2021 BMW R 1800 Bagger Spied Testing Preview

A better view of what’s in store for production.

We know the engine is a mechanical gem, but has BMW gone too safe with the design of the R 1800?Stefan Balduf

Spy shots of forthcoming motorcycles are always fun to parse out, but up until now BMW’s R 1800 has been somewhat tough to pin down. The 1,802cc Big Boxer engine featured prominently in custom builds by Revival Cycles and Zon, and in concepts like the R 18, but its final production design has remained something of a mystery. Even when spy shots back in October surfaced, the bike remained largely hidden.

Now, thanks to an eagle-eyed photographer in Germany, we have some notion of what’s in store for the R 1800. This latest collection of images reveal a traditionally styled luxury touring cruiser, with lines suggesting its aim is to compete against models like Indian Motorcycle’s Roadmaster Elite or Harley’s Ultra Limited. The wide, swept-back front fairing and windscreen providing ample rider protection, its massive instrument console and infotainment system giving the rider what is sure to be an excess of information and entertainment options, and built-in saddlebags providing useful storage for longer hauls.

Thanks to BMW’s candor around the mill, we already know the 1,802cc engine provides 116.6 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm and 91 hp at 4,750 rpm. It’s air-and-oil-cooled, driving power to the rear wheel through a six-speed transmission and universal shaft drive. It’s the largest boxer engine yet in BMW’s history and draws its design inspiration from mills in BMW’s past like the R5/R51 and R 51/2.

On the one hand, it makes sense for BMW to come out with a bike that has so many recognizable (overdone?) design elements. It will fit easily into the touring segment and the engine itself is enough to entice some riders into the showroom. But I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed BMW didn’t push the cruiser standard a bit further with this machine. We know that fit and finish will be top-notch, electronics will be state of the art, and ride quality will be formidable, but for all the hype leading up to its release it feels like the developing aesthetic falls a bit flat. Particularly that pillion section of the tail end. What are your thoughts? Is BMW on the right track with the R 1800?