The 2022 BMW R18 B and Transcontinental are big, bold and undoubtedly beautiful, but does BMW’s biggest ever motorcycles hit the American sweet spot?
Things are changing at BMW Motorrad. As part of a full-blown assault on the American touring market, the R18 model range has now increased to four machines (BMW R18 First Edition, R18 Classic, and now the BMW R18 B and R18 Transcontinental). It’s a confident stance from the company, who developed their largest-ever boxer motor for the project, and have delivered machines that are indeed beautiful, with more than a slight German twist on the American aesthetic. SBI was invited to sample the B and Transcontinental at the recent national launch in Colorado, and we spent the first half of the day navigating the early morning Denver traffic on the B. This was handy because running traffic on a 942 pound Transcontinental wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun, and the 877 pound B model proved surprisingly adept at getting us away from the tin tops and out onto the open road.
The BMW R18 B (and Transcontinental for that matter) are not complete carbon copies of the two R18’s that were put on sale last year. Both machines share a revised steel backbone chassis with steeper steering geometry that has the forks mounted behind the steering head, resulting in quicker, more responsive steering. This has also yielded three degrees more lean angle to a claimed 35 degrees, at which point both machines turn into massive angle grinders as the floorboards get crunched in the tarmac.
Winding that gigantic 244 pound, 1802 cc flat-twin motor out on the freeways between Denver and our lunch stop of the Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel (where “The Shining” was filmed) was, for us at least, a little disappointing. Such a massive motor needs more than 90 hp on tap, although if you keep away from the upper revs and stay below 4500, you will at least stay within the motor’s prime operating range. There are three modes: Rain, Roll and the high-performance Rock. And even in Rock I was asking for more than the motor would give in either B of Transcontinental form.
There was also an issue with the clutch on our Transcontinental where it would excessively slip in the lower gears. This was an issue with the original R18 that BMW fixed with a mapping change but given the four models were developed side by side, BMW has not entirely fixed these issues.
The clutch slipping issue, at least for me, didn’t happen as badly on the B, so whether it’s down to the extra 67 pounds of the Transcontinental or not, remains to be seen. I suspect the problem is much more a design flaw than a simple mapping one.
Another issue was the excessive heat given off by the big twin. Despite having its cylinders splayed out the sides, cooling was still an issue, especially in traffic. Air/oil-cooled motorcycles need air to cool them, so don’t be surprised if either machine turns into a mobile sauna in traffic.
Both machines are graced with a stunning cockpit with a quartet of analog gauges for revs, speed, fuel and a quite useless “power reserve” gauge that tells you how much of the available 90 hp you’re using at a given time. Gun the motor and the gauge drops to zero. Roll on the freeway and the needle will hover around the 90 hp mark. It’s a silly add-on that feels like it was placed there to give the cockpit some symmetry. I think a classic analog clock would have been better suited to the task.
Below the gauges sits a magnificent 10.25-inch TFT dash for all your usual trip needs, plus access for the Marshall Gold Series Audio sound system. Excellent sound, a neat design, but pairing my phone and thus playing streaming music proved annoyingly difficult through the dash. I suspect, in time, owners will get used to the system’s quirks but trying to play music from Spotify meant I had to change songs one track at a time, rather than just playing it through.
In $27,145 MSRP Transcontinental form, you get twin 27-liter side bags and a massive 48 liter top case, plus the larger screen, and this plus the associated bodywork adds that 67 pounds to the game. For me, the Transcontinental is absolutely on the edge of too big, whereas the $24,095 B will at least give a bit more spritely performance. That’s where I’d park my money but I wouldn’t be taking either over the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, which offers less weight and more power for a given application.
BMW has created four beautiful machines in the R18 line-up, but I can’t help feel the mark has been slightly missed. You can’t blame them for trying. BMW has been desperate for a slice of the cruiser market for years now, but against Harley-Davidson, the undisputed kings of the category, they are not quite there. Yet.
Images: Kevin Wing