Retrospektive: The BMW R 18 gets the 100 Years treatment

Few motorcycles possess the on-road presence of the formidable BMW R 18. It’s a cruiser designed for purists, featuring discreet, no-frills technology and the most extensive displacement boxer engine ever installed in a production BMW motorcycle.

The R 18 is also a distinct homage to BMW Motorrad’s heritage, drawing inspiration from renowned models like the 1936 R 5, designed by Rudolf Schleicher. That model introduced innovations such as a double-cradle frame and hydraulically damped telescopic front forks.

The R 5 elevated riding pleasure and curb appeal to new levels, and the Berlin-built R 18 100 Years continues the theme decades later.

It’s also eminently collectible, since production is limited to only 1,923 units worldwide—reflecting the year the very first BMW motorcycle rolled out of the factory.

So what’s extra special about this big boxer? At first glance there’s a strong nostalgic vibe, with a gleaming drop-shaped fuel tank leading the way. BMW calls the finish ‘Classic Chrome,’ and it’s a contemporary reincarnation of old school craftsmanship.

Layers of lustrous black paint are laid on top of glossy chrome, topped off with elegant white pinstriping and a ‘100 Years’ badge.

Black has always been the color associated with classic BMWs, so it also adorns the engine and drive train of this R 18. The paint code is Avus Black—named after the legendary 12.1-mile-long racetrack in the the Grunewald Forest near Berlin. This was the venue of many BMW Motorrad triumphs, and the spiritual home of legendary factory rider Ernst Henne.

Most parts that aren’t black invariably have a glossy, durable coat of chrome. That includes the handlebar fittings, the foot controls, the mirrors and the brake calipers. There’s even chrome on the engine and cylinder head covers.

The BMW R 18 engine is renowned for its stump-pulling torque, but the 100 Years edition takes it up to another level—both audibly and visually. Exhaust gases exit via chromed Akrapovič mufflers and if you look closely, you’ll also spot perforated tailpipe trims echoing the BMW logo ‘propeller.’

Amidst this essay in monochrome, the only obvious flash of color is the Option 719 seat. The upper section is oxblood red leather with high-quality diamond quilted stitching.

Despite the unapologetically vintage vibe, there are subtle modern touches to make life safer and more comfortable for riders. The headlight incorporates an adaptive turning system, and there’s a ‘reverse gear’ driven by the starter motor.

For the long hauls, the R 18 100 Years also gives you electronic cruise control—and heated grips to take care of chilly mornings.

It adds up to an extremely desirable package, so it’s probably fortunate that buyers of the 100 Years bike can also specify it with an anti-theft alarm system.

Other options on top of the $18,990 MRSP include a pillion package, old-school style running boards and even Hill Start Control.

If you’re more of a roadster fan than a cruiser guy, there’s also a matching R nineT 100 Years edition.

But no matter what your preference is, both machines are a fine way to celebrate a very big anniversary—and of course the birth of the iconic BMW boxer engine.

Proudly sponsored by BMW Motorrad USA | Images by The Simple Machine


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