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Motorcycle Review: Berlin Takes on Milwaukee!

BMW Motorrad challenges Harley-Davidson in a sales duel by introducing its latest new duo. There can be no doubt that BMW is on the hunt for some of Harley’s (and perhaps Indian’s) hard-won market share!

By Guest Author: Ken Freund

Fri, Sep 10, 2021 02:43 PM PST

Text by guest author Ken Freund

Images by Kevin Wing

BMW Motorrad of Berlin, Germany and its USA subsidiary have thrown down the gauntlet by challenging Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson company in a sales duel of their largest motorcycle models. By introducing its latest new duo, there can be no doubt that BMW is on the hunt for some of Harley’s (and perhaps Indian’s) hard-won market share!

New for 2022, the BMW R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental “Luxury Touring” models join the R 18 and R 18 Classic (introduced last year) as large-displacement twin-cylinder rivals to Milwaukee’s top of the line motorcycles. With base MSRPs of $21,495 for the R 18 B and $24,995 for the R 18 Transcontinental, pricing is competitive with H-D’s touring models, along with some Indian models.

Both new models, let’s call them the R 18 B and R 18”T” for brevity, deliver handsome styling with long-distance touring comfort and luxury, whether riding solo or two-up. We recently had an opportunity to ride them in Colorado’s mountains at the BMW press launch. BMW management knows that many BMW car owners also like BMW motorcycles, and invited us along to see for ourselves.

A BMW R 18 Transcontinental driving towards the camera on a road that looks to run along a cliff with a view.
The BMW R 18 Transcontinental's tall windscreen, trunk, and twin auxiliary lamps help its touring role

Distinguishing features of the new R 18 T include a fairing with high windscreen, side cases, top case, heated seats, engine-protection bars, as well as an engine finished in silver metallic. By contrast, the new R 18 B offers a low windscreen, slimmer seat, comes sans top case, and the engine has a matte black metallic finish.

Powertrain

Both share the largest, most powerful BMW boxer engine ever; a burly 1,802 cc (110 cubic inch) OHV flat twin. It’s rated at 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 116 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm. More than 111 lb-ft. of torque is available across a wide range from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm, and a maximum engine speed is 5,750 rpm.

The R18 air-/oil-cooled boxer engine features four-valve technology, dual ignition and the BMS-O engine management system. Manually adjustable valve clearance via adjusting screws is used. The engines are very tractable. Startup is instant. They can lug down to 2,000 rpm in top gear, and when you open the throttle, engine response is smooth right up to redline. Acceleration is strong thanks to the wide torque band, and a hearty exhaust note reminds you that you’re riding a big twin. BMW claimed acceleration performance figures from 0-62 mph for the R 18 B is 5.5 seconds, while the heavier R 18 T takes 6.0 seconds. Claimed top speed is 111 mph (99 fully loaded).

A BMW R 18 B crossing an intersection with a sign for the city of Golden in Colorado in the background
The R 18 B "Bagger" was great for cruising through lovely Golden, Colorado.

Transmission

A six-speed transmission and hydraulically actuated single-plate dry clutch transfer power to the shaft final drive. Fifth and sixth gears are overdrive for relaxed highway cruising. An optional reverse gear is available; that is driven by an intermediate gear and electric motor. Reversing is initiated by the rider by pressing on the start button. Standard Hill Start Control system makes it easy to start off on an incline. It’s activated by briefly operating the hand or foot brake lever. Let the clutch out and off you go. We found the clutch and gearbox to work smoothly with good engagement.

Ergonomics

Both the BMW R 18 B "Bagger" and BMW R 18 Transcontinental have a large handlebar-mounted fairing with windscreen, a passenger seat, and hard side cases. A small compartment with phone charging is atop the fuel tank. The R 18 T features a taller windscreen, wind deflectors below the front fairing, and two additional driving lights. Additionally, the R 18 T comes standard with a 48-liter top case with a large passenger backrest. Saddlebag capacity is 27 liters each.

Seat Height

Standard seat height is 28.3 inches for the R 18 B and 29.1 inches for the R 18 Transcontinental due to thicker padding, and the R18 T gets a standard heated seat. BMW offers a thinner seat option that brings the Transcontinental down to 28.35 inches. The R 18 B has a somewhat shorter and narrower two-person seat. Both seats are good, but the R 18 T offers all-day comfort.

A BMW R 18 driving away from the camera along a lake-side road, with mountains in the background.
The 2022 BMW R 18 Transcontinental's spacious trunk allows you to bring lots of gear for longer trips.

The R 18 T has standard rider and passenger running boards, while the R18 B has footpegs. However, optional rider running boards are available for the R 18 B. The comfy seating position and layout of the controls and handlebar allow for extended rides. The only gripe we had was that the heel and toe shift lever didn’t allow room for a boot to fit under the toe pad to up shift. This required use of the heel, although repositioning of the lever on the splined shaft may correct that.

Instruments & Display

The dash includes four round analog instruments and a 10.25-inch TFT color display. In addition to the analog speedo and tach, there’s a fuel gauge and "Power Reserve” gauge, which appears to be a vacuum gauge in disguise. Among other functions, the TFT display can show a navigation map by using a smartphone and the BMW Connected App. The additional split screen can show the on-board trip computer, arrow navigation, a current phone call, or radio/media.

Keyless Locking and Starting

A Keyless System replaces the conventional locking system. The side cases and the top case can be locked using the optional central locking system via remote control. The alarm system (optional) is controlled by a transponder integrated in the vehicle key. The key can remain in the rider's pocket.

