As you approach the BMW R18 it’s virtually unlike any other bike. For a start, its monumental size means that there are few other man made pieces of machinery that rival its sheer presence. Photos do not do it justice. This is truly a heritage inspired piece of sculpture that ‘out chromes the chromes’ and ‘out potatoes the potato bikes’ (if you know you know). This is a bike with soul and beauty and brutality all integrated into art.
It’s relatively new yet its timeless : it’s long and low with a beautiful double steel cradle frame.
Most everything is stripped away so you can see the functional beauty of this Berlin crafted monster. The engine cover is machined with a beautiful logo on it telling you just who made it. The cylinder head covers are so large you simply won’t have seen anything like this. A unique open drive shaft gives you a sense of the heavy duty that the bike is all about. And the 1800cc engine? These days that is plenty for a car — simply extraordinary for a motorbike.
There’s no mistaking the boxer engine… is it two miles wide? Causing exclamation from everyone who sees it? Unique indeed. It is a bike that can sit in any crowd with the Harley crew blown away, as much as getting attention from the sports bike fans. The sound is the lumpy Potato Potato soundtrack that benefits from being thrown copious gasoline at low revs (if only for that soundtrack); use almost any gear and then open up the throttle for the Mahler to begin.
But if you just want to cruise then you can do that too. While it’s bulk means that you do have to wrestle it at low speeds… come on… this is a bike that doesn’t want to stop in traffic, it wants to ride, maybe promenade along the waterfront and down long coastal highways. Once you are up past 10 kph then the bike settles into a lovely handling routine of confidence inspiring predictability that pillions also will enjoy. Ample footboards give you total comfort whatever you’re doing.
BMW has been making boxer engines since the 1920s and this is the highest capacity one ever made. It throws out 158 newton metres of torque from low in its range. When you ride it you know it’s the most looked at piece of machinery on the road. Its simplicity of presentation is outstanding, with a single dial for speed with a subtle LCD menu for other functions you might want to look at. Let’s admit it, really on a bike like this you don’t need to know what revs you are doing, you just judge it by feel. Yet despite its heritage, it has a few hidden away features to make it even better. Drive modes include Rock, Roll and Rain. Yep, the designers get it. Also with a hidden reverse gear for a mearest hint of practicality. At over 340 KGs that means you can sneak out of a tight space if need be. I didn’t need it, everything else got out of my way.
All BMWs are highly customisable, and this R18 probably the most of any. The ‘First Edition’ I rode had custom pipes, a comfy rear seat and gorgeous leather panniers. It all adds up to making it a thing of sculptural beauty.
Like most behemoth bikes, this will be too much for many people and you want to make sure you don’t skip leg day. But if you want a road titan then this is it. You’re not going to forget the R18. Neither will anyone else