BMW’s Motorrad motorcycle division has launched a big-engined cruiser with a big voice and “rock” and “roll” modes.
The new R18 wields the most powerful version BMW’s iconic two-cylinder “boxer” engine to date, a power plant that’s been at the centre of the riding experience since BMW Motorrad began production in 1923.
The 1,802cc lump is the biggest engine offered in BMW’s bike range and has outputs of 67kW and a muscular 150Nm of torque, combined with what the factory describes as a full, resonant sound.
Paying homage to the BMW R5 motorcycle of 1936 in both styling and concept, the R18 combines olde world looks with modern mechanicals. BMW says the bike shifts the focus back onto the motorcycle essentials: purist, no-frills technology and the boxer engine as the epicentre of riding pleasure, combined with “good vibrations”.
The pear-drop tank, the open-running driveshaft and the optional pinstriped paintwork all hail back to the R5. Another example of the classic-meets-contemporary theme is the chromed round headlight with its LED technology, and an adaptive turning light is available as an option.
The chromed round analogue instrument panel keeps things mostly old-school too, though it has an integrated digital display. The ignition is operated by a remote control key which stays in the rider’s pocket.
The riding position isn’t as laid-back as some cruisers, which have a rider’s legs stretched far forward. The R18 has mid-mounted footpegs which makes for a relaxed but “active” seating position for optimum vehicle control.
There’s less electrickery than on BMW’s other bikes; for instance the R18 has no electronic adjustment to the suspension. The big bike rides on a regular telescopic front fork which, like its R5 granddaddy, has the tubes encased in fork sleeves. Drive to the rear wheel is via a shaft enclosed in the swingarm, so there’s no chain lubricating to worry about.
That said, there are no safety shortcuts in the classically styled machine; stability control and ABS brakes come standard and it has modern stopping power in the form of a twin disc brake up front and a single disc at the rear.
Reverse assist and Hillstart Control are available as ex-factory options.
And the Rock and Roll? These are two of the three selectable riding modes — the other being Rain — which evoke the bike’s power in either a more progressive or forceful manner.
Cruiser bike riders like pimping their rides, and the R18 offers a wide range of customisation options from BMW’s catalogue. For those wishing to delve deeper into the personalisation rabbit hole, the bike has a conversion-friendly design with an easily removable rear frame and a simple-to-dismantle painted part set.
The new BMW R18 will be available in SA from the fourth quarter of 2020, at a price still to be announced.