HEAV Y WEIGHT CHAMPION
» Power: 91bhp » Weight: 345kg » Engine: 1802cc 8v OHV pushrod opposed twin » Price: £18,995
Photos of the R18 can’t convey just how beautiful it is in real life. Everywhere you look, there are flourishes, nods to the past and clever touches. Even if cruisers don’t butter your parsnips, you can’t help but admire the bespoke brake master cylinders, the cables routed through the bars to remove clutter, the exposed shaft drive, the fishtail pipes, the polished brake calipers, the immaculate pinstriping, the LED bulbs hidden in an old-style circular headlight, the polished push-rod tubes. BMW’S attention to detail seems never-ending. Nineteen grand (£16,990 for the standard model no-one buys) is a lot to spend on a motorcycle, but with the R18, every penny is on display.
You get a lot of bike for your money too because the
R18 is colossal. The wheelbase is a foot longer than a sportsbike’s – a foot! – and with both 901cc cylinders poking into the breeze it’s got some serious girth too. If you wear an open face lid, the bottom half of your peripheral vision consists of a tank and engine poky out bits.
Inevitably, all this metal means the R18 is outstandingly heavy – at 345kg it weighs as much as a Triumph’s
Speed Triple RS with a KTM 390
Duke balanced on top. But as with the rest of the bike, BMW have thought about this. Because of the reverse gear (which works off the starter motor), all slow speed
manoeuvres can be completed from the saddle, which is low enough to make sure you’ll have both feet fully planted. Car park faffing isn’t as nerve racking as you might imagine.
Once you’re moving, the engine is the star turn. ‘What a piece of internal combustion excellence,’ wrote deputy editor Mike Armitage after riding an R18 for 1200 miles over three months. ‘The humongous opposed twin is a rumbling, shaking, thrusting, belching champion of grunt.’ He’s not wrong. Despite each cylinder being almost a litre, the throttle response is beautifully soft and consistent – impressive considering how difficult it must have been to control the combustion in those vast chambers.
And the torque is fabulous, effortlessly shunting the big old girl towards the horizon faster than you’d think possible for such a unit. It’s quirky too – blip the throttle on changing down at 50mph and the R18 dips to the left so much it’s unsettling at first. Obviously all BM’S twins do this to a certain extent, but because of the R18 motor’s size, it’s far, far more pronounced. I couldn’t help giggling every time it did it. Of course there are compromises – the limited ground clearance, for example – and the suspension can feel harsh if you weigh less than 15 stone, but the R18 is a fabulous motorcycle. For me, it’s in the same category as the Kawasaki H2 – utterly unsuited to real life, but a nailed-on future classic.
‘Utterly unsuited to real life, but a future classic’