It’s no secret Harley-Davidson dominates the United States’ heavyweight touring motorcycle market. For years and years, Harley-Davidson offered big-displacement, heavyweight, chrome-filled cruisers. While the American company had almost the entire pie to themselves, BMW was more focused on the technologically-advanced sport- and adventure-tourers rather than the classic style. BMW decided they wanted to go after HD’s biggest offerings and start producing some American-inspired tourers of their own. The result is the BMW R18.
If you’re a fan of Harley’s big, heavy tourers, as well as BMW’s highly-advanced technology, then you will love the R18. BMW MOTORRAD offers four different versions of the R18, all of which share identical engine performance but differ in terms of the accessories, weight, and some slight modifications to accommodate the weight. We decided to review the biggest, heaviest, most equipped version of the R18.
2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental
- Twin Front Disc Brake
- BMW Motorrad Integral ABS
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- 10.25-Inch TFT Display
- Engine: 1,802cc Air/Oil Cooled Twin-Cylinder Four-Stroke Boxer
- Horsepower: 91 Horsepower @ 4,750 RPM
- Torque: 116 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM
- Drivetrain: Two Chain-Driven Cams Above Crank
- Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
- Advanced Display With Classic Analog Gauges
- Extremely Classic And Timeless Design
- Relatively Low Torque Response
- Beautiful Exhaust Notes
- Largest BMW Engine On A Motorcycle
- Optional Reverse Assist And Hill Assist
- Transcontinental Trim Adds Significant Weight
- Cramped Feet Space Due to Cylinder Heads
- Brakes Could Use Improvement
R18 Boasts Classic Styling
While we know Harley-Davidson by their V-Twins, BMW offers the Boxer twins. BMW’s Boxer engine features horizontally-opposed cylinders. For the R18, they didn’t hold back, giving this platform the largest displacement engine and calling it the Big Boxer. The R18 is inspired by the original BMW R5 1930s model. Of course, the Transcontinental adds much more accessories and weight than the early inspirations.
Unlike most BMW motorcycles we’ve seen in recent years, the 2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental features tons of classic cues, chrome, and makes a tough argument against the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, Road Glide, Electra Glide, and a few others. In addition to the classic touches, the T18 Transcontinental comes with hard saddlebags, a top trunk, and a very well-equipped infotainment system.
2022 BMW R18 Big Boxer Engine Specs
Serving as BMW’s largest Boxer engine, the Big Boxer sports an air/oil cooled twin-cylinder, four-stroke boxer engine with two chain-driven camshafts right above the crank. With a 107.1mm bore and 100mm stroke, this Boxer measures 1,802cc.
The large-displacement engine works collaboratively with a 6-speed transmission with a single dry-clutch in between. With this engine combination at 9.6:1 compression ratio, the 2022 BMW R18 delivers 91 horsepower at 4,750 RPM, and 116 lb-ft of torque between 3,000 RPM. With large cruiser motorcycles, all eyes are on the torque. On paper, the 1,800cc engine delivers the 116 lb-ft at a relatively low RPM, but with over 940-pounds of weight without the rider, we had to see if this number can sprint the R18 Transcontinental out of trouble quick enough on the road, or if the R18 lives by the motto of “it doesn’t matter how fast we get there, as long as we get there safely.”
BMW R18 Transcontinental First Edition Design
The R18 Transcontinental features a bold look that you can’t ignore. The front has a large fender with the elegant round headlight. It’s available in four different paint colors, but the First Edition comes painted in the Black Storm metallic paint with the double white line accents.
The wheels are silver grey with chrome-plated accents nearby, like the oversized cylinder head covers, engine housing cover, and brake calipers. The heavy chrome with the deep black metallic gives this cruiser a very American vibe. The entire motorcycle is large and in-your-face, but it all flows together so smoothly.
The saddlebags are not only extremely functional, but they also complement the design of the body. The rear cargo is large enough to easily house a full-face helmet, yet it’s aerodynamic to categorize it as smooth rather than bulky. All in all, the design is a home-run. BMW MOTORRAD wanted to go up against heavyweight Harley-Davidson bikes, and they did just that.
2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental Technology
Since the Transcontinental carries a lot more weight, the engineers gave it a thicker double-steel rear to withstand the weight and larger fuel tank. The rake angle is steeper in the Transcontinental from 32.7-degrees to 27.3-degrees when compared to the other R18 models.
Sitting behind the handlebars of the R18 Transcontinental is quite the experience. An extra-large 10.25-inch screen lights up upon starting the motorcycle. It’s one of the best screens on a motorcycle today. It doesn’t matter which side the sun is coming from, this screen is clear, informative, and easy to navigate through.
Using the BMW’s toggle switch on the left side allows you to go through the screen to display important data, like your tire pressure, trip details, and much more. Navigation is also available with the smartphone app downloaded.
