to portray. The water pump housing, its associated plumbing and a heat-sink visible under the seat are the only real blights on what is a very sharp profile. The short muffler looks okay and flows with the bikes lines, even the big pre-muffler is pretty well hidden. I really do feel sorry for today’s motorcycle designers that have to find ways to hide the monstrosities that can’t be avoided in order to meet ever toughening emissions and noise legislation.
The LED headlight looks pretty good, for a naked bike, and from the cock-pit it is an uncluttered view over the impressive colour 6.5-inch TFT display to the road ahead. The branding is subtle but effective, an inset on the seat and embossing on the nacelle that sits in front of the instrumentation are joined by a small BMW roundel on the forward flanks. On our black test machine the lack of contrasts and excess badges or stripes played their part in how tasteful I found the styling of the motorcycle. The seat itself gives the impression of being crafted rather than simply stamped out of some press the cheapest way possible.
The changes are much more than skin deep and the F 900 R now boasts some real character. The F 800 line up of motorcycles were competent enough but also quite bland. That said, I have had some epic rides on F 800 variants, a very hard strop around the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island on the launch of the F 800 ST a particularly memorable experience. The F 800 range always did lack a bit of character though, and that fluffy wet-fart-in-a-tin-can exhaust was never inspiring. Things made a distinct turn for the better with the arrival of the F 850 line-up that saw BMW completely change the whole engine architecture, adopting a 270-degree firing order and off-set crank pin lay-out that supplied the character and sense of fun that was lacking from the F 800 models.
The current model 850 GS model spins its 84 mm pistons through a 77 mm stroke while the new F 900 R and F 900 XR sport larger 86 mm forged pistons to bump displacement from 853 cc to 895cc. In the transition from 800 to 850 in the GS models power was increased by 10 to 95 horsepower, and the same gains have been made again in the leap from 850 to 900 with BMW now claiming 105 hp at 8500 rpm. The F 900 R boasts around 20 per cent more power than its immediate like-for-like F 800 R predecessor.
Peak torque is 92 Nm at 6500 rpm but more than 87 Nm is available from as low as 4500 rpm. It feels strong even lower than that in the rev range and winding the throttle on in third gear from 75 km/h on some slippery winter roads brought some real aural pleasure to the ride that viscerally punched my synapses in a way that made me feel good inside. Check out that chart above to see just how much more grunt the new bike has from down low than the F 800 R, and how much more torque over a much wider spread than even the recent F 850 GS. You can really feel this on the road via a much greater urgency under throttle.
The throttle response is smooth in all of the riding modes but Dynamic does add a satisyfing extra squirt of thrust when you wind the throttle on. As you roll off to cruise through town you can let the revs as low as 2000 rpm in top gear at 60 km/h and still pull away with no chain snatch or grumbles. It is a very smooth drivetrain indeed.
Winding up the wick on faster roads the rush of air around you predictably takes away the aural pleasures somewhat due to the extra wind noise at higher speeds. Riding tighter roads though are a great deal of fun, and that is the type of fun you can enjoy without the police wanting to lock you up.
With the throttle pinned and using the fantastic two-way quick-shifter to snick your way seamlessly through the gears the F 900 R accelerates quite hard through the first four ratios. It is only north of 150 km/h that its boxer big brother R 1250 R would really start to pull any serious advantage.
At 100 km/h on the freeway the mill is spinning less than 4000 rpm and pulls top gear fine from there for overtaking if you can’t be bothered using the shifter. The engine remains smooth from idle right through to red-line.
I quite like the ergonomics of the F 900 R. It doesn’t give you that really exaggerated feeling of being right-over-the-front like some nakeds do. The reach to the bars feels natural enough and the switchgear is brilliant. I think those that are six-foot tall or beyond might struggle a little with the placement of the pegs, but at 178 cm I didn’t find it too tiresome for some quick 400-kilometre afternoon strops.
The seat is great and its standard height of 815 mm can be dropped to 790 mm with an optional low seat or set as high as 865 with an optional extra high seat. An optional suspension lowering kit lowers the bike to 770 mm but there will be ground clearance and suspension compromises to reach that figure. There are some modest pillion accommodations but they don’t look all that enticing to a passenger.
Ready to ride the F 900 R is 211 kg according to BMW, a figure that surprised me as it never felt that hefty.
An excellent integrated soft luggage system is available and would make touring on the F 900 R a viable proposition. A luggage rack and top case can add further capacity and a tall windscreen can also be had, but I never found wind-blast to be a problem without a screen until doing some serious go to jail speeds.
If not for the stingy 13-litre fuel capacity the F 900 R would be one of the best naked bikes to tour on. The bike I rode was still tight and didn’t manage to better six litres per 100 kilometres, so I could only really bank on a 200 km range. One 400km afternoon strop saw me refill the bike three times, to be safe, and I wouldn’t even say I was riding all that hard as the roads that day offered up little grip and confidence.
The F 900 R really is very easy and forgiving to ride. Some customers that started their motorcycle journey on the G 310 R have moved up to the F 900 R and to be honest, as a person’s first big-bore motorcycle it is a safe but engaging choice. The full gamut of electronic safety aids are standard on the F 900 R and include lean angle sensitive ABS Pro and BMW’s up-spec Dynamic Traction Control systems. There is a dedicated button on the left switch-block that can be used at any time to deactivate the stability control systems if you want to pull a wheelie, no going through menus or 46 different button presses, just one push of a button, simple, brilliant.
