The much-anticipated R18 has the largest boxer engine BMW has ever put in a production bike

BMW finally resolves the curiosity it has been cultivating over the last year with the online (due to coronavirus concerns) unveiling of its boss new cruiser, the R 18. This model wants a chunk of the retro-cruiser market with a faux rigid rear end and old-school geometry, but it ain’t all about the looks. This machine carries the largest boxer-twin engine that Beemer has ever mounted in a bike frame. In spite of its simple, clean look, there is plenty of ride-control wizardry under the hood.

  • 2021 BMW R 18
  • Year:
    2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Flat-twin
  • Displacement:
    1802 cc
  • Top Speed:
    111 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    17495
  • Price:

2021 BMW R 18 Design

  • Classic design
  • Blackout styling
  • Laced wheels
  • LED lighting
2021 BMW R 18
- image 894647
2021 BMW R 18
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Clean, low key, and unpretentious, the R 18 rumbles onto the scene with a classic look that is bound to appeal to the retro crowd. There’s a certain strength to be found in simplicity, and a sinister feel from home-custom blackout, and this bike displays both in spades.

The old-school goodies start right out of the gate in the large laced wheels and blackout treatment on both rims and hubs. A lightly bobbed front fender rides between blackout fork sliders, and the inner fork tubes are concealed by full-length blackout beer-can skirts. The cyclops headlight keeps with the retro theme, but the factory draws the line at the outward shape since all the lights on this machine are LED to maximize visibility, even though the blinkers and taillights are actually quite minimal in size.

One of the factory options is an adaptive turning headlight that throws lumens into the corners for increased safety and confidence at night. Too bad it isn’t stock, but there’s always a chance it’ll filter down next year right?

A single round analog speedometer rides up top with a digital screen that delivers other pertinent metrics and acts as a rider interface for the ride-control systems. “Berlin Built” is proudly displayed at the bottom of the clock. The medium-rise handlebar is pulled back into a tiller-like position to place your hands in a neutral position and accentuate the long-and-low lines that dominate the look.

In profile, the teardrop fuel tank follows the fall of the backbone, so the flyline flows straight on down to the triangular, Softail-esque swingarm that dates the overall suspension, or lackthereof, back to the mid 1930’s. A textured solo seat comes stock, but if you pony up at the checkout you can score an old-school solo saddle or accommodations for a passenger, whichever you prefer. Out back, a heavily bobbed rear fender controls the rear-wheel fling and mounts a small LED taillight and turn signals to finish out the gear in the rear.

2021 BMW R 18 Chassis

  • Low seat height
  • ABS
  • Double-loop, steel-pipe frame
  • Optional hill-start and reverse assist
2021 BMW R 18
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2021 BMW R 18
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2021 BMW R 18
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The double-loop, steel-pipe frame on the R 18 sports a double downtube and full cradle so the engine is fully supported and buttressed against the stresses it generates. At the steering head we find another contributing factor to the long, custom look of the R 18 in the 32.7-degree rake angle. It also has 5.9 inches of trail to give it plenty of stability and confident tracking, even at speed.

Right-way-up, 49 mm front forks and a cantilevered shock out back share a spring-preload adjustment, but that’s the only suspension tweak to be had on the stock machine. Suspension travel is 4.7 inches and 3.5 inches long on the front and rear, respectively, which is about right for a roadworthy cruiser.

All-around, 300 mm brake discs work with dual front calipers and Beemer’s own switchable ABS feature as the first real safety feature to be found. A low seat, mid-mount foot controls and tiller-style handlebar defines a raider’s triangle that is relaxed under way but leaves the rider with plenty of leverage for confident footwork at stops and in the parking lot. If you spring for some of the optional equipment you could add a Hill-Start feature and even a reverse function for the ultimate in dead-slow control.

Frame: Double-loop steel tube frame
Front Suspension/ Travel: Telescopic fork, fork tube Ø 49 mm/ 4.7”
Rear Suspension /Travel: Steel swingarm with central shock strut / 3.5”
Rake: 32.7°
Trail: 5.9“
Wheels: Spoke wheels
Wheel, front: 3.5" x 19"
Wheel, rear: 5.0" x 16"
Tire, front: 120/70 R 19
Tire, rear: 180/65 B16
Brakes, front: Twin disc brake Ø 300 mm
Brakes, rear: Single disc brake Ø 300 mm
ABS: BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral)

2021 BMW R 18 Drivetrain

  • Largest BMW engine in a production model to date
  • 1,802 cc displacement
  • 91 hp @ 4,750 rpm
  • 116 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
  • traction control and drag-torque mitigation
  • Three ride modes
2021 BMW R 18
- image 894657
2021 BMW R 18
- image 894636
2021 BMW R 18
- image 894638

Pretty cool so far, but the beating heart on the R 18 still steals the show. This is both the largest and the most powerful boxer-twin engine ever to go in a production BMW motorcycle with a staggering 116 pound-feet of torque anywhere after 3,000 rpm and 91 horsepower at 4,750 with a 5,750 rpm redine. The R 18 is both air- and oil-cooled to deal with the waste heat. A 107.1 mm bore and 100 mm stroke gives it a 1,802 cc displacement with a relatively mild, 9.6-to-1 compression ratio, so you can get away with mid-grade push-o-line.

An old-school pushrod valvetrain actuates a quartet of over-head poppets in each of the two heads, and a pair of 48 mm throttle bodies provide the induction control. Here we find some more safety electronics in the ASC (traction control) and MSR (drag-torque mitigation). Both of these systems fall under the control of the Ride Mode feature that boasts a “Rain, Rock, and Roll” trio of profiles that mix and match the levels of intervention from those two systems for quick setup changes.

