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Motorcycles 2021 BMW R 18 First Ride Review

22:11  18 september  2020
22:11  18 september  2020 Source:   motorcyclecruiser.com

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The night before I first rode the 2021 BMW R 18 for the first time, I could hardly sleep. BMW had done such a remarkable job building anticipation for this heavyweight cruiser that I already knew I would love it.

a man riding on the back of a motorcycle: The 2021 BMW R 18 has a starting MSRP of $17,495. © Jeff Allen The 2021 BMW R 18 has a starting MSRP of $17,495.

How could I not? CW Zon, Revival Cycles, and Roland Sands Design had each molded its own concept and produced an amazing custom machine around this gargantuan 1,802cc flat-twin engine, and now it was my turn to test the final production version—the 2021 BMW R 18 First Edition.

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a man riding on the back of a motorcycle: The 2021 BMW R 18 has a starting MSRP of $17,495. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The 2021 BMW R 18 has a starting MSRP of $17,495.

The “anticipation campaign” had clearly worked on me. And it wasn’t just the customs. It’s the fact that the production R 18′s most significant elements—styling, engine character, ergonomics, and customization—were heavily influenced by traditional American cruiser design. Where it gets a little weird is that BMW has historically put function before form, as we saw with its previous cruiser model, the R 1200 C introduced in 1997. The 1200 C had a few cruisery styling cues but was more like a laid-back, highly competent standard. With the R 18, the company has truly committed to the American heavyweight custom formula, just expressed through the BMW lens. The low, 27.2-inch seat is made possible by giving the rear suspension just 3.5 inches of travel. There is a huge torque-rich engine that is in BMW’s signature boxer layout and it features no vibration-quelling counterbalancer. The dual front disc brakes are tuned for “American feel,” meaning it takes a firm squeeze on the wide lever.

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a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: We tested the First Edition model, starting at $19,870. First Editions get dual pinstripes, a special seat badge, and more chrome than standard models. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser We tested the First Edition model, starting at $19,870. First Editions get dual pinstripes, a special seat badge, and more chrome than standard models.

These are all things we wouldn’t expect from the Bavarian manufacturer, but this bike is not a traditional BMW, because of its emphasis on look, sound, and feel before all else. The typical pure technical superiority the company’s designers and engineers chase was refocused to give the R 18 as much refinement and aesthetic impact as possible, but within the confines of what millions of American heavyweight cruiser customers have proven they want. Don’t think BMW is serious about selling this bike here? The US market is projected to purchase 50 percent of global volume.

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a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: Pinstriping is crisp and a top-shelf detail matching the fine fit and finish of this bike. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser Pinstriping is crisp and a top-shelf detail matching the fine fit and finish of this bike.

But the R 18 walks a strange line between the level of technology we’re used to from BMW and a simple cruiser ride that isn’t cluttered or distracting. Our testbike was equipped with tech-oriented features such as electric reverse, an adaptive headlight, ride modes, heated grips, and more. But while the analog speedometer’s LCD info screen provided average riding speed and instant fuel consumption, it did not offer a fuel gauge or range calculation. This is a somewhat confusing choice, while also being inconvenient: Riding fairly aggressively and mostly in town, I once hit the fuel reserve after only 75 miles, making me wish for remaining fuel or range information even more.

a view of the side of a mountain: The nature of the R 18 encourages you to slow down and enjoy the scenery. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The nature of the R 18 encourages you to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

The 1,802cc engine (should we say 110ci instead?) is the centerpiece of the R 18′s design, both visually and physically. It shakes mightily when it starts and rolls the bike to the left when you rev it up thanks to the ample flywheel effect of the longitudinally mounted crankshaft. Unlike many of BMW’s other boxer engines, there is no counterbalancer, and this engine makes it known. But that’s all intentional as part of this bike’s nostalgic play.

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a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: The massive boxer engine is the largest ever produced by BMW, and is manufactured, like all boxers, in the company’s Berlin plant. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The massive boxer engine is the largest ever produced by BMW, and is manufactured, like all boxers, in the company’s Berlin plant.

Based on the physical size of the engine alone, I was expecting a more performance-oriented machine, sort of like a big-block and meaty R nineT. But the R 18 is really much closer to the output and character of an American V-twin. Its 81 hp and 103 pound-feet of torque (measured on Cruiser’s in-house dyno) put it right in the running with Milwaukee’s best.

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: The silhouette of the 2021 BMW R 18 is both classic cruiser and classic BMW. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The silhouette of the 2021 BMW R 18 is both classic cruiser and classic BMW.

