BMW F900 XR – short motorcycle trip to Scotland and the A708 (part 3)
This is the third and final part of the series of blog posts covering the short trip to Scotland.
In addition to wrapping up my short trip, I finish off this post by offering some thoughts about what I think of the F900 XR so far.
Part 1 in this short series covered the first day and my overnight stay in Girvan. Part 2 covered the second day and my overnight stay in Selkirk, and this third and final part wraps up the short trip with mention of the magnificent A708.
The A708 really is one of my favourite UK roads, that’s not to say there aren’t better roads but for me it really does tick just about every box. The road runs from Selkirk in the Scottish Borders to Moffat in Dumfriesshire (or Moffat to Selkirk depending which way you’re heading).
Over the years and in numerous blog posts I have written about or mentioned this road and this part of Scotland. I’ve stayed overnight many many times in Moffat on my own when biking or with my wife when touring/travelling in the car and I would say that the towns of Moffat and Selkirk are both worth visiting as are the areas they are located in, there really is plenty to see and do.
Time for home
For the reasons I have already explained this was only a short trip. Staying overnight in Selkirk meant I could easily make a route across to Moffat before heading south towards Carlisle and then home.
I’ve already mentioned in Part 2 that my accomodation at The Glen Hotel was good. I had slept pretty well and was down for breakfast early and by 08:15 I was on the road and heading for the A708.
To be honest, saying I was heading for the A708 is probably something of an overstatement.
The Glen Hotel is virtually at the start of the A708, and so within two minutes of leaving my overnight stay I was turning onto the road and heading in the direction of Moffat, which meant the magnificent St Mary’s Loch would be on my left hand side for this run.
The previous evenings weather forecast had been mixed, and despite what seemed to have been heavy overnight rain by the time I left there were patches of blue sky and the roads were drying. This meant I didn’t hesitate to head for Moffat. Had conditions been poor I would probably have given it a miss.
St Mary’s loch
The loch is the largest natural loch in the Scottish Borders, and is a little over three miles long and over half a mile wide. If you are ever up that way and you have enough time it’s well worth checking out the road that runs alongside Megget Reservoir and Megget Water as well (these feed the loch). They are not fast roads but have magnificent scenery and are well worth the effort.
Ticks all the boxes
I suppose one persons view of what makes a great road wont always match another persons view.
Perhaps it depends what sort of bike you’re riding, maybe you want perfect tarmac, or maybe you just want a clear run with no chance of anyone or anything crossing or perhaps it’s just a good road with the guarantee of good weather (I’m thinking here of lots of Spanish roads …), or maybe your perfect road isn’t any of those things?
It’s true to say the A708 certainly doesn’t guarantee perfect tarmac throughout its 30 or so miles, nor are you guaranteed a clear run … watch out for the sheep, and you are certainly not guaranteed the weather. But what you do get are stunning and exceptional views, a mix of road surfaces from excellent to good including a few stretches where it’s wise to ‘be careful’!
You’re not guaranteed for the road to be traffic free, but on the other hand I don’t think I have ever done the road in either direction when the traffic has been a particular issue.
Thankfully my early start meant I saw almost no other vehicles on my run, the sheep seemed to be dozing or sleeping – and yes sheep do sleep, but apparently for only about four hours a day.
Oddly enough they can even sleep standing up.
Any which way there was an absence of sheep on my latest trip – so no moving chicanes to avoid. Not for the first time I really enjoyed what turned out to be quite an exhilarating ride on the A708. From a bikers perspective it’s one of those roads that if you haven’t ridden it I would strongly recommend that you add it to your ‘to-do’ list.
There’s a selection of pictures from the A708 in the picture gallery below and when you’ve checked the pictures out scroll down after the gallery to see my latest thoughts on the F900 XR
Selecting an image will open a picture gallery that can be clicked or scrolled through
What about the bike then?
I’ve already written about my first impressions of the F900 in a previous post (which you can see at this link). This short trip saw me do around 760 miles or so and the first time on a ‘trip’ rather than just out for a ride.
So what do I think – well pretty much more of what I have already said. The following text in italics is an extract from that earlier post
‘It’s easier to ride than it is for me to push around. Weight wise it comes in at about 480lb, which is about 40lb more than the F800R. It’s actually a little lighter than my RnineT. I think that maybe it feels a little heavier for me to push around due to the position of the bars/height of the bike. In practice though it’s a neither here or there sort of issue.
