BMW sets the stage for a Harley showdown
Contrary to many reports, the much hyped BMW R18 cruiser, the biggest story to come out of the (BMW sponsored) Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, on the shore of Lake Como in Italy in May, is more than simply a wish list concept, with the production version likely to be unveiled at EICMA later this year, and on sale in 2020 as part of a range of cruisers that look set to build on the custom sector confidence BMW has gained from the success of its R nineT line-up.
Described as a tribute to the original 1936 R5 and more recent R5 Concepts, BMW describes the R18 as an "engaging alternative for a time that is being increasingly characterized by rapid technological change" and as transporting "the essence of the big BMW Motorrad classics into the modern age, or in other words, it is taking a historical motorcycle design and giving it a modern, custom attitude."
Roughly translated from corporate media speak, that likely means "Harley-Davidson, we are coming after ya!"
Dr. Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad, said of the design: "With this dream bike, BMW Motorrad presents its own version of an emotional and authentic offer for the large cruiser segment."
Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design, is quoted as saying: "With its clear aesthetics openly on display, the Concept R18 embodies for me what motorcycling, at its core, is really about. It is all about feeling instead of thinking, and not using technology for self-staging, instead giving space for imagination. This concept bike appeals to something deep down – you just want to get on it and ride off. But when you get off it again, you don't just put it in the garage and walk away – you turn around again and give it a final parting glance."
Yep, BMW is going after Harley-Davidson alright!
Bart Janssen Groesbeek, designer of the concept bike, says: "The biggest challenge in the design is to render everything visible. Every part has a functional purpose. There are not many who would dare to take such an absolutely honest approach."
The BMW Motorrad Concept R18 is immediately recognizable as a genuine BMW: Boxer engine, cradle frame, exposed universal shaft and drop-shaped fuel tank, with its black paintwork and hand-applied contrast lines interpreting typical design icons of BMW Motorrad classics, "while displaying confidence along with modern-style linearity. The balanced proportions are reminiscent of classics like the BMW R5, and convey – even from a distance – the timeless beauty that comes about whenever things are consistently reduced to their bare essentials."
BMW discovers 'Naked Bikes'…shock, regardless, as a Teutonic 'Monster' it will be another welcome addition to the party. "The frame and tank create a common line all the way from the steering head to the rear wheel hub and lend a flowing elegance to the side view. The large spoke wheels (front 21 inch, rear 18 inch) provide a secure stance and perfectly balance the dominant power unit."
The newly designed, two-cylinder 1800 cc Boxer engine is consciously reminiscent of the flat twin engines that BMW Motorrad used to build up until the end of the 1960s – but with a considerably bigger displacement and modern air/oil cooling. The engine block and transmission are made of glass bead-blasted aluminum, with hand-polished aluminum components such as the belt guard and valve covers, while the Solex dual carburetors are said to "hark back to the brand's construction history and add a final touch to the bike's visual authenticity."
An exposed, chrome-plated universal shaft connects the back wheel to the drive, and there are no further covers anywhere on the motorcycle - "which serves to keep its engineering clearly visible. Similarly, the electronics of the concept bike are reduced to no more than starter and lights, underlining its purist design."
This is the third in-house interpretation of the large-capacity Boxer engine to come from BMW - last December the 'Departed', created by the Japanese customizer CUSTOM WORKS ZON, was presented at the Yokohama Hot Rod Show, taking the 'Best of Show Motorcycle' award, and that was followed up by the interpretation of Austin, Texas based Revival Cycles' 'Revival Birdcage' with a specially developed titanium frame giving an unobstructed view of the engine and drive from all angles - a star turn at the Handbuilt Show this year.
In 2018 BMW sold more than 165,000 motorcycles worldwide.