Words: Jeff Ware Photography: Heather Ware
I did about 600km on the R 18 B over a week and a half, mostly in the rain, but I did get a few good rides in the dry.
The R 18 B is a touring bike but has a more cramped riding position than the First Edition. It’s OK for me, at 187cm, but only for an hour or so before I get cramped legs and a sore backside from the hard seat. Throw in a non-adjustable windscreen that, at my height anyway, caused between 90km/h and 130km/h, vibrations through the handlebars and footrests causing pins and needles, and I was unfortunately unable to do any long-distance open highway trips on the R 18 B.
Before you think I am hating on the bike straight up, I’ll say that I did still have fun on the machine. Despite the flaws in design, and there are more to be mentioned, it is a fun bike, a fun experience in its own way, in the right conditions.
The R 18 B has the same large front fairing as the Transcontinental, however, it doesn’t have the extra wide winglets either side below the headlight area. I found that this created a strong wind stream around my knees, which was great for keeping cool but on the wet days meant there was a strong water spray coming off the fairing, so you get soaking wet. Like the Trans, the Active Cruise Control radar is above the headlight in the fairing, and this system works very well.
Up the front is the big 19in cast alloy wheel, which looks great, with large dual front rotors. There is a single rear rotor, and the brakes are linked. Unfortunately, and incredibly, I could not find a way to use the rear brake. Any boots I tried, just would not fit between the rear pedal and the bottom of the cylinder. If I pushed my foot in the gap to brake, it would get jammed and the brakes would jam on.
The actual riding position is OK, as mentioned, a little cramped as you can’t move your legs that much, but you can stretch out over the cylinders if you need to. I still felt a little trapped on the bike having my feet under the cylinders, it felt uneasy to me, but then again, a Honda Goldwing isn’t that different, and has no more leg room, being a flat engine too. The handlebars are wide and comfy, with the switches and dash the best of the best, as BMW do so well.
The panniers are extremely good quality and well made. They lock and unlock via a button on the right hand switchblock. They are not large enough for a lid but are waterproof and well insulated. There is room for a few groceries, some clothes or laptop, etc. A few days away would not be an issue in terms of luggage storage, and the speakers don’t take that much room up in the lids.
The sound system is completely insane. With the surround sound from the back two speakers and the large two in the front fairing, it is crystal clear and seriously loud. Even on the highway with the previously mentioned wind buffeting, the sound is fine. All of the top range, the R 18 B TFT display and what it offers is the best there is. Easy to use, everything imaginable and in this case, huge! The only issue I had was connecting it to my iPhone SE. I don’t know what I was doing wrong but I tried many times, my phone would not find the bike. I still had radio but no Nav.
As well as the big TFT, there are dials above, with speed, rpm and a weird Power Reserve dial that I just ignored, and I think it was just a vacuum gauge! I would prefer it was a clock. Other nice touches include the famous easy to use scroll wheel, and the cruise control is easy to operate on the left handlebar.
The Active Cruise Control works well, slowing the bike when needed out on the open road. Speaking of cruising, I got an average of 5.9L/100km from the bike, so it’s a bit thirsty for a bike but not for an 1800cc vehicle! Behind the fuel filler is a phone holder, but it is tiny and even my small iPhone SE only just fit, with the phone case removed, and the small bracket that holds the phone inside snapped off on my first ride. I ended up just keeping the key fob in there.
The big motor, although the same as in the First Edition, feels completely different in the R 18 B. To me, it felt slower, flatter and with less character. I could not stop grinning every time I rode the R 18 First Edition, and I just did not want to hand that bike back to BMW. Something has changed with the B. Keep it at 2000 to 2500rpm and you will experience sublime smoothness, just amazing. Top gear, 2500rpm, is around 105 to 110km/h. However, from 3000rpm, you get vibes through the handlebars, seat and footboards, something that was not there with the First Edition.
On the left side of the bike, the gearlever set-up is not much better. I had to heel-toe shift only, as no matter which way I adjusted the lever, just like the rear brake, there was no spot it could work. I could not get my foot under the lever to shift up, yet had to completely lift my leg, move back, and find the back lever to shift up, usually settling for the actual shift shaft rather than the end of the lever, then squeeze my boot under the left cylinder, try to find the too small gearlever, to shift down.
With livelier rake and trail than the First Edition and the skinny 19in wheel the R 18 B certainly steers well, particularly at lower speeds. In fact, at speeds as slow as 10km/h, it’s as easy to ride as a small scooter. Feet up U-turns are a piece of cake, and for a 400-plug kilo bike, it hides the weight very well at lower speeds. Parking is easy, thanks to reverse, but 400kg is 400kg so experience, balance and planning are needed to avoid losing control of that weight. Increase the speed to 60km/h and above, then hit the corners, and you will notice the weight more.
The suspension is non-adjustable, although the rear is Active Suspension. In general, it is overly hard. All big cruisers are basically the same, bone shattering over bumps but OK on smooth roads. It’s all the weight, sprung and unsprung. It can’t be hidden.
At the end of the test, I concluded that for me, the R 18 b has too many little issues that are not sorted or refined enough yet. A few weeks after this test I was reviewing the S 1000 R M Sport, probably the most refined nakedbike I’ve ever ridden. Go figure…
2022 BMW R 18 B Specifications
Price: From $41,995 R/A
Claimed Power: 67kW[91hp]@4750rpm
Claimed Torque: 158Nm[118lbs-ft]@3000rpm
Wet Weight: 397kg
Fuel capacity: 28.6L
Engine: Air-cooled/oil-cooled twin-cylinder, four-stroke eight-valve twin-cam pushrod OHV, EFI, 48mm throttle-bodies, twin exhaust system, 1802cc, 107.1 x 100 bore x stroke, 9.6:1 compression, EU5 compliant. Gearbox: Six-speed separate housing. Clutch: Dry single plate, hydraulic actuation.
Chassis: Double-loop steel tube frame and steel tune swingarm
Suspension: 49mm forks, non-adjustable, 120mm travel, single cantilever shock, preload adjustability, 90mm travel.
Brakes: 300mm rotors (f), dual four-piston calipers and conventional master-cylinder, 300mm rotor (r), four-piston caliper, linked brakes (front activates rear), ABS.
Wheels & Tyres: Cast aluminium, 3.50 x 19in (f), 5.0 x 16in (r), 120/70 – 19, 180/65 – 16.
Seat height: 720mm
Overall width: N/A
Overall Length: N/A
Instruments & Electronics: LCD multi-function centrally mounted dash, ASC, DTC, ABS, MSR, Ride Modes, LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, keyless start, electric reverse.