After one of the longest public gestation periods in history the official word is now out on BMW’s opening shot in to the modern cruiser market-place. Be assured this new R 18 First Edition is not the only shot in the locker the Bavarians have in store for us.
This first cruiser out of the factory is expected to land in Australia sometime in the third quarter of this year. The first shipment of bikes will all land with reverse assist which pushes the price point up to $31,690.
The R 18 First Edition can also be had without reverse-assist for $31,190, but these will not land until later shipments. First Edition bikes will sport signature double pin striping paint and chrome.
Later in the year slightly lower specification variants of the R 18 will land and start from $26,890. All prices quoted here are list and are subject to on road costs.
Of course the options list for individualisation will be extensive. The bikes have an easily removable rear frame and the sky will be the limit when it comes to bespoke accessories.
The star of the show though is always going to be that absolutely gargantuan barrel of an engine that is reminiscent of some sort of aircraft power unit. This first power-plant in the new cruiser displaces 1802 cc and will no doubt be seen in other sizes and states of tune in following years.
With 90 horsepower at 4750 rpm this first iteration is not quite as hairy-chested as I might have expected but of course these bikes are always going to be about torque and this is where the focus has obviously been applied.
Peak torque of 158 Nm arrives at 3000 rpm but there is more than 150 Nm on tap from 2000 rpm to 4000 rpm. That puts the BMW pretty much on par with the latest Milwaukee-Eight donks from Harley-Davidson.
I am very interested to see just how much crank weight has been engineered into the BMW engine and how much character the German engineers have been able to gain while still adhering to Euro5 restrictions. There must be a fair bit of reciprocating mass in there as the engine and gearbox unit weights 110.8 kg.
The crank also runs an additional main bearing compared to most boxers in order to help support those extra long rods that push those 107.1 mm pistons through a 100 mm stroke. Red-line is 5750 rpm while the donk ticks over at 950 rpm when idling.
I can imagine countless hours went into achieving a balance that addresses both but the Boxer lay-out has always been quite charismatic so I am sure it will deliver on this front. Hopefully it is better than ever with a nice lilt and timbre despite the massive task of meeting those legislative requirements.
48 mm throttle bodies are hidden behind shrouds which adds to the very clean and distinctive look of the engine.
This first state of tune must be fairly mild with the big mill only pushing a very modest 9.6:1 compression ratio. How long until someone hangs a turbo or supercharger off one as that low-comp would suggest the engine is ready for some boost to be pumped into it.…?
The exposed nickel-plated drive-shaft I thought might not make it fully into production because of some nanny state considerations, but it thankfully has made it across to the production bikes and looks ace. I guess it is no different than having a chain waiting to crunch any stray toes in a sprocket. Ask Daryl Beattie about that one, his Instagram handle is not hanginfive for nothing…
While the shaft is exposed the rear suspension most certainly is not. BMW have obviously worked hard to tuck the rear shock and suspension well out of view. Giving the R 18 a distinctive hard-tail look to what is a cantilever rear end with 90 mm of travel and a shock that is progressive in its action and runs without a linkage. Preload is adjustable and it will be interesting to see if it handles the big hits that our shit-house Aussie roads can dish out.
That seat is only 690 mm from terra firma and the long sloping fuel tank holds 16-litres of 95+ unleaded. Mid-mount pegs offer a laid-back riding position but there will be a large range of different seats and pegs on offer via the accessories catalogue.
The R 18 rolls on a 120/70-19 front and 180/65-16 rear which suggests it has been engineered for some agility despite running a wheelbase longer than a Fat Boy.
The double-loop tubular steel frame must be strong as BMW have quoted a road ready weight of 345 kg and a permitted total weight of 560 kilograms which gives a very generous 215 kg load capacity. That also suggests that it may form the back-bone of some much larger cruiser machinery down the track. This first model is available with an optional 27-litre rear bag and a pair of 16-litre side-bags along with a small tank-bag also making an appearance on the options list.
A single-disc dry clutch is hydraulically assisted and drives through a constant-mesh six-speed gearbox. The aforementioned reverse and hill-start control functions are optional extras but motor slip regulation, an electronic system that helps prevent rear wheel lock-ups on down-shifts similar to a slipper clutch, is standard.
All the wiring appears to be well hidden inside the bars while the round instrument nacelle marries a bit of yesteryear with its conventional looking speedometer sporting ‘Berlin Built’ lettering just below the modern touch that is a small LCD inset.
The mufflers are reminiscent of motorcycles made almost a century ago, but these days of course have to be much larger due to the need to house catalytic convertors. It must be an endless frustration for designers and engineers to try and give us what we want while meeting increasingly stringent noise and emissions restrictions. The challenge would be enormous, and I imagine relentlessly frustrating.
A small oil-cooler is mounted just ahead and below the timing chain cover to aid the finned engine barrels while that crankcase, that humungous crankcase, is finished in a smooth grey that should hopefully prove easy to keep looking good.
The beefy 49mm telescopic forks are conventional items with the sliders heavily shrouded (as per the original R5 model of 1936), and finished in what appears to be a low sheen black. The fork stroke is 120 mm.
The black theme continues throughout the bike which as a whole looks tastefully finished. LED lighting features throughout with a very DGR moustache-like daytime running light.
The key can stay in your pocket thanks to a standard keyless ride system complete with remote control and the switchgear looks simple and intuitive.
Three riding modes come as standard on the R 18; ‘Rain’, ‘Roll’ and ‘Rock’ modes all offer differing engine response and traction control mapping to suit the mood. The ASC can be switched off when it comes time to bag it up.
Twin-disc stoppers up front look to be quite formidable four-piston calipers and these are aided by an equal sized 300 mm single disc rotor at the rear that is largely hidden from view on the left-hand-side of the bike, adding further to the distinctly minimalist rear end.
Various attachment points are provided for the hydraulic lines and cabling to facilitate the fitment of a wide range of optional handle-bars.
Most of the engine covers are easily changed to differently finished items as they sit outside the oil galleries. Both Roland Sands Design and Vance & Hines are ready to run with BMW genuine accessories.
‘First Edition’ customers will receive an exclusive welcome box which includes the following:
Box with picture of the engine on the lid
Historical tank emblems (copper-coloured lettering)
Historical slotted screws (copper-coloured)
Assembly screwdriver (can also be used as key ring)
“R18 First Edition” cap
Leather belt with exclusive “R 18 First Edition” claspBook about the near 100-year history of BMW Motorrad
I am sure those with deposits already down are very eager to get their hands on what is a hotly anticipated machine. I can’t wait to ride it either.
BMW R 18 Specifications
BMW R 18 Specifications
1802 cc / 110 cui Boxer Twin
107.1 mm/100 mm
67 kW/91 hp @ 4,750 rpm
158 Nm @ 3,000 rpm
Air/water-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke boxer engine
9.6:1 / premium unleaded (95-98 RON)
Valves per cylinder
41.2 mm / 35.0 mm
Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, EU5 exhaust standard
12/26 V/Ah maintenance-free
LED low beam with projection module LED high beam with projection module
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