BMW Motorrad Concept R 18 /2 Cruiser—A Second Look

The latest twist on the R 18 platform is sportier and more dynamic.

R 18 /2 Concept
BMW’s latest spin on the R 18 platform is this R 18 /2 Concept revealed at EICMA 2019, a sportier build that takes the big boxer in a new direction.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

When the BMW Group unveiled the Concept R18 build last summer at the Concorso d’Eleganza on Lake Como, you could almost hear the collective gasp from the crowd. Here was an elegantly muscular, historically inspired concept that could have passed for a ready-to-roll custom, yet one that served as a clear testament to the BMW R5’s timeless lines and paint scheme. The art deco bob-job felt much closer to a production version than the two previous builds using the massive R 18 powerplant, Custom Works Zon’s Departed and the Revival Cycles Birdcage bike, and with its huge displacement, lazy rake, and long, low silhouette, the Concept R 18 didn’t necessarily challenge cruiser orthodoxy but rather expanded upon it. The build looked fully formed, with tight finishes, well-chosen materials, and many components looking close to being final versions. The buzz on the street afterward was that there might be an update or even a production date given at EICMA 2019; after all, this big boxer has been teased for going on two years now.

BMW Motorrad concept R 18 /2
The new BMW Motorrad concept R 18 /2, according to the brand, showcases how its heritage build “can still be enhanced with flexible and highly personal custom pieces to change the design and dynamic.” Read: add more bodywork.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

Sure enough, there was an update of the R 18 at EICMA, but it was also something of a sidestep. BMW Motorrad pulled the wraps off its second concept bike based on the big boxer engine, the Concept R 18 /2 (or “Slash Two,” as BMW would like you to call it), and it was not an evolution but nearly the stylistic opposite of what came before: a more modern, dynamic custom that was less tied to the ancient past, rolling with a performance-leaning attitude that somehow also felt rougher round the edges. The throwback, steampunk lines of what we saw at Como are gone, with the giant air-cooled, pushrod-powered boxer twin now surrounded by more bodywork with a more dynamic feel. To quote the press release, “With the “Concept R 18 /2 Custom Cruiser, Motorrad has added a new facet to its Heritage concept.”

As Edgar Heinrich, head of design at BMW Motorrad, explained, “In contrast to the classic BMW Motorrad Concept R 18, the Concept R 18 /2 draws on its large boxer engine and frame to create a modern custom concept. The Concept R 18 /2 is uniquely extrovert. Elements from the past and future of BMW Motorrad merge here to create a captivating cruiser, making a powerful statement.”

Concept R 18
The Concept R 18 unveiled by the BMW Group last summer emphasized a more heritage-based, stripped-down bobber style, with classic touches like wire-spoke wheels, fishtail exhausts, and a solo seat all framing the completely exposed, chromed boxer mill.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

In more basic terms, what that means is that the Slash Two embraces some current cruiser norms, but puts a distinctly Teutonic spin on its sportiness and modernity. Proportions are elongated, with the streamlined fairing and shield, teardrop fuel tank and low-profile stepped saddle combining in a flowing line that emphasizes movement, all culminating in a bobbed rear fender hovering over the 16-inch tire. All those body parts (save for the side covers) are finished in a brilliant Candy Apple Red metallic paint, a luminous one-off tone that, even in photos, shows a richness and depth normally only seen on the highest-end customs. Our editor-in-chief half-jokingly called it “concept paint,” which sounds like a pretty spot-on description. The fuel tank also bears dynamic graphic lines that are mimicked in the seat cover, and those side panels are painted black with a subtle “18” graphic.

The Slash Two’s foundation is still that boxer engine, with a loop frame, teardrop tank, and exposed universal shaft all maintaining a classic theme. Taking things in a new direction are the striking contrast cast wheels (BMW calls them “cast iron” in the release, but we’re pretty sure it means aluminum) with a 19-incher at the front and 16-incher out back all adding up to an almost dragster look, with hints of Pro Street. Up-spec Brembo brake calipers control your speed, while a 2-into-2 Hattech stainless steel exhaust system with megaphone-style mufflers takes care of spent gases.

Slash Two
For the Slash Two, BMW downplays the big motor somewhat by adopting a more 1960s look using a warm matte gray tone for the cases and a black palette on the jugs. A hidden rear monoshock gives the bike a classic hardtail look when fully clothed.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

But it’s all about the 1.8-liter engine, right? BMW claims the focus and nucleus of the Concept R 18 /2 remains the massive 1,800cc boxer mill (still air-/oil-cooled), but its presentation on the Slash Two is definitely less in your face than on the previous concept, which took a fully exposed, full-chrome approach. By contrast, the Slash Two engine cases are bathed primarily in a warmer, matte gray tone with the jugs, valve covers, and frame all done in a high-gloss black finish.

The integrated breastplate cover carries the blue-and-white BMW roundel, while an engine badge above the cylinders confirms the name of this concept bike.

BMW Intakes
The big jugs are covered in cooling fins, while dual air intakes under the rider’s legs funnel air to the airbox located just under the front of the seat. No place for forward controls here, fortunately.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

Although the appearance—and arguably the existence—of the new Concept Slash Two is unexpected it still demonstrates the versatility of the “big boxer” platform, even if it’s a dip into the world of performance cruisers (an arena BMW hasn’t traditionally played in).

“After the BMW Motorrad Concept R 18, our aim with the Concept R 18 /2 is to demonstrate how flexible the basic engine and suspension are as a starting point for customization, and how easy it is to realize different styles. And I have to admit: We were impressed at how it was possible to bring this boxer concept forward from the ’30s via the ’80s into the 2020s,” says Bart Janssen Groesbeek, BMW Motorrad vehicle designer for the Big Boxer Concepts.

Unique Custom Cycles custom build
Although BMW handled much of the conceptualizing and design for the bike, the company handed build duties off to legendary Swedish shop Unique Custom Cycles, where new parts were fabbed and fitted and revisions made. Oil cooler makes a subtle appearance at lower front edge of the engine.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

BMW itself prefaced the reveal with the tagline: “One engine, two characters—a multitude of possibilities.” But, really, as it’s preceded by Custom Works Zon “Departed” build from Japan, “The Revival Birdcage” by Revival Cycles in Texas, and BMW Motorrad’s own Concept R 18, the BMW Motorrad Concept R 18 /2 is now the fourth interpretation of the large-volume BMW Motorrad boxer engine. Will there be yet another iteration, or will we finally get a hard production date? BMW says mid-2020, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Candy apple red
The Slash Two is dripping in luminous Candy Apple Red metallic paint that displays a richness typical of high-end customs. Concept paint? Perhaps.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
Possible Pro Street
Is the dream of the ’90s alive in Bavaria? Kick out the rake another couple degrees, add an über-fat tire, pile on more chrome and we see a Pro Street build on the horizon.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
Slash Two
BMW says the Slash Two is made “for active riding,” which we suppose means Motorrad may or may not take a stab at a production performance cruiser.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
Unique Custom Cycles
The guys at Unique Custom Cycles conceptualizing, fabricating, and fitting new bodywork on the rough build.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
Unique Custom Cycles build
A crowning touch: The pieces come together for the Slash Two build at Unique Custom Cycles.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
R 18 /2 from the top
Seen from the top, you get a feel for the R 18 /2’s performance pretensions. And the girth of those cylinders.Courtesy BMW Motorrad
BMW Motorrad Concept R 18 /2 rear
The BMW Motorrad Concept R 18 /2 seen from the rear.Courtesy BMW Motorrad

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