Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 19th May 2020

We all knew that it was coming, and we all knew it was going to be big, but BMW has finally unwrapped its new R18, the German company’s first cruiser since the R1200C shuffled out of the range over 15 years ago.

BMW has been teasing and trailing a traditionally styled custom bike for several years now and the finished R18 has certainly gone right down the heritage route with its massive 1802cc boxer twin engine and styling that has been influenced by the 1936 R5.

There’s no doubt that BMW has given its high profile new model an intriguing blend of traditional and modern technology. In an era when water cooling is standard fare in order to reduce noise and exhaust gas emissions, the latest boxer’s motor is air cooled in the old-fashioned way – creating a clean and minimal engine that dominates the bike’s look.

The styling is as authentic as it comes, from the shrouded forks up front to the exposed rear shaft drive. The double-loop steel tube frame looks like the designs from back in the day and features a hard tail style rear swingarm, while spoked wheels, deep black paint and silver pinstriping also hark back to the historic R5. Spoked wheels add to the authentic styling, although thankfully the ABS-equipped twin disc brakes are state-of-the-art and a far cry from the weedy drums found on the 1936 machines, especially as it has 345kg, plus the weight of the rider, to bring to a halt.

Behind those fork sleeves are conventional 49mm telescopic forks, while an adjustable monoshock setup sits under the rear seat. Although pitched and styled as a low-seated (690mm) custom bike, the R18’s footpegs are mid-mounted – more akin to a roadster than a feet-forward cruiser – and although that may have as much to do with the giant, 901cc, cylinders sticking out of the side it should make the new BMW more appealing to British riders’ tastes.

158Nm of torque

That engine is softly tuned, pumping out just 91bhp at 4750rpm but, as you’d expect from such a huge twin, it promises to a real torque monster, with more than 150Nm promised everywhere between 2,000rpm and 4,000rpm, with a peak of 158Nm at 3,000rpm.

Despite those traditional looks, there is plenty of 21st century tech on the R18. There’s LED lighting all around, key less ignition, traction control and three riding modes called, bizarrely, Rain, Rock and Roll.

Rather than launching a range of models, BMW sees customisation and modification as an integral part of R18 ownership.

The manufacturer describes the bike as ‘conversion friendly’ has made it a blank canvas upon which to add a seemingly endless number of factory-developed mods from the R18 brochure. Painted parts and the rear frame have all been designed to be removed easily and replaced with custom parts, while cables, wiring and so on have all been fitted in a way which allows the numerous handlebar options (including some Easy Rider style apehangers) to simply replace the stock items. Machined wheels, including a larger 21” front, are also in the catalogue.

Perhaps as a nod to BMW’s desire to make the R18 a stateside success, the company has worked with a number of American companies to create co-branded accessory parts for the new model.

Feted Californian custom bike builder Roland Sands has also been drafted in to create two collections of special parts, dubbed ‘Machined’ and ‘Two-tone Black’. Fellow Americans Mustang are producing a range of officially sanctioned saddle options for the new Beemer, while tuning specialists Vance & Hines are working on an aftermarket exhaust system, to replace the somewhat large OE item.

The R18 will go on sale in the UK in September, priced at £18,995 for the First Edition model, pictured. The First Edition features numerous chrome parts and ‘First Edition’ badging, as well as a goodie box of limited edition gifts. A base version will also be available at a later date, although it’s not yet clear if this will come to the UK.

BMW will be hoping that the R18 proves a bigger hit than its last entry into the cruiser market. Launched in 1997 in a blaze of glory, the German giant aimed to take sales from the mighty Harley-Davidson with the R1200C but proved a relative flop in the marketplace despite a high profile appearance in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.

Like the R18, that model featured BMW’s traditional boxer twin motor and cruiser styling, although American designer David Robb fused that custom bike styling with the BMW technology of the day, such as the Telelever front end and Paralever rear. As standard, the new R18 appears to appeal as much to the retro crew as it does traditional cruiser riders, with the wide accessory range giving it the ability to be taken in a more roadster direction, or a more extreme cruiser.