2024 BMW R18 Roctane Review – First Ride
Elegant contours, hard storage, and big jugs
Our perception of the world is influenced by both nature and nurture. Just as our individual experiences shape how we view situations, the same can be said for the handlebars you sit behind. Each bike delivers its own unique experience that plays a part in how you interact with and take in the scenery around you whether that be flying through mountain roads at warp speed, filtering through traffic on the way to work, or cruising through expansive glacial valleys skirting the German/Austrian border.
2024 BMW R18 Roctane
The big Bavarian cruiser gets the blacked out treatment, a new stance and hard luggage in the 2024 Roctane.
Editor Score: 84%
- Styling is tasteful and mature
- Ride modes and a nice touch of tech
- A torque wave that's fun to surf
- A big Boxer presents its own ergonomic challenges in a cruiser
- Vibes sneak in halfway through the rpm range
- Questionable marketing/product naming decisions
Officially announced at the beginning of the month, BMW has released its fifth iteration of the R18 cruiser: the Roctane. By no means is it an overhaul from the original, but subtle changes and additions give this R18 an entirely different presence. From a hardware standpoint, the Roctane is fitted with a 21/18 inch wheel combo, 27-liter color matched locking side cases, mid-rise bars, a new headlight with a nicely integrated instrument cluster that harkens back to the 1936 R 5’s design, and it has received the blacked out treatment from tip to tail.
As said before, much remains the same with this R18 variant – like, everything aside from what was just mentioned. The Roctane features the monstrous 1,802 cc air/oil cooled engine front and center – the biggest BMW has ever made – which looks even more substantial thanks to its Boxer configuration which places each of its 901 cc cylinders jutting out on either side. Engine performance is still a claimed 91 hp and 116 lb-ft of torque. Likewise, the transmission remains unchanged offering the same positive clunks we’ve come to expect from cruisers when shifting gears. The chassis is also carried over from the OG that Brasscannons tested in September of 2020.
I’d argue that the unfortunately named Roctane delivers more of an American cruiser presence than any of the R18s before it. The larger wheel sizes were chosen to change the stance of the motorcycle and it really seems to have done the trick. The paint and use of both matte and gloss finishes throughout are done tastefully and the integration of any unsightly hoses, wires, or cables is commendable, giving the Roctane an elegant and mature look that its name betrays.
It’s hard to fault 100 years of tradition, but the big Boxer has some inherent “difficulties”, as one BMW rep put it, in a cruiser configuration. Simply put, it’s hard to work around those massive jugs. The decision to use small floorboards versus standard footpegs makes angling your foot under the shifter nearly impossible, therefore you’re stuck using the heel/toe shifter whether you like it or not. On the right side, I couldn’t get my foot on the rear brake pedal without the top of my boot grazing the cylinder. That said, having those big ol cylinders out in the wind seems to be a pretty efficient way of keeping them cool, too. I didn’t notice any heat issues, but there was only half of a day when I might have, the rest of the time it was cool and/or raining.
Truthfully, aside from the foot room, the Roctane is pretty comfortable for a guy who’s 5’8” with a 30-inch inseam. I ended up rotating the mid-rise handlebar back a bit over an inch, but after that, the rider triangle was pretty neutral for me. Over two days and a variation of riding, including speed limitless motorway runs, I never felt the lack of wind protection to be a problem either, likely due to the handlebar putting your mitts just far enough apart to feel natural without turning you into a sail. While the suspension won’t let you forget that you’re on a cruiser, its 4.7 inches of front wheel travel, and 3.5 inches out back are well damped and don’t send shocks up your spine too jarringly.
It may not have changed from the other R18s, but the motor offers pretty substantial getup that’s worth noting – and expected with all that torque. Throttle response is crisp and fuel metering is precise as the big Boxer spools up from the depths of its rev range near 1000 rpm shuddering its way to smoothness at 2,000. Once you near an indicated 3k on the small digital display at the bottom of the analog speedo, vibes start at the floorboards and make their way to the grips. Although redline is 5,750 I can’t imagine needing or wanting to rev the motor out that far. I’m not sure I ever saw 4,000 rpm during normal riding. The engine is spinning at 2,700 rpm when rolling down the road at 75 mph. When you decide to wick up the pace, you’ll need confidence in know that you shed that speed too. The Roctane’s linked brakes get the big girl slowed down confidently, which is a monumental task once you get all 825 pounds of this Bavarian locomotive chuggin’ along. I actually preferred the linked brake setup here since accessing the rear brake pedal was more hassle than it was worth and the system did a great job of keeping things even keel.
Stability is key, and again, expected, with the Roctane’s 67.7-inch wheelbase, 34.7-degree rake, and 7.3-inches of trail. The 3.5 x 21” front wheel is equipped with a 120/70 B21 tire, while a 180/55 B18 tire is used on the 5.5 x 18" rear wheel. The Metzeler Marathon Ultra tires did a pretty stellar job of keeping traction through all of the different conditions we had and were impressively grippy under hard braking in wet conditions.
