Let’s see. How many different types of roadgoing motorcycles do we recognize? There are commuters, standard bikes, café racers, tourers, sports tourers, adventure tourers, scramblers, sports bikes, supersports bikes, cruisers, and power cruisers. There are also subgroups within these types. Cruisers, for instance, include baggers, and I haven’t even touched on dirt bikes of any description, or for that matter farm bikes.
I am sure that you will be able to think of more.
But is this fragmentation a good idea? I am not going to bug you with that old “when I were a lad, there was just bikes” moan, although it is true. Just showing my age. In many ways a detailed description of a bike type is useful, but we also risk typecasting. That’s never good; think of George Reeves, who was too closely associated with his role as Superman.
And it is typecasting that concerns me. How do you choose a motorcycle when you want to ride it to work most days, pop down to the café on warm weekends, go scratching with it when your right wrist itches, ride to Phillip Island with your friends for the MotoGP and head off for a leisurely holiday with your beloved? If you followed the typecasting, you would need at least five bikes: a commuter, a cruiser, a sports bike, a sports tourer and a tourer.
Need I tell you that this is unrealistic? In truth, you would be looking for one motorcycle to do all of those things, and immediately the fragmentation of types becomes meaningless and indeed unhelpful. It simply does not make it easier for you to choose a bike.
What you want is a motorcycle, not a type of motorcycle for heaven’s sake, or words to that effect.
And I have a solution. You knew I would, didn’t you? Otherwise, I would not have gone on and on with that introduction, would I?
You have suffered long enough, so I will give you the answer right now: the solution is the BMW F 900 XR. After a few days of commuting, I recently rode one from my home in Sydney (Australia, not Canada) to the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge near the Queensland border, and back. Easy ride, close enough to 1000 miles in three days, including a bit of sightseeing and window shopping. Do you realise how mind-bendingly expensive opals are? Mrs Bear will not be wearing an opal pendant any time soon, but that is probably just as well because they are meant to bring bad luck. That, for what it’s worth, is my excuse.
Let me give you BMW’s quick rundown on the bike.
XR stands for the uncompromising combination of athleticism and long-distance performance – Adrenaline for days, curve for curve. On the new F 900 XR, you can keep hunting these curves without stopping – with a thrilling design that promises pure performance. The upright relaxed seating position promises maximum comfort and allows you to simply focus on the next corner.
Thanks to a full assortment of innovative equipment, you are just as well-equipped for sport and travel as you are for the hustle of the city. The all new F 900 XR matches your sporty attitude, and allows you to challenge its full potential in any situation.
Allowing for the hyperbole, I find this reasonable enough. The riding position and even the seat of the XR were good enough to keep me human after those thousand miles. I used a Wild Ass inflatable seat cushion for the first day, but after riding without it on the second day decided not to put it back on. The seat is fine without extra cushioning, something that is rare. The riding position is not quite as good as that of my F 750 GS: where the latter bike puts me in a comfortable upright pose, the XR had me slouching a little.
The XR goes well, even though the switch-like power of the bigger BMWs is not available. I still found that I could pass trucks with decent safety margins. With 73kW at 8500rpm and 88Nm torque at 6750 rpm from the 895cc twin, performance is satisfactory. The pillion seat is good, and the bike’s presence for the café rollout is cool. I tried it on gravel, but the road tires were not up to it.
Cruise control was really welcome on those long, straight stretches. The TFT screen reminded me of the boy who was supposed to review a book about Antarctica. He wrote, “This book tells me more about penguins than I care to know.” Likewise, the screens offer more information than I really want. The distance to empty seems somewhat erratic, too, and I do not like the large brown rectangle that reminds the rider to fill up. Without it, though, the screen is easy to read even in bright sunlight. It weighs a reasonable 219kg wet and can carry the same payload again.
I achieved exactly the fuel consumption that BMW claims for the XR, namely 4.2 litres per 100km. That gives a theoretical range of some 370km from the 15.5 litre tank. This is the bike’s major weakness, in my opinion.
But it is as close to a motorcycle, ‘just’ a motorcycle that is fun and convenient, as anything I have ridden for a long time. Anyone who wants ‘just’ a motorcycle, not a typecast special, may find that this is what they are looking for.
(Photos The Bear)