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A Review of BMW's 2022 R18 Bagger - Issue #30

Adam Chandler on Motorcycles
A Review of BMW's 2022 R18 Bagger - Issue #30
By Adam Chandler • Issue #30 • View online
…now a review of the BMW R18 Bagger written by me an amateur and owner of the bike (not a demo / review model).
If you want most of this in video form, you can just watch that instead of reading :)

My Thoughts on the BMW R18 Bagger after 1250 Miles - Owner Review
My Thoughts on the BMW R18 Bagger after 1250 Miles - Owner Review
After unloading the bike off the truck, Heather and I suited up and drove out to a BMW Rally happening that afternoon. The response from friends was a bit unexpected. I wasn’t kicked out of the club but I had a lot of “why” questions from friends. They know me as someone who has a GS with knobbies and a spattering of dual sports and here I am on a 870 pound cruiser built in Berlin. Everyone sat on it, started it up and twisted the throttle and smiled. Enamored with the very comfortable seating position (my friends don’t have bikes with forward controls) and the sound of the motor and its raw character. Then I told them what I paid and that I didn’t sell my GS and they all understood. The folks with airheads loved the hand painted striping around the bike and how every part was metal, not plastic and the original BMW logo on the tank and exposed driveshaft and pushrods and they all got it. The why went away and the wow started appearing. It took all of 5 minutes for my friends to fully understand this motorcycle and why it exists and why it’s cool to have one even if it’s a cruiser. The R18 is oozing with heritage and BMW soul and they all wanted one.
Over the course of 7 days, I put 600 miles on the BMW R18 and then performed the break-in service. It’s easy to work on like most boxers. There are the hard boxes on one side that must be removed to access the final drive filler and I had to buy a lower oil drain pan that would fit under the bike. I also had to lay on my back to see everything going on because it really is about 4 inches off the ground. It took 2 hours to perform the first running-in service on the bike myself with about $160 in parts. I’m not including the $33 Oil filter wrench I had to buy because the R18 oil filter doesn’t fit any of my other 3 oil filter wrenches for some reason. Valve checks are every 6,000 miles which is disappointing but it’ll give me an excuse to go to my friend Matt’s house at the end of the riding season and go riding with him before cracking open the head covers and looking at those old school valves which are supposedly easy to check…adjusting them might be another story.
BMW's R18 Bagger On New Hampshire's Hurricane Mountain Road Getting Air!
BMW's R18 Bagger On New Hampshire's Hurricane Mountain Road Getting Air!
What are some characteristics of the R18 that I have noticed?
  • There’s a lot of torque down low so rolling from a start is incredibly easy. You don’t need much throttle at all
  • Reverse has one speed. You put the bike in neutral, engage the reverse switch under your left leg and press the starter button and it will back up at about 3 MPH. It’s either 0 or 3 so you sort of modulate the start button to control the speed. It will back the massive bike up a hill. On flat terrain, the bike is so low you don’t need to use reverse. If you’re holding up traffic, you might get beeped at since it’s not very fast to engage reverse
  • Braking is strong but no where as strong as it is on my GS. You will not stop on a dime and I have felt ABS kick in on the rear. You’ll stop but don’t delay in engaging your brake lever when there’s a red light
  • Brakes are linked which is a good thing because my size 13 foot has problem getting to the rear brake lever and not touching the cylinder head. It’s actually impossible. You can adjust the levers down which I’m going to do but the brake lever is already set pretty low. I’ve started to relying only on the hand brake lever unless I need more stopping power
  • The onboard alarm works. There’s a hidden button the key that disables the sound if it’s going off while your friend is hopping on to see how the bike feels to them. Alarm is disengaged if the key is on you
  • The motor loves 2000-2800 RPM. Anything under 2,000 and you’re lugging it especially around corners or up a hill and above 3,000 you’re shaking the blood out of your hands and the bodywork with engine vibrations. It’ll go to 6,000 and never really levels out
  • There’s no counter-shaft balancer or vibration damping. You’re getting engine to frame bolted right up so you feel everything
  • 6th gear is happy from 50 MPH all of the way to 80. Above 83, you’re above 3,000 RPM and the vibrations set in. If you’re a 90 MPH cruiser, don’t get the bike 
  • Fuel consumption is pretty good. 45 MPH and a range of 250-300 miles depending on interstate or local driving. If you’re easy on the throttle and aren’t going above 55, you’ll be on this thing for a week before you need to visit a gas station. This is not the case on the pure / classic models with smaller tanks
  • You can break traction on the stock Bridgestone cruiser tires but traction control which cannot be turned off will quickly step in
  • Speaking of riding modes, there are non. Despite being a fly-by-wire system and having an ESA motor with a large oil reservoir for controlling ride-height on the rear shock and cruise control and Rock & Roll modes, you cannot disable ABS and you cannot stiffen or soften the suspension or control how high the ESA puts you. those buttons don’t exist. I think there is some ASC on-off button buried deep in the menses which is stability control but on a bike this size, I wouldn’t dare disable it anyway. I would like to soften the suspension and raise the bike more more but I’m not able to