Rock and Roll are really the only two ride modes that you need, but Rain is included for the trickiest of conditions. I found Roll subdued enough and very close to Rain in its throttle response, but BMW engineers assured me the traction control and ABS settings were more sensitive in Rain. Rock provides much sharper throttle response and dialing back of TC and ABS (neither of which or IMU-based), but as I said before, the response at your right wrist is so smooth and precise, even in the rain through sweeping corners or heading up a mountain on tight switchbacks, I left the Roctane in Rock for 95% of our ride, only leaving it to test the others. Clutch pull is not surprisingly fairly heavy, but with all that torque, it was never an annoyance. Our bikes were also fitted with the optional Hill Start Control and Reverse Assist which, for a bike of this size, are nice options if you have ‘em. Nice to haves were tire pressure monitors and heated grips.
It didn’t take long for BMW reps to answer the question as to who the Roctane’s most direct competitor was. Everybody wants a piece of that big ol’ slice of market share that the Motor Co. has been cultivating for 120 years. Classic cruiser aesthetic with hard cases and no windscreen? Roctane, meet Road King Special. Since BMW was so forthcoming with its target, I decided to hop on a Road King Special as soon as I was back Stateside to see what stood out as the main differences.
Obviously the motor configuration frees up some leg room on the Harley-Davidson whose floorboards are placed comfortably forward in the breeze. The downside of this is, of course, that the H-D’s shock has harsher damping character and all of that force is sent up to your coccyx before you have a chance to get out of the seat. The BMW’s mandatory mid-control setup makes lifting your backside in preparation much easier.
Back to the motor though, when the BMW’s starting to deliver vibration at both the floorboards and grips at 3,000 rpm, the Road King Special’s 114 cu. in. (1868 cc, a 66 cc increase from the BMW) is smooth sailing with nary a vibe sneaking its way to your extremities. Engine performance seems to be fairly close, but without riding them truly back-to-back, it’s hard to tell. My thought after being off of the BMW for about a week and a half is that the Harley delivers more immediate power from low in the rpm-range, whereas the BMW needs to be spooled up to around 2,500 before it starts pulling hard.
In terms of handling, the Road King feels nimble by comparison. This can of course be chocked up to a number of things like its smaller front wheel, 3.7 inch shorter wheelbase, 26-degree wheelbase, and 6.9 inches of trail. Harley claims the Road King Special is also 18 pounds lighter. Initial bite and strength of the Road King’s brakes are also probably a bit superior.
Aside from ride modes (and the rider safety tech that they modulate), there is similar tech found on both. The Road King’s luggage offers 8.4 liters more storage than the BMW’s 27 liter cases and you get 1.8-gallons more fuel with the H-D. The Harley-Davidson’s hydraulic valve lifters are certainly a pro for the Motor Co as the BMW will need a valve check every 6,000 miles. At least they’re easy to get to? And then there is the BMW’s Shaft drive versus Harley-Davidson’s belt final drive system. All things considered, the Roctane starts at $18,695 which is $5,300 less than the Road King Special’s base price.
Maybe we’ll get to do a proper comparison at some point, but I think that’s enough for this article.
In the end
Rock’n and Roll’n on the R18 Roctane through the Bavarian countryside was a spectacular way to take in the small villages and scenery. This was one of the few press introductions that I’ve been on that I was able to take in the scenery as thoroughly as I did. This brings me back to the idea that each bike will deliver to you a different experience – that of the Roctane is decidedly Bagger, Cruiser, or whatever you want to call it. I’ll call it thoroughly enjoyable. It made my trip in southern Germany that much more immersive as the bike at times took a backseat to the experience as a whole.
There’s no denying that the R18 isn’t selling as much as BMW might like (company reps citing COVID as a main damper of initial sales), particularly in the US where it sits behind in sales to Germany, France, and China and although sales have doubled Stateside, the folks wearing the Roundel admitted that it’s still a small number – but heading in the right direction, I was reminded. I do think the Roctane will help R18 sales. I mean, the big cruiser isn’t nearly as polarizing as the 1200C I’ve tried to block from my memory and it might just be the right amount of class and bad ass that will appeal to interested parties throughout the world. Only time will tell.
2024 BMW R 18 Roctane Specifications
Base model: $18,695
Air/oil-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke Boxer, OHV / 4-valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke
107.1 mm x 100 mm
Compression / fuel
9.6:1 / premium unleaded
91 at 4,750 rpm (claimed)
116 at 3,000 rpm (claimed)
Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, EU5
Hydraulically activated single-plate dry clutch
Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox
1st - 2.438 2nd - 1.696 3rd - 1.296 4th - 1.065 5th - 0.903 6th - 0.784
Cardan shaft drive
12V/26 Ah maintenance-free
LED low and high beam
Double loop steel frame with bolted beams
Telescopic fork, diameter 49 mm; 4.7 inches fo travel
Steel twin-sided swing arm, central spring strut; 3.5 inches of travel
Twin disc brake Ø 300 mm
Single-disc brake Ø 300 mm
BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (fully integral)
Rake / Trail
34.7° / 7.3 inches
3.50 x 21" cast aluminum
5.50 x 18" cast aluminum
825 pounds (claimed)
2024 BMW R18 Roctane Review Gallery
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