BMW has a rich motorcycle history, characterized by innovation and reliability. Starting with their first production bike in 1923, the R32 was ahead of its time, both in form and performance. It was fitted with a flat-twin boxer engine, which stuck out laterally on both sides of the bike (still present on many BMW bikes today). Further down the line, they produced other iconic motorcycles, including the R75, R90s, and of course, the GS line.
Schorsch Meier with BMW 255 at the Senior Tourist Trophy TT 1939
BMW takes on the US Cruiser Market with the R 18
Even with their innovations and popularity, BMW has been mostly absent from the cruiser segment of the moto world (60 percent of the US market), the likes of which has been dominated by Japanese and American manufacturers. But that trend may be ripe for change as BMW has just released its modern interpretation of the classic cruiser. That’s right, the R18 is finally available.
Heavily influenced by the R5, the R18 is quintessential BMW, utilizing the tried and true 2-cylinder boxer engine. But things have changed a lot since the 486cc, 8.5-horsepower boxer of the 1920s. The engine in the R18, referred to as the Big Boxer, has a displacement of 1802cc with a peak output of 91 horsepower and 116 pounds of torque. Despite its power, the R18 emphasizes optimum reliability, ease of maintenance, and comfortable riding.
The classic styling of the R18 has been paired with modern features, including multiple user-selectable riding modes, automatic stability control (which is disengageable), engine drag torque control, reverse assist, hill start control, and heated grips to name a few. But true to the classic cruiser style, the front end is simple: a telescopic fork with direct-mounted central suspension (and no electronic adjustment). Twin discs in the front, a single disc in the rear, and four-piston fixed calipers provide the stopping power, while mid-mounted footpegs result in a laidback rider positioning. Rounding out the R18 is a double-loop steel tube frame.
In addition to producing a high-performance bike, BMW aims to provide a customizable platform as the cruiser segment is often modded by owners in the quest for that perfect blend of performance and style. While the first edition R18 is stylish in its standard configuration, BMW offers a wide range of options, utilizing original BMW Motorrad Accessories. At launch, two different design collections of milled aluminum parts are available made in a joint effort with Roland Sands Design with additional customization options developed in collaboration with Mustang Seats and Vance & Hines.
The 2021 R 18 starts at $17,495 and can be customized to your liking on BMW’s website.