Big, bold, heavy, and with tons of personality, the BMW R18 may just be the most niche cruiser yet. Hailing from Germany, the Berlin-Built cruiser is a special one from BMW Motorrad. This bike is not like your typical BMW R 1250 GS or your track-focused S 1000 RR. Heck, it’s even more of a cruiser than the R Nine T roadsters.
In the lineup, it’s such a hulking example of what BMW thinks a cruiser should be done with a boxer engine, and done with German craftsmanship and engineering. The model is also clever enough to hide rider aids and modes that are cheekily named. Under all of that fluff and fuzz, however, what is it like to live with one, and is it worth its almost P2,000,000 price tag? Without a doubt, I can honestly say that this bike isn’t for everyone, but there are a select few riders out there with the money and the appreciation that truly fits a bike like this, and that’s also its downfall, but also another thing that makes it quite special in my opinion.
- Immaculate craftsmanship and quality
- Striking road presence
- Traction control, ride modes, and ABS all standard
- Torque. Lots of torque.
- Big, heavy, impractical
- Suspension could stand to be more comfortable
- Reverse gear engagement is inconsistent
There’s no getting around it, it’s a huge bike. Getting into this review, I did so with a bit of reluctance, namely because I’m used to smaller bikes in comparison, at least in relation to how long this bike really is. I’ve taken adventure bikes, other cruisers, and sportbikes home, but none have yet trumped the long and wide stance that the R18 offers. Until I can get something like a Harley-Davidson Street Glide for review, this is the biggest motorcycle I’ve ever had the chance of living with.
Really, that’s pretty much the first thing I noticed about it, the size of it is just immense. Coming in at 2,440 mm long, 964 mm wide, and 1,232 mm tall, the R18 dwarfs most standards and cruisers in the market. It also weighs a hulking 345 kg, and that weight is brought about by metal, aluminum, and more metal. Plastic parts are few and far between, and it’s clear that BMW really had no intention of making this a lightweight sportster-like bike. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s chrome (real chrome), so deal with it—it’s gorgeous.
The design harks back to the old R series of bikes, the grandfathers of the current R Nine T, and what really gets me is the black paint that’s accented by the white pinstripes on the tank and on the other panels of the bike. I’m not a fan of black, but the classiness of how BMW Motorrad executed it on the R18 is really an exception in my book. Even more exceptional is the fact that BMW is very proud of its craftsmanship here. You get badges upon badges on this bike, plaques that tell you it’s made in Germany, an exposed shaft drive, a myriad and plethora of finishes, and immaculate pollution on all the chrome and stainless steel parts of the bike. Even the floorboards and the shifter feels extremely solid on this bike. For the money, it better be built well, and at least in this area, it seems to be justifying its price tag.
It feels a little odd to call this bike fast but it kind of is. Sure, it’s no sportbike, but it has decent amounts of power and pull all throughout the rev range. Being a huge boxer-twin engine, however, it makes most of its grunt down low in the RPM range, which is preferable for a cruiser anyway. I’m happy to report that it’s not all lazy torque and top-gear accelerations all the time since there is a bit of mid-range to the motor. The R18 packs a 1,802cc boxer-twin engine that makes 90 hp and 158 Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with a hydraulic clutch.
It goes without saying that the clutch of this motorcycle is a heavy one and something that feels very secure. There’s even an electronic reverse gear on this bike, which can be activated if you follow the ritual right which is to put the bike in neutral, flip the switch on the left side of the motor, and thumb the starter. While a bit ingenious and necessary given the weight of the motorcycle, the starter was quite unreliable, not properly engaging if the motorcycle gets up to a certain temperature. When it did work, however, it was relatively intuitive to use, but when it didn’t, you’ll be left fiddling with the bike for a few minutes before giving up and walking it back yourself. If you think that’s easy because of the low seat height of 690mm, trust me, it’s not.
As for handling, there’s no getting around this bike’s weight and its very lazy rake angle. The bars are wide enough for most tasks, but we don’t see this bike getting leaned over and scraping floorboards on a regular basis, though it can and it does so with a very stable grace—like a whale swimming through the open ocean. As such, this bike’s not going to be a premier corner carving machine, unfortunately, but neither I nor BMW considered that a must-do for this bike. However, when put through its paces on a winding road, it can manage and get through. The suspension system only comes with adjustable preload in the rear, but getting to that adjustment is a bit of a chore since the subframe hides the rear mono-shock. Other than that, the front isn’t adjustable.
