Around this time last year, BMW Motorrad took the wraps off of something quite unique. That is both aesthetically as well as technically. A nod to the brand’s robust heritage, the R 18 Concept. Drawing inspiration from the Boxer powered bikes upon which the firm built its recognition and reputation, though very differently from how its past influenced the R nine T. The BMW R 18 appeared as a more authentic descendant of the machines that exclusively defined the brand’s range for decades whilst also pushing forward with an 1800 CC engine that is simplistic but remains very truly anchored in the present.
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Today is the day that the production version is being unveiled. A rather exciting event for those of us whom are passionate about the BMW Motorrad brand. The reveal was originally intended to take place at the Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas. However, due to the global pandemic, plans have changed and the event is taking place exclusively online.
Similar To The R18 Concept
Upon taking a first glance at the new R 18, the resemblance to the R18 Concept is surprisingly similar. Great news, due to the R 18 Concept’s handsome, elegant lines and distinctive proportions. Some changes to the front suspension and headlight being the most immediately apparent alterations.
The design draws heavily upon the past, yet retains an elegance that evades most modern interpretations of retro offerings. Striking, both due to its simplicity and its silhouette. It is undoubtedly evocative. Arguably the most important element is the largely exposed 1800 CC power plant at the heart of the machine.
Authentically air and oil cooled, the engine simultaneously marks the first time that such a large Boxer engine has ever been the source of motivation for a BMW motorcycle. A staggering 1802 CC, to be precise. Output is 91 HP and a maximum torque of 116 lbs-ft. Most of that torque is available throughout the rev range, which tops out at 5,750 rpm. All of which is contained in an aluminum housing and weighs in at 244 lbs.
Additionally, congruous with Boxer engine designs of the past, it features overhead valves. Though the valves are more numerous, four valves, this design harkens back to a time before the words valve service were dreaded due to their complexity and cost.
The transmission too embodies how the new R 18 retains the simplicity of the past whilst also benefiting from the advancements that progress has brought forth. A six-speed transmission is paired with a dry clutch. The dry clutch of course is beloved by BMW Motorrad enthusiasts, as well as enthusiast from many brands. A true nod to the past. However, it also features a slipper clutch function of sorts, which prevents wheel hop under poorly executed downshifts, for example.
Unsurprising, as it remains in use in several models across the brand’s current range, is that the torque is transferred from the transmission to the rear wheel with the use of a shaft drive.
Though described as offering, “consistent cruiser-style ergonomics,” the new R 18 features classically mid-mounted foot pegs. This is different from the pronounced forward placement of the foot pegs on most American and Japanese cruisers. My personal preference being the mid-mounted pegs, directly behind the cylinders, as featured on my 40 year old BMW R65.
Though found most often on standard or naked bikes, I find this placement to be most conducive to a sense of control and when low enough, comfort. Particularly at highway speeds, where front mounted pegs as opposed to footboards lead to perceptible wind resistance being focused on the bottom of the rider’s feet. That can be destabilizing when encountering significant road imperfections.
Combined with the R 18’s seat height of just 27.2 inches, which makes this bike appealing to riders of many different sizes, it will almost certainly have a very relaxed and un-intimidating ride. Exactly what is desired when seeking to clear the mind, as is the goal for most recreational riders here in the States, as well as when cruising longer distances. It’s about relaxation and fun, not about being arduous. BMW was adamant that footboards, as well as other ergonomic modifications, such as additional foot pegs, seats and handlebars will be available for the R 18, as well.
Mention of the handlebar brings me to the brakes. Up front, there are two disc brakes. At the rear, a single disc. All three of which are paired with four-piston fixed caliper units. However, BMW Integral ABS is present for optimal safety. Concomitantly, use of the brake lever mounted upon the handlebar actually engages both the front and rear brakes. Whereas the foot lever operates the rear brake solely.
Thanks to modernity, various modes are accessible. Unusual in this segment of the market, three different riding modes can be selected in order to adapt the motorcycle to the rider’s preference or weather conditions.
Rain, Roll and Rock are the designations of the modes. Rain, of course, being the most docile. It moderates throttle responsiveness and cranks the nanny systems up to their highest level, providing the greatest level of safety in inclement weather. Roll strikes a balance between the other two modes, and is likely the mode that buyers will use most often. It opens up throttle performance, and keeps assistance systems present but less obtrusive.
Finally, there is Rock mode. Such a cool and fitting name for a riding mode. Rock mode, “allows the rider to tap into the full dynamic potential of the new R 18.” Sounds exciting. It fully unleashes the motorcycle’s performance and restrains safety systems to their least intrusive. It will be the most visceral of the riding modes, clearly.
As expected, optional equipment for the R 18 will be expansive. Aside from just the aforementioned ergonomic modifications. Heated grips, and cornering illumination for the state-of-the-art LED headlight are just two further examples. However, one that I find particularly appealing is Reverse Assist. I first encountered BMW Motorrad’s iteration of reverse during my review of the BMW K 1600 B and a different version of it with the C Evolution. After initiating Reverse, tapping the electric starter button works as an accelerator and propels the motorcycle backwards.
Something which plays a significant role in the rider’s ability to integrate with and interact with the bike is its display. Datum such as the speed is indispensable to those of us whom cherish our licenses, but the R 18 provides the basic information and more in a uniquely retro form. Housed in a quality metal casing, it enables the rider to see which of the previously mentioned riding modes is engaged, the ambient temperature and even has a gear indicator. The only thing that is absent is a rev indicator. I personally prefer to have one, however, it is far from being a necessity. Emblazoned upon the bottom, below the integrated screen, are the words, “Berlin Built,” which serves as a constant reminder of the German design and manufacturing of this premium product.
Another feature which I first enjoyed on the K 1600 B is the Keyless Ride. Yes, this bike has Keyless Ride. Of course, there is still a physical key that allows you to unlock and lock the fuel filler cap and steering lock, but you can ride without having to take the key out of your pocket. That’s a really cool feature.
As of right now, the market launch for the R 18 is scheduled for later this year. Sadly, also due to the global pandemic, it is highly likely that this will be postponed.
Pricing And Availability
Initially, a First Edition Model will be available, which I find to be particularly exciting. An exclusive offering, featuring extensive chrome work, Blackstorm metallic black paint with Lightwhite contrasting pin-striping, as well as having First Edition prominently displayed in several places. Too, it comes with a slew of goodies. A box with picture of the engine adorned upon its lid, vintage stylized tank emblems, slotted screws, assembly gloves, an assembly screwdriver, which BMW states, “can also be used as key ring.” As well as an “R18 First Edition” cap, a leather belt with exclusive “R 18 First Edition” clasp and a book about the history of BMW Motorrad brand. The First Edition model will be priced from $19,870USD.
As for the the base model, it will start from $17,495USD. Both prices exclude a $695USD Destination and Handling fee. Personally, I’m ecstatic. The folks over at the already struggling Harley-Davidson and Indian are likely feeling something more akin to antipathy due to the introduction of the all new R 18. I can say with certainty that during my voluntary isolation, I’ll be imagining myself riding upon the R 18, with great anticipation for the day when I can actually ride this bike and provide an in-depth review to you, our loyal readers.
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