2021 BMW R 18 | First Look Review

2021 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
2021 BMW R 18 First Edition. Images courtesy BMW Motorrad.

It’s here, and for the most part it looks exactly how we hoped it would: like a classic BMW. The 2021 BMW R 18 “Big Boxer” cruiser has finally been unveiled in complete production form, with a look reminiscent of the R 5 model of the 1930s.

Powered by a massive 1,802cc OHV air/oil-cooled 4-valve opposed twin, the largest “boxer” engine BMW has ever produced for a motorcycle, that generates a claimed 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 116 lb-ft of torque at 3,000, the new R 18 certainly seems to talk the talk, ready to go toe to toe with the established cruiser brands. It sports modern rider aids like partially integrated braking (the hand lever activates both front and rear brakes, the foot pedal only the rear) with ABS, a six-speed transmission with anti-hop (slipper) dry clutch, standard ASC (stability control) and MSR (engine drag torque control), and three ride modes: Rain, Roll (for regular riding) and Rock (for sportier riding). Hill Hold Control and Reverse Assist are optional.

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
The 2021 R 18 with its styling inspiration, the classic R 5.

The R 18’s classic lines come courtesy of a double loop tubular steel frame with easily removable rear subframe for easy customization, a double-sided swingarm with exposed driveshaft on the right side, a telescopic 49mm fork with 4.7 inches of travel and a hidden, preload-adjustable cantilever rear shock with 3.5 inches of travel for a hardtail look. Three brake discs, two up front and one in the rear, are 300mm in diameter and are squeezed by 4-piston calipers.

Spoked wheels are 19 inches up front, 16 at the rear, and appear to be tube-type, although that is not specified in the information we’ve received. Lighting is all-LED, and the R 18 can be fitted with an optional Adaptive Headlight (lean-angle sensitive cornering lights). Keyless Ride is standard.

The 2021 R 18 will be available worldwide in a special First Edition model, which includes the signature black paint with white pin striping, chrome details, “First Edition” badging and more. A base model will also be available in the U.S. and other select markets. Pricing starts at $17,495 for the base model and $19,870 for the First Edition.

This is, after all, a cruiser, and so BMW will also be offering two customization packages from Roland Sands Design, the “Machined” and the “Two-Tone Black.” BMW will also offer an extensive list of customization parts and accessories so buyers can make their R 18 uniquely their own.

Keep scrolling for more photos….

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
Exposed driveshaft on the right side of the double-sided swingarm.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
Mid-mount controls are behind the huge cylinders. We’re not sure how forward controls would work on this design, but we do know that floorboards are a BMW option.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
Classic round display includes a gear indicator. “Berlin built” refers to the fact that this model is built in BMW’s Berlin-Spandau factory.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
2021 BMW R 18 First Edition.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
2021 BMW R 18 First Edition.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
LED headlight includes an optional Adaptive Headlight (cornering lights).
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
2021 BMW R 18 base model.
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition Big Boxer
2021 BMW R 18 First Edition.


  1. Very nice 👌 is going to be worth a look at. I’m not sure about the shape of the mufflers. I’ll be interested in what accessories will be available.

  2. Interesting at most with a great design and looks but its a shame the mufflers look like something from a 1960 Japaneses tin toy.

  3. Warning; wish I liked it but I don’t!
    Anybody remember the ill-fated R1200C?
    Low sales, poor resale value, dealers couldn’t give them away. And don’t even get me started on the terrible suspension on such a premium machine of the time.
    Look, I’m a BMW customer and huge fan, and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get behind this model, sorry.
    And those cheap looking sheet metal cylinder head “covers”! Come on BMW, not sure what you guys were thinking, let’s just hope it’s better in the flesh at least.
    One can only hope that BMW learned their lesson from the R12C and didn’t repeat it with this bike.

    • what an ego. so you don’t like it. so what? maybe others do. who are you? i can’t imagine riding with someone like you. snob.

    • I had the R1200C and regret the day I sold it. It was lovely. Only issue is cruiser relaxed seating position is really not compatible with the boxer. But if your legs are OK on any R, this is lovely.

    • I loved the R1200c I’ve owned two of them and still have one. It just needed more power. The suspension was fine. I’ve had over 20 bikes in the last 40 years I’ve had multiple bike disease forever This is the one I’ve been waiting on !!!

  4. True cruiser fans aren’t going to like not being able to stretch on their highway pegs. I guess they can rest their legs on those huge cylinders!

  5. BMW NAILED IT!! They deserve accolades for going back to their own history and designing a fresh new modern cruiser that is 100% pure BMW and not a bike that is trying to be a Harley Davidson copycat I’ve been a BMW motorcycle owner for 30 years now and can’t wait to see this in person !

