BMW’s Recently Released R 18 Cruiser is Big, Bold and Ballsy.
It’s a picture of pure mechanical beauty and its entry into the cruiser market is as bold as all-caps Helvetica Ultra Bold. After a 16-year hiatus, BMW has burst unabashed onto the cruiser market with the first-ever R 18 and staked a claim firmly in the territory of Harley-Davidson. This move is big and ballsy.
Fittingly, so is the bike. The biggest most eye-catching feature of the R 18 is its massive 1802cc boxer engine. Dubbed the “Big Boxer,” the horizontally opposed twin-cylinder produces a whopping 67kW at 4,750rpm and more than 150Nm of torque, which is available at all times between 2,000 to 4,000rpm. It’s the largest ever BMW two-cylinder engine by 500ml and stands out like the proverbial dog’s.
The boxer engine is, of course, a nod to classic BMW motorcycles like the R 5 as is the exposed driveshaft, circular instrument cluster — with the classy ‘Berlin-Built’ imprimatur – and the circular headlight. Looks wise, it’s an absolute head-turning stunner and was well received when first shown at the 2019 Villa d’Este.
The R 18’s Machinery
Mechanically, the bike features the classic BMW boxer large single-disc dry clutch and a six-speed gearbox. It has a reversing gear, powered by the starter motor, for those who of us who skip leg day and can’t push a 345kg motorbike up an incline.
At first blush, the R 18 looks a little like a hardtail (that is, no rear suspension) but, in fact, is merely hiding its rear suspension bits. It has disc brakes, front and rear, with wire-spoked wheels.
While it might look like it harks back to a time, post-WWII, where you could ride with a soft helmet, goggles and a flowing scarf through bucolic European fields, the R 18 boasts considerable modern technology. It has state-of-the-art LED lighting technology disguised in classical design, as well as adaptive turning light for enhanced road illumination. Cornering illumination is available as an ex-factory option. When the bike leans more than 7 degrees on either side, a series of LED units that illuminate the inside of a corner.
The factory model also comes with keyless ride for convenient functionality and activation by remote control. The boxer engine can be dialled to three standard riding modes, Rain, Roll and Rock. In essence the three modes go from smooth throttle action and full electronic engagement ASC (Automatic Stability Control) and MSR (an engine torque regulation system), gradually ascending to the more direct reaction to throttle input and less intervention from the safety systems of the Rock setting.
The R 18, simply put, is a winner. And while it may be treading on Harley’s turf, I doubt Harley is worried with its dyed-in-the-wool fan base. And BMW will attract many new customers with a stylish, elegant and technologically advanced machine.