big boxer power

BMW’s New Cruiser Takes Aim at America’s Most Iconic Motorcycles


April 6, 2020 Cars : Motorcycles By
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These are wild times in the motorcycle world. Brands are pushing into new territory and niches, attempting to scoop up new pieces of the market share pie. Indian moved away from its mighty cruisers to create the flat track-inspired FTR 1200; Harley-Davidson whipped up one of the most exciting electric motorcycles on sale before diving into ADVs, and is poised to push into the realm of flat trackers and cafe racers. Now, it’s BMW Motorrad‘s turn to start boldly going where no Beemer has gone before: the cruiser market.

The 2021 BMW R 18 represents the brand’s first foray into the cruiser world, but it’s partially still a tribute to bikes from the company’s past. The style draws on the BMW R 5 of the 1970s not just for design inspiration, but also for some technical bits; the R 5-like rear swingarm wraps around the rear axle-mounted gearbox via bolted connections, and the tubes of the telescopic fork are wrapped in fork sleeves, just to name two examples. All the bodywork is metal, as well — just like on bikes of old.

At the R18’s heart lies the most potent BMW boxer engine ever to grace a production bike: a 1,802-cc two-cylinder that purrs out 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and at least 111 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm, with a max of 116 lb-ft at 3,000. The bike features three riding modes – “Rain”, “Roll” and “Rock — as well as standard stability control and engine drag torque control. Reverse assistance and hill start helper are both available as options.

Speaking of options: BMW, of course, is rarely one to miss out on a chance to woo buyers into jacking up the brand’s profit margins with a wide variety of add-ons, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Beemer is also offering a wide variety of official “custom” parts for the R 18. Roland Sands Design created two collections of machined aluminum parts (they’re called 2-Tone-Black” and, well, “Machined”) you can swap on; Mustang Seats will be offering special thrones for the bike, and Vance & Hines is building custom exhaust systems for those who want a little added burble. (This, of course, in addition to the usual array of BMW Motorrad accoutrements you can choose from.)

If you’re looking to add the R 18 to your stable, either next to or in lieu of a Harley or Indian, be prepared to fork over at least $17,495 for the honor — or $19,870 if you want the First Edition variant that includes plenty of chrome and a black-and-white-pinstripe paint job. Sure, you could buy a very nice used BMW 3 Series for that kind of money…but that won’t get the goat of all those Harley-Davidson nuts the same way an R 18 will.

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Will Sabel Courtney

Will Sabel Courtney is Gear Patrol’s Motoring Editor, formerly of The Drive and RIDES Magazine. You can often find him test-driving new cars in New York City, cursing the slow-moving traffic surrounding him.

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