  • There is a quick access button on the left handlebar to set follow distance of the vehicle in front of you and another button to lock your side bags
  • there is not a button for heated grips or seat. You must do that via the TFT settings menu 3-4 levels down but BMW leaves that open for you to make changes while in motion and both heated elements have 5 settings. This may be a dedicated button for TransCon owners, I know the pillion at least does have that button but not sure about rider
  • The locking fuel cap takes getting used to. It requires you physically put your key in and turn it 45 degrees. I’m leaving mine unlocked because it’s not something I’m worried about around town
  • There are flapper actuator valves past the catalytic converter and there are 2 of them, one for each pipe coming out of each head. I did not see a splitter under the bike like the LC and oil head models had
  • The valve head covers on the side of the bike are meant to fail. Meaning if you drop the bike and you crush or crack one, oil will not go all over the ground. The real magic sits behind these with some rubber around the head and a lot of plastic where your spark plug and wires go. You remove the head cover and there’s still more to remove to get to the valves
  • The canbus port is actually under the left plastic access panel just behind the OBDII port. Oddly enough and this threw me for a loop, the open and not connected port on the right side of the bike is not an ODBII port. I’m not sure that is does or why it’s there but it connects to the right height sensor and then goes some place else in the harness
  • You can add TransContinental Winglet, seat and other bits to this bike but be prepared to pay a lot for the privilege like the winglets are $700, engine guards are $500 and the TC windscreen is $500 oh and the seat is $950. So if you want winglets, engine guards and a taller windscreen, just get the TransContinental and you’ll get the free perk of the top box storage and nicer sound system. Ride both to make sure you won’t have buyer’s remorse
  • If you have a BMW with TFT already, you’ll know how the Connected app works but if you want the larger TFT screen to show you the live map when navigating, you’ll need to keep your phone unlocked and in the Connected app. Closing the app or turning off the screen will stop the map view since it’s a ChromeCast mirroring doing that work. Which is why BMW gives you an iPhone cubby with a cooling fan and you’re expected to place your phone in there and connect it to the USB-C Charger. Cable sold separately and it’s $30. You can use your own cable but good luck getting it to fit in there
  • Engine & Transmission fluid are separate with engine oil being every 6,000 miles and transmission at 24,000 miles. The transmission and final drive fluid are very expensive so I’m following the manual
  • You don’t have much lean angle so plan accordingly. Don’t come into corners at twice the speed limit like on your sport touring bikes. 45 in a 30 mile corner is fine but 60 is not
  • The headlight is very adequate for a stock headlight. If you aren’t doing long distance travel or riding at night, you’ll be happy with it. I’m concerned about being seen because the Classic and TransContinental both have auxiliary lights that you could cover with a yellow film for conspicuity but this is just a single light to match the bagger look. It’s bright but might not stop someone from pulling out in front of you
  • The Pure/Classic and Bagger/TC weight is really the front fairing. There are of course other things but that huge front fairing with a screen and two speakers adds a lot of weight. If you place both feet firmly on the ground and lock the steering either way, the bike will want to fall over and you’ll have to push to hold it up. It’s more pronounced during full lock turns. I’d caution to avoid them entirely unless you’re prepared to really counter-balance. I put my entire right butt check off the saddle and weight the right peg when i do a full lock left-handed U-Turn. If I don’t, the bike would go down
BMW R18 Bagger Premium Adaptive LED Headlight with Cornering Night Ride  (R18B / Transcontinental)
BMW R18 Bagger Premium Adaptive LED Headlight with Cornering Night Ride (R18B / Transcontinental)
Those are a few of my observations that I think could be valuable to a potential owner What is the riding experience like other than a few things mentioned above? It’s a big and heavy cruiser. If you’ve owned one, you know kind of what that’s like but you may not have had things like ABS, Traction Control, Ride Modes, Electronic suspension and opposed twin cylinders driving you through a drive shaft. It’s very BMW despite all of the cruiser attributes. The stability of this bike on the interstate is really amazing. You can engage automatic cruise control at any speed up to 80 (that’s as far as I tested it) and take both hands off the handle bar and it will keep a perfectly straight line with no handlebar shake, shimmy or chatter. That is very rare stability. I wouldn’t ride hands free but you could for quite a while in a straight time keeping speed behind cars automatically. 
Around corners, you can push it pretty hard. The longer suspension travel and shorter wheel base make it more nimble and it eats up little imperfections in the road that the two base models cannot. Nothing compared to a GS or RT but those are different bikes. If I wanted to do Tail of the Dragon, I would have no qualms doing it on an R18 and have a lot of fun doing it but with a reduced speed to account for the lower lean angle compared to my GS. You still feel the bumps and potholes but they aren’t spine shattering. 
