2 Wheels

BMW’s Taking on Harley-Davidson With the R18 Cruiser

BMW doesn’t just make fast cars and luxurious SUVs: the German company is also an established motorcycle maker. Its famed boxer engine has even been used by other motorcycle companies. Today, BMW’s motorcycle division is perhaps best known for its touring and adventure bikes. However, as the retro motorcycle wave has grown, it’s also begun offering bikes to match, like the RnineT Scrambler. Now, BMW is taking the fight to Harley-Davidson’s cruisers with the BMW R18.

The BMW R18: from concept to production

Originally, the BMW R18 was just a concept, first shown at the 2019 Villa d’Este, Roadshow reports. It drew inspiration from the company’s first post-WWII bikes, the/5 series. Like that bike, the R18 Concept featured a boxer twin-cylinder engine.

2021 BMW R18
2021 BMW R18 | BMW via Instagram

However, rather than a 500cc boxer, the R18 had a modern 1802cc version. And in production form, the BMW R18 has the biggest and most powerful boxer engine the company has ever made.

The BMW R18’s engine puts out 91 hp and 116 lb-ft and is hooked up to a 6-speed transmission. As with all but BMW’s sportiest bikes, the R18 is shaft-driven. In a further cue to the /5, Cycle World reports, the shaft drive’s final gear is exposed. But, in addition to modern engine tech like fuel injection, its engine is also air- and oil-cooled. And, much like the Triumph Bonneville, the R18 disguises other modernity under classic styling.

For example, those sleeved front forks? Jalopnik reports they house modern telescopic shocks. The rear looks rigid—however, Cycle World reports there’s a mono-shock mounted underneath the seat. The single gauge is an analog speedometer with a digital display, and the bike has a keyless ignition system. Also, the BMW R18 comes with ABS, traction control, and stability control. These are further tailored through multiple riding modes: Rain, Roll, and Rock (yes, those are the actual names).

Pricing and availability

The BMW R18 will reach dealers sometime in autumn 2020 as a 2021 model. Initially, the bike will be offered in two trims: base, and First Edition. Neither, though, will be tremendously affordable.

The base bike, not including the $695 destination fee, will start at $17,495. However, as with other cruisers, BMW will offer accessories and aftermarket parts for the R18, including different seats, wheels, even fuel tanks. Few R18s hitting the streets, therefore, will be truly ‘base.’

The First Edition, meanwhile, will start at $19,870 before destination fee. It will feature a trim-exclusive Blackstone metallic paint with white pinstriping, additional chrome, a seat badge, and a ‘First Edition’ side cover clasp. The BMW R18 First Edition will also come with a kind of loot box, with historical tank emblems, a screwdriver, gloves, and First Edition apparel.

BMW R18 vs. Harley-Davidson’s bikes

2019 Harley-Davidson Low-Rider
2019 Harley-Davidson Low-Rider | Matthew Skwarczek

It’s not just in looks and pricing where the BMW R18 compares to some of Harley-Davidson’s bikes. It’s 4” longer than the Harley-Davidson Road King, for one. For another, the R18 weighs in at 750 pounds, which is 51 pounds more than Harley’s Fat Boy, Jalopnik notes. That’s also about 90 lbs more than the Harley Low Rider I rode last year, which wasn’t exactly easy to maneuver at low speeds.

However, the R18 may have some advantage in that regard. For one, the BMW cruiser will have mid-controls, which often make cruisers significantly easier to live with. In addition, the BMW R18 will offer optional reverse and hill-start assist, something typically only found on larger cruiser or touring bikes. In addition, although the BMW R18 won’t exactly be cheap, it will be slightly cheaper than some of its Harley-Davidson and Indian rivals.

2020 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
2020 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114 | Harley-Davidson

For example, the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114, starts at $20,599. It has a 1868cc engine but only makes 3 more lb-ft. And while it may be lighter, it doesn’t have that reverse assist, or even traction or stability control.

2020 Indian Chief Dark Horse
2020 Indian Chief Dark Horse | Indian

From Indian, the closest bike to the BMW R18 would be the Indian Chief Dark Horse. It’s closer in price, starting at $18,499. Its engine is also slightly larger, at 1819cc, and like the Fat Boy 114, it makes 119 lb-ft. However, it too lacks that reverse assist, though it does have cruise control, unlike the R18. But the Chief Dark Horse is even heavier, with a wet weight of 768 pounds.

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