In contrast, once moving the bike feels super agile, perhaps more so than any I have ridden for a long time. It instantly feels very very good on the road and feels like an incredibly decent road bike. If your looking for rocket ship acceleration then this isn’t the bike for you, same if your looking for your 160mph + superbike performance.
From the Suzuki line up I’ve had a couple of GSX-R 600s, a 750 and a 1000 along with Honda Fireblade and CB1000R and a Kawasaki Z1000SX (and a few others) so I’ve had a reasonable amount of ‘quick’ bikes and that isn’t the sort of biking I do or want to do these days.
In a nutshell and at this time, my early impression is that this bike just works well.’
So to add to that from the Scotland trip/experience, there is no doubt that this bike just works. It really does.
There is no drama or fuss when riding, gear changes are smooth and reliable, whether using the quick shifter or not. I must admit, a lifetime of using a clutch still sees me reaching for it even when I know I don’t need to.
The ‘general feel’ of the bike on different road surfaces is really good – wet, dry, loose etc it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, the bike always feels good.
Mid corner gear changes and braking which may not be something you want to do as matter of routine don’t seem to unduly unsettle the bike. I did this numerous times whilst away simply to have a sense of how the F900 felt when this was done and so I could comment on it here.
The brakes are good, power delivery is smooth and the wealth of information available on the dash is clear, easy to read and easy enough to access once you have figured out and got used to how the ‘jog wheel’ works.
Fuel economy is good (not quite at the exceptional levels of the F800R) but up around the 57mpg mark, my other BMW (an RnineT) typically returns about 54mpg.
Of all the bikes I have owned the F800R with it’s Rotax engine reigned supreme when it came to fuel economy. It always returned around the 74mpg mark, but I knew when I traded that for the F900 I would be saying goodbye to those remarkable levels of fuel economy.
I removed the OEM panier holders when I got the bike and fitted the bars and rack from Shad so as to be able to use my Shad SH40 top box (that I used on the F800R). That a more than adequate solution luggage wise and it’s on my list to do a separate post about that.
In the past I have travelled for more than two weeks and managed to carry all I need in the SH40.
Mind you I did a couple of weeks in Spain and Portugal on the RnineT with just the Motorad tail bag. I’ve also done more than a couple of weeks in Europe on a GSX-R 1000 with Kriega tail packs. It’s fair to say I’m reasonably well practised at travelling light!
I’m more than happy with the bike and I would say it’s easily exceeded my expectations so far, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning.
The cruise control is superb, not something I ever thought I would say but it really is. Worth being aware though, that if you use the front brake to knock the cruise control off there is quite a reaction and an immediate dive of the forks as 10mph is instantly wiped off the speed, a smoother approach is to pull the clutch in.
The adjustable screen is good and easy to use – but for me (and this is a personal thing as it’s always going to be related to height/size). Raising the screen up does a good job of shifting the airflow and rain but at the expense of a level of wind noise that I don’t want.
I could probably solve that by fitting some sort of wind deflector or after market screen, but to be honest it’s not much of an issue for me so I probably wont bother.
I’ve had a lot of bikes and never bothered having a seat altered as I have always found them acceptable but this seat isnt great. My seat is the low version but reading comments online there seems to be a general sense that the seats are not comfortable at all. And of course it’s not just BMW a look at third party seat manufactures that sell after market seats at premium prices for what seem to be all manufacturers and all models tells you that.
Added to that are the numerous suppliers of seat cushions and there are many different brands supplying gel cushions, air inflatable cushions etc etc and some of the costs of these are not at all insignificant. I have never had my own seat altered – the only occasion I had a seat altered was on a Kawasaki Vulcan S (the 650cc cruiser style) and we had the pillion seat altered for my wife.
But because I like this bike so much and because it feels like it doesn’t need a lot of work on the seat to make a difference, I’ve decided that I’ll get the seat sorted – you’ll want to check back soon for that post to see how it works out … it’s coming soon.
All round thoughts
I think the F900 XR really is a really good bike.
It’s a joy to ride, plenty enough power, great for a Sunday ride and great for a tour. Once the seat is sorted I think it’s heading for a minimum of a 9/10 score.
Even as I’m writing this I’m looking forward to my next ride – I’m fortunate enough to have a choice of bikes when I go into my garage – and I know it’s going to be a hard call not to get on this one the next time I open the garage door.