2021 BMW R18 review: An American cruiser through a Bavarian lens – Roadshow

2020 bmw r18 ogi 1

You can spend all day choosing out the throwback particulars right here. They’re many and the execution is elegant.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Are you aware what Harley-Davidson’s largest market is exterior of america? You would be forgiven for pondering China, since so many different American manufacturers have discovered such nice success there as of late, or maybe India, a spot with someplace close to 40 million motorcycles on the highway. Neither, nonetheless, is appropriate. 

The reply is Germany, a factoid I present not to make sure you’re well-prepped for the subsequent trivia night time at your native bierhaus, however as a result of figuring out that truth is essential to understanding not solely why the R18 exists, however certainly why it’s the manner it’s. 

The BMW R18 is a protracted, low, sluggish and delightful cruiser. At about $18,000 to start out, it’s also fairly costly. That is, in some ways, a Bavarian-built Harley, a machine designed to fend off that Milwaukee presence on the Autobahn. If that appears like a curious proposition, it’s, but it surely’s additionally an extremely well-executed one. 

You must begin with the look, which is one thing like a cruiser caricature of BMW’s iconic R sequence of bikes. My take a look at bike is painted black with white pinstripes, an understated scheme for such an outrageously designed bike, however a glance that’s, for Beemer followers at the very least, as iconic as a pair of pistons protruding the body at odd angles. 

Certainly the pistons are horizontally opposed on the R18, one thing {that a} legally blind particular person might simply inform from 100 yards away. BMW house owners typically name the cylinders on their bikes jugs however these are larger than a gallon by far, wrapped in chrome and cooling fins and sprouting a large exhaust pipe that sweeps ahead earlier than turning again and flaring into an virtually laughably big muffler. Someway, although, the styling works.

Between the cylinders sits the guts of the machine, an engine confronted by but extra chrome and its personal inset BMW brand. There is no radiator right here to cover the easy body or the maybe overwrought particulars of the motor, just a bit oil cooler located down low the place you’d barely discover. 

2021 BMW R18

Handily fends off the inevitable “How massive’s the motor on that factor?”

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

When you had any doubts in regards to the sheer mass of that engine, the enormous “1800cc” badges on both aspect shortly put that to relaxation. Massive in displacement, sure, however not essentially output. BMW’s 1,802-cc lump is formally rated at 91 horsepower and 116 pound-feet of torque. I am tempted to match this to a contemporary efficiency engine, just like the 1,103-cc V4 that makes 214 hp within the Ducati Panigale V4 S — greater than twice the facility from an engine that is 60% the dimensions — however that is a bit unfair. 

A greater comparability may be to a different air-cooled BMW, like my 1965 R69S and its 594-cc, air-cooled, horizontally opposed twin. New, that bike was rated for 35 hp. Do the mathematics and you may see that is barely lower than one-third the displacement but greater than one-third the facility. How far we have are available 55 years. However, to circle again to the Harley-Davidson comparability, this motor might maybe greatest be set in opposition to the Milwaukee-Eight 114 discovered within the 2020 Fats Bob and others. That 1,870-cc engine does 86 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque — proper consistent with the R18. 

Numbers are unimportant in comparison with how a factor feels, and suffice to say the R18 feels each bit a motorbike weighing in at 761 kilos fueled. You’d greatest have each toes on the bottom as you heave it off its side-stand and thumb that starter, as a result of the drive of the engine turning over needs to throw the bike again on its aspect once more. Blips of the throttle are additionally met with related shows of Newton’s third legislation of movement, so be sure you’re not standing in a puddle of oil the subsequent time you need somewhat additional consideration whereas sitting at a stoplight. 

And the way does it sound? Good, truly. It is clearly a twin, however a extra orderly sounding one than the lumpy, “potato-potato” of a Harley. The R18 in all fairness quiet when cruising, restrained even when accelerating exhausting, and whereas I fairly like that audio combine myself I am certain many might be stripping off these beautiful, sweeping pipes for one thing a good bit louder. 

Look as shut as you want from any angle, visually this bike doesn’t disappoint.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The throttle response is nice and it is a bike higher pushed with torque than energy. Although there is a digital tachometer accessible throughout the tiny LCD nestled contained in the speedometer, it is not actually wanted. When the vibration will get so unhealthy the mirrors are blurring and your fingertips begin going numb, it is time to seize the subsequent gear. 

The ABS-equipped brakes are remarkably good and the six-speed transmission is so snappy and responsive it truly caught me abruptly. The R18 snicks into the subsequent gear with the sharpness of a sportbike. There’s an elective reverse right here, too, one thing I would name a necessity on a rig this huge, however it’s fairly much less straightforward to have interaction. This R18 truly makes use of its starter, an engagement course of requiring you attain down and discover a small lever subsequent to your left knee earlier than urgent the starter button. It is nowhere close to as cleanly built-in as that on the Honda Gold Wing.

Certainly, shifting the R18 round a car parking zone is an actual chore, the place it very positively feels its weight. On top of things, although, and it is a charming experience. When you get the rear shock’s preload dialed within the bike Hoovers up highway imperfections and is a good companion for leisurely rides. On its sharpest throttle response (your choices are Rain, Roll and Rock), it is even moderately sprightly. It is not, nonetheless, a kind of magic machines just like the Gold Wing that hides its weight within the corners. On the R18, the pegs begin dragging on the first trace of aggressive cornering. You are at all times nicely conscious that you’re astride one thing substantial, one thing that feels most at residence at velocity on lengthy runs. Sadly, nonetheless, there’s an issue that has me desperate to climb off after lower than an hour at a time. 

The R18, you see, is a literal ache in my ass. The bike is understandably festooned with BMW logos, plus “Berlin constructed” graphics, however some questionable soul determined to place an enormous, metallic “BMW” on the saddle. It is positioned within the excellent place to press in opposition to my tailbone. There are a number of seats accessible, however so far as I can inform all the manufacturing unit models include this unlucky and pointless little bit of branding. You might must price range somewhat additional for an aftermarket saddle relying on the form, dimension and sensitivity of your posterior. 

Significantly, who thought this was a good suggestion?

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

You will want a wholesome price range regardless. The beginning worth of a BMW R18 is $17,495. What you see here’s a First Version bike, which provides that very-necessary pinstriping and far of the chrome. It additionally has the Premium Package deal, including within the reverse operate plus another niceties, and the Choose Package deal, together with an alarm and heated grips. Add one other $250 for the slender passenger seat and also you’re $22,265 after a $695 vacation spot payment. And that is earlier than you delve into the handfuls and dozens of machined, polished, chromed and in any other case bespoke parts that may be spec’d out to supply the right quantity of visible aptitude to match your type. 

It is a configurator I confess that I spent a good bit of time pondering nicely earlier than I used to be given the chance to check this bike. I used to be so completely keen about that initial concept I had severe ideas about ordering one myself. Now that I’ve had what quantities to an especially prolonged take a look at experience, I am left with blended emotions. The R18 is beautiful to behold and I might go on for days calling out the throwback particulars — the wire wheels with black hoops, the finned nuts on the exhaust, the traditional single spherical headlight… I could not assist however grin each time I seemed on the factor and, on the transfer, the bundle makes me really feel extremely particular. Nevertheless, the bike itself rides like simply one other cruiser, and I would hoped for extra. When Ducati constructed a cruiser, the Diavel, it was undeniably completely different than anything in the marketplace. I did not know what to anticipate from a BMW cruiser, however I actually hadn’t anticipated it to really feel so very American. 

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Tim Stevens