Here’s the new BMW R18, with specs, prices and more

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
It’s been ten months since BMW Motorrad threw the wraps off the Concept R18 prototype. Today we’re finally getting a clear look at the production cruiser, ending weeks of rampant speculation and spy shots.

The R18 plays on two levels. On one hand, it’s a bid from BMW to tackle the cruiser (ergo, the US) market. On the other, it’s a nod to the boxer motor’s heritage—even more so than the wildly popular R nineT.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
The price for the showroom bike will be $17,495 (standard model) or $19,870 (upmarket ‘First Edition’) in the US, and €22,800 in Germany for the ‘First Edition’ only. So the cost of the R18 is on a par with much of Harley’s cruiser range, including the Low Rider S, FXDR and Fat Bob models—plus the Indian Chief.

As expected, the R18 looks good… apart from a few niggles. The images confirm a lot of what we’ve already pieced together from the extensive teaser campaign, and the customs from Custom Works Zon and Revival Cycles. Keen eyes will also spot a number of parts that were already on the two concept bikes that BMW themselves released.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
When the first cruiser concept broke cover at the Concorso d’Eleganza last year, BMW design boss Edgar Heinrich cited the iconic 1936 R5 as the R18’s primary design inspiration. The connections are immediately clear; the general line of the frame, the shape of the 16-liter fuel tank, and the classic black paint with white striping. All point to the Bavarian marque’s history.

A closer look reveals some tasty details. The way the swing arm tubes loop around the final drive hub is a clear copy of the R5 design, and so is the exposed drive shaft. Even the valve covers mimic the basic form of those on the R5, as do the fishtail tips on the exhausts. And, just like back in the day, the roundels on the tank are screwed on rather than stuck on.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
The 49 mm front forks are wrapped in period correct fork covers, while the rear shock is completely hidden within the frame architecture. The R18 gets spoked wheels too; 3.5 x 19” in the front, and 5.0 x 16” out back. The front brake setup features twin 300 mm discs, and there’s a single 300 mm disc at the rear.

Thanks to the sheer mass of the motor, the R18 is a physically large bike, with a wheelbase of 1,731 mm. At just over 68 inches, that’s almost two inches longer than the current Honda Gold Wing.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
It’s porky too, with a curb weight of 750 pounds (345 kilos). Sure, it is a cruiser, but that wet weight figure is 51 pounds more than a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy… and that’s saying something. On the upside, it’s 18 pounds less than Indian claims for a fully fueled Chief Dark Horse.

The weight probably won’t deter hardcore cruiser fans or larger riders, and the engine itself is attractive. It’s the biggest boxer BMW have ever made, with a capacity of 1,802 cc. It’s also clearly tuned for cruising: at 91 hp (67 kW) it makes less power than the 110 hp (82 kW) R nineT.

The R18 mill makes over 50% more torque than the R nineT though, with 116 ft-lb peaking at 3,000 rpm. Most of that torque is available as a thick slab of grunt between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm, making it comparable to the 109 ft-lb pumped out by the Fat Boy’s Milwaukee-Eight 107 and the 119 ft-lb of the Indian Chief.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
The top speed is 112 mph (180 kph)—which suggests it’s electronically limited—and BMW is quoting a 0-62 mph figure of 4.8 seconds.

The air- and oil-cooled motor uses BMW’s modern four-valve design, but also has a throwback overhead valve drive with two camshafts per cylinder. The crankshaft has an additional bearing at the center, to help control vibration. It’s also worth noting that the motor, air box and six-speed transmission weigh 244 pounds (110.8 kilos) collectively.

BMW have crammed in a few useful rider aids too. ABS and switchable automatic stability control are standard, as are three flickable riding modes: Rain, Roll and Rock (groan). There’s also ‘MSR’—an electronically controlled anti-slip feature to prevent skids under heavy acceleration or over-enthusiastic downshifts. Heated grips and hill start assist will be available as optional extras, along with a reverse gear, driven by an electric motor.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
But despite the tech, and aside from the decidedly modern-looking oil cooler, there are hardly any superfluous bits and pieces cluttering the layout. Having to meet regulations tends to ruin perfectly good concepts, but BMW have done an admirable job with the R18.