Power output is ultra smooth, and the flat torque curve is biased toward ample bottom-end, so it’s easy to lug along a gear high, but the engine revs right up when you twist the throttle. Even without a balancer, this engine is smooth and sweet below 3,000 rpm, and it’s perfectly happy to ride in this range. Above 3K it starts to buzz grips, pegs, and seat. Ridden between 3,500 and 4,500 rpm it will make you itchy if you hold it up there. The rev-limiter kicks in at about 5,700 rpm, so the vibratory range is in the top 60 percent or more of available revs and in top gear, it’s 80 mph or faster, which seems like an unlikely use case. Ultimately, if you push the bike and try to ride it like a power cruiser or high-speed tourer, it will rightfully remind you that that’s not how this bike was designed to be ridden. Relax and enjoy.

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a close up of a motorcycle: Large fishtail exhaust pipes help with the vintage aesthetic of the R 18. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser Large fishtail exhaust pipes help with the vintage aesthetic of the R 18.

The engine and traction control function in three modes: Rock, Roll, and Rain. Roll is the standard mode and is pretty easy going. Rock is a little more aggressive with quicker throttle response and the least intervention from TC. Rain applies power more slowly with the most TC to limit tire slip. After exploring the modes, I found Rock was the most enjoyable for me. It’s also pretty cool that BMW tuned Rock to have a more rhythmic, almost-but-not-quite-rough idle than the other modes. Let’s call it a lope. We like to Rock here.

a close up of a motorcycle: A clean and simple gauge and solid-mounted risers help keep the rider connected to the bike and not distracted by a cluttered display. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser A clean and simple gauge and solid-mounted risers help keep the rider connected to the bike and not distracted by a cluttered display.

Solid-mounted handlebar risers make the rider feel connected to the bike, and while I was occasionally bothered by vibration at the seat, that at my hands was just the right sort of rumble. Under 3,000 rpm, it’s really more of a combustion-pulse feeling than what I would term vibration. Good throttle feel and quick response made for satisfying blips at idle—enjoying those classic-feeling vibes. Clutch feel, on the other hand (literally), was not super definitive. Lever pull was light (it is an assist/slipper design) and engagement easy to modulate, but it was too vague. Of the two testbikes we rode for hundreds of miles each, and performance tested at the dragstrip, one of them developed clutch slip under abrupt throttle application when the engine was hot. BMW is investigating the issue.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: The R 18 is available in any color you like, so long as it’s black. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The R 18 is available in any color you like, so long as it’s black.

Weighing in at 790 pounds with a 32.7-degree rake, the R 18 definitely makes you feel its weight. The R 18 is stable and generally smooth riding at highway speeds, but the short rear suspension travel makes it impossible to ignore some bumps. At parking-lot speeds, the front wheel wants to tip in and the engine’s side-to-side motion can be felt, but that’s part of the trade-off for the nostalgic cruiser aesthetic, a long 5.9-inch trail and lengthy 68.1-inch wheelbase. Limited cornering clearance is also quick to remind you how this bike wants to be ridden, footpeg feelers throwing sparks at moderate speeds on winding roads. Again, the bike almost forces you to slow down and take time to enjoy the scenery—and on this bike, I’m actually OK with that.

a close up of a motorcycle: The exposed nickel-plated shaft drive is a clear and obvious throwback to the BMW R5, as well as one of the most impressive details on the R 18. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The exposed nickel-plated shaft drive is a clear and obvious throwback to the BMW R5, as well as one of the most impressive details on the R 18.

Claimed fuel capacity is 4.2 gallons, which, with our recorded average of 33 mpg in mixed riding, translates to a roughly 140-mile range including reserve. This is on the low side for the category, but it does suit the R 18′s bar-hopping nature. That shorter-hop feeling is further underlined by the bike’s firm seat. If there was any chance of getting past the buzzy higher-rpm vibration or the limited rear suspension travel, this seat makes sure you feel both. And, while we like the metal BMW badge fitted to the First Edition’s saddle (other models have an embroidered logo), I could actually uncomfortably feel the badge when riding. An optional taller seat, giving the rider an additional 0.8 inch of legroom, is available at the time of purchase for no extra cost. The stock saddle is stylish and it does fit the bike’s hard-tail silhouette, but its lack of cushion is one resounding complaint heard by all testers. There are a good number of aftermarket and accessory seats already available.

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a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: The low, mid-mounted footpegs scrape easily and often, limiting cornering speeds. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The low, mid-mounted footpegs scrape easily and often, limiting cornering speeds.

