Today, BMW unveiled the 2021 R 18, a retro-style cruiser that looks nothing like any other BMW motorcycle currently available. Inspired by the BMW R 5 from the ’30s, the bike has an open-running driveshaft, a double-loop frame, and a 1.8-liter horizontally opposed two-cylinder engine that’s called the Big Boxer. With a relaxed seating position, a “no-frills technology” approach, and a frame design prepared for the aftermarket scene, the R 18 strives to please purists and customizers alike.
BMW has been previewing the R 18 throughout the past year with numerous development projects. First came a trio of concept bikes — the Concept R18, the Custom Works Zon Departed, and the Birdcage — that used prototype versions of the modern Big Boxer engine seen in the R 18. Then came the R 18/2, which gave a clearer look at what a modern BMW cruiser could look like. In its final form, the R 18 is so clearly traced to the R 5 that it nearly looks like a replica at a quick glance.
The R 18 has nearly every design cue the R 5 had to offer. It has a single front headlight, a pear-drop gas tank, a double-loop steel frame, metal bodywork, a single seat, pinstriped paint, and a shiny chrome exhaust. A First Edition, seen here, includes small distinctive add-ons such as white pinstripes over black paint, chrome detailing, a seat badge, and a chrome clasp on the side covers. It’s jarring how similar two motorcycles separated by 84 years can look and demonstrates a true example of timeless styling.
At its core, the R 18 has a boxer engine, just like the R 5 did. This modern iteration is 1,802 cc and claims the title of the most powerful BMW boxer ever built. It harbors 90 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 111 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm.
The classic setup carries over to the suspension, as well, as the R 15 has a telescopic front fork with 1.9-inch tubes. The centrally mounted cantilever suspension strut has travel-dependent damping and an adjustable spring preload, and the rear features a double-sided swingarm with an enclosed axle drive. Suspension travel up front is 4.7 inches, while the rear is 3.5 inches. Braking is handled by twin-disc brakes up front, a single-disc brake in the rear, and four-piston fixed calipers.
Although the R 18 is meant to have less technology, it still has numerous updated features such as LED lighting, an adaptive turning light, keyless ride with remote control, reverse assist, and hill start control. It also Automatic Stability Control, engine drag torque control, and three drive modes: Rain, Roll, and Rock.
The R 18 is ready to rock and roll right into aftermarket custom garages right off the lot, too. It has an easily removable rear frame, and BMW says the brake lines, clutch lines, and cable harness are built to allow for easy handlebar installation and adjustment. The visible valve covers and belt cover were also designed to be outside of the oil chamber for easy changing.
The R 18 is available for preorder right now with a starting price of $18,190, including $695 destination charges. The First Edition package is $2,150.