It was late April when I sidestanded the 2022 BMW F 900 R in front of Crystal Lake Cafe in Azusa, CA. Large piles of snow were abundant but melting rapidly, remnants of the atmospheric river that defined the winter of 2022 in California.
A fellow motorcyclist noticed the dealer plates the F 900 R was wearing and asked if I was on an extended test ride. “Sort of,” I replied, explaining the bike in my possession wasn’t a part of the corporate test fleet the BMW Motorrad semi-trailer had brought to Long Beach BMW Motorcycles.
He asked how the F 900 R was performing. I said it was a nice bike, but that I was wrestling to square some of its inconsistencies.
He laughed when I added that its engine sounded like an industrial knitting machine upset at its lot in life. As an owner of an older model R 1200 RS, he was uniquely interested in my insights, but at that moment I hadn’t fully formed an opinion.
I hope he’s reading this now.
Above & Below The Seat
Located in the Roadster section of the BMW Motorrad website, the F 900 R shares its stable with the R 1250 R, S 1000 R, and G 310 R. There are all motorcycles with minimal bodywork that balance performance with everyday usability.
In BMW’s words, they offer “sporty front-wheel-oriented ergonomics.” A half-truth, in my opinion, regarding the F 900 R.
From the waist up the F 900 R exhibits a comfortable reach to the bar with a modest forward lean putting the rider in control while not inducing uncomfortable amounts of pressure on the wrists.
Below the seat, however, it didn’t take long for me to notice a growing discomfort in my hip sockets from some very high-placed footpegs.
On one hand, I was able to manage superbike levels of lean angle (more on that later) without touching down a single hard part. On the other hand, the F 900 R isn’t meant to be a superbike, so why not lower the pegs a tad and open up the bottom half of the cockpit?
The seat height of the F 900 R is a very average 32 inches. To help solve the legroom problem, BMW’s accessory catalog has an optional high seat, comfort seat, and extra high seat that raise the seat height to 32.8, 33, and 34 inches, respectively.
For riders desiring less seat height, BMW offers a low seat that reduces the seat height to 31.1 inches. When used in conjunction with the optional suspension-lowering kit, you can further bring the seat height down to 30.3 inches.
A Yawn And A Bark
A 10% drivetrain loss from the claimed 99 crank horsepower of the F 900 R leaves approximately 90 horses spinning the rear wheel on a bike weighing a claimed 465 pounds fully fueled. The weight of the fuel matters little, because the F 900 R only carries about 20 pounds of gasoline.
On average you’ll get about 115 miles from the 3.4-gallon tank before you start looking to refuel. The tank runs dry at about 135 miles.
The range of my 1999 Honda Superhawk was a little worse and I survived owning it, but it sure seems that BMW could have squeezed more range from the F 900 R’s fuel tank without imposing upon rider comfort.
The 895cc parallel-twin powering the F 900 R generates a healthy torque curve (67 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm) and revs to redline without complaint. When compared to the likes of Yamaha’s XSR900—which has less displacement and curb weight but more horsepower—I wonder why BMW couldn’t have done better.
I was told by an onlooker that the exhaust note was pleasing and not deafening. Atop the motorcycle, the outbound sound is muted by the clickety-clack of a feverishly working valvetrain, a sound more akin to an air-cooled, rather than liquid-cooled, engine.
In the stopping department, the BMW’s front four-piston radially mounted calipers and dual 320mm floating discs seem overzealously willing to slow down a motorcycle of such tame acceleration. It’s always better to have more stopping power than too little, so—other than stock brake pads that are a little too grabby for my tastes—no complaints here.
Boasting an MSRP of $8,995 for a nearly liter-size motorcycle is at first glance a good deal. But then you realize that all the technologies you really desire are a part of the Premium Package which bumps the retail price by $2,500 to $11,495.
If you want the model pictured here, plan on spending an additional $300 on the Style Sport Package (Light White/Racing Blue/Racing Red paint scheme, Night Black wheels, gold fork and engine spoiler) and $150 on the center stand, bringing the total retail price to $11,945.
Is what you get worth the bump in price? Yep.
The Premium Package includes the Comfort Package (heated grips, tire pressure monitoring), the Dynamic Package (dynamic ESA shock, adaptive headlight), the Active Package (Pro ride mode, bi-directional quickshifter), as well as dynamic traction control, dynamic engine brake control, keyless ignition, GPS preparation, cruise control, ABS, and saddlebag mounts.
While none of the above does anything to change the F 900 R’s engine character, it sure puts an emphasis on the motorcycle’s ability to perform.
Feeling sporty? The Premium Package’s quickshifter, dynamic engine braking, and dynamic traction control are there to help.
Pounding out freeway miles in late fall? Let the heated grips and cruise control make the trip more comfortable.
A Few More Things
Like the engine vs. braking imbalance, the non-adjustable fork seems an odd match for an electronically dynamic shock. Having said that, however, the non-adjustability certainly helps reduce costs, and the fork is commendably sorted in both compression and rebound functions.
During my riding, I couldn’t find fault the fork or the shock, regardless of whether I was forcing the F 900 R through a tight corner or traveling down the freeway.
A surprise I found a few clicks into the settings is an optional Sport view for the color TFT screen. Like other TFT screens, it changes the configuration of the tach and speedo, but it also allows the rider to see in real time how much traction control is being used, how much brake pressure is being applied, and what lean angle you’re getting to in the corner. Very fun information to play with during a spirited jaunt down your favorite twisty two-laner.
I mentioned earlier that I’d return to the lean angle aspect of the F 900 R, and here we are. To my surprise, during our photoshoot session, I saw a lean angle of 49 degrees on the TFT screen, which is impressive for a street bike wearing street tires.
That figure may be a little optimistic by a few degrees, but the fact remains that the F 900 R didn’t touch a single hard part down while doing it. That is great for cornering clearance, but not so great for my achy hip joints. I’d gladly trade a few degrees of lean angle for more space between the seat and footpegs.
If you’re able to find a base model F 900 R for its $8,995 retail price, consider it a unicorn and buy it immediately. That’s a good deal for a new 900cc BMW motorcycle.
Most likely, however, what you’ll find is a model outfitted as the one I tested, which, at nearly $12,000, is up against some seriously sportier competition, such as KTM 890 Duke R. I suggest asking your local dealer when the BMW Motorrad semi-trailer with the corporate test fleet will be in town and taking the F 900 R (and a bunch of other models) for extended test rides.
+affordable base price for a BMW, sportier than it looks, super cool Sport view on TFT screen
-uncompromising seat-to-footpeg ratio, the Premium Package is questionably optional, timid engine performance
Distributor: BMW Motorrad
MSRP: $8,999; $12,590 (as tested)
Engine: liquid-cooled, parallel-twin, 4-stroke, 4-valve
Power: 99hp @8,500rpm; 67lb-ft @6,500rpm
Transmission: constant mesh, 6-speed, O-ring chain final drive
Weight (Wet): 465lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 32.1in
Fuel Capacity: 3.4gal
Colors: Black Storm Metallic, Bluestone Metallic, Light White/Racing Blue/Racing Red