It’s been exactly one year since BMW invited us to Austin, Texas, to see live that Birdcage made by Revival Cycles that marked the second step on the path that led us to see – finally – the R18. A path passed for two other concepts, the first unveiled at Villa d’Este and the second between EICMA and MBE, before arriving at this final version, which of course will be the first of a family based on that “big boxer” of which BMW are rightly so proud.
A very important comeback, after that first attempt made by the R 1200C at the end of the last millennium, which saw the House of Monaco clash head-on with the sacred monsters of the segment. For this reason, at BMW they have defined an extremely personal proposal capable of synthesising concepts and styling from their past with the most modern technology developed on sports cars. And even if not in person, in these times of Coronavirus, we are finally able to see it and present it to you.
BMW roots, we were saying. Yes, because it’s enough to look at the new R18 to catch several references to the 1936 R5, which many believe to be one of the most important models in BMW’s history – so much so that they dedicated a concept to it – the R5 Hommage, proposed at Villa d’Este in 2016 – which, in hindsight, was an important clue to what we would see four years later.
And there are so many details that recall the past of the House of Monaco: from the double-cradle steel chassis that echoes the hardtails of the past, to the bibraccio swingarm that integrates the cardan transmission with oversized bolts, but also the fork with covers, spoked wheels and the design of the brake discs. All this with the enormous 1,802 cc twin-shaft boxer twin – a technical element capable of 91 horsepower but above all 158 Newton/meter at 3,000 rpm, but also the main styling component – managed by a modern and efficient electronic package, with three riding modes, stability control and the now usual rider assistance systems combined with the very useful reverse gear.
The R18 will be commercialized in 2020 only in the “First Edition” version, with dedicated livery and characterized by painted and chromed parts, with the standard that will follow next year. And obviously, following the trend inaugurated with the NineT, it is designed to facilitate the work of preparers and customizers all over the world, offering easy disassembly and replacement of many parts. And for those who don’t resist, and want to customize their R18 right from the start, there are already two kits of machined aluminum parts prepared by Roland Sands, respectively “Machined” and “2-Tone Black”, in addition to a line of exhausts made with Vance & Hines and Mustang saddles, with a co-branding operation clearly aimed at the United States.
The “big boxer”
Our Massimo Clarke has already described the majestic Bavarian twin-cylinder engine (and we will of course come back to it shortly) but it’s worth talking about it here. The engine pushing the R18 is a super square opposed-twin (107 x 100) twin-shaft with rod and rocker arms with mixed air/oil cooling. As mentioned at the beginning, its best feature is torque – the maximum value of 158 Newton/meter is expressed at 3,000 rpm, but there are always more than 150 from 2 to 4,000 rpm.
The maximum speed is at 5,750 rpm, while the minimum is at 950 rpm. Everywhere – says BMW – the regularity of rotation is perfect thanks to a generously sized flywheel. Very generous dimensions also for the forged crankshaft and equipped with a third bearing in the middle to prevent deformation and vibration. The lubrication is wet-sump lubrication with a two-stage oil pump.
The distribution, we were saying, is four valves per cylinder (41.2mm on the intake, 35 on the exhaust) with rod and rocker arm control. The ignition has two spark plugs per cylinder. The transmission has a six-speed gearbox (with reverse gear, optional) with single dry plate clutch, for the first time in BMW’s history equipped with an anti-slip function.
The final drive is achieved by means of a spectacular visible cardan shaft. The electronic management includes three riding modes (Rain, Roll, Rock) with progressively higher performance and sporty response, and keeps the engine under control both through ASC traction control and the new MSR engine brake management.
The chassis is based on a double-cradle steel frame, with swingarm based on the same technique. On both of them a painstaking care has been used in the finishing, and a cantilever suspension scheme, hidden in the central area of the bike, has been used to give a hardtail look despite a 90 mm stroke. The fork is a telescopic unit with 49mm (hidden) stems for a 120mm stroke. For a precise choice – aesthetic cleanliness first and foremost – purely mechanical units were chosen.
