BMW R18B (2021 - on) Review
- The bagger version of BMW's big cruiser
- Large, comfortable and powerful
- Fully laden with tech, myriad options on offer
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
A little over one year since BMW launched the R18 First Edition, they’ve followed it up with two new models: the R18B (for bagger) and the R18 Transcontinental.
Just like the R18 before, which took aim squarely at the Harley-Davidson softail range, the R18B is clearly fixed on H-D’s Street Glide.
In many ways the R18B is a marvel bringing with it levels of tech that the cruiser market just isn’t used to.
Unfortunately you pay for those features not only with your wallet but on the scales too, with its near 400kg weight keenly felt.
It also seems BMW have taken their eyes of the ball with some of the basics including less than stellar handling and intrusive engine vibrations. Compared to its nearest rival (the Street Glide), it’s heavier, produces less torque and is more expensive.
It’s a halfway decent first stab but it goes to show just how well Harley have refined the formula over the last 118 years.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Unlike the Classic, where BMW just bolted on a few bits, this change to a bagger attitude required some serious reengineering.
For a start there’s a brand-new frame – the twin steel loop remains but it’s seriously reinforced along the backbone. The neck of the frame also extends forwards to account for the big fairing, while the yokes are reversed to keep the steering sensible. It’s also got a steeper head angle than the R18 while the overall wheelbase is actually 30mm shorter.
The R18B is otherwise a very comfortable machine. The seat is a complete delight, while the giant fairing blocks the wind comfortably at even autobahn speeds. There was no discernible buffeting for this 5'7" tester but taller riders might have different experiences.
The rest of the riding position was spot on too and even on longer more relaxing stretches I never found myself missing the foot-forward position big cruisers are known for.
The suspension too was a delight and a serious improvement over the standard R18. From the get-go it always stood a better chance as the travel at the rear has increased to 120mm, while the B also sports an auto-preload function.
The result is not only improved ground clearance (although it doesn’t take too sharp a corner to scrape the pegs) but also a vastly more comfortable ride. It would take an extreme pothole or ripple in the road for a jarring reaction with only long-legged adventure bikes really taking those in their stride. That said the handling isn’t the R18’s finest point.
The R18B seems to be hesitant a little on tip in, requiring a good bit of muscle to turn. The result is a bit of a disconnect with the sensation that the B seems to want to run on deep into corners, or fifty pence it around turning one bend into three.
Once in it’s fine but changes in direction are sluggish, no doubt because you’re trying to shift around nearly 400kg. You get used to it after while but I never felt entirely comfortable.
The brakes do a decent job of slowing up such a hefty machine and because they’re linked if you really want you can pretty much do it all with the rear pedal.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The R18B is powered by the same 1802cc boxer twin that first debuted in the R18 last year.
Nothing has changed mechanically so it produces 89bhp at 4750rpm and 116.5 ftlb at 3000rpm, with 110ftlb of that available from 2000-4000rpm.
As you might expect that means performance is remarkably similar to the standard model however the delivery is dulled by the extra weight. Where the standard R18 is reasonably spritely off the line, the B is like riding attached to a giant elastic. The speed arrives, it just seems to work a lot harder to get there.
In the B though the engine brings something new that, being honest, is entirely unwanted: vibrations. At a standstill the bars and fairing shake side to side madly like there’s some earthworks being attended to nearby.
Build up to the middle of the rev range and the mirrors resemble an oil painting, while your fingers begin to tingle.
Rev it harder towards the redline and the vibrations become seriously intrusive, numbing your feet and turning the saddle into an makeshift paintmixer. A quick spin on a standard R18 revealed nowhere near the same amount of vibes, so I can only assume it’s the weight of the fairing and associated kit on the forks causing the issue.
I should add if you cruise along gently keeping the revs below about 2500 and it’s perfectly pleasant – it’s only when you go chasing revs that the issues arise.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The fit and finish of everything on the R18B is top notch with the chrome details of the ‘First Edition’ model particularly flashy. There are a couple of missed steps, the relays and wiring around the battery are clearly visible from the right hand side, which to be honest looks ugly.
The wiring at the headstock is also tightly wrapped and flexes around one kink every time you move the bars, which sounds ‘warranty’ alarm bells to us. It’s far too early in the model life to make guesses about reliability but the standard model has been on sale for a year so far with no major issues.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
This is where the R18B really struggles. In standard trim the bike costs £21,500 but you don’t get any of the good stuff that makes the bike enjoyable (or in some cases rideable).
The ‘First Edition’ pack, which includes the pinstriping and extra chrome costs £2150, headlight pro is £475, central locking is £255, locking fuel filler £50, hill start £100, e-call is £305, Marshall sound system £750, tyre pressure £230, radar cruise £500 while the most essential of all – reverse gear – is £940.
All in you’re looking at a complete bill of £27,495 for the full package. A Street Glide Special by contrast costs £24,495 and includes lots of those things as standard.
The sat-nav in the Glide is a proper built in system too, which doesn’t rely on a smartphone to work. It’s also quicker, and slicker, to operate because of that.
The big question in the long term is how the R18B will hold its value. BMW are known for good residuals but it’s only certain models. If the R18 doesn’t sell as well as BMW hope and it gets canned in a couple of years, just like the R1200C, then the residual values will struggle.
One area where the B does excel is the technology. The model we rode had every option ticked and it was positively bristling with the latest gadgets.
Everything from adaptive cruise control to a four-way sound system and, like most BMWs, it performed flawlessly. The whole lot is run through the giant 10.25" full colour TFT dash, which has come across from the R1250RT.
It takes some getting used to begin with but once you’re clued up it presents heaps of info in a clear and easy to read way, while also giving access to mapping, phonecalls, music and bike status.
All that said I just can’t help but feel BMW should have spent a bit less time on stuffing the B full of whizz bang tech and a bit more time sorting out the basics of what makes a good bike.
If you’re a serious music lover the Marshall Stage 1 sound upgrade (£750) is a worthy spend. As well as upgrading the units in the fairing, it also sticks a pair of subwoofers into the panniers. Trebles are crisp, mids sing and the bass thumps virtually as loud as you want it to go. Audible to well above motorway speeds before you’ve even turned it up to 11.
If the options list wasn’t long enough with ‘pro’ this and ‘adaptive’ that BMW also have a huge range of accessories to go along with the R18 range. It covers everything from small stuff such as levers and footrests, to bigger things like handlebars and wheels. If you want to turn it into a fully blinged up '60s style chopper all you’ll need is an order form and a credit card.
|Engine type||Air-cooled boxer twin|
|Frame type||Twin loop steel cradle with reinforced backbone|
|Fuel capacity||24 litres|
|Front suspension||49mm RWU forks, 120mm travel|
|Rear suspension||Monoshock with electronic preload, 120mm travel|
|Front brake||300mm twin disc, linked|
|Rear brake||300mm single disc, linked|
|Front tyre size||-|
|Rear tyre size||-|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||89 bhp|
|Max torque||116 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 2021: Bike launched.
Owners' reviews for the BMW R18B (2021 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the BMW R18B (2021 - on).