Riding / Touring

Dynamic & Active Cruise Control

Both the R 18 B "Bagger" and Transcontinental come equipped standard with Dynamic Cruise Control DCC. The “dynamic” means that the pre-selected speed is kept constant, even downhill. If engine braking is not sufficient to control speed, the brakes are automatically activated. Optional Active Cruise Control (ACC) also allows following-distance control, automatically adjusting speed to match the vehicle ahead. It’s done with radar sensors and has a detection range of 130 yards. We found both of these systems to work well, and they allow for relaxed touring.

A BMW R 18 B taking a corner on a highway through the forests of Colorado.
Both 2022 BMW R 18 models can hustle through a corner competently.

Following distance can be set in three stages anywhere between 18 and 99 mph. Choose either cruise control response “comfortable” or “dynamic.” Where necessary, the cornering control system automatically reduces speed. Braking and acceleration dynamics are limited as the lean angle increases, for safety. It’s a nice feature for a long trip, especially when you are tired. ACC allows full control at all times: responsibility always remains with the rider, who can override the system at any time. DCC can be used from 9 to 111 mph.

Adaptive Turning Light

In addition to the bright LED headlamp, the R 18 T has two LED auxiliary lights. The optional “Adaptive Turning Light,” newly developed for these models, uses a swivel function where the low beam turns ± 35° into the curve according to bank angle. The light moves to where the motorcycle is headed. This technology is also used to ensure the high beam maintains a constant range by adjusting to load and ride height.

Both models are equipped with a standard sound system developed with Marshall featuring two speakers, each with 25 watts output. They work on FM/AM band, HD radio, and the optional SiriusXM Satellite radio. The optional Gold Series Stage 1 has an output of 180 watts with two 25-watt speakers integrated into the front fairing. They are each complemented by 90-watt subwoofers in the front of the side cases. Stage 2 includes six speakers and a 180-watt amplifier. It includes the speakers of Stage 1, plus there is a speaker with 25 watts of output in the front side section of the top case backrest on R 18 T models. All of the systems sounded great and could be heard at highway speeds.

A BMW R 18 B cruising through a city, with a brick house in the background
The 2022 BMW R 18 B "Bagger" sans trunk is more suited for more local trips.

Chassis & Suspension

A double-loop steel tube frame cradles the big engine, and the rear swing arm also is made of steel. Wheelbase of both models is 66.7 inches. Fuel tank capacity has been enlarged from 4.2 gallons on the previous R 18 and R 18 Classic to 6.3 gallons.

A cartridge-type telescopic front fork features travel-dependent damping and automatic load compensation. The rear suspension also features travel-dependent damping plus automatic load compensation. Spring pre-load is adjusted using a height sensor via a hydraulic unit actuated by servomotor. Suspension travel is 4.7 inches, front and rear. We found the suspension to be well controlled and damped. It recovered quickly from rough pavement and maintained poise and control, with a firm feel.

Brakes

Both the R 18 B and R 18 T models have double 300-mm front disc and single 300-mm rear disc brakes with four-piston calipers and ABS. Both also have alloy wheels wrapped with 120/70-19 front and 180/65-16 rear rubber. The brakes are powerful and easy to control, fade free, and the ABS works as it should. Tire grip and handling were confidence-inspiring, even on steep and winding Colorado mountain roads. The bikes hold a line nicely through a corner, yet allow mid-corner corrections if necessary.

A BMW R 18 Transcontinental just coming off a bridge in the mountains of Colorado
Good ground clearance allows steep lean angles without scraping.

Riding Modes & Safety Features

Both new 2022 BMW R 18 models feature three riding modes "Rain," "Roll" and "Rock" standard along with ASC (disengageable Automatic Stability Control). In addition, engine drag torque control (MSR) is standard. MSR electronically prevents rear wheel skidding as a result of abrupt throttle changes or downshifting. In “Rain” mode, throttle response is gentler. In "Road" mode, the engine offers optimum throttle response, while "Rock" mode allows the rider to hot rod the bike and ASC allows a little more tire slip. These safety features are mostly unobtrusive, unless you do something hamfisted, in which case it may save your bacon.

Available Options

Of course, both new models will be available with an extensive range of options, as well as BMW Ride & Style Collection gear. Two distinct design collections of milled aluminum parts were created for the two models in collaboration with Roland Sands Design. BMW Motorrad is also collaborating with several well-known suppliers, such as Vance & Hines, on exhaust systems. In addition, BMW will offer a range of exclusive options and accessories under the name of “Option 719.” It’s easy to run up several thousand dollars in extras.

A BMW R 18 Transcontinental cornering on a mountain-side highway with cliffs on one side and a drop on the other.
The 2022 BMW R 18 Transcontinental, despite its bulk, tracks nicely through corners.

Final Thoughts & Verdict

Who Buys a 2022 BMW R 18 B "Bagger" or Transcontinental?

Make no mistake: these bikes are designed for experienced riders, not newbies. They are both real heavyweights, coming in at about 877 pounds for the 2022 BMW R 18 B and 941 pounds for the R 18 Transcontinental. Permitted total weight is 1,389 pounds fully loaded. You need to have the strength and coordination to keep them upright at slow speeds and when parking or maneuvering, especially with a passenger aboard.

Our Verdict

We found both the 2022 BMW R 18 machines - "Bagger" and Transcontinental - to be well made and well engineered, with excellent fit and finish. Riding dynamics are well sorted, and everything works nicely together to make for a pleasant riding experience. Prices are not cheap, but are competitive with similarly equipped competitive models.

Guest author Ken Freund has been a car and motorcycle enthusiast since right after he started to walk. He learned to drive trucks and ride motorcycles by age 14. Over the years he’s been a certified master automobile technician, worked in car repair and motorcycle shops, written more than a dozen Haynes repair manuals and hundreds of magazine articles. He’s also been Senior Editor of Rider and American Rider magazines, and ridden motorcycles more than a million miles on six continents.

About The Author

Ken Freund

Guest Contributor

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