BMW unveils its new cruiser, the R18 motorcycle

Bike adds BMW design cues to a genre popular with American riders

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BMW R18
The new R18 is BMW's latest take on the popular cruiser class of motorcycles | BMW photos

So, let’s say you love the idea of a vintage cruiser bike but like your motorcycle to start and stop no matter what the conditions. If this is the case you might want to consider the new R18 cruiser just launched by BMW.

BMW has been building motorcycles longer than it has been building cars, since 1923. Ever since, it has been producing among the most-reliable, well-crafted and engineered motorcycles in the world. 

However, one segment in which BMW has not succeeded is with Cruisers, the largest category of motorcycles sold in the US and a segment dominated by Harley-Davidson. 

In 1998, BMW introduced a cruiser that debuted in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. The bike was the R1200C and while an interesting design and a decidedly different take on the idea of a cruiser-style motorcycle, it did not excel in the market and production was halted in 2004.

The R1200C

Now, BMW launches its second cruiser-class motorcycle. The R18 is a more American-take styling wise but also has design cues from BMW’s motorcycle history, especially the classic R5 and R32. 

I have to say that the R18 definitely has the cruiser concept nailed, yet in a BMW design language.

The R18 seat height is low and the bike is long and has a tremendous profile. The engine is very much the centerpiece and at 1800ccs is the largest BMW boxer-twin. 

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R18 meets vintage R5

One of the goals for the design team was that anyone who knows anything about BMW motorcycles would immediately see the R18 as a BMW. This was accomplished with the huge boxer engine and the shape of the fuel tank with paint in black with traditional BMW white pinstripes. The R18 looks to be a perfect blend of retro and modern in a cruiser package. It is simply stunning.

Also, and unlike the R1200C, the R18 follows the custom cruiser trend and has its control cables and wiring hidden. This makes for a clean looking design. 

R18 has 1800cc boxer-twin engine
Speedometer includes digital display

BMW also has contracted with Roland Sands Design for huge number of factory-approved accessories. BMW understands that the cruiser owner tends customize their bikes as a unique personal expression and BMW is providing the means to do exactly this.

The R18 should arrive at dealerships soon with a base price of $19,870. The bike likely will be a hit with those who wants a cruiser but don’t want to climb on the Harley-Davidson bandwagon. 

P.S. — I’m hoping to do an extended test drive very soon and will report back on that experience.

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

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