2021 BMW R18 Cruiser Test Ride

“2021 BMW R18”
An Americanized Teutonic Cruiser


It was bound to happen – a German born, Berlin built heavy cruiser with a flavorful American style, but with influences that smack of BMW’s heritage, ala the 1923 R 32, legendary 1936 R5,or the R 1200C, BMW’s first real modern stab at entering the cruising marketplace. The R NineT came close, but was in actuality more of a hybrid bike.


It’s the 2021 BMW R18 that comes with a super healthy powerplant in the form of an 1802 cc (110 cubic inches) horizontally opposed boxer twin with two 107.1mm substantial bores that fire left and right, rocking the bike noticeably to the left upon startup. The cruiser’s massive power source comprises 225 pounds of chrome and aluminum that is unique to any other BMW in today’s lineup, while retaining its nostalgic basic core design and delivering an American riding feel. It sports a prominent 1800cc badge on each side. The R18’s engine is 21.5 inches tall and 24.75 inches long, and the melon-sized air-and-oil-cooled cylinders and four-valve heads extend prominently out to the sides.

The motor is mounted in a double-loop cradle tubular steel frame whose backbone matches the triangle of the swingarm replicating a hardtail look. The shape of the engine presents an uncluttered appearance, with the starter motor, throttle bodies, sensors, spark plugs and ignition wires are tucked away from sight, with cables and wires neatly hidden.

It is the most powerful 2-cylinder boxer engine ever used in motorcycle series production. The peak power output is 91 hp at 4,750 rpm and 116 lbs-ft at 3,000 rpm. Torque is in abundance, with over 110 lbs-ft of torque available from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm, combined with a pleasing fully, resonant sound.

Motive force reaches the rear wheel through a six-speed constant mesh transmission with a hydraulically activated single disc dry clutch and a polished right side driveshaft. 0-60 clicks off in 4.9 seconds.


The design team’s goal was to develop a bobber based, custom cruiser with a classic look. Inspiration came from the likes of Harley Davidson’s Softail Slim, a core competitor that would appeal to a 40-year old, predominantly male audience. Several custom builders from around the globe were given license to experiment with customization of the R18 over an 18-month period prior to the release of the production bike.

In a rare occurance, the production version of the R18 exceeds design sketches and concept examples as a beautiful work of art from virtually all angles. Its overall form is a viable part of the riding experience.

Suspension componentry leads off with twin 49 mm telescopic forks with fork sleeves and 4.7 inches of travel and dual 300 mm discs featuring 4-piston fixed calipers and partial integral ABS, BFD, traction control and ASC. A steel swingarm with central shock strut and 3.7 inches of travel bring up the rear with a single rear 300 mm disc.

The R18 rolls on Bridgestone Battlcruise tires – 120/70 R19 front/ 180/65 R16 rear, mounted on chrome lace wire spoke wheels.

The bodywork features of the R 18 are classic and are made of metal, befitting of a genuine cruiser: the 4.23 gallon (including 1-gallon reserve ) fuel tank displays a pear shape derived from the R 5, the front and rear fenders, the side panels below the seat, the fork sleeves and the housings of the headlights and circular instrument panel are all made of sheet steel.

The 2021 R 18 is a modern interpretation of a cruiser perpetuating the BMW Motorrad tradition, and replicating the iconic retro style while transporting it to the present day. From the first overall impression to the minutest detail, the purity of the design lives on as established by classic design.

An LED headlight displays state-of-the-art lighting technology integrated into a classic motorcycle design.

The overall form and image of the R18 consists of clean purposeful lines and smooth elegant curves. bright and smooth chrome appear tastefully on the fishtail pipes and cylinder head covers, but not to excess.

Extensive consideration was given to providing the ability to personalize and customize the R18 to ensure its success as a popular cruiser. Many of the most commonly changed parts such as handlebar risers, foot controls, and gas cap are interchangeable with American cruisers.


My test 2021 BMW R18 Cruiser came in First Edition trim with an exclusive look in paint and chrome. Chrome components were high-quality with the only available body part color was Blackstorm metallic highlighted by elaborate The sticker price for the First Edition model was $19,870. Add -$695. For destination and Handling.* Dealer handling and prep may vary. Other available packages include: a Chrome Package; a Premium Package. Other desirable options are available as well – a Reverse Assist Option and a Hill Start Option.

