Riding the BMW Motorrad R 18

Oct 29, 2020 | On The Road

For the eventual reveal of BMW Motorrad’s new cruiser, the R18, BMW created “A Bavarian Soulstory” video series with a guy called Tommy Kerns as the guide through the journey of the bike, from inspiration and heritage to design and engineering. I watched the final online reveal, which took place in Cape Town, and, throughout the process, have been hankering for the opportunity to ride the bike. So you can imagine my excitement when I received the invite to attend the media ride in the Western Cape.

If there is one thing the Western Cape has it is beautiful roads for riding. Home base for the trip was the Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. The afternoon we arrived, we rode out over Franschhoek Hills, which is a route I have always wanted to ride. The bike was nimble, easy to ride and handled the windy roads with aplomb. It is close to the ground and the pegs scrap the tar with the slightest lean, which threw me off a bit but was pure pleasure for the cruiser riders in the group. Truth is I felt like I was breaking something.

The seating position, with its “mid-mounted footpegs” is comfortable; not typical cruiser ‘legs forward’ positioning which I struggle with at times. The seat itself was a bit hard on my back but that’s probably more because my back problems as opposed to bike itself.

R 18

I still consider myself a young rider, having been riding consistently for about five years, so it did take me some time to find my comfort, particularly riding with a group, but settled into a rhythm quite quickly. It helps that the R18 feels solid, especially on the twisty roads and at no time did I feel I wasn’t in control of the bike. Flipping it left and right round the curves is fun.

The R18 has three riding modes, namely “Rain”, “Roll” and “Rock”. I used Rock, with its instant throttle response, for the tighter curves, and Roll for the more open, meandering roads. Fortunately, there was no need use Rain, which dials the throttle response back a bit. You can also get Hill Start Control and Reverse assist, which is a bit of a mind*#$k. I tried it before official demonstration and struggled a bit, but, once I got it working, it definitely beat trying to back the 345 kilogram machine out of a tight parking spot.

Standard features include Automatic Stability Control, full LED headlight, Keyless Ride, LED rear and brake light and a speedometer with multifunction display. Flipping between riding modes and other details on the on-board computer is simple and can be done while on the move.

Aesthetically, the R18 is beautiful to look at, drawing from BMW Motorrad’s own heritage, in particular the BMW R 5, designed by Rudolf Schleicher and brought out in 1936. It has been designed to enable customisation and to accommodate additional accessories including an adaptive turning light for when cornering, a screen, saddle bags, and the like.

The R18 First Edition includes elements like black finish with white pinstriped paintwork, chrome details and a “First Edition” chrome clasp on the side covers.

As per the media release, the R 18 has been designed to be conversion-friendly: “the R 18 is equipped with an easily removable rear frame and a simple-to-dismantle painted part set. Carefully conceived attachment points for the hydraulic lines of the brake, clutch and cable harness likewise allow easy installation of higher or lower handlebars in conjunction with matching hydraulic lines and cable harnesses. In addition, the visible valve covers (cylinder head covers) and the belt cover (engine housing cover) are designed in such a way that they are located outside the oil chamber, making them very easy to change.”

In terms of engine, it has 1802 cc two-cylinder boxer engine which delivers 67kW (91 hp) at 4750 rpm and maximum torque of 158 Nm at 3000 rpm. Additional listed highlights include:

  • Exposed driveshaft based on the classic role model.
  • Elaborately crafted double-loop steel tube frame.
  • Rear swingarm with enclosed axle drive in rigid-frame design.
  • Telescopic fork with sleeves and cantilever suspension strut featuring travel-dependent damping.

I have been asked if I would buy an R 18, which comes in at R319,000, for myself. A cruiser is not top of my list of bikes I am looking to eventually have in my garage but, if I was in the market for one, I would definitely get this. I just have to figure out what accessories I would get and how I would customise it.