- After three years available on the market there at the moment are 5 variations of the BMW R 18 cruiser motorbike, and with every hard-won sale they make one other dent within the Harley-Davidson cruiser-bike juggernaut.
- Sellers say you may get an R 18 for lots lower than the equal Harley.
- She’s a beaut, ain’t she?
What’s a motorbike gotta do to get some love? Some respect? Or no less than some gross sales? Think about the plight of the gorgeous BMW R 18.
BMW bought a file 202,895 bikes worldwide final yr and remained in first place within the international premium motorbike phase. BMW Motorrad USA bought 17,690 bikes to set a file of its personal. The highest sellers proceed to be the brand new R 1250 GS and GS Journey, with what BMW calls “robust efficiency” from the superbike S 1000 RR and even the M 1000 RR. However the Roundel additionally gave credit score to a “freshened product lineup of recent fashions just like the all-new R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental,” each variants of the traditionally important R 18 cruiser bike.
When it got here out in 2020, the R 18 was nearly universally regaled as an exquisite bike. Even riders who weren’t accustomed to the R5 of the Thirties that impressed it cherished the styling of the brand new R 18 and will in all probability acknowledge some historic heritage within the hardtail-looking body, pinstriped fuel tank, and massive, honking cylinder heads poking out sideways from the case.
Earlier than anybody truly rode it, the R 18 obtained nice critiques from individuals who merely cherished the best way it seemed. I, too, went just a little bonkers with enthusiasm three years in the past.
However the massive Beemer confronted a complete set of challenges all its personal, most of which had nothing to do with how massive and delightful it was or how properly it cruised. It needed to compete with Harley-Davidson. Harleys have been the darlings of American bikers for 120 years, since shortly after the primary motor was positioned within the first cycle. There’s a tradition constructed up round it, a lifestyle, an all-consuming identification that will make any fashionable moto marketer mince.
Globally, Harley didn’t promote as many bikes as BMW. The Motor Firm, because it’s recognized, shipped solely 193,500 Harleys to BMW’s 202,895 gross sales. Gross sales and deliveries are various things, and BMW is forward. However whereas BMW affords all kinds of bikes, Harley makes a speciality of cruisers. (LiveWire is a separate entity with separate figures of its personal.)
BMW’s problem with the R 18 was to crack the cruiser market that Harley has owned for seemingly ever. How to do this? They’re dealin’!
“The best way they’re going about that could be a very aggressive finance fee, in addition to a rebate,” stated Kevin Reynolds of BMW Bikes of North Dallas, one of many main R 18 dealerships within the nation.
Whilst you can simply spend over 30 grand on a CVO Harley, adopted by including choices on it that Harley consumers love, you may get onto a 2023 R 18 at, say, Irv Seaver Bikes in Orange County, California, for $15,495 after rebates. Or you can yesterday once I seemed. BMW Bike sellers are providing financing as little as 0% for 60 months and rebates as excessive as $3000, relying on yr, make, mannequin, and possibly a number of different issues.
You may get a Harley-Davidson Heritage Traditional for $21,199 with ABS (commonplace on the R 18) however then there’s vendor prep and vacation spot, which may range broadly by vendor. (Harley affords 8.99% financing for 84 months.) BMW additionally has a deal the place they cowl the client’s first 4 funds.
Whenever you add all of it up…
“They’re cheaper than the equal Harley,” stated Dagan Klipfel of BMW Bikes of Ventura County. “Harley doesn’t disclose their full value out the door.”
“Three of our massive gross sales/finance workforce (members) listed here are ex-Harley workers, so we’ve obtained individuals that may discuss that turkey and clarify it, go, ‘Hey, that is going to have all the pieces that your CVO does, and it prices $10,000 much less, and also you’re gonna be capable of hold it on the street for lots cheaper,” stated Reynolds.
Then there’s one other factor BMW affords over its American competitor.
“I believe primarily it’s the protection and expertise,” stated Lawrence Garrett, gross sales affiliate at BMW Bikes of Seattle. “Our bikes include much more expertise than the Harley-Davidsons do. They’re lots safer. They’ve completely different trip modes, traction management, ABS.”
In addition they have twin disc brakes within the entrance, a helpful reverse gear, and air and oil cooling with each cylinders poking out into the airflow whereas the Harley’s aft cylinder will get much less air than the entrance one. However the Harley has a extra comfy seat, probably a extra comfy using place, and 120 years of hard-ridin’ heritage to BMW’s 100 years.
BMW simply desires individuals to present their bike a attempt.
“As soon as individuals truly get on these bikes and so they’re truly using them and taking the time to have longer than only a check drive, they’re loving them,” stated Reynolds. “We’re seeing converts.”
“There’s lots of social strain influencing individuals’s choices,” stated Klipfel. “Due to social constraints, they (conventional Harley riders) are afraid to even attempt it.”
And as soon as they do? Many complain in regards to the BMW’s mid-mounted foot pegs, whereas on a Harley you’ll be able to put your ft farther ahead. The BMW’s large cylinders stop you from doing that (although some have put in engine safety bars after which simply relaxation their boots on high of these).
Additionally, the R 18 has a definite sideways whap-a-whap-a-whap because the cylinders transfer forwards and backwards, which is especially noticeable at cease lights when the bike is idling at 950 rpm. Harleys are a lot much less intrusive in that regard. These large cylinder heads are additionally a bit disconcerting throughout cornering, when you might be apprehensive you’re going to scrape a head off (don’t fear, that’s the foot pegs you hear scraping).
The primary time I rode an R 18, it felt massive and ungainly in a approach no Harley ever had. The second time, too. In addition to the time I rode an R 18 Transcontinental for a pair weeks. However final week I felt simply effective on the newest R 18 I rode, placing about 400 miles on it. I cherished the appears to be like and so did everybody who had something to say in regards to the bike. You don’t should know in regards to the R5 to like the R 18.
And but, BMW nonetheless lags behind Harley within the cruiser phase.
“BMW’s having to spend money on the youthful era,” stated Klipfel. “However sadly, individuals don’t even need to discover ways to drive—not to mention trip—a motorbike.”
If that they had entry to an R 18, I wager they’d need to trip.
Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford household and spent many hours holding a hassle mild over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor whereas his father cursed Ford, all its merchandise and everybody who ever labored there. This was his introduction to goal automotive criticism. He began writing for Metropolis Information Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and have become editor of a automotive journal known as, creatively, Auto. He determined Auto ought to cowl Formulation 1, sports activities prototypes and touring vehicles—nobody stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek on the 1989 Frankfurt motor present and has been with us ever since.