A single-disc dry clutch couples engine power to the six-speed transmission with a shaft drive to carry power to the rear wheel. In a move that’s odd for Beemer, the drive shaft is left exposed, and I reckon that was made necessary by the swing-cage rear end.

Engine: Air/water-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke boxer engine
Displacement: 1,802 cc
Bore x stroke: 107.1 mm x 100 mm
Power: 91 hp (67 kW) @ 4,750 rpm
Torque: 116 lb-ft (158 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Compression: 9.6:1
Engine control: BMS-O
Emission control: Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, EU5 exhaust standard
Clutch: Hydraulically activated single-disc dry clutch
Transmission: Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox
Primary ratio: 1.16
Transmission ratios: 1st: 2.438, 2nd: 1.696, 3rd: 1.296, 4th: 1,065, 5th: 0.903, 6th: 0.784
Rear wheel drive: Universal shaft
Transmission ratio: 3.091

2021 BMW R 18 Price

2021 BMW R 18
- image 894656
2021 BMW R 18
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2021 BMW R 18
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The factory offers the 2021 R 18 in two packages: a base model that rolls for $17,495 and a First Edition model that rocks Blackstorm Metallic sheet metal with Lightwhite pinstriping and generous chrome bling for $19,870.

Color: Black Storm Metallic
Price: $17,495, First Edition: $19,870

2021 BMW R 18 Competitors

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
- image 860021
2021 BMW R 18
- image 894649

In the U.S. market, the clear competitor will be Harley-Davidson, so I grabbed one of the newer models in the Low Rider S.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
- image 859682

Like the Beemer, the Softail takes retro to the bank with a faux-rigid rear end and home-custom touches. Blackout treatment is another one of the constants across the board, as are bobbed fenders, but the MoCo steers away from the antique look somewhat with inverted front forks.

Harley shortened the rake angle from 30-degrees down to 28-degrees for a more eager response to a given steering input to make the Low Rider S significantly more agile than the base Low Rider, and more importantly, the R 18. The Low Rider S also carries a tiny bullet fairing around its round headlight to make it marginally less austere as well, though the overall look is generally an exercise in minimalism.

Like the Beemer’s boxer, the V-Twin in the Low Rider has its own place in history. The Milwaukee Eight 114 churns out 119 pound-feet of torque for a slight edge in brute grunt over the 116 pound-feet from the boxer. H-D falls short of the mark in the electronics as it seems that none of its RDRS systems are going to make it onto the Low Rider S, so BMW has the only game in town as far as traction control and drag-torque mitigation goes.

Milwaukee gets a bit back with its $17,999-to-$18,399 price range that falls just below the top range of the Beemer, but that size difference is small potatoes once you get up around the $20k mark.

Read our full review of the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S.

He Said

There’s a lot to like here, not only for its crisp, classic looks but for the power Beemer packed away in its plant. Though I’m still not a fan of the boxer’s tendency to leave the cylinders, heads, and rocker boxes vulnerable in a drop or a slide, I gotta’ say I’d still definitely ride one.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The R 18 is a nice looking and nice sounding cruiser. Torque is ample and pretty much all through the rev range. Feet-forward is out of the question because of the large boxer engine, but the mid-mount foot position seems a little forced. Maybe that’s something I’d get used to. Seat height is low as you’d expect on a cruiser and having the weight of the engine down low makes low-speed maneuvering manageable. You’ll pay more for it than you would other cruisers, but the quality is spot on, everything is metal, and for what it is, I think it’s worth it.”

2021 BMW R 18 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Air/water-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke boxer engine
Displacement: 1,802 cc
Bore x stroke: 107.1 mm x 100 mm
Power: 91 hp (67 kW) @ 4,750 rpm
Torque: 116 lb-ft (158 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Compression: 9.6:1
Engine control: BMS-O
Emission control: Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, EU5 exhaust standard
Clutch: Hydraulically activated single-disc dry clutch
Transmission: Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox
Primary ratio: 1.16
Transmission ratios: 1st: 2.438, 2nd: 1.696, 3rd: 1.296, 4th: 1,065, 5th: 0.903, 6th: 0.784
Rear wheel drive: Universal shaft
Transmission ratio: 3.091
Chassis:
Frame: Double-loop steel tube frame
Front Suspension/ Travel: Telescopic fork, fork tube Ø 49 mm/ 4.7”
Rear Suspension /Travel: Steel swingarm with central shock strut / 3.5”
Rake: 32.7°
Trail: 5.9“
Wheels: Spoke wheels
Wheel, front: 3.5" x 19"
Wheel, rear: 5.0" x 16"
Tire, front: 120/70 R 19
Tire, rear: 180/65 B16
Brakes, front: Twin disc brake Ø 300 mm
Brakes, rear: Single disc brake Ø 300 mm
ABS: BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral)
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 68.1”
Length: 96.1"
Height (excluding mirrors): 44.3"
Height (above mirror, at DIN empty weight): 48.5"
Width (with mirror): 38.0"
Seat height, unladen: 27.2”
Rider step length, unladen: 64.2”
Fuel capacity: 4.23 gallon including 1-gallon reserve
Curb weight: 761 lbs
Max. permitted weight: 1,234.6 lbs
Max. load (with standard equipment): 474 lbs
Top Speed: over 111 mph
Electrical:
Alternator: 600 W
Battery: 12/26 maintenance-free
Headlight: LED low beam with projection module LED high beam with projection module
Starter: 1.5 kW
Details:
Color: Black Storm Metallic
Price: $17,495, First Edition: $19,870

Further Reading

BMW Motorrad

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
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Read more BMW news.

TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: bmwmotorcycles.com, harley-davidson.com

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BMW enters the cruiser segment with its new R 18

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