BMW has been teasing the R18 for over a year now, first with a series of customs using the new “big boxer” engine, then with a concept version, and finally the real thing was unveiled on Friday afternoon. BMW’s take on the big cruiser bike (and by extension the U.S. motorcycle market) is finally here, and it was worth the wait. This thing looks great, and with BMW’s focus on deleting as many frills as possible to bring the focus back to the essentials of motorcycling, I be it rides pretty great, too.
I mean, come on. Don’t these folks look like they’re having a boat load of fun?
First, let’s talk about that big arse engine. This behemoth pumps out 91 horsepower and according to BMW, “110 lb-ft of torque available at all times”. BMW Motorrad has always been known for its long-running series of flat twin engines, but this is the largest and most powerful of them in the company’s history. BMW says this new engine has “elemental pulling power” and describes its exhaust note as full and resonant. I look forward to hearing it with my own two ears.
Taking aim directly at the American cruiser market, BMW hopes to court the kind of customer looking for a Harley Low Rider S or Indian Chief. If you want vintage style and a big thumping engine note, this could be the European refinement variable that customers have been looking for. And if you’re not that kind of customer already, you probably won’t want anything to do with it, because this Beemer is a big bitch with a wheelbase almost 4 inches longer than Harley’s current Road King. It’s also a whopping 750 pounds, which is 51 pounds more than the already plump Fat Boy from Milwaukee. Holy shit!
Despite being the length of a country mile, the BMW doesn’t shove its controls up front as other cruisers are wont to do. This big bike has mid-controls and an ergonomically responsible handlebar reach.
Creatively, the BMW has two traditional ride modes “Rock” and “Roll” with a third reserved for “Rain”. It’s a dumb little detail, but I kind of like it. Speaking of advanced rider controls, the R18 comes with automatic stability control and engine drag torque control. You can also option a reverse assist and hill start control to help you push this big hunk of German metal around at low speeds.
Visually, the BMW is clearly a throwback with old-school fork sleeves on the front suspension, hiding an advanced telescopic fork and a direct-mounted central suspension strut with travel-dependent damping and adjustable spring preload. Out back is an R5 inspired double-loop steel tube swingarm surrounding an enclosed driveshaft which is bolted to the rear axle. You’ll find a cushy 4.7 inches of suspension travel at the front and a sufficient 3.5 inches of travel at the rear.
Don’t worry, cruisers, BMW worked with a bunch of aftermarket parts companies to make sure the new R18 would be just as customisation-friendly as the Americans. With exhausts from Vance & Hines, seats from Mustang, and various other bits and bobs from Roland Sands Design and BMW Motorrad Accessories, your R18 will be just as non-conformist anti-establishment as you are.
The 2020 BMW R18 will start at $US17,495 ($29,074) for the standard model, and is launching as the chrome-heavy $US19,870 ($33,020) First Edition. That’s about on par with the American competition.