2023 BMW R 18 B

Who'd have ever thought BMW would be the ones producing a “budget” bagger?
Who'd have ever thought BMW would be the ones producing a “budget” bagger?

by Theron Lane | September 12, 2023


BMW has expanded its heritage lineup again this year with the addition of the all new R18 Bagger. With its 1802 cc air- and oil-cooled twin-cylinder boxer engine, the R18 is built on the largest-displacement engine that comes out of BMW’s Motorrad division these days, putting out 91 hp and 116.5 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at a hefty 398 kilograms with a full tank of gas, the 2023 BMW R18 Bagger is fitted with pretty much everything you’ll need for modern touring — save for a USB port to charge your phone.

At first glance, the bike didn’t really stir any feelings in me. It’s a relatively unassuming cruiser at first glance. Sure, it’s massive and about as easy to miss as a school portable on the highway, but it’s when you look closer, the design really comes to life. There are premium details all over this thing — the flake in the Option 719 paint job, the rivets on the fuel tank badging, the black chrome adorning the engine casing and cylinder heads, and even the power reserve gauge plucked straight from the dash of a Rolls Royce. This is a bike that is about a million little accents all coalescing to create something that grew on me far more than I’d care to admit.

Once you manage to pull yourself away from the details and start the R18 up, it greets you with that familiar boxer kick, torquing the bike to the right a nudge. Fitted with the Vance & Hines pipes, it has a fairly throaty exhaust note and sounds very “American”. That said, this bike feels like an honest effort from Berlin to punch into the heart of the Harley-Davidson demographic, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to see an American exhaust company strapped onto it from the factory.

Combine that with the Marshall audio system, “Berlin Built” emblazoned clusters and master cylinder covers, and even the “Rock” and “Roll” riding modes, it’s obvious – BMW is coming for Harley’s lunch. Although some of these touches do feel a bit contrived, they make the intention abundantly clear.

For $29,984 as-tested, the R18 Bagger comes with even more tech than you’ll find in a Road or Street Glide, and it’s also pretty much fully loaded. My tester came with the following add-ons: an Option 719 custom paintjob, adaptive cruise control, heated seat, reverse gear, adaptive headlight, tire pressure control, hill start control, and the aforementioned Vance & Hines muffler. That’s all for just under $2,500 more than a base Road or Street Glide. Who would have ever considered BMW to be the ones producing a “budget” bagger?

When it comes to actual riding dynamics and performance, for what it is, the R18 doesn’t disappoint either. In “Roll” mode, the bike is setup for cruising on the highway and a more relaxed ride, with a subdued throttle response and noticeable engine braking. Throw it into “Rock” mode and the throttle response sharpens up considerably, with crisp downshifts you’ll notice the engine-braking seems to be negligible as well. Just try not to get too overzealous when you’re rocking out — there isn’t a ton of lean-angle on the R18 Bagger. While it will corner with confidence, I found myself scraping the foot-pegs off of it while taking my very first on-ramp with the bike.

Nonetheless, I do have a few gripes with the R18 Bagger. The gripes compound themselves a bit, and they center around the navigation system on the bike. Not only do you need to install BMW’s RideConnected app — and grant it permissions to every part of your phone, for some reason — you’ll then need to download a map pack for your area; Ontario’s took up about 300 MB of space. Then, pair the phone and the bike, then set up navigation from within BMW’s app, and then you need to leave your phone unlocked for your entire ride.

The payoff to all that is you’ll get mapped navigation and the ability to plan your routes with consideration to what’s the most twisty way from A to B. BMW has been kind enough to give you a nifty fan-cooled compartment on top of the tank to specifically store your phone, but it’s a tight fit for anyone with a larger phone. My Pixel 6 Pro could barely squeeze in without a case on it, and I’m not sure if I’d be able to fit it in with the optional charging cable plugged in. I think for a lot of riders, the added cost of having a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto would be a welcome addition here. Surely BMW could figure out a way to program control to the bar-mounted multi-controller to interface with those apps. It’s not a small ask, but I would love to see this sort of integration on bikes in the future.

To be blunt, I was a bit dreading having to ride around on this manatee of a motorcycle for a week. I was concerned about the size, the weight, and a general lack of fun for spirited riding. But the R18 Bagger really grew on me. Maybe I aged 15 to 20 years throughout the week, or maybe BMW just have a great formula on their hands. The powertrain is engaging when you want it to be, and subtle for when you just want to cruise and listen to music on a long, flat country road. The styling really looks great, and it’s packed with more flourishes of detail than I was able to find.

The 2023 BMW R18 Bagger is a lovely package that has solid engineering, true “bagger” design, and it’s not too obnoxious to ride past countryside cafes. I really didn’t expect to like this bike, but BMW’s Motorrad division is strumming on my heartstrings yet again.

See Also

First Ride: 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

2023 BMW S1000RR

2022 BMW S1000R

Vehicle Specs
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Horsepower (at RPM)
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Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
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As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Theron Lane

Motorcycle Content Editor

Having graduated from Sheridan College’s Applied Photography program, Theron brings a keen photographic eye to DoubleClutch.ca. When he isn’t taking his sweet time to get the perfect angle, he is often found on the saddle.

Current Toys: ’24 Defender 110, ’15 S1000R