The Germans want a nice thick slice of the American pie…
BMW Motorrad USA recently unveiled two new additions to its popular R 18 product family, the 2022 R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental. To anyone with sense, it’s obvious these motorcycles are positioned to be as American as apple streusel pie in a bid to peel away some customer base from Harley-Davidson. This is the beauty of free markets, consumers get more choices than all those wonderful government-mandated vehicles made in the USSR way back when, so they can either reward BMW for this gambit or punish the move.
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When the brass at BMW Motorrad made the final decision to go ahead with these new R 18s, it was back when many were thinking Harley-Davidson was in full retreat and maybe was even on the ropes. However, the American motorcycle manufacturer has fought back and done so by really digging in with its core consumer base in North America. So with Harley surging in this market and BMW trying to strike at the same sweet spot, plenty of people will be watching eagerly to see how this plays out.
The marketing for the 2022 BMW R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental are about as obvious as one can get. Promo photos look like they’re straight out of the Harley-Davidson playbook, minus the exclusive use of all-black leather getups and the bikes parked at rustic roadside stops. Why, the Germans even recruited help from The Cadillac Three, using the country band’s latest music video for Get At Itas a long commercial for the new motorcycles. I haven’t seen this big of a sellout since Maroon 5.
But enough about the marketing hoopla: let’s focus on the actual motorcycles. Just keep in mind all information available at the moment has been thoroughly sanitized through BMW’s PR department, so sorting fact from marketing spin will require some real world experience once both of these bikes launch.
BMW emphasizes these two bikes pack the most powerful boxer engine BMW has ever made. That alone will be enough to get some people rushing over to the local Motorrad dealer. Just keep in mind these two cruisers aren’t exactly lightweights, but the 1802cc Big Boxer with 107.1 mm bore and 100 mm stroke are pushing 91-horsepower and 116 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s not bad, but it’s not like Harley doesn’t offer something arguably comparable or even better – which of course is all a matter of opinion. Most importantly, many Harley faithful won’t be swayed by that alone, especially not after the Milwaukee-Eight was unveiled last year. A constant-mesh 6-speed transmission with a single-plate dry clutch helps put that power to the road in these new R 18s.
There are many other interesting design elements to these bikes, but one of the most interesting is the Standard Dynamic Cruise Control and available Active Cruiser Control. DCC means the bike will use engine braking to keep speed at a constant, even when you’re going downhill. In especially steep terrain, like in a mountain pass, the system will even engage the ABS brakes, although there’s no mention of how the risk of vapor lock would be avoided. With ACC, the bike maintains a preset following distance with vehicles ahead, using radar sensors just like you find in many cars today. Will this kind of technological wizardry appeal to people considering Harleys? Will it get those who otherwise are nervous about traveling on two wheels in the saddle? We’ll see.
The R 18 B or Bagger is positioned as the “bad boy” new cruiser for the R 18 lineup, in opposition to the Transcontinental. That means an overall sleek, aggressive form with a skinnier seat and black metallic finish on the engine so everyone knows you mean business (or something like that).
The R 18 Transcontinental is obviously positioned for more comfortable long-distance rides. After all, it has a robust front fairing with a nice, tall windshield and wind deflectors, plus BMW says there are additional headlights for traveling on unlit backroads. To add even more comfort into the mix, there’s a Marshall sound system and a heated seat, which oddly sounds nice, although heated handlebar grips would also be great. Flashier than the Bagger, the Transcontinental has plenty of chrome and other brightwork.
This certainly is an interesting move on the part of BMW Motorrad and I’ll be curious to see what these are like in the wild. Until their launch, we just have to settle for the music video from The Cadillac Three.