Top-notch mid-tier BMW F900 XR
Despite its medium-sized engine, the 2020 BMW F900 XR makes you feel like a fighter pilot.
When you attack a bend, its colourful TFT instrumentation shows you braking G-forces. Downshifting on its quickshifter induces that sweet auto-blip grunt as you tip the handlebars to make a turn.
In mid-corner, the dashboard displays the percentage of traction control as well as your real-time maximum lean angle.
As you accelerate out of a bend and see the rev needle sweep towards its 10,000rpm ceiling, a gear shift indicator lights up, urging you to kick up a gear.
It is an exhilarating bike, even when the speedometer reads only 75kmh.
The 900 XR's technologies are usually found on bigger and pricier motorcycles. By putting them in a middle-weight bike, BMW appears to be raising the bar.
While some may be tempted to badge the 900 XR as a mini BMW S1000 XR, doing so is like comparing apples and oranges.
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The 1000 XR has a 999cc in-line four-cylinder engine, while the 900 XR has an 895cc parallel-twin engine. The latter is less intimidating and will appeal to more riders. And with a price tag that starts at $33,800, the 900 XR is also more affordable than the S1000 ($46,500).
The 900 XR's rival is the Yamaha Tracer 900. Both are road-going motorcycles that can venture far while offering taller suspension travel, although the six-speed liquid-cooled 900 XR is a wee bit heavier at 219kg when fully fuelled.
I am 1.78m and my feet rested flat on the ground while straddling the 900 XR. I maintained an upright riding posture and comfortably reached the wide dirtbike handlebars with easily accessible switches.
It may look like a dual-purpose motorcycle, but the 900 XR is made more for the tarmac, with 17-inch wheels and grippy road-biased tyres. But it takes time to get used to its relative tallness during cornering.
On paper, the three-cylinder Yamaha Tracer has 113bhp, higher than the 900 XR's 105bhp. But the BMW's 92Nm of torque beats the Yamaha's 87.5Nm.
The 900 XR's torque rises from as low as 4,000rpm, with 87Nm available between 4,500 and 8,500rpm.
That means the bike, geared for a top speed of over 200kmh, is always ready to pull away hard and fast in the city. At higher speeds, its adjustable windscreen comes in handy.
But shifting up from first to second gear felt notchy - a small issue as I easily adapted by using the clutch lever to ease the first-to-second gear transition. After that, its quickshifter system requires just a gentle tug to engage the next higher gear without closing the throttle.
The 900 XR base model has Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, quickshift system and LED headlights which light up corners during a turn.
The bike is also equipped with flawless anti-lock brakes, selectable riding modes and adjustable traction control.
A bonus for me was the Dynamic ESA, which came with the full-spec model I test rode. It is an electronic suspension which "reads" road surfaces and tunes the damping needed while on the move - a feature found in luxury cars.