Out of Berlin – BMW cruiser R 18

Is the Berlin-build BMW cruiser R 18 the first serious Harley-Davidson and Indian competition ever? In order to find out die-hard Harley biker chick Irina Mink took one for a day. Let’s see, what she has to say.

Words by Irina Mink
Images by Rob Till

My personal bike is a Harley Davidson Softail Slim, fondly known as ‘Warhorse’. She always makes me happy and we are, what you would call one. Even on untarred mountain passes. I have no intentions on ever selling or replacing her, why would I? Well, maybe because of this Bavarian out of Berlin sparkling here in the morning sun in front of me.
But please don’t tell Warhorse, that she might now have some serious competition out there. To see it is to believe it.  And I am seeing ten brand new BMW R18 bikes, perfectly lined up next to each other. Impressive.
Nine guys and myself are taking our seats and off we ride. The boxer engines are shaking to the left and to the right and making clear, they can’t be messed with. The R18 offers three driving modes: Roll, Rock and Rain. I opt for Rock. Not only does it sound like fun, it is also the most responsive and dynamic setting - and we are going for a test ride, don’t we?
The R18’s responsiveness really surprises me. And once you change into second gear she feels even more rounded. BMW’s biggest boxer ever is incredibly smooth when it comes to shifting, unlike my rather rough Harley. I know we all tend to judge, but how can I compare the two? They are nothing alike. Yes, they both have the good looks, but their heartbeat is very different. So, I was unsure of what to expect. I just thought the Beemer deserves a fair chance. Do I feel guilty? A little. After all I am cheating here, not just flirting.
Back to the ride for now. We are heading out onto the open road and the torque is something else. She plays nicely on the tarmac and it doesn’t take long to get used to her unique behavioral patterns. I find her heavy on the fork at first, especially when we reach a turn or a stop sign.

The bike is low and she fits me perfectly. I am about 165 cm tall or at least I was at some stage. So both my feet do reach the ground easily. The taller guys look a bit funny on their rides. I don’t quite understand why, because those are big bikes. The engine is huge as well. We are passing beautiful sceneries across twisty mountain passes. After a while I am thinking, you know what, I could go on a long road trip with her and I would feel safe and sound. She feels very much like a reliable and fun companion.

As a matter of fact I can also see myself riding in a pack of bikes like this more often. The rear mirror view is so stunning, that I sometimes lose focus of the road in front of me. A Bavarian cruiser parade, moving almost in unison, flying in formation over those stunning mountain passes.
The bike evokes a feeling of trustworthiness, without being boring at all. I mean you accelerate so swiftly, that you don’t even realize how fast you are going, until you catch a glimpse of the speedometer. Though the one thing, that is really challenging, is the rather hard suspension. Going fast over bumpy sections of road make you feel a bit like a rabbit hopping across a carrot field. The thought makes me laugh. Laughing is good, it’s fuel for the soul and I laugh not only because of the bumps, but because it actually feels good to ride this bike. In fact, I am smiling most of the time and the more I get to know her, the more I grin. And if I had known, that the BMW has heated grips I could have even avoided the numbness in my fingers, when it got chilly in the afternoon. My Warhorse doesn’t have fancy stuff like this, so I missed out on that bit of extra luxury.
Conclusion: I had a fantastic experience riding this stunning beauty of a bike, with amazing technology underneath its solid frame. Did she convince me? Time will tell. By the way: Warhorse and I did talk about what happened today - and we are at peace. See you on the road.

Engine 1.8-l. two-cylinder boxer, paired with a 6-speed gearbox & shaft drive
Power 67kW and 158Nm
Top Speed 179 km/h
Price from R299 000


5 May 2021

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