There's something about a big, heavyweight cruiser, with dollops of gleaming chrome, an all-metal body, a rumbling twin-cylinder engine, and the open road. It's the stuff of motorcycle dreams; or motorcycling as Hollywood has created, of the all-American quintessential American heavyweight cruiser. That's precisely what BMW tries to emulate with the all-new BMW R 18; to take a shot at the heavyweight cruiser market, which has long been dominated by iconic American brands like Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle.The R 18 though, is BMW Motorrad's second attempt at wooing the cruiser crowd.
Also Read: BMW R18 Classic Unveiled
The first BMW cruiser was in the 1990s, and if you're a James Bond fan, you'd remember a motorcycle chase sequence from the 1997 Bond flick, "Tomorrow Never Dies." In that movie, Pierce Brosnan, as 007, rides the BMW R 1200 C across the streets of Saigon, Vietnam. The movie was used as promotion for the BMW R 1200 C, and apparently fifteen bikes were used while filming that chase sequence. Now, twenty years later, we have the all-new BMW R 18, but this time, there's no Bond to promote the R 18, but what we have, is an exquisitely designed heavyweight cruiser, which is to be seen in reality to truly appreciate its beauty.
Also Read: All You Need To Know About The BMW R18
The BMW R18 is a magnificent motorcycle, from all angles! The huge cylinders of the boxer-twin, 901 cc in each, stick out on both sides, covered in gleaming chrome. The cylinders are as much of the bike's design, as is the overall "modern classic" theme, which is definitely retro. The round headlight lends a classic touch, although it is LED, and the circular single-pod instrument console also looks retro, but the small digital screen adds modernity. And it also provides access to all the information and features, including the bike's electronics. Three riding modes are offered, with names of two, which could have been much better. So, you have Rock, Roll, and Rain modes on offer.
Also Read: First Look At BMW R18 First Edition
But there's no mistaking the classic lines of the BMW R 18, with touches of heritage, which are all too obvious. The period-correct pinstripes on the gloss black paint, and the fishtail exhausts all add authenticity to the retro design of the R 18. The dual cradle chassis and the swingarm triangle which loops around the rear hub all lend an aura of authentic BMW heritage, going back over 90 years to the BMW motorcycles from the 1930s.
More specifically, the BMW R 18 pays homage to the 1936 BMW R 5, down to details like the concealed rear shock, giving the bike a hard-tail look, as well as the exposed drive shaft, another throwback to BMW's bikes from almost a century ago. And it's a huge, long motorcycle, and once you swing a leg over it, and take it off the side stand, you can easily feel its heft, all 345 kg of it! But everything about the R 18 looks elegant and feels premium. There's keyless ignition, so as soon as you pocket the key fob, and thumb the starter, you'll be both "shaken and stirred" by the massive 1,802 cc boxer-twin coming to life.
Performance & Dynamics
The BMW R 18 has the largest boxer twin ever manufactured by BMW Motorrad. The Big Boxer, as it's referred to, will shake the bike from side to side at idle, but on the move, the engine smoothens out. And as you shift through the gears while accelerating, there's no mistaking that it's a modern BMW. The engine is a torque-y lump, right from idle, and it urges you to short shift through the gears, and ride the torque, instead of chasing high revs.
Maximum speed is claimed at over 180 kmph, and it will happily cruise at 130-140 kmph all day, so long as you're okay with the wind blast offering a spot of bother at high speeds. In numbers, the engine makes 90 bhp at 4,750, but it's the whopping 158 Nm of peak torque at 3,000 rpm, is what you should be looking at. More than 120 Nm of the torque is available from 2,000 rpm all the way to 4,000 rpm, so at any set of revs, you're never short of pulling power. But sit at under 3,500 rpm, and you have enough grunt and pull at any gear.
There are some vibes to be felt, especially over 3,200-3,500 revs, but the R 18 is best enjoyed at lower revs, where it will cruise all day, without any apparent effort at triple digit speeds. On the flip side, the hard-tail look, with the short concealed rear shock, also has a hard-tail feel, so it's best to slow down over broken patches and road undulations, where bumps are felt in a pronounced manner. So, the R 18 will wow you on smooth tarmac, but consistent bad roads will make you want to take a break, and the retro styling may lose appeal to comfort.
On a long, smooth road, the BMW R 18 remains planted and stable, and despite its size and weight, it handles beautifully. Show it a set of corners and the R18 dips effortlessly, but it's only while manouevering it around a parking lot, or making a tight u-turn that you feel its weight and size. And yes, the engine's sideways motion can also be felt then. But despite its eagerness to corner, the lack of footpeg clearance somewhat robs you of the joy of exploring the bike's dynamics; the R 18 forces you to slow down, take in the sights, rather than focus on entry and exit lines around a corner. It's a compromise, but with a bike like the R 18, you're willing to forgive it.
Tech & Ergonomics
The ride-by-wire throttle offers three modes, offering different engine maps and traction control function. The quirky (and somewhat tacky) names of the modes are Rock, Roll and Rain. Rock offers more aggressive power delivery with quicker throttle response and least intervention from the traction control system, while Rain mode applies power more slowly with the most intervention from the traction control system. For me, Rock was the default choice, and it isn't so aggressive as to make the R18 intimidating. There's also Hill Hold Control and engine drag torque control incorporated in the traction control system. Anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard, and the front brake lever has combined braking function for effortless braking.
The BMW R 18 has a low seat height, of only 690 mm, so you sit low on the bike, and the footpegs are positioned mid-way, with the massive cylinders preventing a stretched out foot-forward perch. For me, the mid-mounted footpeg positions are more comfortable than stretched-out, forward-mounted pegs of some typical all-American cruisers. The fuel tank has a capacity of 16 litres, and during our test ride, the BMW R 18 returned an average of 15 kmpl, which will amount to roughly 240 km of range on a tankful of fuel. But you'll be excused for wanting to take a break, long before you need a refill, if not for anything else, just to park the bike on the shoulder and to take another admiring glance at this gleaming chrome and metal magnificence of a cruiser.
The standard BMW R 18 is priced at ₹ 18.90 lakh (Ex-showroom), while the top-spec BMW R 18 First Edition, the one we're testing, is priced at ₹ 21.90 lakh (Ex-showroom). For the extra price, you get the period-correct BMW pinstripes on the bodywork and additional chrome, including the valve covers, front engine cover, cylinder intake covers, hand and foot controls, master cylinders, mirrors and even the brake calipers.
The BMW R 18 is not flawless. It's quite a handful of a bike if you want to negotiate tight spaces, like in a parking lot, with its 345 kg kerb weight. And we managed to shear off the footpeg feelers without even trying to be anywhere near aggressive around a twisty road. Even when getting out of a fuel station, or a ramp off the expressway, you will need to be careful about those footpegs, and it's not always a nice feeling when you hear the screeching sound of the feelers dragging along on asphalt. And then there's the ride quality; it's firm and taut, but could be bothersome over broken roads, and undulations.
So, if you're expecting sportier performance, you'd best look elsewhere, but nothing in the cruiser segment looks as magnificent and as gorgeous as the BMW R 18 with its period-correct looks and attention to detail. Despite its flaws, the BMW R 18 is the near-perfect modern classic heavyweight cruiser. It's a guaranteed head-turner, and it definitely begins to grow on you, the more time you spend in the saddle.
(Photography: Prashant Chaudhary)