Is a Sportier BMW R18 Coming to Take on The Rocket 3?

BMW Motorrad boss Markus Flasch seems to be hinting that a significant update to the R18 platform is on the way

BMW R18 teaser image

Since its launch in 2020 it’s hard to describe the retro-custom BMW R18 as a resounding sales success. Stunning to look at and nice to ride, it just didn’t quite have the poise and power of something like a Triumph Rocket 3.

That could be about to change, as BMW Motorrad CEO, Markus Flasch (great name by the way), has posted a cheeky teaser on his Instagram page. As you’d expect from this kind of behaviour, there isn’t much to glean from the image, a standard picture of a bike under a dust sheet, a rear wheel poking out, an excited person looking on and forcing a smile as their 40-something knees cry enough.


Or is it…

The current bike is on the left, and the new bike on the right

There’s something about that rear hub assembly that is very different to the item that is found on the current-generation R18. And it doesn’t look like it’s been done purely for stylistic reasons. It’s tricky to find an image of the R18’s rear hub without it being covered by the exhaust, but we did find this one (above) on the BMW press site. As you can see, the structure that mounts on the bevel drive gear that sits within the wheel, and turns the rotational force from the engine through 90 degrees, is clasped differently and now in a billet aluminium clamp. More interesting than that, though, is that the two swingarm elements that mount onto the hub, that form the A-Frame shape of the rear end, seem to be articulated on the machine being teased, not fixed as you can see they are on the current-generation bike.

Now, the move to billet could be purely aesthetic, and could also just be used for the concept bike to make rapid prototyping of parts quicker and more cost-effective. However, the articulation of these two elements makes us wonder whether or not there might be more to this concept bike than a simple visual refresh in the hope that it begins to excite the fans. Not only would it fundamentally change the way the swingarm of the R18 would work at this end, but also how it would pivot at the point that it mates to the main frame of the bike.

The only other real thing we can see in the pic, excited-looking CEO aside, is the wheel and tyre of the bike, and again, that’s pointing to a slightly more spikey version of BMW’s cruiser platform. It’s a much lower-profile and wider tyre, and, even without the tyre size being visible in the pic, looks to be closer to the 240mm hoop you can find on the class-leading Rocket 3. Again, aesthetics are one thing, but changes like this generally only happen if you're also bolting on a heap more performance.

So, until more information comes to light, that’s about all we can tell you, there could be a more powerful, dynamically able, and hotter version of the R18 on the way - it’s just a shame Triumph already moved the goalposts with its bonkers 180bhp Rocket 3 Storm!

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