BMW R18 M: This custom points to a muscle bike future

Photo: BMW

Is there a muscle bike coming from BMW soon? Judging from the BMW R18 M custom that the company recently unveiled at the Verona Motor Bike Expo, we may see the civilized German moto manufacturer about to unveil a brutish performance cruiser based on its retro-styled flat twin platform.

A big change from the old-fashioned customs in the rest of the R18 series. Photo: BMW

The M-series

BMW’s M-series came to the automotive division first, with the “M” badge denoting performance. The Motorrad division got its first M-series machine in 2020, with the M1000 RR superbike, which was based on the S1000 RR. You can read our initial write-up on the M1000 RR here—it features lighter, more-refined engine internals, upgraded brakes, carbon-fibre wheels and many other upgrades. Reportedly, BMW is working an M-series GS adventure bike, and also likely an M1000 R.

We haven’t seen much about those bikes, though, just some fuzzy photos that are allegedly spy pics. This R18 M custom, on the other hand, is very much alive, well, and on display.

Carbon-fibre engine heads will cut a bit of the bike’s pork. Photo: BMW

BMW R18 M custom

This machine is a collaboration between several parties; BMW Italia and LowRide, an Italian moto-mag, kickstarted the project. Oberdan Bezzi, a well-known motorcycle designer, actually drew up the plan for the bike’s bodywork. American Dreams, an Italian custom shop that specializes in American-style machines, coordinated the hands-on wrenching and fabrication. The tailpiece, fiberglass windshield and other bodywork came from Elaboratorio, a company specializing in prototyping and modeling. Carbon Italy made the engine’s head covers, intake ducts and other carbon-fibre trim. ER Exhaust Revolution made the shortened exhaust system, LR Leather finished the saddle, Dox Art Factory handled the paint, and Rizoma provided the mirrors, grips and other necessary bits.

The result? A cruiser with lines that go straight back to the Yamaha V-Max, the original kingpin of the muscle bike segment. However, BMW’s press release does not mention any engine upgrades or other actual performance bits, so the work is only half-done. The R18 engine offers massive torque, but it’s also a massive lump with a 5,750 rpm redline. It would be interesting to see what’s possible with some trick internals.

Will BMW build this?

BMW has a long history of unveiling custom bikes as a hint at upcoming retro or luxury models—indeed, the whole R18 line came along that way, with months of teasing on the custom circuit. So does that mean the R18 M is coming?

Here’s what Giuseppe Roncen, big boss at LowRide (the mag that organized the bike’s build) said about the project:

“Stability, long wheelbase and readiness of the 1800 cc big boxer instigate lightning starts and deserve, in our opinion, a sporty and retro look. In the R 18 M design, we find suggestions from BMW Motorrad tradition and cues from the four-wheelers: M stands for Motorsport.”

Hrm, doesn’t sound like he’s telling us to expect it in dealerships soon.

Roncen continued: “We remain curious to experience its potential. Significantly lightened, the bike should also be easy to handle due to its riding position, which is more compact and forward loaded, without exaggeration.”

Well, we’re curious too, because this machine would be a massive change in direction for the R18 series—so far, it’s been nothing but cruisers and baggers.

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