BMW's Big Boxer engine has been featured in a number of custom builds, with the third designed in-house and offering a traditionalist take on a modern retro 'R18' Big Boxer.
Against the backdrop of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, BMW Motorrad has presented a twist on the traditional boxer in the form of the BMW Motorrad Concept R18, while giving it a modern, custom attitude. With BMW Motorrad aiming to become a big player in the cruiser market, these custom bikes are not too far off we should expect from them in the near future.
The BMW Motorrad Concept R18 aims to show how a projection of a 1960s boxer engine could look like today as a purist custom bike in combination with all the classic design icons of BMW Motorrad design.
In true custom style the R18 celebrates the art of leaving out what you don’t need and then concentrating on what is left. “The biggest challenge in the design is to render everything visible. Every part has a functional purpose,” says Bart Janssen Groesbeek, designer of the concept bike.
The BMW Motorrad Concept R18 is immediately recognisable as a genuine BMW, featuring the boxer engine, cradle frame, exposed universal shaft and drop-shaped fuel tank with its black paintwork and hand-applied contrast lines, which interpret typical design icons of BMW Motorrad classics.
The balanced proportions are reminiscent of classics like the BMW R5, and convey styling reduced to the bare essentials. The frame and tank create a common line all the way from the steering-head to the rear wheel hub and lend a flowing elegance to the side of the bike.
The large spoke wheels (front 21in, rear 18in) provide a stance that balances the power unit, while the tyres are a further reference to history: just as it was in its day, this bike is again fitted with Metzeler tyres.
The heart of the BMW Motorrad Concept R18 is the large, newly designed, two-cylinder 1800cc ‘big boxer engine. Its outward appearance is reminiscent of the flat twin engines that BMW Motorrad used to build up until the end of the 1960s – but with a considerably bigger displacement and modern air/oil cooling.
The big prototype boxer has been designed down to the last detail – the engine block and transmission are made of glass bead-blasted aluminium, providing an ideal stage on which to present the hand-polished aluminium components as well as the belt guard and valve covers.
The engine badge bears the name of the concept bike and emphasises the overall build quality. In addition, Solex dual carburettors – similar to those in the BMW 2002 – hark back to the brand’s construction history and add the final touch to the bike’s authenticity.
Another highlight is the exposed chrome-plated shaft drive. There are no further covers anywhere on the motorcycle, which serves to keep its engineering visible. Similarly, the electronics of the concept bike are reduced to starter and lights, underlining the purist design.
As for its colour design, the BMW Motorrad Concept R18 features a theme typical of BMW – white, hand-applied lines on the fork and fuel tank, and a black base colour, representing the classic BMW colour theme. A discreet yellow-gold varnish effect lends the bright twin lines an exclusive touch, and the black effect paintwork on the tank and fork rods similarly reveal, in the best custom style, an unusual depth when the sunlight strikes the large metallic particles in the various layers of the paintwork.
The imprinted single leather seat is borrowed from the classics of the 1950s, but is somewhat more comfortable, while the cantilever spring strut is integrated beneath the seat. The graphics of the headlamp design are also reminiscent of the 1950s. The classic U shape of the original glass cover components are now LED lamp elements.
Every one of these details contributes to the character of the concept bike and the overall statement. The BMW Motorrad Concept R18 aims to merge those traditional and historic design languages with the current functionalities of BMW Motorrad in a coherent and cohesive whole.
BMW Big Boxer Customs
The BMW Motorrad Concept R18 is the third in-house interpretation of the large-capacity boxer engine to come from BMW Motorrad. Last December the model created by the Japanese customisers, Custom Works Zon was presented at the Yokohama Hot Rod Show, on the basis of this new prototype engine. The ‘Departed’ won the biggest accolade of the event, the ’Best of Show Motorcycle’ award, thrilling motorcycle fans with its classic forms, modern production techniques and all manner of manual art and craft in the details.
The next round was the interpretation by Revival Cycles. The customisers from Austin, Texas created a spectacular bike with their ‘Revival Birdcage’ model, an ideal presentation platform for the Big Boxer. The specially developed titanium frame features an unobstructed view of the engine and drive from all angles. This American design created a furore at last month’s Handbuilt Show in Texas.
“With its clear aesthetics openly on display, the Concept R18 embodies for me what motorcycling, at its core, is really about. It is all about feeling instead of thinking, and not using technology for self-staging, instead giving space for imagination. This concept bike appeals to something deep down – you just want to just get on it and ride off. But when you get off it again, you don’t just put it in the garage and walk away – you turn around again and give it a final parting glance”, concludes Edgar Heinrich, head of BMW Motorrad Design.
“For me, motorcycles like the BMW Motorrad Concept R18 are a response to a growing need among the motorcycling community: instead of technology, the focus here is on simplification, authenticity and transparency. I observe an almost romantic yearning for real mechanical engineering. Our aim with this concept bike is to address this need and turn it into an analogue statement in a digital age. We have a rich history of iconic motorcycles, and they all bear the same design characteristics. We believe that this can still work well together today with the current technology,” Edgar finishes.