The bikes we tested were equipped with the full First Edition package as well as several accessories like the adaptive headlight, hill hold, and electric reverse. I found the front brake hill hold a bit intrusive, sometimes activating when I didn’t expect it, interfering with smooth launches. Reverse mode did come in handy, as the large cylinder heads can get in the way when trying to push the bike backward while seated. But reverse is also sort of a commitment, in the sense that once you engage the reverse gear with the starter motor (its source of drive), you can’t push the bike forward. So if you need to make a couple of cuts turning around in a parking lot, it keeps you busy shifting in and out of reverse. Cruise control wasn’t available on our testbikes, but it will be optional.

a motorcycle parked on top of a car: The standard seat on the R 18 is stiff and unforgiving. Density is the same on base models as on our First Edition, though the metal badge in the center of our testbike’s saddle didn’t help comfort. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser The standard seat on the R 18 is stiff and unforgiving. Density is the same on base models as on our First Edition, though the metal badge in the center of our testbike’s saddle didn’t help comfort.

Customizability was a strong initial design goal and it’s been well-executed. The rear subframe is easily removable, a single bolt holds the rider seat, and just two bolts free the steel rear fender (all bodywork including side panels and headlight bucket/rim are steel). Handlebar risers, gas cap, foot controls and other components were designed to cross over with parts manufactured for American brands, allowing builders to take advantage of a large number of aftermarket pieces. So while BMW is debuting this motorcycle with an adequate accessory line of its own, there are a huge number of existing items in the aftermarket that will fit.

a close up of a car: Another throwback to classic BMW airhead design is the 1,800cc badge on the side of the engine. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser Another throwback to classic BMW airhead design is the 1,800cc badge on the side of the engine.

In a product presentation to us about the R 18, BMW’s R 18 Project Lead Roland Stocker also made it clear that this is the beginning of a new family of models. So like we saw the standard R nineT become the Racer, Urban GS, Pure, and more, we can expect to see new variations of the R 18 coming down the line. He also hinted at the weight of the bike coming into play later on, and with BMW’s touring heritage, it begs the question of how far behind a bagger may be.

a close up of a device: This lever activates the optional electric reverse. We found it highly useful mostly due to the R 18’s 790-pound measured wet weight. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser This lever activates the optional electric reverse. We found it highly useful mostly due to the R 18’s 790-pound measured wet weight.

Fit and finish on this bike are unparalleled, and the attention to detail on hiding virtually every possible hose, wire, clip, clamp, or any other cluttering detail is remarkable. From the crisp pinstripes to the exposed nickel-plated shaft drive and all the way down to the nicely radiused bends of the frame, its presentation and presence are stunning. The R 18′s high level of style and nostalgia make slowing down to enjoy its character worth it. Many of my initial complaints stemmed from my expectations of getting a power cruiser with the full weight of BMW’s performance prowess behind it. Once I experienced the R 18 and accepted it for what it is—a classically styled BMW that is also a traditionally American-inspired cruiser—it was much easier to enjoy it. If you’re looking for peak levels of BMW performance, of course you can keep looking. But as far as a traditional cruiser goes, the R 18 is now one the best-looking bikes on the market. For cruising in style, big boxer does that very well.

a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: 2021 BMW R 18 models are expected for 2020 fall delivery. © Provided by Motorcycle Cruiser 2021 BMW R 18 models are expected for 2020 fall delivery.

2021 BMW R 18 Specifications

a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: We tested the First Edition model, starting at $19,870. First Editions get dual pinstripes, a special seat badge, and more chrome than standard models. © Jeff Allen We tested the First Edition model, starting at $19,870. First Editions get dual pinstripes, a special seat badge, and more chrome than standard models.

MSRP (base/First Edition): $17,495/$19,870
Engine: 1,802cc, air/oil-cooled, horizontally opposed twin; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 107.1 x 100.0mm
Transmission/Final Drive: In-unit 6-speed/exposed shaft
Cruiser Measured Horsepower: 81.3 hp @ 4,800 rpm
Cruiser Measured Torque: 103.09 lb.-ft. @ 2,880 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic intake pipe fuel injection
Clutch: 1-disc dry clutch w/ slipper
Engine Management/Ignition: BMS-K+ electronic engine management w/ overrun cut-off and twin-spark ignition
Frame: Double-cradle steel
Front Suspension: 49mm telescopic fork; 4.7-in. travel
Rear Suspension: Steel swingarm w/ central shock strut; 3.5-in. travel
Front Brake: 4-piston fixed calipers, twin 300mm discs w/ linked ABS
Rear Brake: 4-piston fixed calipers, 300mm disc w/ linked ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear: Spoked; 3.5 x 19 in. / 5.0 x 16 in.
Tires, Front/Rear: 120/70R-19 / 180/65B-16
Rake/Trail: 32.7°/5.9 in.
Wheelbase: 68.1 in.
Seat Height: 27.2 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal.
Cruiser Measured Wet Weight: 790 lb.
Availability: Demos available now, delivery expected fall 2020
Contact: bmwmotorcycles.com

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