Reports of a new BMW R18 Transcontinental bagger were not greatly exaggerated. As we expected, BMW took the wraps off a new mega-cruiser today, equipped with full luggage and accessories package, and a boatload of chrome. There’s also a new R18 B, which is pretty much the same machine, with a slightly different rear seat and no tail trunk.
Much of R18 platform is already familiar design, so what’s new?
Most obviously, there’s a massive fairing on the new bikes, a batwing-style unit that looks similar to the one Indian uses on the Challenger. On the Transcontinental, BMW puts a full-sized windscreen on it; the R18B uses a cut-down windscreen. Along with that taller screen, the Transcontinental also gets a set of wind deflectors, for more protection from the elements.
The gas tank is larger than the previous R18 models, in order to extend highway range. Both the Transcontinental and R18 B now get a 24-litre fuel tank.
Both bikes get hard saddlebags, with 27-litre capacity (26.5 litre capacity, if you add the upgraded sound system, with speakers integrated into the bags). The Transcontinental also gets a 48-litre tail trunk. That’s supposedly enough space to store two full-face helmets,for the “Ride and Dine” type of rider, looking to do touristy things.
Of course, all the added bodywork and luggage carries accents that set these machines apart from the stripped-down R18 base models.
The Transcontinental also gets a full-sized set of floorboards, while the R18 B gets trimmed-down boards, in keeping with its bagger design. The Transcontinental also gets a bigger seat, for more long-distance comfort, while the R18 B seat is slimmed-down.
Both bikes get a sound system with Marshall speakers. Factory standard configuration only has two speakers, but the buyer can opt for four speakers, or even six, with up to 280 watts of power. That sound system is controlled through the R18’s 10.25-inch TFT screen, with full-colour HD display (four analogue gauges are also built into the fairing, for speedometer and other read-outs). The bike’s nav system runs on a wifi link to a smartphone app; to that end, there’s a spot built into the gas tank to hold and wirelessly charge your phone while you’re riding.
BMW’s new adaptive cruise control is standard on both the Transcontinental and R18 B (BMW calls it Active Cruise Control). We first saw this system on the R1250 RT last October, and it’s now spreading across BMW’s high-end models. Adaptive cruise control works by maintaining a certain speed, but when it detects a vehicle ahead, the system shifts to maintain a safe following distance. Adaptive cruise control may also reduce speed for safe cornering. It’s common on cars now, but it’s just appearing in the motorcycle world.
Dynamic cruise control, cornering-sensitive LED headlight, engine braking control, central case locking system, hill start control and a reverse function are all available as well, although you’ll have to pay extra for some of these features.
To handle the extra weight, both bikes have rear suspension travel added. There’s a heated seat as standard equipment.
BMW also offers a range of factory accessories, including machined wheels, trick windscreen, and lots and lots of milled trim. Roland Sands Design collaborated with BMW for some of these accessories. There’s also a Vance & Hines exhaust system, if you want that look.
The rest of the package
The actual mechanical bits of the R18 Transcontinental and R18 B look fairly familiar. Both bikes run on the same basic R18 platform that BMW introduced for 2020. There’s a twin loop steel frame, with enclosed telescopic forks up front (for that American cruiser look) and softail suspension setup in back (also for that American cruiser look).
The engine is the same massive air/oil-cooled flat twin that BMW’s used in the R18 and R18 Classic. It makes a claimed 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm, and a massive 116 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. The engine is also aimed at delivering an experience similar to a made-in-‘Murica cruiser, with 110 pound-feet of torque available between 2,000 rpm and 4,000 rpm, for down-low grunt. There’s a nickel-plated shaft drive, which is exposed for all to see.
Both bikes also have a dual-disc front brake setup, with four-piston caliper. In rear, there’s a single-disc brake, with four-piston caliper. That’s a lot of braking power, but these bikes need it. The R18 B weighs 877 pounds wet; the Transcontinental weighs 941 pounds wet.
MSRP for the R18 B is $21,495 MSRP in the US. The Transcontinental has an $24,995 MSRP in the US. Supposedly, the bikes will be in showrooms late this summer. At this point, we have not seen Canadian MSRP or availability.
BMW vs. the cruiser market
So, BMW now has an entry into every segment of the cruiser market: Stripped-down base model, classic bagger, modern bagger, and full-on tourer. With American OEMs still experiencing frustration with overseas tariffs, BMW appears poised to grab some sales from both Indian and Harley-Davidson, especially as its pricing is in-line with that competition.