BMW BMW R 18 (2021) first impressions after 50 miles

R-18 first imps

2021 has delivered us one of the most eagerly anticipated new motorcycles of 2021, the BMW R 18. Here’s our first impressions

BMW’S R 18 is a nostalgic look back at the bikes that started it all for the legendary German marque. Inspired by the beautiful BMW R5 of 1936, the R 18 is about as authentic as a retro bike gets, and it is littered with neat touches and sentimental nods back in time.

BMW R 18 first impressions review

Now, before we get into this, I’ve never read or watched a review of this bike. In fact, I’ve purposefully avoided them, knowing that I’d be getting a chance to try it for myself this year.

So, here it is, the R 18. £18,995 and 345kg of retro cruiser. Well, it’s certainly better than BMW’s previous attempt at cracking the cruiser market – the R 1200 C was that bike and while it did alright, it wasn’t very authentic. The same definitely cannot be said for this though, as the R 18 is about as authentic looking and sounding as a cruiser gets. It also rides just like an authentic cruiser – but more on that later…

As this is a first impressions I am literally giving you my thoughts after around 50-miles in the saddle on a wet Wednesday afternoon. We will be giving the bike other outings and hopefully the sun will come out to join us!


At 1,802cc and weighing over 100kg, the R 18’s air/oil cooled engine is an absolute behemoth to look at. The barrels protrude about a foot from each side of the bike and the crack casing fills the void within the frame.

Starting the engine from cold and the bike shudders into life with a deep bark from the exhaust as the auto enrichers coax the vast pistons into motion.

Once warmed the engine settles down to have a softer tone, almost to soft in some way. The beautiful fish-tail exhaust pipes emit an understated wooffle as you pull away at tickover, giving it the full Marlon Brando.

The first thing that becomes instantly clear is that this bike is a cruiser in the purest sense of the term. And with that you get proper cruiser performance. It has 91bhp on tap that allows for some acceleration, but progress can never be described as anything more than spirited.

Ride and handling

The suspension set up of the bike is firm, with the thinly padded seat telling you exactly what is going on beneath you. The front brake is strong, and the rear likewise, and the ABS works away doing its thing in a nicely unobtrusive fashion.

As with any cruiser, ground-clearance is a bit of an issue in the turns, but the bike steers actually very well. It’s never going to drop on its ear like a super-naked, but it’s actually quite rewarding to push on in the turns.

With only an hour or so in the saddle, the jury is still out on the big BMW. Yes, it is achingly good looking, b ut like pretty much every BMW it doesn’t seem to have any soul to it – or at least I haven’t tapped into it yet.

And can you even have a cruiser motorcycle that doesn’t have a soul?