Tuesday, October 19, 2021

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition (bike review)

BMW’s R 18 First Edition has arrived, signalling its intentions as a serious player in the big cruiser segment. There’s a lot to like about it, and perhaps its greatest asset will be its appeal for those who don’t want to follow a crowd, but rather blaze their own trail.

Long, sleek and stylish, with huge amounts of boxer motor protruding like biceps from each side of the bike, is what greets you at first glance. And on closer inspection, you’ll notice the finer details, like the elegant double white line pinstriping.

You’ll also notice the fresh looking black metallic paint, and then you’ll get smacked in the face, by the look of the exhaust pipes that run down the length of the bike, on both sides.

We’re not going to dance around the fact that these are going to be polarising when people form their initial opinions on this bike, and they are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. They’re different. Very, very different.

But that’s okay. For us, this is where BMW Motorrad have put some serious thought into not only designing the bike, but making sure there’s the opportunity to customise your ride, thanks to partnerships with the likes of Roland Sands Design and Vance and Hines.

Cool bits aside, we know you want to know what it’s like to ride, so lets flick the ignition on. The bike starts with a slightly violent kick and pull to the left, reaffirming you are on a serious, big capacity cruiser.

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition

There’s a good amount of vibration through the handlebars, reminiscent of a Harley-Davidson big twin, and a thump under your bum. Thank Christ BMW have not over engineered this bike, it has a heap of character and charm to boot.

The 1802cc produces 67kW of power and 158Nm of torque from its two-cylinder boxer engine. Power delivery is smooth and responsive as you push out of the corners or leave the traffic lights from a standing start.

The bike is well balanced with the big boxer engine hanging out each side, and while the exhaust note is a little quiet, that’s the norm with standard pipes on any cruiser in this segment. Heat from the engine is more than acceptable.

Even when riding on a 30-degree day we found no issues, and that fact only adds to the riding experience. Weighing in at 345kg dry, the R 18 does carry some beef though, especially when up against some of rival Harley-Davidson Softail models.

That said, handling is very good, although you will still scrape the foot pegs when pushing hard through the twisty stuff. It sports a double-cradle steel frame with screwed on under-beams.

These are matched to telescopic fork front suspension, and a steel swinging fork with central shock strut at the rear. This translates into a solid ride which still gives you the pleasure or displeasure, depending on your riding needs, of feeling every bump.

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition

Twin disc 300mm diameter 4-piston calliper brakes provide the stopping up front and work particularly well. On the rear, and somewhat uniquely, the same brake package is offered. Both have BMW Motorrad ABS.

BMW’s R 18 First Edition is a great step into the large cruiser segment for riders of all shapes and sizes too. With a seat height of 690mm and mid mount controls, the R 18 can accommodate short and tall riders alike.

There is however one shortfall, with the existing peg and motor positioning seemingly not allowing for the installation of forward controls, which will be a little bit of a disappointment for some potential purchasers.

There is a factory floor board option though, which will be a huge plus for riders planning on touring this bike. It’s a bike that feels long and sleek, and the streamlined tank and upright seating position combine for an almost bobber-ish riding experience.

That’s not a bad thing, and it puts the rider in a great position to pilot the R 18 and move body weight through the tight stuff, while remaining comfortable for city and highway riding.

BMW have managed to combine the best parts of their technology and engineering, and still maintain a true large capacity cruiser character, which is quite an achievement. This is best illustrated in the simplicity of something like the speedo.

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition

It has a proper classic look while still displaying an array of information, including the selected ride mode (which includes Rain, Rock and Roll).

Rock mode was the pick for us, enabling full power and all 1800cc of goodness that it has to offer. Rain and Roll modes offer restrictions in power delivery, but for our testing purposes we didn’t really have a need for either option.

The speedo screen also houses houses trip information and the settings for the heated grips. It’s all controlled via a menu button on the left side handlebar. Cruise Control is also fitted to the R 18 adding to its impressive list of features.

BMW Motorrad have done an exceptional job creating the R 18 First Edition. It is a more than willing competitor to take on the big names and bikes of Indian and Harley-Davidson.

As we said already, it will appeal to those who want to carve their own path and be a little different. Presently only available in black, the 2020 BMW R 18 First Edition is priced from $29,155 ride away. It comes with a 3-year warranty.

2020 BMW R 18 First Edition
2020 BMW R 18 First Edition

Our test bike was provided by BMW Motorrad Australia. To find out more about the 2020 BMW R 18 First Edition, contact your local BMW Motorrad dealer. Pictures courtesy of Jessica Jenkin Photography.


Riding experience
Style and comfort
Braking and handling
Technology and connectivity
Overall bike performance
Value for money


Pros - great alternate to a Harley-Davidson or Indian; good character; handles well; plenty of power; range of aftermarket accessories.
Cons - pillion seat not comfortable for long rides; only available in one colour; could do with better pipes.
Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin is a motoring enthusiast, with a passion for two and four wheels. It's pretty much a given there'll be at least two motorbikes in his garage and he needs no excuses to hit the open road. Andrew grew up reading magazines like Street Machine and Heavy Duty and has a love for all things performance.


  1. “There’s a lot to like about it, and perhaps its greatest asset will be its appeal for those who don’t want to follow a crowd, but rather blaze their own trail.” – Because the motorcycle is for the rider, not for the masses


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