The BMW R18 motorbike is quickly turning into the two-wheeled equivalent of Mr Benn. No sooner has it received a new variant or custom makeover, and it’s back into the changing room to be whisked into another world entirely.
Today we join it on the Californian coast, its new suffix lending it a west coast cruiser vibe. This is the R18 Transcontinental and R18 B, BMW’s big boxer bike reinvented as a ‘Grand American Tourer’ and a ‘Bagger’.
These are not genres the bike world shares with the car world, but think long-distance road trips, the Transcontinental aimed at a pair with luggage, the Bagger at a solo rider who wants to twist the throttle just a little more vigorously to get the first spot at the coastal burger bar. It loses a luggage case and gets a lower windscreen and slimmer seat; it’s essentially the lighter of the pair, or the RS version if you need some car parlance to keep you going.
Both use the same engine, though – the most powerful flat-two in production bikes – with 1.8 litres, 90hp and 158Nm to play with. But with peak torque done by 4,000rpm, this is a cruiser not a sports bike demanding to be wrung out. But then the mid-position of the foot peg should have already given that away: you sit on an R18, not sprawl yourself over it.
The kit list is long, too. A 10.25in touchscreen comes with embedded sat nav while new-fangled stuff like active cruise control, hill start assist and a reversing helper are all options. As is a big ol’ 290-watt Marshall sound system with four speakers and two subwoofers.
Yep, this really is a different kind of bike. Not your cup of tea? We suspect the R18 will pop up as something else entirely in the not too distant future…
STORY Stephen Dobie