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Tuesday 7 April 2020


Is This the Shape of Cruisers to Come?

BMW is saying that its new BMW R 18 marks its entry into the cruiser segment of the motorcycle market. In fact, BMW is theoretically already there with the hugely versatile R nineT, from which a myriad of factory versions has emerged and dozens, if not hundreds, of spectacular custom specials - not least by Winston Yeh (Rough Crafts, Taiwan).
Indeed, many BMW 'standard' street bikes and tourers have been cruiser kissing cousins, not least the current 'standard' R 1250 R - as much cruiser as it is street bike.

The R 18 has been much trailed during the past 18 months, with two initial design concept iterations and specials by Revival Cycles in the USA and Custom Works Zon in Japan. However, the BMW story that brought the German manufacturer to this place goes back several more years than that.

David Robb

Back in 2008, legendary head of the BMW Design Studio David Robb (from Boston) unveiled what was then described as the BMW 'LoRider' - a design concept for a Boxer 1200 engined modular custom cruiser program. Robb's team had taken hints of muscle bikes and streetfighters and combined them with lashings of Italian-esque roadster to come up with a naked cruiser that was clearly intended to add yet another new direction for the manufacturer as Robb determinedly continued to drive BMW motorcycles away from the 'pipe & slippers' image of its past.
That Robb succeeded in his mission is the stuff of record, but sadly the 'LoRider' was not one of his success stories. I saw him unveil it at EICMA in 2008, and he concluded his remarks at the press unveiling with the now legendary statement of intent - "Harley - we are coming after you!".
Unfortunately, the timing (just four weeks after the 'Lehman Apocalypse') wasn't helpful, and the project appears to have languished for a few years as BMW, indeed all manufacturers, held on to the tiger by the tail waiting for the financial crisis recession to find the bottom of its ocean.

More Torque Than the Wife

It is rumored that one of a series of fierce arguments between Robb and his employers that prompted him to quit in 2012 was over the direction that BMW wanted to head in with the 'LoRider' as they eyed blowing the dust off the project.
Whatever the plans, without Robb's energy, and with the market still only two thirds of the way to its 2014 seabed, the 'LoRider' never did see the light of day. What the story does tell us though is just how seriously BMW has been coveting a share of Harley's action and for how long.
The mission behind the R 18 is avowedly to rain on Harley's parade, and with initial press reactions and test reports having nothing but good to say, then maybe, as Harley (theoretically) gets ready to play in BMW's Adventure Tourer/Dual Sport backyard, just maybe the R 18 could finally be the model to gain BMW some traction in Harley's backyard.

Described as borrowing from famous BMWs of old, such as the legendary R 5 (1937 - 1939) with an essentials only "purist, no-frills technology," don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the R 18 - this a very advanced, rider-centric mile eater, "offering a riding experience that is as cultivated as it is emotional."
The centerpiece of the new BMW R 18 is a newly developed air cooled two-cylinder boxer engine - the "Big Boxer" - the most powerful two-cylinder boxer engine ever used in motorcycle series production with a displacement of 1,802 cc and peak output of 91 hp (67 kW) at 4,750 rpm, with over 150 Nm of torque available at all times between 2,000 to 4,000 rpm for "elemental pulling power combined with a full, resonant sound."
The 'Boxer' engine layout is a naturally smooth, low center of gravity configuration, and on the R 18 is housed in a double-loop steel tube frame and rear swingarm with enclosed axle drive and a rigid-frame look with mid-mount pegs.
The suspension elements of the R 18 deliberately dispense with electronic adjustment options. Instead, a 49 mm telescopic fork and a directly mounted central suspension strut with travel-dependent damping and adjustable spring preload "ensure superior wheel control and suspension comfort." Suspension travel is 120 mm at the front and 90 mm at the rear; the braking system consists of a twin disc brake at the front and a single at the rear with four-piston fixed calipers.
There are three riding modes ("Rain", "Roll" and "Rock") along with ASC and MSR - disengageable Automatic Stability Control and Engine Drag Torque Control as standard and Reverse Assist and Hill Start Control as ex-factory options.
The new R 18 will be offered worldwide as an exclusive R 18 First Edition right from launch, with a standard model reserved additionally for certain markets.
Customizing parts offered by BMW include RSD 'Machined' and '2 Tone Black' collections, as well as co-branded BMW/Mustang seats and Vance & Hines exhaust systems.