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BMW R18 Extended Road Test: A Very Big Day In The Saddle!

We were lucky enough to get our hands on the new BMW R18 cruiser so we thought we'd make the most of it and head off to Wales and the South West of England for the day, racking up 465 miles in the process. We tested the bike in every condition that we could find, from tiny coastal backroads to motorways and everyting in between. As an added bonus, the weather delivered all four different seasons in one day, too. It was the perfect day to really get to know the bike and see what it was made of. These are our thoughts on the BMW R18 in a simple, easy to read format - we'll be doing a Ride Out Blog shortly, too. Settle in and and enjoy.

 

Stuff we liked;

  • Riding position. I found the bike to be pretty good all day long. I’m 5’11” with a 31” inner leg and I thought the seat position was pretty spot on. After a few hundred miles I found myself using different parts of the pegs to stretch out my legs and also noted that you could rest your heels on the top of the exhaust behind the pegs for added support and a bit of a rest. The seat is long enough that you can move around a little on a longer run and the bars were perfectly set to my reach. 465 miles is the furthest I've ridden in a single day on the same bike (I've done some longer days where we swapped bikes to avoid cramping up) and, apart from a slightly numb bum, I could have gone out and done the same mileageagain the following day. To be honest, I was a little bit tempted to.
  • Constant Torque. The best part of riding the BMW R18 was finding a wide, winding country road, hooking it into third or fourth gear and rolling the throttle on. The bike had so much smooth power that you could probably spend the whole day in these two gears alone and they would work for whatever the roads threw at you. It was brilliant for overtakes, chilling out through villages and for having fun! The bike comes with three riding modes; Rain, Rock & Roll. I know, terrible. I spent 90% of the day in Roll mode because I was frequently negotiating wet surfaces and it offered a smooth, predictable power delivery. On the occasions when I was able to, I flicked over to Rock which gave a sharper throttle delivery and put a huge smile on my face. Allegedly, the R18 will happily make it over three figures and when it does it’ll carry on pulling with a twist of your wrist. It also starts to sound pretty sweet at this point, almost NASCAR-like as the twin cylinder 1.8 litre motor stretches its legs. Allegedly, of course.
  • Smooth Ride. After it had gotten dark and I was on very familiar roads I switched into my ‘go home’ mode. I know you know what I mean; highway riding at a sensible, constant speed in order to just complete that last part of the journey. This last part of the day is where the R18 showed it’s BMW roots. It was a beautifully smooth ride and I didn’t feel I was being rattled around and like my teeth were going to fall out, even when I was sat midway through the rev range which normally tends to be the place that the Harleys I've ridden shake a bit. The brilliant LED headlight was also pretty phenomenal too at this time of night.
  • Planted Feel. On extended highway stretches I found the need to have a small shuffle around and, at points, decided to give my left hand a break. The bike was extremely planted when riding like this for short periods, a positive towards its weight and low centre-of-gravity.
  • The Appeal. Every time I stopped for coffee, fuel or a leg stretch someone wanted to come over and have a quick chat or a take a photo with the bike. There are some things that I would definitely modify to suit my own tastes but you can very obviously see it’s appeal straight out of the box.


Stuff we’d improve;

  • Peg scraping. Within 2-3 miles I had already managed to ground out the pegs on both sides of the bike. Now, this might be my fault as I’m not especially au-fait with cruiser style bikes but I feel it’s definitely worth a mention. I felt my own slight hestitation each time I went into a sharper turn, especially in wet conditions or on unknown roads. These were where I found the bike trickiest as I was unable to trail brake and drop the bike into the corner if I found myself on the wrong line. It looks like the pegs are located where they are in order to bring your feet back behind the cylinder heads but low enough for a comfortable riding position so there’s going to be some head scratching at our end to see how we can fix this scaping issue. I should note; this was only something I noticed on tighter roads, the bike was great everywhere else. Maybe I just need to slow down and enjoy the ride more?
  • Tyre Choice. Odd slips in the wet on the Michelins also caused a bit of a loss in confidence but I will also add that they were great on the dry twisties. They were new tyres so I appreciated that they may get better with time but I’d also maybe look to see what other brands were doing in this size tyre and head over to one of those next time around.
  • Wind resistance. As soon as you took the bike to around the 75mph mark you had to start holding on and pulling yourself forward on the bars. If it was my bike, I would look to pop on some flatter bars which would allow me to drop down and avoid the wind a touch, this is how I found myself most comfortable on the last straights towards home. The alternative is to ride slightly slower as this feeling dropped away as soon as I went below 70mph again. This does mean that the riding position was great fun for the smaller roads.
  • Fuel Gauge. The fuel gauge on the R18 is similar to the R9T which means that it’ll only let you know that you’re running out of fuel when the fuel light comes on and the bike starts counting up the miles since going on to ‘reserve’. I’m not too precious and found myself defaulting to the days of riding bikes with a traditional fuel tap/reserve but it’s worth pointing out. For reference, the fuel light came on regularly at 120-125 miles and I did run out of petrol in Newport having ridden for 145 miles. As a tip, I sloshed the tank about and seemed to get an extra few miles which allowed me to get to a fuel station. Also, for reference, I filled up four times throughout the course of the day and never managed to fit more than 12.61 litres into the bike (when I ran out of fuel) - the tank is quoted at 16 litres. This made me wonder if the tank allowed for unused fuel to sit on the opposite side of the tank and not get used, which would be odd for a modern BMW.

Tip; fill up as soon as you can after the light comes on.

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