We’ve been fortunate enough to review a number of bikes in the sports tourer segment recently – the latest of which is the 2021 BMW F 900 XR. The middle-weight sports/adventure touring segment is a highly competitive market with a number of manufacturers playing in this space.
Hardly a category laggard, BMW have built their reputation on producing exceptional motorcycles for crushing miles both on and off road. However, the F 900 XR is a relatively new member of the segment, having only been launched in 2019 alongside its naked sibling – the F 900.
So when BMW suggested we take a look at the new 2021 F 900 XR, we were only too keen to check it out.
Launched in 2019 to much fanfare, the BMW F 900 XR is a middle-weight sports tourer with plenty of character.
Powered by a 895cc water-cooled 2-cylinder in-line engine, the F 900 XR puts down a respectable 77 kW (105 hp) of power and 92 Nm of torque. Power peaks up high at 8750 RPM, whilst torque peaks lower in the rev range at 6500. With this sort of performance, the F 900 XR is right up there with Ducati’s Multistrada 950, Triumph’s Tiger 900 GT, Yamaha’s MT-09 Tracer GT and Kawasaki’s Versys 1000.
Better equipped than the Versys and cheaper than the Multistrada, the F 900 XR is a serious contender in its class.
I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the F 900 XR. Peak torque is more or less available immediately – kicking in from about 4000 RPM and continuing right through to 8000. Power also comes on quickly, with a curve that needs contour lines in order to track its meteoric rise. In practice, this means the performance sweet spot for the F 900 XR is roughly between 6000 and 8500 RPM.
The quick-shifter is nothing short of exceptional, both up and down. Unlike a lot of quick-shifters out there, the F 900 XR’s works incredibly low in the rev range. You can easily drop it down or knock it up a gear from anywhere north of 2000 RPM, and other than between first and second – where it’s a little aggressive – it’s smooth as silk.
For stock pipes, the F 900 XR sounds delicious fresh from the factory. The parallel twin has plenty of character with a noticeable growl when higher in the rev range – almost as if it’s been gargling an Islay Whisky. Around town, this led me to spend most of my time in first and second where the snarl was most pronounced.
Braking is razor-sharp courtesy of the dual 320 mm discs and 4-piston radially mounted calipers from Brembo. Coupled with a single 265 mm disc and single piston caliper in the rear, and an electronics package including ABS Pro that takes lean angle into consideration, you can stop on a dime – even if that dime is at a 45 degree angle.
Overall, the ride is very comfortable. With the optional Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) fitted, you can change up the ride on the fly. Adjusting between Road and Dynamic will adjust the rebound damping, and you can also adjust pre-load electronically by selecting between rider, rider with pillion, rider with luggage, and rider with pillion and luggage. A nifty feature.
To be honest, I couldn’t feel a great deal of difference between Road and Dynamic. Maybe the ride was a little stiffer and sure-footed in Dynamic, but maybe not. Either way, both modes allowed for rather spirited riding.
The seat is hard but not uncomfortable for shorter rides of less than an hour or so. Anything longer and you’ll probably be looking for the next stop to stretch the legs and give the old glutes a rest.
The riding position is more sports than tourer, with your weight leant forward over the front end. Having recently ridden Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 S, this was particularly noticeable. The cockpit also felt a little cramped, especially when standing to stretch my legs. Either the pegs are too high or – as I suspect – the bars are too low, accounting for the aforementioned sportier riding position.
The F 900 XR is cut from the same cloth as almost every sports tourer in the segment. With the consumer ask being 17″ wheels, plenty of ground clearance, an upright riding position, high screen and room at the rear for luggage, I guess there are only so many ways you can style a sports tourer.
As a BMW however, you can be sure that every little detail has been considered. The dash is stunning, the screen can be adjusted between its two settings with one hand and on the fly, and for the most part, all the unsightly hoses and wires have been hidden. Except for the radiator hose – what’s going on there?
On the negative side, I’ve never been a huge fan of BMW’s function selector wheel, and I also found the turn-signal switch to be a little fiddly and hard to find – occasionally finding the horn instead.
That said, the F 900 XR is a well styled and executed machine, even if it does look very similar to its competitors.
- Quick-shifter is silky smooth
- Parallel twin is full of character
- Packed full of features
- Runs hot in traffic
- Windshield could be bigger
BMW’s F 900 XR is one hell of a bike. The parallel twin is a character-packed engine with a bite to match its bark – and what a bark it is.
Well equipped even without the plethora of optional packages available, it’s a highly capable bike. The slightly aggressive riding position and marginally uncomfortable seat are the only blemishes on an otherwise exceptional sports tourer.
If you’re an urban commuter who likes to get away on the weekend or set off on the occasional multi-day tour, and you only want one bike, the 2021 BMW F 900 XR might just be the bike for you.
2021 BMW F 900 XR Specs/Features:
- Engine displacement: 895cc
- Power: 105 hp (77 kW) at 8750 RPM
- Torque: 92 Nm at 6500 RPM
- Engine type: water-cooled 2-cylinder in-line engine, four valves per cylinder activated by cam followers, two overhead camshafts and dry sump lubrication
- Clutch: multiplate wet clutch (anti-hopping), mechanically controlled
- Gearbox: constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox, integrated in the engine housing
- Final drive: chain
- Fork: 43 mm upside-down telescopic fork with 170 mm of travel
- Suspension: directly articulated central suspension strut with 172 mm of travel – hydraulically adjustable spring base for preload, and adjustable rebound damping – option for ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment)
- Front brake: hydraulically activated twin disc brake, floating brake on 320 mm discs, 4-piston radial brake calipers
- Rear brake: Hydraulically activated single disc brake, 265 mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper
- Weight: 219 kg (wet)
- Fuel tank: 15.5 litres
- Seat height: 825 mm (adjustable between 775 and 870 mm)
- BMW Motorrad ABS, ASC
- 6.5 in (16.5 cm) colour TFT Connectivity Display
- LED Lighting with adaptive cornering lighting
- Riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic, Dynamic Pro
- Adjustable levers & windscreen
- Gear Shift Assist Pro
- Heated grips
- Cruise control
- Hand guards
- Price as tested: $22,524.53 AUD (ride away – based on postcode 2000); which included the following options:
- Comfort Package: Dynamic ESA, Keyless Ride, Centre Stand
- Touring Package: Navigation Preparation, Cruise Control
- Dynamic Package: Headlight Pro, Gear Shift Assist Pro
- Active Package: Dynamic Traction Control, Riding Modes Pro, Heated Grips, ABS Pro, Pannier Fasteners
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