A Marshal sound system enhances the driving experience, with a total of 280-watts of speakers and subwoofers. The bass is so heavy on this motorcycle it can almost overshadow the engine roars and vibrations. The two wind deflectors on the front of the fairing are easily opened and closed while sitting on the motorcycle, which make a huge difference in letting the wind through. The two deflectors also enhance the front design of the motorcycle.In addition to the bold design of the headlight, it features an LED Adaptive technology, allowing it to swivel for a maximum of 35-degrees in each direction when carving up the turns.
Technology doesn’t stop there, the 2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental features adaptive cruise control, automatic stability control, and the optional, and much-needed, reverse assist. All in all, the R18 is a true modern retro motorcycle.
2022 R18 Transcontinental First Ride
Upon delivery of the R18 Transcontinental, the immediate reaction is: “Woah, this is huge!” You can feel the large construction when you try to get the bike off of the kick stand. It’s extremely heavy. Squeeze the clutch, start the bike, and you will hear the music of the 1,800cc engine coming out of the long exhaust pipes. Revving the engine will nudge the nearly 1,000-pound motorcycle left and right aggressively. Once you start riding, you immediately feel how cramped your feet are on the foot rests. There is very little room between the foot rests and the cylinder heads. While this isn’t a problem on short drives, long distance is what this bike targets, which could be really tiresome after a while.
Once you start cruising, the weight of the bike disappears and, for such a heavy bike, its nimbleness will surprise you. The windshield is a perfect height, allowing the wind to brush off your helmet, while the wind deflectors by the knees are clearly felt when opened or closed.
Upon braking, you will start feeling the weight of the motorcycle again. While the brakes work well, we can’t help but feel they need improvement. They simply don't offer enough confident authority during sudden stops. The clutch lever is heavy, but we didn’t experience any clutch slipping like other riders have. When stopped at red lights, a tight squeeze of the brakes will activate the brake hold – a crucially important feature for a motorcycle this heavy. Taking off with the brake hold on will take some getting used to, as it takes a fraction of a second to release the brakes, so if you’re not expecting it, you could stall the bike.
The optional reverse assist shouldn’t be optional. At a very tight parking lot with a slight decline, it was nearly impossible to back up the bike without the reverse assist. Again, when stopped, this is a very heavy motorcycle. The motorcycle truly comes to life when cruising, however, and the adaptive cruise control works brilliantly to slow down the R18 as the car in front of you slows down.
The entire bike has a very calm and collected demeanor. Cruise for a while and you may start to get tired of the vibration, however. You can feel the vibration strongly on your feet and your hands, and while we all love it, we could see ourselves getting tired of it after a while.
Rock, Roll, And Rain Driving Modes
We can’t categorize the R18 Transcontinental as a quick motorcycle. However, this isn’t necessary a stab at it. This is a touring bike, and it cruises brilliantly. Torque is almost immediate if you’re in the right gear at the right time. Cruising at 3,000 RPM will allow you to get out of trouble right away in Rock driving mode. This mode gives the R18 the most aggressive torque curve. On the other hand, Roll and Rain modes are slow. We don’t see value in riding in Roll mode if you’re still getting used to the motorcycle. Even in Rock mode, you will feel perfectly in control and the bike will not have any unpredictable reactions to your throttle input. However, in the rain, Roll and Rain modes are perfect.
On our very first ride with the Transcontinental, the clouds gathered up and started pouring rain. The heavyweight felt very authoritative on the road, and with these modes on, we never felt like we could lose traction. All in all, the BMW engineers designed the 2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental to eat up the highway all day long. Take it in traffic, and you will wish you can just turn around and go home.
The Bottom Line On The R18 Transcontinental
It’s no secret BMW has a lot of experience engineering touring bikes. The experience translated perfectly in the R18. The motorcycle feels like a traditional heavyweight, but with industry-leading technology. The design is simply brilliant, and people’s thumbs up and small conversations at red lights are witnesses. The only problem BMW will face is that they abandoned their own style to go after a segment owned by Harley-Davidson. This makes the R18 a tad lost in identity, unlike Japanese touring bikes that always stuck to their roots.
If you choose to look past the history and into the functionality, the BMW R18 Transcontinental may surprise you. It will be a long road for the market to start looking into this motorcycle as a worthy replacement for some of Harley’s biggest and baddest offerings. Perhaps more time could help the German manufacture improve upon this bike and give it the small touches it needs to compete against the legend.
The 2022 BMW R18 Transcontinental has a starting MSRP of $24,995. For this price tag, it’s a no-brainer. However, once you start adding some of the features that we think are critical, this price tag can easily creep up. Our loner R18 came with a price tag of $35,889. We didn’t care about some of the items on that list, like the machined cylinder head cover, rear brake cover, and handlebar end caps; however, we think the hill start control and reverse assist are a must. While the R18 competes with a long list of luxury touring bikes, it has every right to be here. The question is: can you justify paying North of $35,000 for a motorcycle that hasn’t been on the market for that long? Only time will tell. In the meantime, try test-driving the R18 for a long period of time – it will not disappoint you.