Good Vibrations !
Like any iconic motorcycle, the R18 makes reference to the past with its barely modernised retro look inspired by the golden age when BMW ruled the two-wheeler world with its R5.
From the moment you first see it, this machine is as impressive as it is awe-inspiring, with an astute blend of clean lines with chrome insets and extraordinary size and sheer mechanical assertiveness. The R18’s vintage style is indeed inspired by the brand’s early models such as the famous R5 of 1936. As a result it looks like its modern reinterpretation, but while it retains its allure and its proportions, its dimensions are much bigger all round. That goes for the engine too. With its 1.8 litre capacity, it’s the biggest flat-twin engine currently in production. This engine, which is indisputably the pièce de résistance of this cruiser, fits perfectly with the frame, whose hard-tail look disguises the rear suspension, which didn’t exist at the time of the R5. Subtle!
The defining mechanical characteristic of the R18 is the two-cylinder Boxer engine, which celebrated its centenary in 2020. An engine that tells the two-wheel story of the propeller brand all by itself, since the brand has remained faithful to this architecture since its beginnings. A heritage of which BMW is proud and which no fan of the brand can ignore. This is explained by the signature roar and vibration and the well-tempered ample capacity feel, with generous torque from near idle. This two-cylinder boxer never ceases to amaze us with its punch, the vibrations and the rumblings of its two great bulbous heads that kick us at the slightest acceleration. A unique experience which new powertrains will be hard put to make us forget!
On the road
Testing the R18 on the roads of Bavaria was not the happiest of experiences because of the capricious weather. Incessant cold rain is not ideal for carefree cruising, particularly since we found the abundant mechanical resources of the bike rather intimidating in the circumstances. But despite its retro look, this machine fortunately has all the latest technologies such as ABS, MSR engine drag torque control and ASC automatic stability control for the rider’s reassurance. And to help us survive this cold weather, we could rely on the heated grips and the two big horizontally opposed cylinders which kept our (soaked) feet warm. In these conditions, we did not play much with the three driving modes (rain, rock & roll) offered by the electronic management to control engine and brakes. So it was pretty much locked in rain mode that we discovered a motorcycle with fine performance and astonishingly easy to ride considering its substantial weight and size. Zigzags and hairpin bends might not be its strongest point, but it loves taking long curves at the right angle at low revs... would’ve been great if the sun had been shining!
||2 cylinders, horizontally opposed (Boxer)
|Cubic capacity (cc3)
||91 hp / 67kW at 4750 rpm
||158 Nm at 3000 rpm
||Six-speed manual gearbox with dog clutch
||Rear wheel shaft
||in 4,8 seconds
||180 kph (112 mph)
||5,6 litres per 100 km (42 mpg)
|CO2 emissions (g/km)
Image source: BMW