I’ve owned and ridden several motorcycles over my 30 years of riding, and like many of us have not had much experience with cruisers. I am however working for a car/motorcycle manufacturer, and one of the perks is to have a company motorcycle which is changed every 5 months. Given this amazing opportunity, I ensure that I pick something different each time, although I have had some favourites over the years. To my delight and excitement, I managed to get one of the first R18 1st Editions which I picked up in December 2020.

bmw r18 first 1st edition

I arrived at the site where we swap over our bikes. I was giving back a BMW F900R, which is quite a different machine to the huge, low chrome covered monster that awaited me. It was time to ride it home. Clutch in, press the starter button and the huge 900cc pistons fired into life with a side-to-side shudder, although much quieter than I’d hoped!

The ride home was very damp and an accident on the M3 caused me to have to negotiate some muddy back roads.  With brand new tyres and 1800cc of grunt, the bike handled everything I threw at it without a stutter.  After an hour and a half in the saddle, I got off feeling as comfortable as if I’d been on a touring bike. After only 2 more rides we’re back into lockdown, so the beast was put back in the garage with 100 miles on it and onto trickle charge.

After what seems like forever, April finally arrived, and I get to go out on a peer-to-peer ride with another Observer who’s on a BMW R1250RT.  The first thing I notice is that the R18 is slow to steer into corners. I adapt my riding style to go slower in and use the huge grunt to fire out. My friend commented that as they are following me, they had to really twist the throttle on the RT to stay with the R18, such is the bottom end and mid-range. After a couple of hours out on it, I still feel comfortable and am enjoying the torque and the surprisingly good front twin disc brakes.

Second ride after lockdown, we were off on a small social ride to the Cod and Waffle in Leighton Buzzard. Lots of fast A Roads and nice twisty back roads. There is a mixture of sports bikes, tourers and super nakeds and the R18 didn’t let me down at all. It has no problem on the straights or the twisty bits, and to quote what Bike magazine said, “ride it like a big retro, not like a cruiser”! Once you get your head around this it works perfectly.

Now what seems like only a couple of weeks and a few observed rides in mostly bad weather, its time to give the big beast back and onto the next one. I’ve really enjoyed the massive torque, excellent brakes, comfy seat and riding position, and despite what your mind tells you, I’ve never had an issue with ground clearance. Only negative side is that it gets absolutely covered in muck every time you go out, and takes ages to clean it and the suspension is a bit on the hard side.

I will really miss the R18. It has put a big smile on my face during the short amount of time I’ve been able to ride it, and I would definitely have another one. I’d encourage anyone, regardless of what you ride, to pop into your local BMW bike retailer and take a test ride on one of these amazing machines. I guarantee you’ll be surprised, and it will put a big smile on your face!

Chris Davey

First published in Slipstream June 2021