The side covers and extended rear fender are well executed, and we can even live with the chrome-covered air box intakes. But that bulbous fishtail exhaust, which has undoubtedly swollen to accommodate emissions control things, is borderline comical.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
We also miss the lower headlight and narrower bars of the Concept R18, which have given way to a high, wide and mostly chrome arrangement. Admittedly, it looks like a comfortable setup for anyone looking for a cruiser, especially when paired with a relatively low 690 mm seat height.

But those specific riders might not get along with the BMW’s foot peg placement. With two big cylinder heads sticking out, fitting forward pegs is impossible. BMW say that the ‘laid back’ setup is optimized for comfort and control. But even though they’re technically correct, it could be a deal breaker for some customers.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
Kudos to BMW for a neat cockpit though; there might be a lot of chrome, but all the wiring runs inside the handlebars, and even smaller parts like the handlebar clamps look great. The speedo’s a mostly analog affair, with a small digital display. And there’s LED lighting all around, with the rear turn signals double up as taillights, neatening things up more.

As with the R nineT, BMW are hoping customers will customize the R18. So they’ve made certain parts modular. The rear fender struts are removable, and the valve cover and engine breastplate can be swapped out without needing an oil change. And the hydraulic lines and handlebar wires are all plug and play.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
There’s already an extensive catalog of bolt-on parts, including offerings from partners Roland Sands Design, Vance & Hines, and Mustang Seats. Some of the more whack options include ape hangers [above], and a bizarre front turn signal setup that resembles a mini handlebar, with LED signals in the shape of bar-end mirrors.

But there are also various handlebar and luggage options, and some slick machined parts. Plus there are 21” front and 18″ rear wheel options, if that’s your thing.

One customized example [below] shows exposed forks, lower handlebars and a seat that’s a dead ringer for the vintage Denfeld unit. Along with a slim rear fender that hugs the wheel, and a side-mounted plate bracket, it’s a stunning example of the R18’s potential—and a step closer to the look of the R5.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
BMW will be selling the R18 as a limited ‘First Edition’ initially (some markets will get a standard version too). It gets metallic paint, more chromed bits and extra trim. But it also comes with an owner’s box that includes period correct roundels with brass lettering, brass screws, a screwdriver and a pair of gloves for assembly.

We reckon that’s a nice touch—and there’s a book about BMW Motorrad’s 100-year history in there too.

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
Interview: Edgar Heinrich, BMW Motorrad Head of Design

In today’s regulated world, building a modern cruiser that’s also a homage to a legendary vintage bike is a challenging prospect. So we pitched a few burning questions at Edgar Heinrich [above] to get his take on the R18’s design.

Bike EXIF: Help clear this up for our readers: the R18 was 100% completed before you handed it over to CW Zon and Revival Cycles to customize, and before Unique Custom Cycles began work on the Concept R18 and Concept R18 /2, right?

Edgar Heinrich: “To develop an all-new bike, including a brand-new engine, takes more than four years. So when the four concept bikes were revealed, the series production bike was already on its way onto the production line.”

“The concepts were very important milestones: they helped prepare the storyline, and they provided indispensable feedback to the development team from potential customers. Most importantly was the fact that the overwhelmingly positive feedback gave us confidence and security in our quest of entering new territory.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
Was there room for the concept and custom bikes to have an impact on the final product, or was it pretty much locked down?

“The feedback was important and highly appreciated, but the basics had been cast in form long before the concept bikes became public.”

“We were curious as to how a big boxer would be perceived in the custom scene. CW ZON did an amazing job with the first custom—even beyond expectations by winning Best of Show at Mooneyes. So did Revival Cycles, by staging this monumental engine within a fragile-looking titanium frame. The customizers had free rein with their creations, and they couldn’t have done it any better!”

