Sunday, May 26, 2024


HomeZA BikersBike ReviewsBMW R18 Transcontinental – Heavyweight Horizon Hauler

BMW R18 Transcontinental – Heavyweight Horizon Hauler

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

I think it is true to say that the heavyweight “Full Dresser” motorcycle is not a genre that has ever really caught on in SA. Having said that, it has been the backbone of the American motorcycling scene for yonks. In 2020, 67,859 heavyweight tourers were sold worldwide, with by far the lion’s share being sold in the US. (Of these, 57,178 were Harleys!) 49,331 Harley “Dressers” were sold in the US alone. At an average price of around $21,000, that is over a billion dollars worth of motorcycles!! Little wonder then that BMW wants a piece of that pie. Enter the R18 Transcontinental.

It only takes a glance to tell you that this is a seriously opulent motorcycle. It is a “Full Dresser” in the sense that it has a ‘Batwing’ style handlebar fairing crammed full of gauges, a 10,25” TFT display and two Marshall Gold Series speakers. Running lights, panniers and a top box, or trunk, as it is known in Dresser parlance, complete the picture. It is a handsome picture too. The bike is metallic black with a subtle silver fleck which becomes apparent in sunlight. In classic Bee Emm fashion, it is finished with white pin striping. The bike is awash with high-quality chrome everywhere. Even the clutch and brake lever reservoirs did not escape the chrome treatment. Chrome panels cover both the fuel tank cap as well as a smartphone cubby on the top of the tank. You literally need a dark visor, or shades, to stave off blinding sunlight reflected off all of these shiny bits at midday.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

To call these bikes ‘heavyweights’ is no exaggeration. Fully fuelled, the Transcontinental punishes the scales at 398 kg. That, my friends, is close to half a ton of motorcycle! This is also before you and your passenger have climbed aboard! Moving this considerable mass, is a 1803cc pushrod, 4 valves per cylinder Boxer twin. It makes 91 hp @ 4750 rpm and more significantly, 158 Nm of torque @ 3000 rpm. There is over 120 Nm available from 2000 to 3000 rpm. This is consistent with the other bikes in this category, both weight, power and torque-wise.

Riding these bikes take total commitment in all of your actions. There can be nothing flighty or frivolous. Just lifting it off the side stand is serious work. It does get a little easier once you are rolling, but it is only once you get out on the open road that you can relax and actually start to enjoy the ride. The front forks are non-adjustable 49 mm units which do an adequate job of dealing with road imperfections. The rear shock is self-levelling for load and isolates the rider from the worst road issues you will contend with. Given that it is meant as a good road tourer, the suspension is totally up to the task, in terms of ride quality, as well as keeping things tidy through the bends. Ground clearance is a reasonable 35-degrees.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

Comfort is top drawer. The seat is wide and supportive and the rear perch is all-day comfortable, with its built-in back and armrests. The bars have a good bend and there are floorboards for both rider and passenger, something that Irene found made climbing off and on easier, as well as negating foot fatigue. Vibes from the huge twin are low amplitude and subdued at cruising speed. Downshifting causes significant increases in vibe levels though. Shifting is typically dry plate clutch BMW. Clunky but solid. The gear lever has a heel-and-toe function, given that it can be difficult getting a booted foot under the gear lever with floorboards. The rider has fewer leg options than a comparable V-Twin, as the huge cylinders restrict the movement of your lower legs. At a push, if you have long legs, you can rest your heels on the crash bars for a while.

A 24-litre fuel tank, coupled with a decent economy, gives a range of over 400 k’s at typical touring speeds. Cruise control is adaptive and does a decent job of allowing you to chill on the highway. I personally am not into 2 wheeled Boom boxes in the slightest, but for those of you who get your jollies by annoying everyone you ride past, the R18 system is top drawer. A total of six Marshall Gold Series speakers will blow the cobwebs out of the most hard-of-hearing ears. These are fairing, pannier and back seat-mounted, for adequate surround sound. BMW have cleverly designed adjustable wind deflectors that can cool you down on hot days, yet deflect cold off of you during the winter. Heated grips and seats will be a pleasure on cold days.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

Packing space is so-so on these full dressers. Panniers are 27-litres and the top box, or ‘trunk’ as the Yanks call it, swallows 48-litres of kit. Given the price, BM should toss in the optional inner bags for free to facilitate loading. Once you have got the Transcontinental out of town, up until when, to be honest, it is a bit hair-raising to ride due to its sheer bulk and ponderous weight, you can relax and start to enjoy the ride. The bike lopes along at 135 with the motor ticking over effortlessly. The torque flattens hills and makes holding its speed easy. Once in top gear, you just leave it there.

The screen deflects air over both rider and passenger effectively and cocoons you in a bubble of reasonably still and quiet air. There is a problem, however. At 6’3” I look directly into the line created by the top of the screen. I don’t really like looking through screens, so I need to stretch my neck like a Meercat keeping watch, to see over the screen. The alternative is to slouch, neither posture which is conducive to long-distance rider comfort. An adjustable screen would have been a winner.

The cockpit has both analogues as well as TFT displays. A line of analogue gauges rides atop a 10,25” TFT display. Left to right are a fuel gauge, speedo, rev counter and “power reserve” gauge, whatever that may be? “Berlin Built” is emblazoned on the bottom of the Speedo, as well as on both brake and clutch reservoirs. BMW want you to be in no doubt that it is a piece of German Engineering that is carrying you across the country in style!

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

The TFT has the typical menu that gives you access to all the information that you could possibly need, as well as to control the sound system and Nav. The navigation is enabled via the BMW Motorrad Connected app. There is a cell phone receptacle on the tank, underneath a chrome flap, which can accommodate your phone. My Sony is too long, so it is probably Apple or Samsung compatible… BMW utilise their Multi-Controller wheel on the left handlebar to facilitate navigating through the various menus. As with the other manufacturers, this embracing of a “PlayStation generation” has come at the cost of simplicity. They took something that wasn’t broken and tried to fix it.

The BMW R18 Transcontinental is Bee Emm’s attempt to woo riders away from the established H-D V–Twin recipe of big, rumbly, torquey twins, with all the creature comforts that they can think of, and then some. Oh yes, there is a reverse gear for when you can’t move half a ton of bike backwards with your puny little pins. In typical Bavarian fashion, they have turned out a truly classy Teutonic alternative, which can certainly go toe to toe with the Yankee offerings. As to how well it will be accepted, only time will tell. Similarly, only time will tell if this genre is embraced by SA riders in significant numbers. It could not be my only bike, as it is too narrow purposed and at over R430,000, it is not easy to afford more than one bike. Kudos to BMW for offering their full range of bikes to SA riders though.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers

BMW R18 Transcontinental

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…


BMW R 18 Transcontinental

Pricing From R440,450 (RRP)

Brand: BMW Motorrad
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.