BMW R18 bobber: Is it a prototype, or a one-off custom?


BMW’s new behemoth boxer has appeared again. This time, the 1800 cc flat twin has popped up in the R18 motorcycle on display at the Concorso d’Eleganza show, at Villa d’Este.

Now, the question we must ask ourselves is this: Is the R18 just a cool custom bike, built to show off BMW’s engine? Because that was the case with the two previous bikes we saw featuring this engine, which were made by custom shops, without any official attachment to BMW.

Or, is the R18 a prototype, a forerunner to a production model? Although this machine is supposedly actually built by Swedish outfit Unique Custom Cycles, not actual BMW employees, it’s the first custom machine in this series that is actually presented by BMW, as a BMW. And it certainly has vintage Beemer lines; there’s bits of the R5 in there, the R12—it looks like a classic European motorcycle, not like an abortive mash-up of a made-in-America cruiser with a boxer engine and BMW suspension.

It’s hard to imagine this machine wouldn’t have serious changes if it was to enter production. The only electronics on it, supposedly, are the starter and lights; there’s no ABS and no EFI (dual-throat Solex carbs instead!), and it’s difficult to see it getting by EU regulators without those additions.

The spartan approach to technology continues throughout the rest of the bike. The frame is a faux hardtail, with monoshock under the spring-mounted seat. There are axial-mount dual disc brakes up front, and generally speaking, nothing extraneous is bolted to the bike.

However, the parts that are there, the bodywork, the exhaust, the intake, are all beautifully-finished, with an attention to detail that you’d expect on a handmade bike of days gone by. The exposed driveshaft is chromed, the headlight has fine machining, and the exhaust has fishtail-like mufflers. The front wheel is a 21-inch hoop. All in all, the sort of blinged custom that you wouldn’t expect to hit showroom floors as a production model.

Still, bikes like the R nineT series have indeed been built along pretty much the same lines that they first appeared on the European show circuit as customs, and BMW does officially call it a concept bike, which certainly hints at future production plans.


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  1. Ridiculous, I can’t believe Bmw would be dumb enough to waste their ressources on something like that.

    Mind you YAMAHA produced the Niken so anything is possible.

  2. Seriously awesome, if I could afford one I would buy it just for the sound. I love my 1200RT with an Akrapovic pipe, but this bike sounds way better. Might almost sound as good as my ’98 VFR with a Staintune pipe, but honestly, to my ears, nothing will ever touch my bike. Only the ’98 & ’99 VFR’s qualify, pre cat. Best sounding bike ever, will always own one. Increasing aural pleasure (pun intended) from 4K all the way to 12K rpm. C

  3. “A PROTOTYPE, OR A ONE-OFF CUSTOM?” I don’t know but it’s the first bike of that type I’ve wanted. Wow.

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