  6. That muffler is as hideous as a Lexus grille. Then there’s all that Lincoln Continental chrome. The classic R5 engineers knew the honest beauty of materials were not driven by a marketing department that wanted shiny things to sell in Asia..

  7. I got on the BMW web site and built My own and they have a tapered muffler that looks 200 % better than the stock units

  8. Looks great and the mufflers mimic the old ones rather nicely I think. Should be a nice performer as I don’t think the weight is a factor with 1800cc’s pushing.

  9. A bit too late to the market, it may sell in Europe and as a multi-BMW owner along with HD and Japanese bikes, I might be tempted. But, for the US market, the riding position is too ”standard” with no obvious location for a cruiser biased forward controlled or even mid, footpegs and control. Odd that BMW is relying on air-cooled with some oil cooling when the market is moving to water-cooled designs.

  10. I just want that R5 in an 800 with modern brakes and Erle forks . An under compressed motor for 200k that takes regular feul …

  11. There may be a way to enjoy a forward foot peg for rider by extending existing foot peg mount at an angle such that what is the foot peg become base to which angled attachment comes into play –

    just an idea that may work given some further thought

    this is however just a beginning so kudos to BMW


  12. What’s up with the photo of the R21 next to the vintage R5?

    The R21 in that shot has a springer-type seat – not seen in any other photos here, or on BMW’s web site….

        • Are you sure that wasn’t a photo from when the bike was just a concept?

          I can’t find that seat anywhere on BMW site (and I went through the entire ‘configure your bike‘ process).

          • It’s quite possible they haven’t fully fleshed out the list of accessories. Their media site has quite a few photos of the R 18 fitted with that solo seat, so I’d bet it will be available as an accessory. Hopefully BMW will have more details soon.

  13. Configurator shows much better mufflers, but I think the aftermarket will provide even better. It also has extended reach footrests that are available with an engine guard.

  14. Very interesting… but spoke wheels are a “show stopper” for me… even if tubeless tires (which we don’t know yet), unless this is a bike to ride around town, cast wheels are the only way to go.

  15. Why in the world would you have an exposed shaft? Any one who has driven any farm machinery knows why the power take off PTO is covered. So you don’t kill yourself or loose a limb.

  16. Needs bags if it is to be something other than a garage ornament. Glad it does not have dentist chair seating like most cruisers. I have had several Motocycles over the years and have put lots of miles on them. This engine sounds like it would be great for long distance travel if it is in the right chassis.

  17. Some bikes look great on paper and in person it just doesn’t work. Other bikes have a beauty only appreciated in person. My CLC was a good example and even then it got down to personal taste. I will have to eyeball the R21 before casting judgement. I do like the lines and have to agree with others that the muffler may be Art Deco or Art Millennial. Tubeless tires are a must, spokes or not, although the spokes speak to the rendering BMW is attempting express. Pin Stripes left off the base model, come on BMW that is just too cheeky! You can do better than that for what the base price is. Overall I would give it a thumbs up but I’d need to look at the beast for a final opinion.

  18. The large boxer is a solid motor but not a looker. This Bike has all the right lines but the huge cylinders look out of place and I ride a Valkyrie. Maybe in person I could appreciate it more.

  19. That exposed drive shaft also makes me cringe on safety grounds. That oil/water cooler at cow muck catching level is a no no for me. I prefer them high up like on my R1150R.

    • I never expected the legal department to allow the open shaft in production. Maybe they’ve never heard of Isadora Duncan in Germany.

      • “Isadora Duncan” was my first though when I saw the R18. I heard about her from my parents in the 50’s. Younger people may not have that reaction, but I’m betting the shaft gets cleaned up. Oh, yeah – cylinders where your feet should be.

  20. Love it. I believe those are Vance & Hines exhaust. I’ll delete the rear fender and tail, or some shorty fenders, put some bobber seats and dragbars. I’m all set for bar hopping and bike nights.

  21. Why all the criticism? Where’s the love? I love anything I could ride and with engine, and every time there’s what to be change to fit me and my personality. This BMW R18 another to play around with.

  22. What are you people thinking. Obviously no engineers in this group. My 2009 K1300s 1300 cc, 465 lbs, 175 hp this elephant R18 1800 cc, 575 lbs, 91 hp – say it again 9q horses. Fire the whole engine engineering department.

  23. The concept looked great and I would have bought one if tge production model was close to it. It is not. It looks bloated and almost fake Harley like. Sad to see a great looking concept go to shit.


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