The long-awaited mega cruiser from BMW is here. Inspired by the classic R 5 from the 1930s, the 2021 BMW R 18 looks ready for profiling and performance. Let’s dig right in.
1. The all-new Big Boxer motor displaces 1802cc and uses pushrods. There are four valves in each head and one cam per cylinder, with separate pushrods for the intake and exhaust valves. Fork rocker arms act on the valves. The intake valves are 41.2mm in diameter with the exhaust measuring 35mm, with a screw and locknut design for adjustment. It’s a big bore, with 107.1mm cast-aluminum pistons, plus a 100mm stroke through the Nikasil-lined cylinder. The motor weighs 244 pounds, with the entire motorcycle hitting the scales at 761 pounds, ready to ride.
2. The 2021 BMW R 18’s power production is all about torque. It may be oversquare, but it still cranks out a beastly 116 ft-lbs of torque at just 3000 rpm. The torque spread is broad, with over 110 ft-lbs of force available from 2000 to 4000 rpm. The Big Boxer peaks out a 91 horsepower at 4750 rpm. Top speed is 112 mph, with the motor getting 42 miles out of a gallon of fuel. The tank holds 4.2 gallons.
3. Three power modes with additional electronic aids are standard. The names of the modes are both colloquial and intuitive—Rain, Roll, and Rock. Traction control and engine braking vary with each mode, along with throttle response. Hill Start Control will be optional.
4. Each cylinder gets a large graceful muffler with a vintage-style tip.
5. Engine cooling is via air and a radiator for the oil supply. There is a wet sump lubrication system.
6. The six-speed transmission has a single-plate dry clutch. BMW has added a slipper clutch to keep the motorcycle stable during overly enthusiastic downshifts, and it works in conjunction with the electronic deceleration aid. Reverse will be an option.
7. BMW goes with the classic shaft drive, and this time the driveshaft is exposed. Up until 1955, it was typical for a BMW driveshaft to be exposed, but then life got more civilized. The 2021 BMW R 18 brings back the visceral look of a spinning shaft. There are universal joints at each end of the shaft, with a bevel and ring gear in the rear wheel.
8. Despite having a hardtail look patterned after the R 5, the BMW R 18 is fully suspended. A cantilever design puts the shock up under the seat. The fork has meaty 49mm tubes for stability, and they get sleeves for looks. Suspension travel is moderate at 4.7 inches in the front and 3.5 inches in the rear. The shock has progressive damping and spring-preload adjustability.
9. A classic cruiser pairing, the 2021 BMW R 18 has a 19-inch front wheel and 16-inch rear. That’s a 120/70 in the front and wide 180/65 putting the power to the ground. BMW will also be offering several accessory wheels, including 16-, 18- and 21-inch front wheel options.
10. There will be multiple tire suppliers. The tire brands haven’t been named yet, and the R 18 will have an interesting wrinkle—in addition to a bias-ply rear tire, some R 18s will have a radial front tire, with others having a bias-ply in the front.
11. Braking is handled by three 300mm discs, with ABS standard. The brake lever actuates all three discs as a linked system, with the foot pedal acting only on the rear rotor. All three discs get four-piston calipers.
12. The rider triangle is oriented toward comfort and performance. The 2021 BMW R 18 won’t be twisting the rider into odd positions in the name of style. The mid-mount footpegs put the rider in a natural position. By the end of the year, BMW will have accessory floorboards, handlebars, and seats.
13. It’s a low-riding cruiser with a seat height of 27.2 inches.
14. You’ll see a traditional round headlight, but it houses a modern LED with adaptive turning lighting. As you lean the R18 into a corner, the headlight redirects its beam into the turn if you’re going at least six mph and leaned seven degrees. Maximum corner illumination occurs at 25 degrees. The turn signals are also LEDs, with brake lighting integrated into the rear turn indicators.
15. A round speedometer is integrated into the headlight. There’s no tach, though a small LCD panel provides additional information, such as gear position and power mode. It proudly announces Berlin Built at the bottom of the dial. There’s no keyhole, as the R 18 is going keyless.
16. The 2021 BMW R 18 is made for customizing. The rear subframe is easily removed for modification or painting. The hydraulic lines and cables are designed for easy detachment, so different bars can be installed. Further, the cylinder heads and engine housing cover do not touch the oil chamber, which means they can be swapped without major engine work.
17. Roland Sands Designs, Vance & Hines, and Mustang Seats are all working with BMW for at-dealer customization.
18. There will be a First Edition of the 2021 BMW R 18 with exclusive paint, chrome, plus many exclusive detail touches and bonus goodies. The First Edition will run $19,880, with the base model coming in later at $17,495. There is no production date set, though BMW expects production to begin before the end of 2020.
2021 BMW R 18 Specs
- Type: Opposed twin
- Displacement: 1802cc
- Bore x stroke: 107.1 x 100mm
- Maximum power: 91 horsepower @ 4750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 116 ft-lbs @ 3000 rpm
- Top seed: 112 mph
- Compression ratio: 9.6:1
- Valvetrain: Pushrod-actuated OHV w/ two camshafts; 4 vpc
- Cooling: Air/oil
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Final drive: shaft
- Frame: Steel-tube double-loop
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 49mm fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Cantilevered spring-preload adjustable shock; 3.5 inches
- Wheels: Wire-spoked
- Front wheel: 19 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 16 x 5.0
- Front tire: 120/70 x 19
- Rear tire: 180/65 x 16
- Front brake: 300mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 300mm disc w/ 4-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 68.1 inches
- Rake: 32.7 degrees
- Trail: 5.9 inches
- Seat height: 27.2 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 4.2 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 42 mpg
- Curb weight: 761 pounds
- Color: Black
2021 BMW R 18 Price: $17,495 (base); $19,880 (First Edition)
2020 BMW R 18 Photo Gallery