Motoring review: Get in quick with the R18. It's hot!
Biking into summer with this vintage looking BMW
From the first whispers of this motorcycle’s potential production we heard down the grapevine around four years ago to taking it out for a sprawling UAE drive last week, it has been a long and very eager wait to finally bring you our thoughts on a bike that, on the face of it, ticks all our boxes. Presented to the world in December last year, to look at the BMW Motorrad R18 for the first time back then was everything we had hoped for. Classic styling to the point of appearing vintage (what do you expect from something based on a previous model from 1936?), low slung and possessing a statement 1800cc engine, the black and chrome machine sang to us. Why? The basic first edition R18 doesn’t need to show off with luxuries such as a windshield, saddlebags, or even more than one dial. Combine this with narrower handlebars and BMW have successfully produced a motorbike with an attribute for which we have been crying out when it comes to the big cruisers: subtlety. Too often this class of vehicle will be put together with “look at me” at the forefront of designers’ minds. We were itching to get our hands on an incarnation that on paper should provide a similar sensation to its contemporaries yet in a more dignified manner. Did the ride live up to the aesthetics? Let’s find out.
Reportedly the R18 is just as happy on the dunes as on the road, but we were not able to put that to the test this time out. We see how it could work: the torque, the reasonably wide tyres, riding modes including “Rock” (alongside “Rain” and “Roll”) and Automatic Stability & Hill Start controls included as standard, though our main voyage consisted of a straight Dubai-Ajman sojourn. Out on the highway we couldn’t have had more fun. The stripped-back experience tinged with the abundance of power was infectious. Being exposed to the elements, able to hold your own against the let’s say more flamboyant car drivers on this particular stretch and sweeping into any corner which came our way before powering out would never, could never fail to impress.
Walking into AGMC on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, we knew exactly where in the showroom to go and with whom to speak to pick up our prize for the weekend. We had gone prepared and not only watched an online presentation of the R18, we’d even spoken to an owner who’d given us a virtual Zoom tour. Still, pleasantries over, when introduced to the bike gleaming in its display spotlights we couldn’t help but fall silent. The power to stun expert craftsmanship retains is remarkable. Classic double striped features of the BMW’s celebrated predecessors are a lovely touch only outdone by the meticulous attention to detail in the welded joints between the steel tubes and the cast or forged parts. The flyline is beautifully elongated and low. The double-cradle steel frame covers the sculpted motor. Just take a look at the pictures and tell us you wouldn’t be close to penning poetry yourself.
It’s 1802cc to be precise. The most powerful BMW two-cylinder air-cooled boxer ever fitted to one of their motorcycles produces 91hp and 157Nm of torque. Despite the engineers’ nifty maneuvers, on close inspection the big block does appear just that: big. ‘Is it going to be too heavy, is it going to take off with one rev?’ However the instant you turn the key and click this bike into first, your mind settles, safe in the knowledge you’re in complete control. The R18 isn’t a stallion you have to tame. In a way it almost welcomes you home, reminding those setting off on a journey why they fell in love with this form of transport in the first place. A pleasant though not obnoxious roar emanates from below, the laid-back positioning of the footrests enables a relaxed riding position enhancing vehicle control, one twist of the accelerator and you’re off stable and shifting at a rate of knots. Magic.
• What: BMW R18
• Engine: 1800cc
• Power: 91hp
• Torque: 157Nm