A highlight for “First Edition” buyers is the Welcome box with a Box featuring a picture of the engine on the lid, Historical tank emblems (copper-colored lettering), Historical slotted screws (copper-colored), Assembly gloves, Assembly screwdriver (can also be used as key ring), an R18 First Edition cap,. A leather belt with an exclusive R18 First Edition clasp, and a book about the near 100-year history of BMW Motorrad


The R18 tips the scale, wet at 761 pounds. The wheelbase measures 68.1 inches. Overall length is 96.1 inches. Stock seat height is 27.2 inches with optional seats available. The Rake is 32.7 degrees, the Trail is 3.5 inches and the ground clearance is 5.75 inches.. Fuel capacity is 4.23 gallons including a 1-gallon reserve.


The 2021 BMW R18 is no lightweight cruiser and the side mass of the massive cylinder heads contribute to maneuvering limitations. This is no canyon carver, nor is it intended to be. The riding position is BMW influenced with mid mounted foot controls and positioning, rather than more traditional forward controls. Seating is comfortable and handlebar positioning is comfortable as well.

Acceleration is incredible with loads of low end torque. Cruising speed handling and maneuvering are both fine, while low end parking lot exercises are cumbersome – especially on an incline. The optional Reverse Assist feature and the Hill Start option are highly recommended for added riding pleasure.

The gearbox is velvety smooth and there’’s virtually no shaft drive “jacking” effect. Engagement is solid and immediate, eliminating a missed shift or false neutral.

The classically designed circular instrument gauge has an integrated display featuring a speedo, digital gear indicator and signal indicator lamps (invisible when not illuminated) along with other on-board computer data. Unfortunately, there’s no fuel gauge –only a low fuel warning light.

There’s factory standard ASC (Automatic Stability Control) and MSR (Engine Drag Torque Control) as well as three selectable riding modes: Rain, Roll and Rock. Rock and Roll are the ride mode selections for nice weather days, with Rain for slippery conditions. Throttle response is sharper and power comes on stronger at the bottom in Rock mode, which provides a more lopey idle. Roll mode smoothes out the idle is more relaxed on low-end delivery, with less aggressive throttle response and torque delivery.


A remote control Keyless Ride system replaces a conventional ignition switch and steering fork lock. The ignition is operated using the button on the right-hand handlebar instrument panel. At the touch of a button on the radio key, the key bit folds out that is required to lock and unlock the classic steering lock and fuel filler cap (optional extra).


The 2021 BMW R18 Cruiser is a beautifully stylish alternative to “Vanilla” Cruisers. It displays a nostalgic heritage blended with modern technology and German ingenuity in an “Americanized package at a reasonable price.


Base Price: $17,495.
Price as Tested: $19,870. D&H-$695-*Dealer handling and prep may vary

Engine Type and Size: 1802cc (110 cubic inch) air and oil-cooled, 4-stroke “Boxer” flat horizontally opposed twin.

Horsepower (bhp): 91 @ 4,750 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 116 @ 3,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed constant mesh with hydraulically activated single disc dry clutch.

Drive Train: Rear-wheel right side polished steel shaft drive.

Suspension: Front – Twin 49 mm telescopic forks with 4.7 inches of travel.
Rear – Steel swingarm with central shock strut and 3.7 inches of travel

Brakes: Front – dual 300 mm discs with 4-piston fixed calipers and partial integral ABS, BFD, traction control and ASC.
Rear – Single rear 300 mm disc.

Tires: Bridgestone Battlcruise 120/70 R19 front/ 180/65 R16 mounted on chrome lace wire spoke wheels.

Wheelbase: 68.1 inches
Length Overall: 96.1 inches
Rake: 32.7 degrees
Lean angle: Limited
Trail: 3.5 inches
Curb Weight wet: 761 lbs.
Ground clearance 5.75 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.23 gallons.
Seat height: 27.2 inches
0 – 60 mph: 4.9 seconds

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