BMW has a reputation for putting a lot of features in its cars and bikes. The middleweight F900 R roadster is no exception. Powered by a water-cooled 895cc parallel-twin engine rated at 104hp and 92Nm, this motorcycle is an engaging machine for the rider who doesn’t want to go the supersport route.
Visually, the F900 R is rather derivative with a silhouette that could easily be mistaken for any of the other naked roadsters from Yamaha, Honda or, just lately, Triumph. So BMW sets it apart with a svelte visual mass around the engine, shuriken-like front panels, and a clean bone line. There’s a hint of Kawasaki Z1000 in the way the bike looks like a cougar about to lunge forward, but the Beemer looks way better with its diamond-like headlamp flanked by gold-colored stanchions of the fork. The stock rear fender and plate folder look ugly, though, and would benefit from a tail tidy and a tire hugger.
Mechanically, the bike brings a lot to the table to justify its pricing: P655,000 for the base variant, and P775,000 for this “Sport” with all the go-fast bits. That gets you a six-speed transmission with a quick shifter, and 43mm USD fork and cast-aluminum dual-swingarm with a central spring strut that’s electronically adjustable for preload and rebound. Brakes are dual-disc, four-piston 320mm Brembos in front and a single-disc, single-piston 265mm at the back. Tires are 120/70 ZR17 (front) and 180/55 ZR17 (rear) Bridgestone Battlax on cast-aluminum wheels.
Press start on the F900 R and the twin-cylinder engine comes to life with a smooth, muffled growl. While the engine’s warming up, take the time to go through the menus on the TFT screen. A rotary dial on the left gripset lets you navigate through the menus, while dedicated buttons set up the suspension, the engine mapping, the traction control and the ABS. “Rain” mode cuts back engine power and responsiveness to minimize the risk of wheel slippage. “Road” has a nice balance between everyday responsiveness and traction control. If you’re feeling a little brave, “Dynamic Pro” uncorks all the power with immediate responsiveness. Overkill for just 104hp? Who cares? If you’re paying this much money, you’ll want to get all the toys.
It takes me around 10 minutes to get everything set up properly, then I cautiously roll out of BMW’s Libis showroom. At 211kg wet, the F900 R isn’t particularly light, but most of the mass is situated low and balancing in traffic isn’t too bad. The bike has a semi-crouched position with your legs slightly set back and forearms braced against the handlebar—café racer-style. It’s not super aggressive, but an hour threading SLEX traffic had my traps a little sore afterward. The seat is firm and nestles you firmly in the trough between the tank and the pillion, with a little room to scoot back for a more aggressive position. A removable passenger-seat cover gives the bike a sleeker profile.
Once on the highway, twist the throttle and the engine has a sonorous intake howl that actually reminds me of the E90 M3, except of course this bike is faster. There’s enough torque below 4,000rpm to get you going, but the snarl of the motor is intoxicating and I find myself pinning the throttle whenever the road clears up. The transmission is precise as expected, but the quick shifter function isn’t as smooth as I’d hoped for. It clunks with each gear change, so most of the time I went back to old-fashioned manual blipping for a smoother and more satisfying experience. You will easily find yourself way over the speed limit if you indulge in the engine too much, with terminal velocity a shade over 200km/h.
Without a windscreen and very minimal fairing around the tank, windblast is prominent at triple-digit speeds, so extended highway runs aren’t very comfortable. Take the bike to the twisties or the track and it comes alive. The ride is taut without being harsh, only turning choppy over broken pavement. Around the curves, the bike’s willingness to tilt and hold a line will tempt you to see just how far you can lean during cornering (there’s a lean-angle display). The controls are direct and sharp without feeling flighty: Encounter a rut mid-curve and you can make subtle adjustments to brake or throttle without drama. A timer on the dash records your lap times. Anybody who buys this bike should really take it to the track to get the most out of it.
In less intense sessions—such as an office commute or coffee ride—this thing is usable and adequately comfortable. The 815mm seat height is reasonable for most riders of average height, and most of the engine heat is wafted away from your lower extremities. A fuel-economy figure in the 18-22km/L range gets you some decent range from the 13L gas tank.
For everyday performance and value in the BMW Motorrad lineup, the F900 R strikes a nice balance between sportiness and comfort. You can use it as a commuter and let out some steam on the way home, then take it to the track on weekends to hone your skills. It’s a bike you could ride year-round without regret.