BMW R 18 B Has Harley In Its Sights

The Germans are coming into the Bagger market with two forceful competitors to Harley's best.

[Photos: Kevin Wing]

The BMW R 18 B Basics

BMW released two new versions of their mighty highway bike, meet the R 18 B (Bagger) and R 18 Transcontinental. You may have already seen a news video on the new bikes, but we’ve since had a chance to throw a leg over. Before we dive into how they ride, let’s cover the basics.

The new R 18’s have the same 1,802cc air and oil-cooled horizontally opposed twin as the standard R 18. 91 horsepower and 116 lb-ft of torque flow through a six-speed transmission and a stunningly cool nickel-plated driveshaft. BMW’s “Big Boxer” engine is exactly what you expect from a comfortable bagger. It doesn’t care to rev high, but rather shove you along with a reassuring wave of torque.

Though BMW’s boxer doesn’t have the lumpy character of a v-twin, it is lively in its own special way. Because the crankshaft spins towards the side of the bike, it leans when the engine changes RPM. This is especially noticeable when you start up, or shut down the engine. Another odd quirk is the slight side to side movement of the handlebars at idle. Thankfully these effects are all slight enough to keep them from being an annoyance. The R 18’s boxer feels like an old-school airplane engine crossed with a fine Swiss timepiece.

All Of The Technology, All Of It

Part of what makes a bagger fun is the gratuitous suite of gadgets, and the R 18 came to play. Behind the windshield sits 4 analog gauges that look as clean and premium as the BMW badge between them. The real party, however, is below the gauges. Both The R 18 B and Transcontinental have a 10.25″ TFT display unlike any other screen I have seen on a motorcycle.

Though navigating the screen takes some time to get used to, its appearance is as good as it gets. The TFT also offers a ridiculous amount of information as well as phone pairing. The new R 18’s also have heated grips and seats, a Marshall Audio system, active cruise control and a proximity key.

The active cruise control is the newest, and most controversial part of the R 18. Though it is exciting new tech for motorcycles, some riders don’t trust the system. To engage cruise control, you slide the ON switch right, and set your speed. Following distance is adjustable, and simply put the tech works like you would expect.

Comfort, Handling, and More Comfort

The R 18 B has enough storage and wind protection to make a long ride comfortable. If your average ride is longer than long, the larger windshield and additional top side storage of the Transcontinental might be necessary. That being said, the Transcontinental weighs in at 941lbs, 64 more than the Bagger.

Neither of the new R 18’s are light, but the Bagger at 877lbs feels noticeably sportier than the Transcontinental. The biggest drawback of the R 18 is the limited lean angle. I scraped both foot pegs on the Bagger while carving towards Estes Park in Colorado without learning that hard.

Luckily most people don’t buy Baggers for their cornering capabilities.

All things considered the R 18 B and Transcontinental are smooth, well-built bikes. Easy to ride, good technology, and great to look at. The Bagger starts at $21,945 and the Transcontinental at $24,995. If you want a “First Edition” R 18 B with white pinstripes, extra chrome, and special badging it’ll cost an extra $2,150.

A $2,300 Premium package adds reverse assist, hill-start control, adaptive headlights and upgraded audio. The Select package ($1,275) gets you central locking with an alarm, TPMS, a locking filler cap and a heated seat. The Transcontinental Premium package costs $2,725 and the Select package $950.

By far, the coolest option is the $2,400 Galaxy Dust Metallic paint color. Seeing the color up close it is surprisingly tasteful, but exotic nonetheless. If you’re feeling funky, I recommend it highly. Stay tuned for more videos on the R 18 coming soon to TFL Bike.

R18 Galaxy Dust Metallic