Published on February 11th, 2022 | by Boris0
2022 R18 TRANSCONTINENTAL & R18 B REVIEWED – IMPERIOUS MAJESTY
There are no other bikes I have ridden that come so carved from the very bedrock of imperious majesty than either of these two R18s. These are the heritage flagships BMW Motorrad has gifted to the world – and in one fell swoop, cemented its credentials in the often strange world of twin-cylinder, big-bore cruiser-tourers.
This world has long been the domain of Harley-Davidson. And while BMW builds serious six-cylinder touring weapons, and some very able boxer-engined grand-tourers, the R18 line is a departure from both.
I have reviewed the baseline R18 HERE, and it’s screened and leather-bagged sibling HERE. But the real meat on this well-set cruiser table belongs to the utterly majestic Transcontinental, and its…hell, there’s no other word for it…sexier brother, the R18B.
Both are vast, beautifully appointed, and utterly engaging examples of the genre. It’s their very size and concomitant road-presence that makes them more than the sum of their parts.
And I’d be lying if I didn’t say the fact they both come with what is hands-down the best 180W sound system on any bike, made by the legendary Marshall amplifier and speaker concern, appeals hugely to my inner rockstar. If they’re good enough for Hendrix, Clapton, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Motorhead (with its infamous Marshall amps, dubbed Murder One and Murder Two), and anyone who’s anyone in rock, then they’re damn well good enough for me.
But the Marshall gear is the icing on a very rich cake. Or cakes. So let me deal with each bike separately. Despite the fact they’re both largely identical in terms of powerplant and chassis, the obvious differences is that one is slanted more towards two-up touring, and thus the top-box and pillion-loving seat, and the other is what may well be the ultimate, dark-souled, solo bagger. But I’ll get to that in the fullness of time…
A very apt name. One could indeed transverse continents on this. In fact, one feels one must indeed do just that.
Gone is the short-hops-only seat of the base R18. The Transcontinental bathes your bum in supportive luxury. The biggest TFT screen (10.25-inches) on any motorcycle yet made sits before you. It is surmounted by four analogue clocks which show you fuel, speed, revs, and available power – which I first thought was weird, but then realised how clever such a gauge was, allowing you to see you’re at X-amount of power in the rev-range, and that you have Y power left with which to overtake or show off to the ladies.
The screen contains every conceivable bit of information you’d ever think of wanting to know. It can provide maps, what the bike is currently doing info, what does the bike want now? info, what’s that song called? info, who is calling me when I’m on a ride? info, or just show you a stylishly muted front-on image of that amazing 1800c boxer motor.
It’s got all the expected electrical whizzbangery to assist you – hill start control, reverse, traction control, the three engine modes, Rock, Roll and Rain…but you don’t need me to list them all, do you? Leave it in Rock. You’ll be fine.
So it’s totally loaded. And once you’ve totally loaded it up with yourself, your girl, and everything in her wardrobe and her section of the bathroom – and it’s just not possible to beat BMW luggage for ease-of-use, quality, and space – you’re good to go.
And it’s in the “going” where you’ll start to appreciate just what an engineering marvel BMW has made. This whole Transcontinental performance weighs 427kg and can easily carry another 203kg. You are now in command of more than half-a-tonne of bike. You’ve bunged 24-litres of fuel in its tank, so you don’t have to stop for at least 400km, but you will because girl-bladders are not very robust, and you’re wondering how all of this will behave on the road.
Quite astonishingly well. You can feel what your brain will tell you isa truly terrifying weight when you heave it off the stand, but once you’re rolling, it’s fine. Like, very fine. Even fully laden, there seems to be no drop-off in cornering ability or performance.
That engine hauls all the arse there is to haul. It makes big, meaty noises when you gas it on, and then 630kg of German majesty just…erm, goes. I would expect no less from cylinder heads the size of goodly hogs – each one displacing 900ccs.
It makes 67kW at 4750rpm and whomps out 158Nm at a mere 3000rpm. It’s happiest between 100 and 160. So while it doesn’t have the acceleration or top-end of the six-cylinder K, it’s rendering its torque-fat almost 3000rpm lower in the range.
I could do the length of the Putty Road in top gear. Maybe just knock it back into fifth for the 25km/h bends. Or not. The engine is more flexible than a Russian gymnast.
There is now 120mm of travel in the suspenders both front and rear. The base R18 only has 90mm in the rear, which was somewhat limiting on our crap roads. My wife, who is the arbiter of what comfort means to a pillion, loved the extra travel.
Protection from the elements is first-rate. I would expect no less. My expectations were met. All those winglets and angles do the job. You can hear the stereo at 120, and you can even keep much of the rain off if you don’t stop. Its fairing and screen protection is maybe not as all-encompassing as it is on the K-series, but that’s almost like sitting in a car at times.
And while I have screwed up my face at the heel-toe shifter on the Classic (that’s the one with the leather bags and see-through screen), I came around to it the longer I rode with it on the Transcontinental. It’s one of those things you’ll get used to. And honestly, you don’t need to be sawing through the gears as much as I was when I felt I should push it through corners harder.
