2021 BMW R 18 Cruiser MC Commute Review
BMW joins the hotly contested American cruiser segment with its 2021 R 18 cruiser.
The Motorrad crew is leaping into the rough and tumble American cruiser segment with a unique Bavarian take in the 2021 BMW R 18 ($22,265 as tested). Built in Berlin, Germany, the R 18 caters to traditional cruiser riders with a refined pallet.
Editor’s Note: We’ve covered the R 18 extensively in the “,” “2021 BMW R 1800 Cruiser Preview,” “,” and “” articles. Now we dive into how it rides on US streets.
Swing a leg over the R 18 and there’s no denying its sizable stance. Sporting a nearly 6-foot wheelbase and 790-pound ready-to-ride curb weight, it requires some serious muscle to lift off the sidestand. Although the seat height is plenty low, this bike is for more advanced riders due to its sheer size.
Thumb the starter and the 110ci (1,802cc) boxer twin shakes to life with a strong initial left twist—reminiscent of a Moto Guzzi. Notch it into gear, release the cable-actuated clutch lever, and its heft evaporates and is replaced by a level of agility that needs to be felt to be believed. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bike of this size that handles better at slow speeds.
Add some speed and the Beemer continues to impress with its exquisite suspension action. The suspension moves though its stroke with extreme precision. This makes for a surprisingly capable cruiser when ridden at footpeg-dragging speeds. Outright ride quality is nothing to write home about, but then again, what traditional cruiser is considering its bobber styling and limited rear suspension travel.
Triple-disc hydraulic brakes with beautifully machined four-piston calipers keep speed in check. Although brake control inputs are independent of one another, the R 18′s computer automatically measures bike balance during brake application and reroutes brake pressure to either circuit, if needed. The setup works seamlessly and we couldn’t detect it in action. But to be fair, smooth front and rear brake application is the name of the game when hustling the R 18 around turns.
As usual, this BMW is oriented toward above-average-sized riders with its generous rider triangle and mid-control foot controls. The seat has a deep dish (BMW also offers a variety of saddle options for greater personalization) and the handlebar has adequate spacing. We also appreciated its width with just the right amount of rearward sweep. This further contributes to its easy steering manner. Our testbike was also fitted with Motorrad’s optional $250 passenger kit, which includes a decently sized passenger seat and footpegs.
Twist the right grip and the R 18′s twin has a loving character that’s tuned like the strings of Kirk Hammett’s guitar. At idle, it’s a fistfight between the 4.21-inch-diameter pistons. Upwards of 100 pound-feet of torque are available from just over 1,500 rpm with peak torque equivalent to Honda’s sensational six-cylinder Gold Wing.
Lug it low or rev it high and the engine delivers a pleasing stream of pull. The rider can choose from three global riding modes (Rock, Roll, and Rain). The biggest difference between each of these settings is in terms of throttle response, with Rock offering the sharpest (but not overly so) and Rain delivering a more neutered feel when the throttle is cracked. ASC (Automatic Stability Control) can be manually disabled when it’s time for a smoke show.
A hybrid exhaust note sounds like a cross between a traditional American V-twin and BMW’s signature rumble. The R 18 doles out just over 81 hp at 4,800 revs. It keeps pulling until the rev-limiter softly alerts you to upshift. BMW’s been crafting this engine configuration for 97 years and it shows in the lofty degree of polish and mechanical precision.
The manual gearbox moves between each of its six cogs with precise feel. No slop or mis-shifts here. Gears are exchanged smoothly with an audible thud between each cog. Neutral is easy to locate while stopped and the shift lever has just the right amount of throw. Our R 18 was outfitted with Motorrad’s slick electronic reverse, which assists riders when backing up the 790-pound R 18 (watch the video at 31:10 to see how this option functions). Power is transferred to the 16-inch aluminum wheel (shod with either Bridgestone or Michelin tires) via a beautiful mechanical open drive shaft—just like the original ’36 R5.
As opposed to a chain or belt final drive this setup is cleaner and only requires maintenance every 24,000 miles (gear oil change). After initial service, engine oil/air cleaner and valve inspection are designated at 6,000-mile intervals.
Bold LED lighting is standard and our R 18 was fitted with Motorrad’s Headlights Pro option. This technology illuminates the side of the road when the bike is leaned over. The setup works well, but it could be brighter and throw a deeper swatch of light—especially compared to BMW’s 2020 S 1000 XR. It’s worth noting that the headlamp can be easily adjusted with basic tools. Speaking of the XR, the R 18 also employs rear turn signals that double as brake lights for a clean appearance.
The devil is in the details, and the R 18 not only impresses with its CVO-like build quality but in the supreme synchronization between all components.
“Nearly every detail is worth a long look,” Cycle World Senior Editor Justin Dawes adds (read his assessment in the 2021 BMW R 18 First Ride).
“The attention to detail on hiding virtually every possible hose, wire, clip, clamp, or any other cluttering detail is remarkable,” Motorcycle Cruiser Custom and Culture Editor Morgan Gales confirms (read his report in the 2021 BMW R 18 First Ride Review).
From the feel and sound of the engine to its polished handling manners, the R 18 is the essence of what a modern cruiser should be. Factor in its elegant lines that do a perfect job of balancing past and present, and the R 18 is a fantastic option in the American cruiser segment.
Helmet: Shoei RF-SR
Jacket: Alpinestars Tailwind Air Waterproof
Gloves: Alpinestars Copper
Pant: Alpinestars Copper 2
Boots: Alpinestars Faster-3
2021 BMW R 18 Technical Specifications And Price
|PRICE||$22,265.00, as tested|
|ENGINE||1,802cc, OHC, air-/oil-cooled boxer twin; 4-valve|
|BORE x STROKE||107.1 x 100.0mm|
|FUEL DELIVERY||Fuel injection|
|CLUTCH||Hydraulically actuated single-disc dry clutch|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||49mm telescopic fork; 4.7-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Cantilever shock; 3.5-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKES||Axial-mount 4-piston calipers, 300mm discs w/ Integral ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||4-piston caliper, 300mm disc w/ Integral ABS|
|WHEELS, FRONT/REAR||Spoked aluminum; 19 x 3.5-in. / 16 x 5.0-in.|
|TIRES, FRONT/REAR||Bridgestone; 120/70-19 / 180/65-16|
|SEAT HEIGHT||27.2 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||4.2 gal.|
|CURB WEIGHT||790 lb.|