On the open roads of the highways leading outside of the city, the R18 seems to shine—quite literally even. The highway is this bike’s natural habitat, and it enjoys going in a straight line. Engine performance was rather impressive in how smoothly it delivered its power, sans the copious amounts of vibration from the handlebars at high engine speeds. Whether the boxer twin is meant to exude that much character, or whether it’s the BMW engineers’ way of saying “slow down” it feels like a ton of vibrations come through. The thing is, it’s the character of the bike, and the hallmark of having a large engine. Vibrations aren’t a bad thing here, at least in my opinion. Similar to other intentionally retro designs, this hits home really nicely, and the vibrations I felt during my time with it served as a very fond memory of some of the rides I took it out on.
Practicality and Comfort
At five feet and eight inches tall, this bike is rather uncomfortable for me. If I were taller, however, I feel that the cylinder heads would bump up against my shins, but the handlebars would be in a more optimal position. Given my actual height, the handlebars felt like a bit of a reach which felt rather unpleasant in slow-speed situations. Meanwhile, the seat that the review unit came with is actually a Rolland Sands Design saddle, and even with the custom throne, the bike did end up making me feel sore.
Part of the problem is the weight and the heft and length of the thing. Then there’s the fact that the suspension of this bike is not the best for Philippine roads. The suspension travel is not so great for bumpy roads like EDSA but adequate for stints on the highway. It’s well-damped but the size and the weight of the bike don’t help so it’s only moderately comfortable. It’s firm, however, so don’t expect a ton of bounce from the R18’s springs.
As for the economy and other practicality notes, and it gets its fuel from a 16-liter fuel tank. Expect the range to be about 250 kilometers on a single tank in not-so-ideal conditions. I was able to get about 15 kilometers per liter on the highway with some traffic and about 9 km/L while only going through the city. On average, you might expect it to eke out about 12 or 13 km/L depending on how you ride. Other than that, there are no other storage spaces on this bike save for document space under the seat. If you want a little more practicality out of this bike, you may want to invest in some luggage like a tank bak or a saddle bag and rack.
Technology and Safety
When it comes to tech and safety, we’re shocked to see BMW loading this thing up with rider aids and riding modes. Like ABS, Automatic Stability Control, engine drag torque control, and also the electric reverse assist to round out the aids. For the modes, we get the Rain, Rock, and Roll, all of which are interestingly named, but are also aptly named for the application. Rain mode dulls the throttle quite a bit, and it helps riders keep control when traction is low. Rock isn’t an off-road mode, instead, it’s the R18’s “sport” mode in its arsenal which sharpens throttle response. Lastly, Roll is the standard mode and it’s made for cruising and helps ensure smooth throttle action while out on a ride.
Following that, we also get a single gauge pod which looks elegant but is also a bit packed when it comes to information. You get an LED matrix display under the analog speedometer, but you can’t display more than one item at a time. If you want the digital tachometer to show, you won’t be able to see your trip information and vice versa, but that’s a small nitpick anyway. The clean and elegant presentation of this gauge cluster is charming and neat for the bike, and it hides a lot of the techier stuff that doesn’t ruin the classic lines of this bike.
Verdict and Price
I said that this bike is not for everyone, and you really would have to be someone special in order to appreciate and afford something like this. With a price tag of P1,955,000, viewing it from a performance standpoint is pointless, but looking at it as a piece of art is the proper lens for it.
The R18 is an exercise in the extravagant and a break from the utilitarian and functional prowess we’re all used to from the makers of the R 1250 GS. Being able to see that BMW has the know-how and the ability to make something like this is a memorable exercise in motorcycle-building expertise. Of course, it’s not a perfect cruiser because it feels as if it’s a little too precise to be something of a Harley-Davidson.
However, that’s really what makes it special. In a bid to dip their toes into the cruiser segment once again, the R18 actually feels memorable and definitely not just an R Nine T with a more cruiser-like stance. If I had P2,000,000 burning a hole in my bank account, I probably would still vy for the R 1250 GS or an S 1000 R/RR, but only because the R18 bike is not for me. However, if you are someone that appreciates BMW, if you are someone that wants the best craftsmanship from the German marque, and if you want to stand out from the rest of the cruiser crowd filled with Harley-Davidsons, you have to try this.