BMW R18B: Denver To Los Angeles Tour - The Long Way (Updated)

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

When the opportunity strikes, grab the handlebar and ride

Despite the best efforts of the Coronavirus Delta Variant, things are slowly starting to return to normal. Naturally, for those of us in the moto-biz, that means the manufacturers are starting to invite us to ride their newest machinery, rather than settling for a videoconference unveiling. Receiving the invitation from BMW to the R18B and R18 Transcontinental launch was enough to get my juices flowing because it’s been more than a decade since the last time I enjoyed Colorado on two wheels. When BMW sent a second email asking if I’d like to ride a bike home, I was stoked to have the opportunity to more fully test the BMW’s long-haul capability. No more work got done that day as I began to construct my route. If everything goes as planned, I’ve got 1,300 miles to build a close relationship with my borrowed steed.

My choice for the ride is the BMW R18B, because I prefer baggers to dressers, and since I’d be flying solo, I don’t need the additional storage capacity. For my color, I requested Galaxy Dust, because, well, who can resist that name? My route would be three days from Denver to Los Angeles. The first two days would be play days, consisting of roughly 500 miles in both Colorado and Utah. Day three will likely be an interstate slog from St. George, UT to LA, CA to get me back for work on Monday. Still, I’m feeling the familiar gravitational pull to extend my ride via a more scenic route on the final day, so who knows what will happen.

The proposed route for day one looks like lots of fun in the Rockies. Will I be able to maintain my schedule? Or will my trip suffer the same fate as my unfortunate Honda Gold Wing Ride? Only time will tell.

Since I’m bound by an embargo agreement that prevents me from commenting on the R18B’s performance until next week, you’ll have to sate your desire for information with daily reports from the road about…scenery, I guess. If you want to follow along with my ride, click the link below, and you should get a map showing my location, thanks to my Spot Tracker.

Track Evans’ BMW R18B tour from Denver to Los Angeles

{"attachment_id":"157631"}Day 1: Denver to Cortez, CO – 482 mi.

At the last minute, I changed my route from the one posted above to incorporate a trip to the 14,130 foot summit of Mt. Evans. It only is it the highest paved road in the United States, but it also happens to have a great name. That alone was enough to prompt me to lengthen my time on the road considerably (if not the actual mileage). I’m glad I did it to say I’ve been there, but would I recommend it to others who don’t share a name with the mountain? Maybe. The views were spectacular, but it was bitterly cold and quite windy. While the 42-degree Fahrenheit ambient temperature may not sound bad, adding in the 30 mph winds dropped the apparent temperature to to the low 20s. Brr. Fortunately, the BMW R18B was equipped with heated grips.

On the way back down the mountain, I pulled into a narrow section of dirt to take a picture of the R18B in front of a vista. Naturally, as I’m coming to a stop, a gust of wind blows me off balance. I put my foot down to steady myself, but it slid out from under me in the sand with predictable results. As I was struggling to lift the 877 lb. beast, three female hikers jumped out of their car to help. Very nice of them. Once the bike was safely on its side stand, they said goodbye and got back in their car. I decided not to take a picture and continued down the mountain, suitability chastened. On my way to Leadville for a late lunch, I popped over Loveland Pass, because it was there.

Along Highway 50 on the way to Montrose, CO

From Leadville, I went south to US 50 and then cut west across the state to Montrose before heading south on US 550 and eventually ending up on CO 145 for the remainder of the ride. I can’t think of a more epic road to wrap up my day. The scenery and the road itself combined to make for motorcycling nirvana. By this point in the ride, I’d become well acquainted with the pace and cornering techniques that work best with the lean angle parameters of making time on a touring cruiser. My pace was quicker than most of the other vehicles on the road, save the few street rubber shod adventure tourers I encountered.

Colorado motorcyclists know how great the state’s roads are for riding. You owe it to yourself to experience them at least once in your life

A preview of tomorrow’s ride through Utah.

Day 2: Cortez, CO to St. George, UT – 567 miles

Today’s travel lesson was one in humility – or at least pausing to think things through when dealing with GPS issues and the scale of the Southwest. The tale goes something like this:

I’ve planned my day’s rides with a combination of map research, recollection from previous trips, and suggestions from With a list of goals in mind, I’ve then massaged a route on Google Maps until it fit my goals. Then I convert the map link to a .gpx file suitable for importing into the BMW Motorrad Connected app for use on the R18B’s navigation screen. This routine has worked every time I tried it – until this morning. (I am working very hard not to violate my embargo on talking about performance of the bike here.) After much huffing and puffing and attempting to recreate the route in the app on my phone, I head out of town following my new route.

Because I was so frustrated with the process, I wasn’t paying attention when the new route sent me south out of Cortez instead of north. (First mileage addition.) Still, it was taking me to the town of White Mesa, UT where I planned on filling my tank. Although the map refused to send me over US highway 95, from previous experience, I knew it was not to be missed. I was going to go directly to the highway and force the Connected app to reroute me over the correct highway.

Up until this point, I’d been working, rather hurriedly on my phone screen. After filling my tank, I happened to notice that US 95 looked different on the map than the other highways. So, I asked the station attendant. Yep, a huge swath of 95 was closed because of a bridge repair. So, Google Maps was trying to send me down a closed road, and the Connected app refused to accept it. (And to think I’d said all kinds of terrible things about the app while it was protecting me.)

And now we get to the humility part. Being (self-) righteously angry at my situation, I decided that there was no way I was retracing my path for 20+ miles. Screw it, I’ll just go north up through Moab, loop over the 527 square miles of Canyonlands National Park, then link back down to my planned route. This little tantrum cost me a ride through the scenic Glen Canyon area. Oh, and it added roughly 100 miles to my day when combined with my previous mistake. Before you tease me in the comments, remember that I had many, many hours in the saddle to consider my folly.

So, why was I so determined to stick to my route? Utah State Highway 12 heading south out of Torrey is one of those must ride scenic highways. It combines breathtaking views that will make you feel tiny by comparison to the scale of the beauty. Then there is the road, a winding rollercoaster of an engineering marvel that at one point runs along a ridgeline that is so narrow that it has a sheer drop off on both sides of the pavement.

This photo doesn’t do Highway 12’s views justice, but the pullouts were few along this ridgeline.

So, after a quick lunch in Torrey, where I met fellow rider Jim and his wife out for a Saturday ride on their GS, I completed my route. If this weren’t a work trip, I’d love to spend several more days poking around on the winding scenic roads of Utah.

My final day will be a 390 mile slog along I-15 back to Los Angeles through the oven that is the Mojave desert. Thankfully, I brought a cooling vest.

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Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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2 of 67 comments
  • FourteenFour FourteenFour on Aug 31, 2021

    877 pounds and that without a trunk... so within twenty pounds of a full equipped Indian Roadmaster. The Chieftain, which the B competes with, is a full fifty pounds lighter.

  • Meaty Midrange Meaty Midrange on Sep 01, 2021

    ...runs along a ridgeline that is so narrow that it has a sheer drop off on both sides of the pavement

    That sounds amazing, I'd like to see it. Got any photos?