Test Riding the new BMW R18 B and R18 Transcontinental

As expected with BMW machines, both bikes come festooned with all manner of technology.  Most functions are controlled through a bright, responsive 10.25” TFT color display, which is slung beneath four retro gauges (one of which is a cool “Power Reserve” similar to that found on BMW’s sister company Rolls Royce cars).  And how can you not love the “Berlin Built” script on one of the instrument dials and several of the fluid reservoirs?

Dynamic Cruise Control maintains the bike’s speed (even when riding downhill), and the optional Active Cruise Control uses radar sensors to maintain a set distance from vehicles in front (and adjusts speeds during cornering).  This system is similar to that on Ducati’s Multistrada V4 S models (called Adaptive Cruise Control by the Italians).  The list of electronic aids is comprehensive and easily accessed by logical controls on the left handlebar.

Both bikes have LED lighting throughout (the most powerful headlights on any production motorcycle, incidentally), with the option of BMW’s Adaptive Headlights, a system which turns the headlight into a bend to compensate for both lean angle and pitch. ABS is standard, as are a multitude of additional rider aids (Active Stability Control, three riding modes, engine braking control, and the aforementioned cruise control features). Navigation requires a linked mobile phone connection, but there’s a useful carrying compartment for a phone (with USB-C port) built into the tank.

But baggers are all about cool, so I’ll pose this question: What do the rock-and-roll tunes Runnin’ with the Devil (Van Halen), Back in Black (AC/DC), Foxey Lady (Jimi Hendrix), and Crossroads (Cream) have in common?  Answer: They were all played through Marshall amps.  The British manufacturer has partnered with BMW to equip these new R18 models with a new integrated sound system, and it certainly gets the Led out (Jimmy Page reference very much intended).  It’s two optional configurations produce clear, clean sound even at higher speeds, and the Marshall logo script lettering built into the speaker grills provides a nice retro touch.

“Big Boxer” is Big Fun

BMWBLOG laid out the mechanical particulars of these news bikes in late-July when they were officially announced, but to recap: Both of these bikes are built around BMW’s new “Big Boxer” engine, an air/oil cooled 1802cc 2-cylinder boxer engine which is the largest of the type ever used in motorcycle production. The engine’s output is 91-hp (67kW) at a lazy 4750rpm, with maximum torque of 110 lb-ft (150 Nm) on tap between 2000-4000 rpm.  Maximum engine speed is 5750 rpm, and it idles at a lazy 950 rpm.

To make use of that torque, power is transmitted to the 6-speed transmission through a single-plate dry clutch, which for the first time incorporates an anti-hopping mechanism, eliminating always-exciting stamping of the rear wheel during hard downshifting.  There is also an optional reverse gear driven by an electric motor, useful on a bike that can tip the scales at a curb weight of almost 950-lbs (for the Transcontinental).

On startup, the big lump shimmies like a sumo wrestler with a shake-weight, but when it warms a bit, it settles down into a steady burble; a sumo wrestler with a hula-hoop, if you will.  But be wary of the throttle while standing still.  While the engine has an additional main center bearing, designed to help prevent what BMW terms “undesirable longitudinal vibrations” from the crankshaft, there’s no hiding the sheer amount of reciprocating mass oscillating side-to-side.  Revving it above 3000 rpm while parked might result in a low-speed embarrassing whoopsie for the unwary (and no, this did not happen to your humble reviewer).

A Heavyweight Canyon Carver

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