2021 BMW R18 First Edition
More than 25% of total motorcycle sales are cruisers in North America, and it is a segment that cannot be unseen by manufacturers. Though it is not the easiest task to penetrate a market that probably has the most loyal fans and challenge the most well known brands that have several different types of cruisers, such as Harley Davidson and Indian.
Cruiser market is too big to be unseen, and the new BMW R18 is the latest addition to the segment that aims to steal market share mostly from the domestic brands. Our tester is the First Edition, which clearly indicates that it’s a special trim commemorates the first edition of the R18 model lineup. Let’s see how it performs in a market which is dominated by other brands for so many decades.
Although our tester is the “First Edition”, R18 is not the first cruiser attempt. BMW’s last effort was in 1997 with the R1200C, which they aimed to enter the American-style cruiser market. At that time, BMW tried to create a cruiser in its own way, too much engineering compromising the styling, and that didn’t last long as potential buyers prioritize the looks over engineering.
This time, BMW studied its lesson. It has to be instantly recognizable, need to have a character and there has to be as much art as engineering. It is definitely a head turner thanks to the excessive amount of chrome used throughout the bike. It’s not just the exhaust, but also there are several engine components that are completely chrome.
Another reason why it looks so good is the special black paint with white stripes. Usually I am not a fan of black cruisers as they are everywhere, but the R18 looks extra special with the paint and chrome combination. It also has 49mm inverted forks that are painted black, and BMW decided to hide the rear shock inside the frame. Overall, looks wise, it has all the design elements you expect from a cruiser.
Perhaps it is a good looking bike, but what about technical part, the engineering aspect of it where usually BMW motorcycles are known to be one of the best? For many cruisers, there is only one thing that’s important, it’s the cruising and overall feeling. BMW decided to take the unique step and implemented what they are doing best. Like many other BMW models, it comes with a two cylinder boxer engine.
As of 2021, there aren’t many traditional cruisers with boxer engines, but here is the R18. It has 1802cc two cylinder boxer engine that produces around 91 hp and 117 lb-ft of torque. Like some Harley Davidson models, BMW also decided to use oldschool push rod camshafts for the extra vintage engine characteristics. Of course, it’s an air cooled engine that revs up to 5700 RPMs. It has tons of torque throughout the rev range, between 2000 and 4000 rpm there is always more than 110 lb-ft of torque available at any gear.
Although it may look like an old tech, this engine is newly developed by BMW, and it is the largest two-cylinder boxer engine for motorcycles built by BMW. You feel the engine size when you rev match, as the engine wants to make the whole bike move towards left every time you give gas. Also, it has digital engine management system as well as ride-by-wire throttle system, meaning that you have different riding modes named Rock, Roll and Rain mode.
The clutch and transmission feels very solid, you get exposed driveshaft for additional vintage looks. Like the old BMW motorcycles, it comes with a dry clutch but it is surprisingly predictable and easy to modulate. You get hydraulic clutch lever which is also surprisingly soft for daily riding. R18 also comes with heel toe shifter, which means you can also use your heel for upshift. Our tester had the reverse assist system included, but it’s $1320 extra.
Probably the biggest chrome piece of the bike is the dual exhausts that goes around the both way. Though they look traditional, it comes with 3 way catalytic converter and as a result, the bike doesn’t sound that much. It doesn’t have to be obnoxiously loud, but I was expecting a little bit louder and deeper tone from 1.8 liter engine. An aftermarket exhaust would be a good solution to fix it.
You can adjust riding modes from the left side of the handlebar, and you have a small round shaped analog dash with digital screen at the bottom. Like the R nineT, it has a pretty similar layout but the analog part looks very special, it proudly shows that 2021 BMW R18 First Edition is “Berlin Built”. You can also see “Berlin Built” badges in different parts throughout the bike.
Despite it’s vintage looks, it still has some modern features such as fuel injection system, anti-lock braking system (ABS), traction/stability control systems but those are pretty standard for almost every modern bike in this price range. Probably the most obvious advanced tech is the Adaptive LED headlights, which also acts as a cornering lights and it is a blessing to have one if you ride at night time frequently.
Riding the 2021 BMW R18 First Edition day-to-day basis is surprisingly fun, and the extra torque that you have pretty much every time makes it very easy, meaning that you don’t have to change the gears that often to move. There are some vibrations around 3000 rpm, and it gets worse if you get closer to 5000 rpms, which is a no big deal for a cruiser as that’s the character cruiser people are looking for.
At the end of the day It is designed for one main thing, for the looks and it does a great job if that’s your thing. Traditionally, it comes with top notch components, though there are some common parts used in other BMW models, such as the buttons. BMW’s job was not easy as there are so many chrome pieces all around the bike, they make the plastic buttons look worse even though they are high quality parts and have nice tactile feeling.
Like many cruisers, comfort and rider accommodation is pretty good, you get a relaxed riding ergonomics with wide handlebars which is great for everyday or weekend riding. The seat height is 690mm (27 in) which is pretty approachable for all types and sizes of riders. Floorboards allow you to have multiple knee angles for additional comfort, but no matter how comfortable it is, engine vibrations and lack of wind protection are two biggest indicators that it is not a highway cruiser.
Good things aside, it may not be the greatest daily rider due to it’s overall size and weight. It is a 8 feet long cruiser with more than 750 lbs weight, and you feel the extra weight at lower speeds. Though boxer engine helps lowering the center of gravity, it is not the most nimble cruiser. Having floor boards also does not help, it reduces the lean angle quite a bit.
For BMW, as an inventor of adventure bikes and having several different types of motorcycles, getting into cruiser segment is not easy. There are too many brands with several decades of experience, and loyal customers that have dedicated lifestyle. 2021 BMW R18 First Edition is a strong contender considering this is BMW’s second attempt, and more importantly it is a proof that BMW takes this segment seriously.
Perhaps it is a new era for BMW and it seems like they are ready to fight on a new frontline. 2021 BMW R18 First Edition starts at $20,895 and our tester is priced at $26,600 with few extras listed below. Though it is an expensive ($1320) option, I think reverse gear option is a nice addition as you would not want to back up a 750+ lb bike especially on an uphill with no help. First Edition package makes the bike look more special, and it sets you back additional $2850.
For more details – please visit https://www.bmw-motorrad.ca/