Expectation vs. Reality
The year is 2020. And we now live in a new normal.
The world that has changed in the blink of an eye. Old habits have had to change, whatever we thought was the norm, just isn’t anymore. And in order to move forward, we have to embrace those changes. But if someone told me it would be normal to see a top European motorcycle brand offering a heavily tech-laden middleweight at a price point everyone has always accepted to be the territory of the Japanese, I don’t think I would have believed them…till now.
The “affordable” naked middleweight category is ruled by bang-for-buck Japanese offerings. Top picks are affordable bikes with attitude, machines that thrill and come with some fairly decent tech. But things move at a lightning pace nowadays and there is a new challenger making its presence felt. BMW is a brand that has always been associated with exacting German engineering and high-quality, things that naturally come with a higher than average buy-in price. But this is 2020…and as we’ve seen, everything is not what you thought it was gonna be.
This year, BMW enters the affordable middleweight category with the F900R. Replacing the F800R, BMW Motorrad presents us with a much more persuasive and potent package with the the F900R. This Berlin-made bike is packed with familiar upscale BMW-tech offered at a very un-BMW pricetag.
The F900R is an athletic roadster with very contemporary styling. It sports a Euro-5 compliant 895cc parallel twin powerplant. It makes 105hp and kicks out a very usable 87Nm of torque. It’s a very friendly bike but can offer those willing to make it scream quite a few thrills, too. There are two models released locally: the Standard model and the Style Sport variant. You get the same fantastic engine, steel chassis, ABS brakes and traction control system on both models but the higher spec Style Sport comes heavily spec’d with some fantastic extra tech on top of the already impressive Standard model, many features that I was surprised to experience on a bike of this level.
Personal ride impression
The F900 is impressive on paper, and it certainly didn’t disappoint when we put it through its paces. It’s a package that checks many of the right boxes for those ready to trade-up to bigger thrills (with many of the safety-nets and aids that modern tech offers) but it is potent enough to thrill experienced riders as well.
It’s very compact, with a standover height of about 32 inches, but more importantly it has a very slim waist, allowing smaller riders to easily straddle it. In traffic it’s a wonderfully nimble bike that feels very easy to maneuver, coupled with the very easy-going nature of the engine in the low revs, it’s less intimidating and less effort is required to ride it compared to some popular naked 900 options out there that are known to be far more raw.
With the F900R you get what you give, treat the it politely and it is well mannered, get sloppy and it will let you know you need to smooth your inputs. But I did enjoy the fact that the F900R can begin a date in a very polite manner but can get very rowdy indeed once you get to know it better…especially in Dynamic mode.
The ergos are comfy but lean towards sporty with a slightly weight-forward position and high footpegs. Those with the experience to flog it hard will find the bike loves to be cranked over hard and will scream through the twisties all day with you perched over the very tidy cockpit offering a thrilling, clean cliff-drop view of the road ahead.
Experienced riders will appreciate the extra features the Style Sport model offers. On the full-spec model you get Gear Shift Assist, which is clutchless upshift/auto-blipper, extra riding modes (Dynamic and Dynamic Pro) on top of the standard Road and Rain settings. The other game changer in this trim is the Electronic Suspension Adjustment unit on the rear which is head and shoulders over the notoriously budget suspension components of rivals in this category.
There is also keyless start, dynamic cornering lights, a passenger-seat cowl and a new level of connectivity between you, your bike and your smartphone. Use the BMW Connected app to log your ride data like route, speed, braking forces and lean angles and share it with your riding buddies. It is a brilliant system and BMW is really upping the bar by offering it on this bike. In fact, many of the extras you get with the Style Sport package seem to make this bike compete on a different level compared to its Japanese 900 rivals, but it literally comes at a price though. The standard model retails for P655,000 and the Style Sport variant is P775,000. That’s a bit of a price jump to consider, for sure but it also effectively outclasses the ageing competition with much more up-to-date tech and suspension.
I don’t think many of us riders would have thought it “normal” to be able to own a thoroughly European bike at a very Japanese price. So far 2020 has already asked us to adapt to so many new things, and if options like these are part of BMW’s new normal, then this is one change that is actually very welcome.