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BMW R 18 - The First Look



The earliest motorcycles in a maker’s lifetime are of great importance. They always tell you how far you’ve come. At times, they also become the source of inspiration for a future motorcycle. But it isn’t easy to recreate the old charm, to reimagine that simplicity, purely because modern engineering makes it difficult. It is a curse and the boon at the same time. Using the latest manufacturing techniques for reinventing a past gem is a different sort of challenge altogether. Production motorcycles must adhere to the latest emission norms as well as all road-safety requirements. There’s the risk of diluting what made the original motorcycle special - its trueness. And so, in recreating a modern version of a motorcycle made originally in 1936, BMW took on a challenge that isn’t a cakewalk for even one of the most capable motorcycle manufacturers in the world. The Cruiser Challenge


For the first time ever, BMW has entered the big cruiser segment dominated unashamedly by the Americans, especially Harley Davidson. It isn’t easy to challenge that company in its game. Victory failed and even the Japanese failed miserably against them. It is the only motorcycle segment where none of the Japanese Big Four could make their mark. So far, the challenge has only come from another American company, Indian Motorcycle. It showed that Harley can not only be challenged but they can also be made to realize to not take their position in the market for granted. Since the revival of Indian, Harley has upgraded its Softail and the bagger lineup dramatically - Milwaukee Eight engine, better Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, and the chassis design that actually handles. Point is, Indian showed that Harley Davidson can be made to run on its heels in the classic cruiser market. The likes of the BMW K1600 and Honda Gold Wing remain something else entirely. In Comes the R 18 by BMW Motorrad

The R 18 is BMW’s first-ever motorcycle in the big cruiser segment. Feel free to call the R 18 the 2020 version of the R 5 that BMW made in 1936. That bike had a 500cc boxer twin while in the R 18, the engine has grown to 1802cc. This is the biggest boxer twin that the German bike maker has ever made. A motorcycle like this one rides entirely on the magnificence of its engine, both functionally and visually, and the 1802cc boxer twin appears to be carved out of love and respect. This unique engine design is one of the most versatile architectures in the industry. It’s been working gloriously in the adventure-tourer GS, sport-tourer RT, the naked street bike R1250 R, then in the classic roadsters such as RnineT, Scrambler, and now, it’s been adopted in a big-bore cruiser. This latest boxer pays homage to the R 5’s 500cc engine by employing the pushrods to operate the four valves in each cylinder. But it is a completely modern engine. There are still two camshafts in each cylinder that are made of aluminium and so are the pushrods. The cylinders are coated in Nikasil for durability. This air/oil-cooled engine produces 91 PS of power at 4,750 RPM and more importantly, 158 NM of torque at 3,000 RPM. BMW says that from 2,000 RPM to 4,000 RPM the engine delivers more than 150 NM of torque guaranteeing effortless pulling power and acceleration. This is what big cruisers are all about.

But the motorcycle has to look and feel right as well. The R 18 gets a wide, sweeping, handlebar and an open shaft drive for a genuine old-school appearance. It is decently loaded with electronics such as the ride by wire throttle, fuel injection, three riding modes as well as an anti-hopping clutch for smooth downshifting. All lighting is LED, there’s ABS, ASC (Automatic Stability Control) and traction control. The R 18 is a fantastic reimagination of the R 5’s design. It is larger in every aspect, thoroughly modern, yet, completely nostalgic. The wires are visible just that much and all the tech is hidden not just from the eyes, but from the mind as well. The attention to detail looks second to none and the engine rightly keeps the most of it. There is no doubt that we will ride this motorcycle in a heartbeat. And we can't wait for that day to come.


All images courtesy: BMW Motorrad

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