Unique Custom Cycles played a significant role, as Ronna Norèn is a long-time friend and was there all along the R18’s development. He provided input and advice during the creation process, being a renowned specialist in the cruiser field. The Concept R18 was executed by UCC, yet designed by the BMW Motorrad design team in Munich.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 alongside the R5
There are shades of the historic R5 here, but this is specifically designed as a bigger, more heavy-duty cruiser. Do you think that BMW’s classic style translates well into a cruiser style, or were there challenges here?

“It’s obvious that we dove into our history here. I think before the R nineT family, this legacy had been neglected. In the old days, there were no segments or such differentiators; there were only ‘naked bikes,’ as we would define them today.”

“We believe that a contemporary cruiser is about pure riding pleasure, about simplicity and reduction, and less about performance.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
“Hence, linking this with our legacy of the R5 from 1936 is obvious, restoring those clean and perfect proportions, visual purity, honest materials; but also interpreting this unique architecture with the transverse flat twin engine, clutch, gear box, and the shaft drive aligned with the bevel-gear final drive, resting in the double loop frame. As it used to be in previous times.”

“Altering one part would mean altering the whole concept. This set-up is unique, technically and visually absolutely beautiful, and it connects effortlessly with our heritage. My friend Ola [Stenegärdl used to say: ‘Today it is easy to make things complicated, but is very difficult to keep things simple.’ Spot on!”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
Whenever a manufacturer releases such an impactful prototype, and then a production bike later, there are inevitably gripes about how the production model doesn’t look like the prototype…

“Very true! A concept’s nature is to elevate the character and emotion of the standard product. That’s a bit of a curse, too. The focus lies on finding the right balance between raising emotions and curiosity, yet not disappointing when unveiling the series production bike.”

“As for the R18, I think we were lucky, by having the main components already finished for production: engine, frame, swing arm, tank, etcetera. We just had to add custom fenders, forks, and other, smaller components—always being aware to preserve the basic character of the bike. But the core was all there.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
In general, what were your biggest design challenges?

“The biggest challenge was the clean look of the bike. But this is a general problem when developing a modern naked bike: how to avoid the clutter of wires, cables, sensors and black boxes on a possibly small bike without a big fairing?”

“In terms of homologation, you need all these electronics. Stripping down a modern bike is pretty scary; sometimes you hardly see the engine from the harness.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
“This super clean look of the engine was hard to achieve. Engineers design an engine from the inside out, which is the normal procedure if you need to achieve a state-of-the-art motor with all the emission, noise and performance requirements. But a high-tech, visually cluttered and potentially brutal looking engine was not something we had in mind.”

“Technically superior solutions might not always be the best choice—which is a sometimes hard to understand for a company most renowned for innovation and technology. It was an intense development process, sometimes it took tough decisions, there were arguments and controversy, but eventually the team of engineers and designers grew together during the process and learned from each other.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
We know that the exposed shaft-drive is a nod to BMW’s history, as are the screw-on badges. Are there any other details that you are particularly proud of?

“If you take a close look, you will spot many more details crafted with passion and emotion. The tank filler cap, the speedo gauge with beautiful detailing, the fluid reservoirs and hand controls, the brake calipers, the seat fixings, the fishtail… all these components are made for the R18 only. Function-wise, we could have taken these from the shelf—but we wanted more.”

“The screw-on badges are also kind of special. According to our corporate rules, we could not use the old-style letters and had to take the modern badge, but by screw-fixing we can offer the stylish heritage badge as an extra.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
“As for the open running shaft drive, we are very proud we achieved that super clean look. There were concerns if it would be possible at all, but eventually with dedication, hard work and extensive testing it turned into reality.”

Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle
BMW haven’t given us an exact date, but say the R18 will be available in Europe and the USA around autumn of this year.

The real question is, who is it for? Will it entice owners away from other cruiser brands, even though cruiser sales worldwide are suffering? Or will it fill a heritage-shaped hole in the hearts of existing BMW customers?

Only time will tell.

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Revealed: The new BMW R18 cruiser motorcycle

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