Building high quality top tier motorcycles evidently comes at a cost. Being aspirational in nature and price point means that younger entry-level or intermediate riders don’t include you on their shopping lists. The new F900R aims to change this narrative by offering a level of fit and finish expected by the Bavarian manufacturer, but in a more approachable and cost-effective package. It’s a problem many manufacturers have dealt with and attempted to overcome with varying levels of success. Harley-Davidson tried it with Buell and Toyota established Scion for that very reason. You may notice a trend here since both brands are now defunct, but Ducati’s Scrambler brand still seems to be going strong.
MSRP for the naked F900R starts at $10,350. That’s less than the Yamaha MT-09 which was recently announced at a starting MSRP of $10,799. The Kawasaki Z900 ABS starts at $10,399, and the Suzuki GSX-S750A at $9,399. Honda has the smaller CB650R and the larger CB1000R. Once a new and small segment, the naked middleweight category is bursting at the seams. All of the aforementioned models offer their own personalities and respectable value for the money, but will the generation known for allegedly squandering their funds on avocado toast rather and ride sharing than real estate be interested enough to sustain all of these models? Time will tell.
The steel frame and engine architecture are shared with the F850GS’s parallel twin, however steering geometry has been revised and 2mm of additional cylinder bore has resulted in additional displacement to 895 cc from 853. Other tweaks include increased compression and updated software mapping which contribute to a 10 per cent bump in horsepower to 99 hp at 8,500 rpm. 67 lb-ft of torque is available at 6,500 rpm.
Leaning the F900R off its side stand reveals its sizeable stature. For reference, dry weight is 211 kg (465 lb) while the Triumph Street Triple R weighs 168 kg (370 lb) and the new KTM 890 Duke 166 kg (366 lb), so it’s not exactly spry. The Triumph produces 116 hp but only 57 lb-ft of torque, along with a glorious symphony that can only come from an inline-triple but also costs exactly $4,000 more while the KTM is offered at a very approachable price of $12,599. The BMW’s engine produces nominal amount of chatter with a pleasing, yet subtle exhaust note that is noticeably felt reverberating through the bars. Compared to the brashness of the recently launched 2020 KTM 890 Duke R, the Beemer feels calmer, more refined and to be honest, somewhat reserved.
The F900R’s 815 mm seat height is more than accommodating to beginner or intermediate riders. The riding position is neutral and mostly upright, requiring a slight forward lean. The nature of the cockpit and the shape of the tank require one’s legs (at least mine) to be somewhat splayed around the wide bodywork. My tester included the $500 Comfort Package consisting of tire pressure monitors and heated grips. It was also equipped with the Touring Package which includes cruise control, GPS wiring and bracket, a centre stand and luggage case brackets for $825. A $900 Dynamic Package is also available, which adds Headlight Pro and Dynamic ESA electronic suspension. A $320 anti-theft alarm system rounded out the options list.
Rolling back the throttle results in relatively robust yet smooth power delivery. Adequate power is readily available from the low end up though the mid-range and beyond but requires conscientiously shifting through the six-speed transmission to achieve the best results. Despite its heft, the F900R feels light on its feet while riding, easily transitioning from side to side. The Bridgestone Battlax S21 rubber and cornering ABS, ensuring the bike stays shiny side up. It’s an easy motorcycle to rip around the city on but also takes to highway riding decently well despite the lack of fairing.
Suspension is on the firmer side, but not abruptly so. The 43 mm front fork offers 135 mm (5.3 in) of travel but isn’t adjustable. The rear setup consists of a single shock that is adjustable for preload and rebound damping with 140 mm (5.5 in) of travel. If that is not sufficient, the $900 Dynamic Package would most certainly provide more versatility in this department, or alternatively, the F900XR adds elements of an adventure tourer by offering longer suspension travel and a half fairing, but also the added cost of $2,450 over the R.
Braking duties are handled by dual 320 mm discs with four-piston radial calipers up front and a 265 mm single disc with a single-piston caliper in the rear. Brake feel is solid, linear and predictable, requiring only gentle inputs.
The 165 mm (6.5 in) high-resolution TFT instrument displays speed in large digits in the upper left corner and a wide tachometer bar, in addition to time, temperature, gear selection, fuel level and riding mode.
Decently equipped for an MSRP of $11,995, the question isn’t so much about how good the F900R is, but more so how competent other models in this crowded and competitive this segment have become. Buyers in this category haven’t established brand loyalty yet, they have an abundance of options and aren’t tied to any one manufacturer. Just swinging a leg over the F900R tells you that the level of quality is up to BMW standards.
Can BMW attract consumers to their brand who typically value experiences over things and make the majority of their purchases through their smartphone? The product, and most certainly the pricing, make the F900R worthy of consideration, but the marketing and customer engagement will have to follow suit to make it stand out from the crowd and bring them into a BMW showroom.