The F 900 R does have a playful nature and can be punted hard enough in the tight stuff to provide plenty of thrills. It is only at higher speeds on bumpy back roads that the suspension can start to struggle a little, but if 200 km/h sweepers are your bag then I can’t imagine that an F 900 R would be in your sights anyway. It never gets too unruly, and there is a standard steering damper, it is just not sportsbike spec’ suspension. It has plenty of travel though, 135 mm at the front and 142 mm at the rear is quite generous and helps the rider to remain comfortable even when the road dishes up plenty of imperfections. A little more high-speed damping wouldn’t go astray, but if you really are into pushing harder and faster then BMW also have you covered with the S 1000 R or R 1250 R. To be honest though, I would seriously consider this over both of those if in the market for a naked bike from BMW.
The brakes are full size 320 mm rotors gripped by radial four-piston Brembo calipers. The rear is also a generously sized 265 mm rotor with single-piston caliper. The clutch is a simple cable affair rather than hydraulic, while the brake master cylinder is made by Nissin. The feel is progressive and requires a decent squeeze for full retardation but I can’t say I felt the need for more power at the lever. If there was a lot more bite it would only be of limited use due to the performance of the forks anyway. The clutch is of the wet slipper variety which is another welcome feature.
The levers are nicely finished and both adjustable while other little BMW niceties abound such as keyless ride, a hydraulic hand-wheel to adjust rear preload and right-angle tyre valves to make it easy to check and/or inflate your tyres. The horn though is meeker than a really meek thing and curiously cruise control is missing from the standard feature list.
The 6.5-inch full colour TFT screen is brilliant and due to the high-spec’ of Australian delivered bikes also comes with the snazzy Sport screen sub-menu that displays your lean angles achieved on your most recent ride along with the level of brake pressure you used and how much traction control intervention was registered. It can make for a fun little computer game if you are that way inclined.
The trip computer functions (you will need to keep an eye on that distance to empty indicator), and all the different information screens are easily navigated through from the left switch-block menu button and familiar BMW controller wheel system.
There is heaps more functionality to be had by using the corresponding BMW Motorrad Connected smartphone app’, including navigation functionality displayed directly on the motorcycle display. Likewise your current music playing through your headset is displayed on the dash and can be controlled via the thumbwheel, as can incoming or outgoing call functions. The only thing missing is Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Black Storm Metallic, or San Marino Blue Metallic are the standard colours while the Hockenheim Silver Metallic with Racing Red combination will add $300 to the sticker price.
An electronic suspension option is available in some markets but BMW Australia have chosen to reduce the amount of variants they bring into the country. However that is not to say they have low-balled us on the spec’ as our standard F 900 R is the highest specification base configuration of the model available anywhere in the world.
At $14,790, plus on road costs, the Australian delivered F 900 R is pretty much fully loaded. In most markets the TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity is an optional extra, the heated grips are optional extras, the quick-shifter is an optional extra and the Riding Modes Pro functionality will also cost you more. Here they are all part of the base package. And of course then there is BMW’s standard three year warranty adding a nice extra dose of value to the equation that furthers its argument for your dollar. It is always nice when a bike delivers more than you expect, and the F 900 R did exactly that.
|2020 BMW F 900 R Specifications|
|Bore/stroke||86 x 77 mm|
|Power||77/105 kW/hp at 8,500 rpm|
|Torque||92 Nm at 6,500 rpm|
|Type||Parallel Twin, four-stroke, dry sump|
|Fuel||Premium unleaded 95 RON|
|Valve control||4 / DOHC (double overhead camshaft), cam followers|
|Engine/Emission Control||BMS-M / Closed-loop three-way catalytic converter, exhaust standard EU-5|
|Battery /Alternator||416 W / 12/12, maintenance-free V/Ah|
|Headlamp||LED headlights (low and high beam) (Headlight Pro option: LED daytime riding light and Adaptive Cornering Light)|
|Rear Light||LED brake light/rear light|
|Indicators||LED turn indicators|
|Clutch||Multiplate wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically controlled|
|Gearbox||Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox, integrated in the engine housing|
|Secondary drive||Endless O-ring chain with jerk damping in the rear wheel hub|
|Frame||Steel bridge frame in monocoque design, load-bearing engine|
|Front Suspension||USD telescopic fork Ø 43 mm|
|Rear Suspension||Aluminium double-sided swinging arm, directly mounted central spring strut, hydraulically adjustable spring rest, adjustable rebound damping
(option: Dynamic ESA)
|Suspension Travel||135 mm (F) / 142 mm (R)|
|Wheel Castor||114.3 mm|
|Steering head Angle||60.5 degrees|
|Front Brakes||Hydraulically activated twin disc brake, floating brake discs, Ø 320 mm,
4-piston radial brake calipers
|Rear Brakes||Hydraulically activated single disc brake, Ø 265 mm, 1-piston floating caliper|
|ABS||BMW Motorrad ABS as standard|
|Front||3.5 x 17″|
|Rear||5.5 x 17″|
|Front Tyre||120/70 ZR 17|
|Rear Tyre||180/55 ZR 17|
|Dimensions / Weights|
|Width||815 mm (without mirrors)|
|Seat height||815 mm (Option Seat, low 790 mm) (Optional Accessory Seat, high 835 mm)
(Optional Accessory Comfort seat 840 mm) (Option Seat, extra high 865 mm)
(Optional Lowered Suspension 770 mm)
|Wet Weight||211 Kg|
|Permitted Total Weight||430 Kg|
|Fuel Capacity||13 L|
|Fuel consumption||4.2 litres per 100 km (Claimed) – 6.2 litres per 100 km (Tested)|
|0-100 km/h||3.7 s|
|Top speed||> 200 km/h|