2021 BMW R18 First Look

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The low-down on BMW's modern retro cruiser

Since May of last year, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the official reveal of the BMW R18. We’ve had hints from BMW. We’ve had spy photos. But we haven’t had anything for sure. Well, that time is at hand. Today, BMW officially unveiled the 2021BMW R18. What does it have other than the “Big Boxer” engine? Read on and find out.

Big Boxer BMW Concept R18 Pays Tribute To Company’s Heritage

2020 BMW R1800C Production Models Spied

BMW Releases Details On “Big Boxer” R18 Engine

2021 BMW R18 Touring Version Spied

1. Largest, Most Powerful Boxer Ever Built

The R18’s engine looks big because it is big! How does 1802cc sound? According to BMW, the power output befits the engine’s size. The largest displacement BMW has made in its 97 years of creating boxers pumps out a claimed 91 hp at 4,750 rpm and 116 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. While the torque peak is impressive, the torque wave that the engine produces, with over 110 lb-ft available from 2,000-4,000 rpm, should make any cruiser fan happy.

2. Uniquely Named Ride Modes

German engineers aren’t typically known for their sense of humor, but it is on full display in the choice of ride modes available. While we all know what the Rain mode would be from previous ride-by-wire motorcycles, Roll and Rock are new but still somewhat self-explanatory.

3. The “Big Boxer” Has 4-Valve Heads And Pushrods

The modern 4-valve heads are still operated by pushrods activated by dual camshafts, which are chain-driven off the crankshaft. With the cams positioned above the crankshaft on either side of the engine, the pushrods are shorter, which reduces moving mass, decreases deflection, and minimizes linear expansion of the pushrods when they are hot. The end result is improved control of the valve timing.

4. A Slip-Assist Clutch

Although BMW refers to it as a “self-reinforcing anti-hopping clutch,” the job description is pretty clear. Big Twins – Boxers included – generate tremendous compression-braking forces, and a slipper clutch will eliminate rear wheel skip during bungled downshifts.

5. Elemental Suspension

BMW has eschewed fancy electronically-controlled suspension components for more traditional analog pieces. The 49mm standard fork hides its delicate sliders under covers that are painted black just like the fork lowers. The rear hardtail-look suspension has a linkage-controlled single shock hidden inside the frame. Travel front and rear is 4.7 in. and 3.5 in., respectively.

6. Wire-Spoked Wheels

The R18’s wheels come with centrally-mounted spokes, meaning (we guess) that the tires will have tubes. The 19-in. front wheel will sport either a 120/70 R 19 or 120/70 B 19, thanks to multiple tire suppliers. The rear 180/65 B 16 will mount to a 5.0 x 16-in. rim.

7. The Drive Shaft is Exposed!

BMW knows its way around shaft drive motorcycles. So, we weren’t surprised about the final drive choice. However, there is something really appealing about seeing the spinning chromed drive shaft below the seat of a cruiser. It’s been done before, but that doesn’t make it any less cool.

8. Disc Brakes All Around

Being a performance-focused manufacturer, BMW naturally put dual 300mm discs, squeezed by four-piston fixed calipers on the front. A single-disc/caliper combination of the same 300mm disc and four-piston variety live out back. The ABS adapts the braking forces, front and rear, to balance the load distribution when triggered.

9. Round Headlight

In a nod to tradition, the headlight is a classic round housing. However, the application is thoroughly modern. The headlight itself is an LED unit, which features “optimized low and high beam light.” A factory turning light is available as an option and is powered by separate LEDs with their own reflector that are triggered by the motorcycle’s lean angle.

10. Combination Gauge

Don’t be fooled by the round speedometer housing. It’s all for styling. Inside, it features an analog speedometer and a digital information display. The indicator lamps are “invisible” until activated.

11. Classic Riding Position

While not necessarily the typical feet-forward cruiser riding position, the R18 has mid-mounted pegs to offer the ideal compromise between a relaxed riding position and one for a more enthusiastic pace. The seat is a comfortable 27.2 in. from the pavement.

12. That Exhaust

We will leave it to you to decide if the exhaust system is a beauty or an abomination.

13. Accessories Galore

Customization is a key component of cruiser ownership, and BMW made sure that there were plenty of options available. The R18 will launch with a raft of offers from Original BMW Motorrad Accessories. Two collections of accessories will be available from Roland Sands. BMW has also partnered with Mustang Seats and Vance & Hines exhausts for further customizing possibilities.

14. Available In Two Versions

An exclusive R18 First Edition will be available worldwide at the model launch, featuring classic black paint detailed with white pinstripes, chrome upgrades, a seat badge, and a First Edition chrome clasp on the side covers. The U.S. price for the First Edition will be $19,870. A Base model will also be available in select markets. In the U.S., the MSRP will be $17,495.

15. BMW’s First Cruiser?

The press documents proclaim “With the new R 18, BMW Motorrad now enters the cruiser segment.” Maybe BMW is right. Perhaps the BMW R1200C is best left down the memory hole.

2021 BMW R 18 Specifications

MSRPBase: $17,495
First Edition: $19,870
Engine TypeAir/water-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke boxer, OHV, four valves per cylinder
Displacement1802cc (110 ci)
Bore x Stroke107.1 mm x 100 mm
Horsepower91 hp at 4750 rpm (claimed)
Torque116 lb-ft. at 3000 rpm (claimed)
Engine ControlBMS-O
Emission ControlClosed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, EU5 exhaust standard
Battery12/26 V/Ah maintenance-free
HeadlightLED low beam with projection module
LED high beam with projection module
StarterkW 1.5
ClutchHydraulically activated single-disc dry clutch
GearboxConstant-mesh 6-speed gearbox
Final DriveUniversal shaft
FrameDouble-loop steel tube frame
Front SuspensionTelescopic fork, fork tube Ø 49 mm, 4.7 inches of travel
Rear SuspensionCantilever, 3.5 inches of travel
Front BrakeTwin disc brake Ø 300 mm
Rear BrakeSingle disc brake Ø 300 mm
ABSBMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral)
Rake/Trail32.7°/5.9 inches
Wheelbase68.1 inches
Fuel Capacity4.2 gallons
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.

More by Evans Brasfield

Join the conversation
5 of 64 comments
  • Jaime Berrones Jaime Berrones on Apr 08, 2020

    i have 3 complaints: the pipes are extra ugly but you can go aftermarket the footpegs are immovable and what happens to the engine in the case of side crash, how do you protect that engine without something horrible?

  • TheMarvelous1310 TheMarvelous1310 on Apr 18, 2020

    What are you guys smoking?

    This is literally a Softail Standard you all hate with a boxer engine and upmarket electronics, for 3 grand more. https://www.motorcycle.com/...

    How exactly is this OMG SO COOL but the Softail can't come out of the garage without you same exact people slinging mud at it? Maybe H-D should pay to license that little propeller logo, since that's all it takes to impress you.