On a 7 hour riding day and 250 miles of back roads, I started to have a sore butt on the stock seat and found myself standing for a bit or sitting on the pillion seat to get things loosened up. The TransContinental seat is couch-like. This one is a day-seat. You do have to embrace cruiser position and sort of lay back a bit to get the seat to sculpt properly. The handlebars are high but not obnoxious and I’m used to my legs tucked under me on the GS where this riding position is certainly more relaxed despite not having much space to access the brake lever. I did proceed with purchasing leg rests which BMW sells for $199 for the pair allowing you to put your legs on top of the cylinder heads without burning your pants. In addition to that, some grip puppies to make the vibration easier when riding spiritedly or around town where I do go over 3,000 RPM for a few seconds but was leading to numb hands after a while along with the USB port I needed to plug in my phone and BMW bag liners for the boxes because they’ll keep the boxes clean if something in the saddlebags spills. I’m contemplating auxiliary lights either BMW ones that I would tint yellow or some that mount to the engine bars. 
Can the R18 be your only motorcycle? I think it can. You can own a Pure/Classic and ride it to and from work and around town or get a bagger and hotel camp your way across America ..maybe after a larger seat is added and the TransContinental is a cross country motorcycle but I think riders who do Iron Butt, leave pavement or want to aggressively carve up twisties will be left wanting more out of the bike. If you have a dual sport and an adventure bike you can buy an R18 and love riding it a lot of the time. I took the bike to Laconia Bike Week, to a BMW rally, to and from work and I was going to take it down to Cape Cod and Boston for a concert / wedding but then realized why I couldn’t. Storage. I wouldn’t have a coat-check at the concert I was attending and my Klim suit can’t fit in the side bags. So to go to a wedding and 8 hour music festival, I would have to change into normal clothes and store my helmet somewhere at street parking. My suit and helmet could be stolen quite easily just laying across the bike. Without a safe place to store my things on the Bagger, I decided to take the GS instead. While sitting in literally 90 minutes of traffic, My GS fan was constantly on keeping the liquid cooled engine cool and I was able to utilize the low gearing to lug along without stalling and dart in and out of a few cars and quickly get up to speed. While in traffic then again on on some of the worst conditioned roads in America, I was thankful to be on the GS and not the Bagger. The Bagger would have done fine but I would have had a sore back and butt, would have possibly had to pull over to fight off the overheating oil/air cooled motor and had my gear stolen while at the concert. 
The R18 is a great bike but it really needs to fit the cruiser lifestyle. I’m not saying only go to biker bars but you have to plan where you’re staying (usually a hotel) and not expect a lot of space to lock up your things for the day. No matter what you do with the R18 (on-road), you will undoubtedly enjoy the ride. It’s a unique motorcycle and a hoot to ride. Oh…about the attention you’ll receive.
I almost forgot to mention this bike will get more attention than anything you could do with yourself at 24 hour fitness. Everywhere I park the bike, no matter where that is, someone will walk past the bike, stop and look at it and then suddenly, they’re taking photos of it and one guy even called a friend on the phone while looking at the bike all while I sat in the cafe drinking coffee. One guy on a bike passed by the taco stand, turned around crossing 4 lanes of traffic to park and stare at the bike. Dozens of people ask me questions about it, some ask to sit on it and one stranger asked if they could start it up. It’s the most attention getting motorcycle I’ve ever owned and it’s across all (male) demographics. Usually the old men would ask me about my dirt bike or dual sport and some less older men would ask me about my GS. Some women would ask heather about her GS but again, 50s and up demographic This R18 is appealing to everyone. Kids stop and go “whoa that is cool” and a 25 or so year old man who owns a Subaru noticed the opposed cylinders and asked me if it was like his boxer. I’ve had women tell their husbands “that looks more comfortable than the one I ride on” and try and convince them to go buy one. It’s absurd. I didn’t get the bike to get attention but it really turns heads! 
This was a LONG review. I’m sorry but the R18 has so little written about it online I wanted to share a bit about it and offer others thinking of buying one what an owner thinks of it. There’s more to cover about the bike and I’ll be making more videos about it as time goes on. Thanks for reading.
I did create this video below which is the rolling review of everything mentioned here and more:
My Thoughts on the BMW R18 Bagger after 1250 Miles - Owner Review
My Thoughts on the BMW R18 Bagger after 1250 Miles - Owner Review
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Adam Chandler

These are my ramblings about motorcycling. For the most part, these will be editorials you will have seen in regional and national motorcycle publications or longer posts and ride-reports as seen on ADVRider.com. Occasionally, I will post content here that is exclusive to paid subscribers and eventually be made free for all. Thank you.

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