There’s a limit to how hard you can push 630kg of bike. Or might even want to. So a heel-toe shifter is, at the end of the day, quite at home on the Transcontinental. That said, you can most certainly get the big girl to dance if you’ve a mind to. There’s a lot of integrity in her big bones. And it is quite hilarious rounding up more allegedly agile bikes. Or maybe that’s just my sense of humour.
At the end of the day, and in this bike niche, it’s all about road-presence, comfort, style, sophistication, and that inner voice that tells you: “Yeah, baby, you da boss of this here continent. And that one over there as well.”
No other bike does all of that with the sheer panache of the R18 Transcontinental.
This was my favourite of all the R18s. The Bagger.
I was sold the minute I saw the black rocker covers and overall darkness of the bike I was given. But the Marshall badges were still there, and the stereo still delivered.
I don’t need a top-box or superb pillion accommodation. My wife will argue this well after my eyes have rolled back into my head, but she doesn’t get on the back often enough for me to need a bike that’s as much about the pillion as the rider, like the Transcontinental. The B does and is the Transcontinental without the trunk and lounge-seat on the back.
And it’s appreciably lighter as a result. Yes, I know – 390kg wet is still nothing to sneeze at. But it will rumble down the road hauling the same 630kg, if you want it to. What does that mean? Well, mummy can let herself go a bit more. At least the weight of the top-box.
What I liked most about the B was that it had a genuine aesthetic appeal. It was grimly sexy in a tough, German kind of way. I’m quite a fan of the Indian and the Harley baggers in terms of style, but the BMW had it over them for me.
It looked…well, “right”. It looked like a big-arse bagger should look. Kinda tough and kinda classy, at the same time. Which is a hard thing to pull off.
It was also less intimidating to ride at speed. I did take my wife on the back for a bit of a jaunt, and made her hang on tight when I applied myself. She also swore at me and wished she had the pillion-loving Transcontinental to sit on instead. But at normal, Christian speeds, she did not complain – and said it was much better than the Classic I squired her around on for a while. That’s the extra suspension travel and plusher seat doing the work there.
It rained quite a bit while I had it in my custody, and here’s where it really scored points over its American competition. It’s very good in the wet. I left it in Rock mode, and just let it be. It did not put a tyre wrong. Solid, planted, and very re-assuring even in teeming rain. As an example of just how much engineering cleverness has gone into making half-a-tonne of bike behave so well, look no further.
Both the B and the Transcontinental come with both Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC) and Active Cruise Control (ACC). Yes, just like cars. Invisible beams are fired from the front of the bike when you set it in ACC, and when these beams hit the car in front, the bike slows down and keeps a certain distance from the car. Yes, you can set this distance. And no, none of this works over 160km/h. Probably with good reason. The rider needs to be on his game and in control at those zestier velocities, beams or no beams.
Now you’ll recall I very much loved the K1600 Bagger, so I guess you’re wondering how this boxer twin measured up against the six-cylinder weapon. It’s very different. The whole feel of the ride is different. The R18 offers a meatier, more visceral vibe compared to the glassy-turbine experience on the K1600. So it’s down to what you want, I guess.
In terms of how it compares to the American offerings…well, it’s just a more polished product. Better brakes, better-handling, better finish (Harley’s CVO is right up there in terms of finish, but it’s 20K more expensive), and has a much, much higher level of electronic sophistication and equipment.
I think the R18B is the coolest bike BMW has yet built. The base R18 is cool, but I reckon the bagger iteration is cooler. And certainly far more useable for touring.
Its majesty cannot be denied or ignored. It can only be admired and appreciated.
THE “WHERE ARE MY GODDAMN HIGHWAY PEGS?!” WHINGE
Do you know why people put highway pegs on Harleys and Indians? It’s so they can stretch their legs out on boring highways. Do you know why they need to stretch their legs out? It’s because the riding position is not comfortable to begin with. It’s already feet-forward, so your spine is the shock-absorber. In that cruiser position, there is only one option and that is to stretch your feet even further forward, hence highway pegs. This reclining position can only work if you can brace your lower back in some way, and in today’s world, you can, with the addition of back-rests for the rider as well as the pillion. The R18 range offers a far more neutral riding position, and the addition of highway pegs is not possible with the cylinder heads being where they are. Do you need highway pegs? Not really. I wasn’t missing them. But I have seen R18s fitted with calf-rests atop the cylinder heads. So there are options if you’re wedded to that kind of riding position. People may well laugh at you, but as long as you’re good, it’s all good. And no, the cylinder heads don’t get in the way of you operating the controls, nor do they give off the heat you think they might. Ride one. See for yourself.
WANT SOME NEXT-LEVEL STUFF?
BMW Motorrad, does, of course, offer a very wide range of factory customisation. It has collaborated in this with Roland Sands Design, and you can explore the wonderfully elite world of Option 719 – the number the Berlin factory has always used when dealing with customised parts.
We’re talking astonishing paint jobs (like that marvel on the Transcontinental I had), special milled parts, and all sorts of neat additions. Or just upgrade that amazing sound system to a Stage two. I’d do that because Serbian war songs can never be loud enough.
The Transcontinental starts at $44,390 Ride Away
The R18B starts at $41,995 Ride Away