BMW gave a teaser of a concept 2000cc boxer engined cafe-racer styled bike called the R20 at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este Lake Como. Here is what we know... Pics: BMW Motorrad

If you’ve ever customised a bike, I suspect you’ve come up against this: you start with a vision and you build the bike you’ve seen in your mind, but no matter how careful you are with your work, it isn’t quite right. So you sit there with an beer and look at what you’ve done..

You strip away something and rebuild it and maybe you’re closer, but no cigar. That goes on a few times and then one day when you’re so close – you suddenly have an idea, and the project all comes together. It may not even look very much like your original vision, but you know it’s right. BMW released a teaser press release on May 24. Here is what we know about the R20 so far…

I suspect that something like that happened in Munich not so long ago, except on a rather larger scale. BMW’s design team had its vision, of a big-engined cruiser to take on Milwaukee. A big engine, but a classic BMW engine, a horizontally opposed boxer twin, and styling that was uniquely German but still in the Harley ballpark. But the resulting R 18s were not quite right. Oh, they sold tolerably well in some markets, but they didn’t convince as many people as Munich had hoped for, especially in the market that mattered: the US.

They sat back with their beers, naturally drunk out of the classic Bavarian litre-sized “Mass” glass mugs, and thought about it. Then one of them suddenly held up his beer and cried “Eureka!” or whatever the German for “I have found it!” is. The cylinders, he explained, needed to be a litre each to make the statement they wanted. And the team went and designed a 2000cc boxer, built a bike around it – and painted the tank pink. And they knew it was right.

The R20 Concept, the bike they have just shown at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, is the machine that the engine deserves. The new Head of BMW Motorrad Design, Alexander Buckan, called it a “Gentlemen’s Roadster”. A big one: “For the BMW R20 Concept, we have scaled up the well-known concept of the R nineT, by around 10 per cent.

Check out our R 18 tests here… and other BMW articles here

“We already [had] this engine, the Big Boxer, this beautiful sculpture,” he said. “And we thought about what else we could do with it, beyond the R 18 models. There is only one sensible option: a roadster, a classic naked bike, in which this engine can also work well and come into its own. A roadster is even ideal for showcasing the engine as the centrepiece, reduced to a minimum, hardly any body parts, no panelling, no plastic… we have reduced everything that is superfluous, including the second seat. It’s a big engine on two wheels.”

The R20 is “not a promise that a production version of the BMW R20 will follow,” said Buckan, And it is important to remember that this Concept is, indeed, a concept. As it stands it would never get approval to roam the roads. Neither the open aluminum intakes nor the fat exhaust pipes could ever grace a street-legal production model. Those fat megaphones offer no muffling whatever. Also missing are fussy bits like mirrors and a registration plate. The taillights might make it into production, integrated into the solo saddle for now.

We speculate that the reactions to the R20 Concept will be closely monitored by Munich and then a decision will be made as to whether and, if so, how this development will continue. It does not seem unlikely, because the driving force behind the R20 is and remains the boss himself: Markus Flasch, Head of BMW Motorrad since November 2023. Still, production of a BMW R20 in whatever form hardly seems feasible before 2026. It would probably cost well over 20,000 euros.

For now, what you get is pretty much what you see at the moment. We do know that the big boxer is even bigger, with a displacement of 2000 rather than “just” 1800cc. Assuming the stroke remains unchanged at 100mm, the bores and pistons would have to grow from 107.1 to around 113mm. As well, the magazine thinks that given the maximum 158Nm and 91hp of the R 18 cruiser engines, the Concept should produce well over 100hp, especially since the 1200cc boxer engine of the BMW R 12 nineT, which is also air/oil cooled, puts out 109hp.

The new twin swingarm of the Concept consists of thick chrome-molybdenum steel tubes at the bottom and aluminium struts at the top, connected to the rear axle mounts according to the proven paralever principle. As with the R 18 range, the nickel-plated drive shaft lies open to view. The double-loop frame of the Concept is made of chrome-molybdenum steel tubes with an upside-down telescopic fork from the fully adjustable Öhlins Blackline series with a relatively flat 62.5 degree steering head angle.

Brakes are from ISR with radially bolted brake calipers, each with six pistons on the twin discs at the front and four pistons on the single rear disc. The wheelbase at just over a metre and a half connects 200 rear and 120 front tyres on 17 inch wheels. But why an aluminium wheel at the rear but a wire-spoke wheel at the front?

“The whole thing is a mixture of classic and modern elements, and the wheels are also supposed to symbolise that – at least in the Concept. Other wheels are of course possible in principle.” Fine. But let’s hope this vision, which I think is perfect, doesn’t change too much again before it goes into production – as it truly should.

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