WHEN BMW Motorrad recently announced the expansion of its R 18 range to including a bagger style touring bike in the form of the R 18 Transcontinental, we have to say we were excited. Now we’ve had the pleasure of riding one.
And when we use the word pleasure, we mean it quite literally, as the R 18 Transcontinental has all the fruit you’d expect, including fit, finish and functionality, as well as the quality and sophistication that only comes from a German marque.
If first impressions count for anything, BMW might well have done more than enough to complete with rivals in this space, because this bike is, wow. From its shear size, to its 427kg of largeness.
The boxer engine that protrudes out either side reinforces its family heritage too, but the most impressive thing about it isn’t any of these. It’s the gob smackingly beautiful Option 719 paint work. The almost harlequin style colours alter depending on your viewing angle.
For the record, BMW refer to this colour combination as Galaxy Dust Metallic / Titan Silver Metallic, and in the case of our R 18 Transcontinental, it’s set against black motor trim and wheels. The exhaust and motor remain silver and chrome.
Matched with LED lighting, and a beautiful diamond stitched Option 719 seat, the package is breath-taking.
Climb aboard the grand tourer and you are presented with a mix of analogue gauges and a massive 10.75-inch TFT control system. Not only does it have good depth in the contrast of information displayed, it is easy to read and navigate.
Those familiar with the BMW Motorrad TFT on other models will find navigating and working this system a synch, and the system offers split screen display and easy smart phone integration for music and navigation.
It also displays all critical riding info at a glance, including tyre pressures, fuel level and trip meter, among a host of other info, including the controls for the heated grips and seat. Crisp, clean audio comes from the Marshal Gold Series sound system.
Perhaps one of the more interesting bits of tech on the big Bimmer though is the adaptive cruise control. Although not new to the automotive world, this is the first time we have experienced it on a bike, and the good news is it works, and works well.
With the ability to set speed like normal cruise control on most bikes, there is also three settings on the R 18 Transcontinental which help distance or pace yourself from vehicles in front, just like you would find on a decent car.
Is it essential technology; of course not, but it’s impressive to show your mates when you’re pulled up for a coffee break. That said, it also forms part of an impressive package of innovations that feature on the R 18 Transcontinental.
The 1802cc 2-cylinder boxer engine produces 67kW of power and 158Nm of torque, in a package that’s Euro 5 compliant. It features three riding modes, including Rock, Roll and Rain, just like its R 18 siblings.
On the road, power response is good, although it does take a little to get its bulky frame moving from a standing start. Once moving though, it’s an exceptionally satisfying experience that sees the engine keep pulling all the way past cruising speed.
The 6-speed gearbox is silky smooth too and there’s none of that traditional thump when changing gears that you find from other players in the large capacity cruiser market either. There’s a heel/toe shifter as well; a nice edition to make gear changes more efficient.
We do have one big gripe with the R 18 Transcontinental though, and it’s the positioning of the shifter pegs. It’s almost as if you need to angle your foot inwards to be able to engage gear changes.
This could have been easily overcome by adding a spacer or an extra inch of peg to create a much more user friendly position. That issue aside, the brake setup is good and offers great rider confidence, particularly the front brakes.
Featuring twin 300mm disc brakes and a four piston fixed calliper, they have good feel and bite, and combined with a single 300mm setup on the rear, and BMW Motorrad fully integrated ABS, it works well as a combined package.
Suspension is smooth and plush, as you would except from a BMW touring motorcycle and the R 18 Transcontinental feels at home through mid-range corners, at speeds between 60 and 120km/h. It sticks nicely to the ground across multiple road surfaces.
The tighter and slower stuff isn’t horrible either, but you will notice that you are working with a larger motorcycle. Telescopic forks on the front of a double-cradle tubular steel frame with a rear steel swingarm with central shock strut create a solid backbone too.
Combined with a seat height of 720mm, getting your feet flat footed to the ground at a stop is easily achievable. It’s worth noting all Australian models also feature reverse gear and hill start control as standard, for easier manoeuvrability.
Luggage capacity is good without being exceptional. The top box (47-litres) has enough room to fit one full faced helmet, while the side panniers aren’t quiet as spacious as some of BMW’s competitors, but are adequate.
Pricing starts from $41,675 plus on road costs and there is an array of accessories available, including a First Edition package, comfort seat, an Option 719 aero package, and the Option 719 paint and seat found on our tester.
Other options include accessories from names like Vance and Hines and Roland Sands Design. Available in Manhattan Metallic, and Black Storm Metallic as standard, the 2021 BMW Motorrad R 18 Transcontinental is backed by a 3-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
The Transcontinental is a fitting top end cruiser for the R 18 family. The addition of this model and the R 18 B gives the range a true identity and the scope to compete against Indian and Harley-Davidson.
What the 2021 BMW R 18 Transcontinental represents is a true grand tourer in cruiser form, a bike that not only looks rock’n’roll, but is functional, has a quality finishe and lets you tour in style.
Our test bike was provided by BMW Motorrad Australia. To find out more about the 2021 BMW R 18 Transcontinental, contact your local BMW Motorrad dealer.