The mysterious machine had captivated even BMW’s staunchest of fans, with the promise of the manufacturer’s biggest engine ever in a cruiser format not seen in good ol’ Germany for almost a century. It looked custom enough to put some of Garmisch-Partenkirchen finest machines to shame, but promised BMW build quality and a proper warranty. And the finished model has finally broken cover, unveiled in lieu of a physical launch (thank you coronavirus).
Borrowing design cues from the 1930’s R5 (the Duke of Richmond’s grandfather Freddie March had such a bike), the R18 is a step firmly into the Harley and Indian-dominated cruiser market, and with a huge 150Nm (110lb ft) of torque available from just 2,000rpm (with a peak of 158Nm (116.5lb ft) achieved at 3,000rpm), it’s a step with intent.
At 1,802cc, the air-cooled boxer twin is the biggest BMW engine ever produced and, at 345kg, the R18 the heaviest BMW motorcycle ever. Peak power of 91 horsepower is reached at 4,750rpm, but that’s very much a sideline figure to all that torque.
The design is every bit as impressive as it appeared in the concept shots, with the archetypal BMW peardrop black tank, complete with roundel and pinstripe white detail. The large ribbed cylinders stick out the sides and the exposed driveshaft catches the eye, while a beautiful chrome exhaust sweeps between the wire wheels that bookend the bike.
In terms of the chassis itself, wide bars and beefy sleeved telescopic forks (with 120mm travel), lead into a ‘double loop’ steel cradle chassis housing that huge, 110kg engine, and eventually a cantilevered softail rear end. The rear suspension is carefully concealed, giving the look of a hardtail, but it is there, complete with 90mm of travel. As for stopping power, there’s the usual double discs up front and single unit at the rear, complete with four-pot fixed callipers.
While the design is as classic as they come, BMW has adhered to modern motorcycle etiquette (with a twist), and included riding modes of Rain, Roll (optimum throttle response) and Rock (‘spontaneous’ throttle response, ASC allows a little more slip), plus switchable Automatic Stability Control (ASC) and engine drag torque control (MSR). The latter works to prevent the rear wheel from slipping as a result of abrupt throttling or downshifting – pretty useful when you’ve got so much torque from the get-go…
And covering the creature comforts is LED lighting and keyless ride, while reverse assist, Hill Start Control and heated grips are all factory-fitted options on the new R18. Also optional are a vast range of custom components, which include pieces from Roland Sands Design, Vance & Hines, and Mustang Seats.
As far as modern interpretations of classics go, the R18 is indisputably excellent, combining the iconic BMW character with the comforts we’ve come to expect from modern machines.
Following launch in September, it will be available in both a standard version and a chromed-out First Edition, which comes complete with a suitably hipster ‘welcome box’. There’s no word on the standard price, but the ‘FE’ variant will cost from £18,995.