BMW Motorrad brings out the big guns for its newest cruisers

BMW Motorrad R 18 Bagger and Transcontinental set the tone for high-voltage cruising with a brand collaboration with speaker specialist Marshall

The new BMW R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental motorbikes
The new BMW R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental
(Image credit: press)

In today’s emissions-obsessed world, BMW Motorrad’s decision to bring the R 18 to market in 2021, its first large-capacity cruiser, was undoubtedly a brave one. Representing the brand’s entrance into the cruiser motorbike segment, the R 18 also realises BMW’s collaboration with Marshall Amplification, with fully-faired models receiving onboard Marshall Gold Series stereos.

BMW R 18 B

BMW R 18 B

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

To sample these impressively engineered motorcycles and to fully understand BMW’s latest partnership, we joined the recent BMW Motorrad Heritage Ride, a global media event, with our destination set for Goodwood and its world-famous Revival.

BMW R 18 B motorbike

BMW R 18 B

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Powered by BMW’s colossal new 1,802cc air-cooled flat-twin engine which produces 89bhp and a mighty 116.5ftlb – the largest ever fitted to a BMW motorcycle – the R 18’s low and elongated profile and clean telescopic forks draw inspiration from the elegant 1938 BMW R5.

The R5 is often regarded as BMW designer Rudolf Schleicher’s most cohesive work and the brand’s most influential pre-war machine. There’s also a cantilever rear end and exposed drive shaft to please the cruiser purists. As a result, the R 18 cuts quite a dash and looks like no other motorcycle.

BMW Motorrad R 18 B handlebars

BMW R 18 B

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Offered alongside the hugely successful R nineT models as part of BMW’s Heritage range, the R 18 is now also available in Classic and fully-faired Bagger and Transcontinental formats.

Clearly aimed at the lucrative US cruiser market, in which Harley Davidson enjoyed sales of over 125,000 units in 2021, BMW has created a range of motorcycles that, on paper at least, seem to fit the bill perfectly.

Motorbike dashboard

BMW R 18 B

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Riding the R 18 on the UK’s often twisty and uneven roads, however, reveals several of its shortcomings (such as its high weight and low footpeg clearance), but more importantly, it’s also an exercise that reveals great charms.

Steering is light but precise and the motor, lying at the very heart of the experience, is an engineering marvel. 

BMW motorbike

BMW R 18 Transcontinental

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Pulling strongly and smoothly from as low as 2,000rpm, irrespective of which gear you find yourself in, the R 18 is a bike that can be hustled along with an impressive turn of pace.

Controls are beautifully weighted – clearly designed with real-world riding in mind and the quality of materials and switchgear onboard feel at one with the bike’s classy appearance.

BMW R 18 Transcontinental motorbike

BMW R 18 Transcontinental

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Sat on a wide, comfortable saddle, riding the Bagger or Transcontinental in a convoy of other journalists, we found the Marshall stereo system quickly revealed its raison d'être. Playing music from your smartphone via Bluetooth and the BMW Motorrad Connected app, groups of riders in close formation can enjoy crisp, clear sounds as you cruise along the highway.

Cleverly bringing riders together on the road, both literally and figuratively, the 180-watt amplifier and six-speaker installation ensures it remains enjoyable even at motorway speeds.

Motorbike handlebars and controls

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

Based near Milton Keynes, UK, Marshall has been making world-class speakers and amplifiers largely by hand since the early 1960s, offering customers a wide range of customisation and personalisation options. Although hard to fathom at first, the collaboration with BMW is an astute brand exercise that no doubt utilises the Anglo-American relationship to maximise heritage appeal… supported by a healthy dose of rock ‘n’ roll cool, of course.

Scaled back to its core, with little in the way of bodywork, the standard R 18 is also well suited to customisation and, indeed, the flourishing custom motorcycle scene.

Dashboard

BMW R 18 Transcontinental

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

The collaboration also seems to have influenced the R 18’s three selectable rider modes, appearing as Rain, Rock, and Roll, either at the bottom of the analogue speedometer or via the impressive 10.25in TFT screen of the Bagger and Transcontinental machines.

Fittingly, the R 18 is most enjoyable to ride in Roll mode, where it’s huge reserves of torque can be called upon at a moment’s notice.

The BMW motorbike seat

BMW R 18 Transcontinental

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

For riders and passengers looking to travel long distances in comfort, the Transcontinental and Bagger models are deeply impressive motorcycles, blending modern technology with classic kerb appeal. 

Motorbikes from above

R 18 family

(Image credit: courtesy of BMW Motorrad)

The huge, metronomic flat-twin motor beneath you is sure to win many over on its own, but once you’ve ridden them, Marshall’s input feels like a seamless addition to the spirit of these machines. After all, the R 18 range is all about purity, emotion and rich heritage – attributes both brands possess in spades.

INFORMATION

BMW R18 B (opens in new tab), from £22,450

BMW R18 Transcontinental (opens in new tab), from £25,160

BMW-Motorrad.co.uk (opens in new tab)