BMW R 18 ‘Classic’ preview

Upcoming version of big boxer twin adds touring-ready features.

Following the launch of the R 18 earlier this year, a new variant of BMW’s big, bold and black boxer twin cruiser will be coming in 2021 – the R 18 Classic.

While the name suggests that the Classic increases the retro look of the R 18 even further, it’s not overly different from what’s already been presented. The ‘Blackstorm’ metallic paint and styling is familiar from the R 18 ‘First Edition’ that was unveiled back in April, and to make things more confusing, the Classic is also available in First Edition form, as shown in the images presented here.

So, how is the Classic different?

It’s primarily down to the standard features and choice of finish it carries, which in turn has seen some shuffling of other componentry to suit.  

The main difference is that, unlike the standard R 18, the R 18 Classic is more touring-ready in terms of its standard features.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

Ready to Roll

The R 18 Classic comes equipped with a windscreen, auxiliary lights, two-up seat and saddlebags that offer 15.5 litres of storage space. To accommodate the latter, the R 18’s big fishtail-style exhaust pipes are replaced with more conventionally-shaped silencers, but these still feature some nice detailing on the slash-cut tips.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

A smaller and narrower 16-inch front wheel with a 130/90 tyre is also part of the Classic’s specification, replacing the 19-inch 120/70 combination on the standard R 18. The 5.00 x 16 rear wheel with 180/65 rubber is unchanged. 

The plusher touring saddle increases seat height marginally (from 690mm to 710mm) and the extra standard kit ups the weight, too, from 345kg to 365kg wet. The touring windscreen obviously increases the height, but all other dimensions, like length, width, wheelbase, ground clearance, rake and trail are unchanged.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

With the Classic, there’s the option to shed a lot of the brightwork that’s standard on the First Edition. In place of the chrome trim of the First Edition, there’s a satin finish for the engine components and black finish for the switchgear, mirrors, windscreen brackets and other parts. The non-First Edition version of the R 18 Classic also loses the double white coachlines on the fuel tank and rear mudguard.

The adjustable and removable windscreen gives the Classic something of a Harley-Davidson look, while its size and positioning has seen the front indicators moved from the handlebars to under the auxiliary lights, but their diamond shape is unchanged.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

Big Boxer

The big 1802cc boxer twin that’s the heart of the R 18, is unchanged for the Classic and it’s this feature that’s arguably the bike’s biggest selling point.

The largest capacity boxer twin that BMW has ever created for a series-production bike, output from the “Big Boxer” is 67kW at 4,750rpm, but being a cruiser, torque is where it’s at and the engine produces maximum torque of 158Nm at 3,000rpm, with more than 150Nm of that torque available from 2,000 to 4,000rpm.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

While not a major factor for a cruiser, maximum speed from the Big Boxer is in excess of 180km/h.

The engine features air/oil cooling, BMS-K+ electronic engine management, twin-spark ignition and BMS-O with e-gas – a digital engine control system previously applied to BMW’s smaller-capacity boxer twins.

A six-speed transmission features a single dry plate clutch with slip-assist and an anti-hopping system to handle the torque, while the exposed shaft-drive is a BMW staple and a deliberate design feature on the R 18 Classic.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

Steel Strength, Hardtail Look

Supporting the engine is a conventional steel tube double-cradle frame that’s similar to the Harley-Davidson Softail in configuration.

Footboards (standard on the R 18 Classic) keep the retro theme going, and while the boxer twin obviously makes forward controls impossible, the boards and pedals are mounted as far forward as possible – what BMW class ‘mid-mounted’.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

In terms of suspension, there’s a conventional tele fork front end and monoshock swingarm rear. While it may seem a step backward from BMW Motorrad’s modern, high-tech Duolever front and Paralever rear suspension, it still works and, more importantly, is in keeping with the whole retro ethos behind the R 18.

The non-adjustable 49mm fork tubes are sleeved for aesthetic reasons, while the cantilever monoshock (with adjustable preload) and rear styling gives the desired hardtail look. Listed travel of 120mm front and 90mm rear is unchanged from the standard R 18.

Twin 300mm disc brakes with four-piston fixed calipers feature on the front end, with a single 300mm disc and four-piston fixed caliper on the rear. Linked braking and BMW’s integral ABS are standard.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

Retro Look, Modern Tech

Beyond the ABS, other rider-assistance tech on the R 18 Classic includes Automatic Stability Control (that’s disengageable) and Motor Slip Regulation; an engine drag torque control feature that’s designed to prevent skids under acceleration or excessive downshifting.

The three selectable riding modes – Rain, Rock and Roll – are unchanged from the standard R 18. ‘Rain’ is obvious, while ‘Rock’ and ‘Roll’ are the equivalent of sports and road modes, respectively. The former offers more immediate throttle response and less ASC intervention, with the latter a smoother delivery and more ASC intervention.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

Importantly for a touring model, the R 18 Classic adds cruise control, and if it follows the template of the standard R 18, the Reverse Assist electric reverse gear and Hill Start Control should be standard, too, but that’s still TBC.

Instrumentation is deliberately minimalist, with an analogue speedo and digital riding mode and gear position indicator displays in the single instrument pod and warning lights for everything else.

A ‘Keyless Ride’ feature, that uses a fob to unlock and start the bike remotely, is fitted, with LED lighting standard, including the cool ‘combination’ rear stop/brake/indicator lights.

BMW previews R 18 ‘Classic’

2021 Arrival

Due for Australian release in Q1, 2021, the R 18 Classic will be offered in both conventional and First Edition versions, with the latter being limited in number and higher in price.

With the R 18 currently listing for $29,155 in First Edition form, the extra kit on the R 18 Classic will obviously come with a premium, so expect a starting price in the region of $30,000 for the Classic and around $34,000 for the Classic First Edition.

Pricing, along with all specs and options, will be announced closer to local arrival.

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Practical Motoring

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