REVIEW | BMW R18 Classic a delightfully unique addition to the local bike scene

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• BMW's R18 Classic was launched in South Africa in 2021.

• Dries van der Walt rides the bike and lauds its uniqueness.

• The R18 Classic is priced from R359 500.

For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24


When I was recently offered the BMW R18 Classic for a review, I accepted with some trepidation. On the one hand, I am not a huge fan of cruiser motorcycles. But on the other, having been unable to attend the R18 launch a year ago, I was itching for the opportunity to ride the bike that sports the most powerful and biggest capacity boxer engine BMW have ever shoehorned into a motorcycle frame.

As the second model in the R18 series - preceded by the original R18, and followed by the 'batwing'-faired R18 B and Intercontinental - the Classic couldn't be more American if it tried. Unashamedly styled to appeal to the market on the other side of the Pond, the Classic takes the basic R18 concept further with a large windscreen, passenger seat, saddlebags, LED additional headlights, and a 16-inch front wheel.

If you find the R18 vaguely reminiscent of BMW models of a bygone era, you wouldn't be far off the mark. According to BMW, it borrows from famous models such as the BMW R5, both technologically and visually, to shift the focus back on the motorcycle essentials. But older motorcycles, romantic as they seem today, were not without faults, which is why the R18 Classic merges timeless design with contemporary technology to offer a riding experience that is as cultivated as it is emotional.

BMW R18
2022 BMW R18 Classic

'Refined and easy'

And that's what I found when I started riding the Classic. Although intimidatingly massive (almost 2.5 metres long and tips the scale at a whopping 365kg wet), it is surprisingly refined and easy to ride. My first ride was a trip to the office in what nowadays passes for rush-hour traffic, which afforded me ample opportunity to see if I could lane-split with the Behemoth, and, lo and behold, I could. It must have come as a surprise to fellow bike commuters to see me following close behind them through slow-moving traffic on a pannier-festooned Harley-like cruiser.

As with most boxer-engine bikes, the bulk of the Classic's vast weight is very low in the frame, which means that it all but evaporates when you're on the move. The low seating position makes it easy to plant both feet firmly on the ground when stationary, something that is crucial on a bike this heavy. The seat is generous and comfortable, and the footboards are positioned just behind cylinders so that your posture is much more neutral than on other cruisers - a great benefit for riders like me who find the typical cruiser feet-forward posture extremely awkward.

BMW R18
2022 BMW R18 Classic

The bike's centrepiece is a completely newly developed two-cylinder boxer engine with a 1 802cc displacement. The numbers are interesting: peak power output is 67kW at 4 750rpm and peak torque is 158Nm at 3 000rpm. Between 2 000 and 4 000rpm, over 150Nm of torque is available at all times, which means that the R18's acceleration can best be described as relentless. The slightest twist of the wrist causes the bike to shrug off its bulk and accelerate as if pushed forward by the Hand of Destiny.

Far would it be for me to accuse a bike this weighty of being dynamic, but changing direction is a great deal easier than I might have thought. It is capable of a surprisingly impressive lean angle and, combined with its abundance of torque, this makes taking the R18 Classic through long, sweeping curves at speed an elemental pleasure that is hard to describe.

There is good news for those who abhor the thought of keeping their bike stock standard. The R18 offers what BMW calls "a highly conversion-friendly architecture". It is fitted with an easily removable rear frame and a simple-to-dismantle painted part set. In addition, the interface points for the hydraulic lines of the brake, clutch and cable harness have been designed to make it easy to install higher or lower handlebars, while cylinder head covers and engine housing cover are designed in such a way that they are located outside the oil chamber, making them very easy to change. Expect a slew of R18-based custom bikes to rear their desirable heads in the near future.

BMW R18
2022 BMW R18 Classic

Summary

In summary, like most cruisers, the R18 doesn't make for a practical everyday bike. Its sheer bulk makes it hard to manoeuvre in your driveway (although this is eased somewhat by the fact that it sports an electrical "reverse gear"). With its limited rear suspension travel, it (and you) won't be happy on anything other than a silk-smooth road surface. But for a cross-country highway trip, an extended Sunday breakfast run, or just as a talking point parked outside your favourite café, it will be hard to beat.

In this follow-the-leader world of look-alikes and me-toos, the R18 Classic, by virtue of its huge, unmissable boxer engine and classic looks, stands out as a delightfully unique addition to the local bike scene.

Specifications: 2022 BMW R18 Classic

ENGINE

Type: 4-stroke, two cylinder horizontally opposed, 8-valve
Displacement: 1 802cm³
Maximum Power: 67kW @ 4 750rpm
Maximum Torque: 158Nm @ 3 000rpm
Fuel supply system: electronic intake pipe fuel injection, 48mm throttle valves
Fuel type: Premium unleaded (95-98 RON)

TRANSMISSION

Type: 6-speed sequential
Final drive: shaft

DIMENSIONS

Overall length x width (mm): 2 440 X 964
Wet weight: 365 kg

CAPACITIES

Passengers: 1+1
Fuel tank: 16 litres

BRAKES

Front: 2x 300mm discs, 4-piston ?xed calliper 
Rear: single 300mm disc, 4-piston fixed calliper

SUSPENSION

Front: 49 mm Telescopic fork, Non-adjustable
Rear: steel swinging fork with central shock strut

WHEELS & TYRES

Wheel, front: 3.0x 16
Wheel, rear: 5.0X 16
Tyre, front: 130/90 B16
Tyre, rear: 180/65 B16

PRICE: R359 500 (base)

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