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BMW R18B – SOUL SEARCH – PART SIX

And that's the end of that

IMAGE BY CARL HENSEL

 

I am not interested in anything that doesn’t have a genuine heart to it. You’ve got to have soul in the hole. If that isn’t there, I don’t see the point.

Nick Cave

 

My time with BMW’s rather captivating R18B has come to an end. Ultimately, you have to give back the bikes you’re loaned to consider, no matter how much you may want to keep them.

 

I started this journey to explore the aspect of soul and how it relates, if IT does at all, to the BMW R18B – and you may read the first five parts HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

 

This is the journey’s end. Conclusions will be drawn. Actually, they have pretty much drawn themselves. And I like it when that happens.

 

As I’d explored in the earlier pieces, there are bikes which speak to a motorcyclist’s soul, and there are bikes you just ride. I’m guessing BMW was thinking this way when it conceived of the R18 line – the biggest and most powerful iteration of its immortal Boxer engine ever made. Each one of those cylinder heads is a Yamaha MT09 engine.

 

Now the Boxer engine was never considered the most soul-inspiring of engines. It was insanely reliable, produced a modest amount of power (until recent times), and has been the mainstay of BMW since dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was a great engine…but it didn’t feed that bit of your lizard brain which falls in love with a certain frequency of engine characteristics. It’s a bunch of things – sound, feel, response, look – which all combine to make an engine appeal to some primitive part of your brain. Or soul.

 

It’s a hard nut to crack for bike manufacturers. Very few have ever done it. Harleys has done it. Ducati has done it. Indian has done it. And Triumph has almost done it with the Rocket 3.

 

BMW has most certainly done it with the R18. No ifs. No buts. The soul-aspect has been nailed and nailed perfectly in the R18B. My lizard brain is pleased.

 

Here is a bike that offers the rider a true connection with the engine. The rumble is there, that almost organic feel when you roll on the throttle and the horizon comes at you – and if you’re thinking (like I was) this is only possible with a V-twin configured motor, then, like me, you’d be wrong. A gigantic horizontally opposed twin has that same deep-thunder feel to it.

 

Here is a bike that captures the very essence of majestic procession. The torque-rich lope of the engine, its vast and striking aspect, and the entire aesthetic integrity of the R18B made me feel as if I was cloaked with…well, awesomness, I guess.

 

Sure, it was missing the accompanying thunderous soundtrack which normally informs such awesomness, but that’s just a set of cans away. I have heard an R18 with pipes. And that is the song of my people.

 

Here’s the kicker. All of the above is presented in a build-quality that is truly first-class. I encourage you to see for that yourself. The paint is deep. The chrome stunning. The instruments, the panniers, the fairing, the attention to detail is class-leading. And the Marshall speakers are rock’n’roll. What can I tell you? You know that.

 

I put several thousand kays under its wheels. Twisty bits, long outback runs, some mud and dirt, teeming rain, freezing cold, and terrible traffic when I could not avoid it. I rode it as fast as I dared for as long as I dared, and I chased lots of people. I passed every Harley I came across, but the sportsbikes, big nakeds, and hard-ridden GS’s kept me honest.

 

Not once did it put a tyre wrong. It kept me warm via the heated seat and ’bars – I was too scared to dial that up any higher than three in case I began to burn – and it proved to be comfortable and hugely pleasurable to ride.

 

It’s not one of those bikes you look at and think: “How far do I have to ride that today?”  Then you sigh and prepare yourself to be brutalised. Trust me when I tell you that feet-forward ergos are not a wonderful thing. Your spine is not a shock absorber. Stop using it as one.

 

I worked out the heel-toe shifter thing too. If you can access one of those precision multi-pointed Allen-like keys, you can adjust the position of the lever and shift normally if the heel-toe paradigm is annoying. Your BMW dealer can certainly sort that for you if you don’t have the tool.

 

The R18B had all the electronic sophistication one would expect on a BMW, and that giant screen offers a wealth of info – both needful and “Gee, that’s cute to know”. To be honest, it spent nearly all of it’s time just showing me a golden image of the engine, the speed, the time, the ambient temperature, and whether the heated stuff was on or off.

 

It nourished my soul with its mechanical sorcery. Which is very clever engineering when you think about it. It doesn’t have to lurch when you start it. And it doesn’t have to throb at idle. But it does all that because that all adds to its appeal. It’s been designed that way. At speed it’s glass.

 

It never once failed to draw onlookers. Wherever I parked it, people would come up and stare at it admiringly. I even took it to visit a few outlaws I know – and they were unanimous in their praise of the R18’s lines and quality of finish. And that’s no small thing, believe me.

 

That’s it. The important boxes are all ticked. My verdict is in. Guilty, Your Honour. Magnificently so.

 

 

BIG THANKS

 

I am very grateful to BMW Motorrad Australia for indulging me in this exploration of the R18B. I guess it’s as weary of reading the same tedious bike reviews as everyone else is.

 

YOU MAY EXPLORE AND EXAMINE ALL THE R18 OPTIONS AND MODELS HERE.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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