Fashionably Late: The BMW R18 Cruiser

BMW looks back in time to style a new retro cruiser.

| January/February 2021

Photo by John L. Stein

We would love to have been a fly on the wall in Munich when the idea of building the new 2021 R18 arose.

After the 2007-2009 recession, cruiser sales sagged … and never fully recovered. Still, big-displacement cruisers are as American as pickups, Stratocasters and barbecued brisket, and so the segment got BMW thinking. Harley has been Harley since time immemorial, first the Japanese and then Victory and Indian made important inroads, and even Ducati and Triumph build bruiser cruisers. So why not BMW with the ginormous 1,802cc R18? After all, a small piece of a big pie is still a nice meal. And BMW directors, shareholders and dealers would surely love the sound of that.

And speaking of sound, you have never heard a BMW like the R18. It offers no liquid-cooling to thwart mechanical and combustion noise. The cylinders and heads are air- and oil-cooled only, and simply enormous — think watermelon sized. And the intake tracts and exhaust pipes — some 13 feet worth combined — are nearly the size of sewer drains. And the engine internals: With a 107.1mm (4.2-inch) bore and 100mm (3.9-inch) stroke, the R18 dimensions are whisker-close to a Chevy 427’s.

Photo by John L. Stein

Engine: 1,802cc air- and oil-cooled OHV opposed twin, 107.1mm x 100mm bore and stroke, 9.6:1 compression ratio, 91hp @ 4,750rpm, 116lb/ft @ 3,000rpm
Top speed: 111-plus mph
Fueling: Electronic fuel injection, throttle by wire
Transmission: 6-speed, plus electric reverse, shaft final drive
Electrics: 12v, electronic ignition Frame/wheelbase: Double-cradle steel frame/68.1in (1,730mm)
Suspension: 49mm Showa conventional fork front, single coilover ZF Sachs damper rear
Brakes: 11.8in (300mm) dual discs front, 11.8in (300mm) single disc rear, ABS
Tires: 120/70 x 19in front, 180/65 x 16in rear
Weight (wet): 761lb (345kg)
Seat height: 27.2in (691mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.2gal (15.9ltr)/34mpg (as tested)
Price: starting at $19,870 (First Edition)

12/17/2020 8:48:14 PM

I think BMW made a mistake styling those mufflers, it reminds me most of an early Euro 2-stroke 250 twin. Adler? Anyhow the profile looks jarring to my eye.

12/17/2020 6:11:31 PM

There is nothing cheap on this bike. More great German quality. Good work BMW.

12/17/2020 3:59:29 PM

Can’t get over the flange welded mufflers. Those were a sign of œJapanese Cheap back in the 60s. They don’t ™look any better today.

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