At the front there is a 19″ rim, with 3.5″ channel and a 120/70 tyre, radial or belted depending on the supplier; at the rear there is a 16″ rim with 5″ channel and 180/65 B 16 tyre. The braking system counts on a backhoe loader of 300 mm discs machined from three four-piston calipers, naturally managed by ABS here in the Integral version: the handlebar lever operates all three discs with dynamic distribution of braking power, while the pedal operates only on the rear disc.
From an ergonomic point of view, the BMW R18 is a bit different from the more traditional American cruisers, remaining closer to European proposals such as Ducati Diavel, Triumph Rocket III or Guzzi California Audace: the footrests remain relatively set back and under the rider (a solution almost obligatory due to the overhang of the boxer cylinders) resulting in a more dynamic riding position.
Naturally, those who do not like it can turn to the endless accessories catalogue, which offers all sorts of customisation possibilities, both in the two kits set up by Roland Sands and directly in the BMW Motorrad one.
Electronics and finishes
Already mentioned the electronic engine management package, it is worth mentioning the new instrumentation, with only one analog element equipped with LED panel and integrated indicators – minimalist and stylistically extremely effective. The electronic management also extends to lighting, with the LED front headlamp with integrated adaptive lights (optional), which are activated at speeds of over 10 km/h and at more pronounced lean angles of 7°, making a significant contribution to lighting up to 25° inclinations.
Naturally, there is also the optional keyless start function, which has now become standard throughout the BMW range. And in addition to the three riding modes already mentioned, which regulate engine output and ASC stability control and engine brake settings. Optional features include reverse gear, which can be activated via the start button, hill start assistance and heated grips.
All body parts of the R 18 are made of metal, starting of course with the 16-litre drip tank, and continuing with mudguards, sidewalls and various supports. All wiring has been concealed as much as possible. In general, all solutions are designed to enhance the minimalist look and reminiscent of the 1936 R5, such as the gimbal-mounted final drive with visible shaft.
The new R18, among other things, is entirely made in the Spandau plant, just outside Berlin, a fact that is recalled by several details that bear the inscription Berlin Built.
Price and availability
As we said at the beginning, the R18 for the first year will be available on our market in the First Edition version at 22,290 euro, with chrome kit and lightwhite pinstriping on Blackstorm metallic background that would normally cost 2,150 euro.
Beyond the livery, the First Edition is equipped with several more precious details, such as chrome surfaces, a plate on the saddle and one, chrome, on the side panel. All purchasers of this special edition will also be given a box with the engine image on the lid containing the historic tank logos, dedicated screws (both copper-coloured), a pair of gloves for assembly and a dedicated screwdriver, which can also be used as a key ring, a cap and a “R18 First Edition” belt, and finally a book dedicated to the almost 100 years of BMW Motorrad history.
Those who want to personalize the BMW R18 will have (at least) two possibilities: to draw on the BMW Motorrad catalog or to use the kits made in collaboration with Roland Sands Design. And it is worth pointing out that the R18, continuing the trend that began with the R NineT, is designed to make the work of customizers easier, with easily removable rear frame and superstructures, wiring designed to be hidden or repositioned, and engine covers that can be replaced without worry.
The kits made by Roland Sands are two, called “Machined” (i.e. “machined from billet”) and “2-tone black” (Black, tone-on-tone). The first kit obviously includes several pieces of billet aluminum, all played on the contrast between black and silver: all the black painted parts are machined and then polished to obtain the best effect. The “2-tone black” instead includes components – again in billet aluminum – with alternating polished/matt anodizing.
Very rich – obviously – also the “standard” catalogue, so to speak, of BMW Motorrad dedicated to the R18, which allows to modify in a substantial way both the aesthetics and the essence of the Munich cruiser, just think of the various possibilities offered in terms of handlebars: low, high, wide or even an Apehanger (which we honestly find a bit ‘out of place on the R18, but in America maybe will like …) or saddles. There’s a co-branding line with Mustang Seats, but also several official proposals, including a fascinating Solo Hommage Seat that reminds us of the first BMW Motorrad single-seaters.
It’s also worth mentioning the frame bag made of mixed canvas/leather with pockets, but also rims (including a 21″ front) mudguards, license plate holders and of course many other details: from bags to many details made from solid wood.