BMW’s motorcycle-building division is turning 100 years old in 2023; it’s several years older than the group’s car-building arm. It’s celebrating this significant milestone by adding a new model called R18 Roctane to its range of heritage-inspired, flat-twin-powered two-wheelers.
Low, aerodynamic, and relatively long, the R18 Roctane borrows a handful of styling cues from some of the most emblematic models in BMW’s past, including the R 5 released in 1936. The company refers to the look as “streamliner,” a term that alludes to the swept-back shape that characterizes panels like the rear fender, but it adds that the air-cooled flat-twin engine remains at the heart of the design.
There’s more to the Roctane than initially meets the eye. The mid-rise handlebars were developed specifically for this model, and the round instrument cluster is integrated into the headlight for a cleaner, back-to-the-basics look. Similarly, the rear turn signals are mounted on the hard side cases. The 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, the trim pieces, and many of the mechanical components are finished in black.
BMW explains that fitting mid-rise handlebars “allows for a relaxed and active riding position for optimally controlling the motorcycle.” The seat height checks in at 28.3 inches, which is relatively low, and a long list of riding aids are offered to help riders stay safe and alert on long trips. ABS brakes and cruise control come standard, and an adaptive LED headlight that takes the lean angle into account is optional.
Power for the Roctane comes from a 1.8-liter air-cooled flat-twin that delivers 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 116 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. Known as the Big Boxer, and already found in several members of BMW’s line-up, it’s a surprisingly advanced engine built with a forged crankshaft, forged connecting rods, and a two-stage oil pump drive by the crankshaft via a chain. While BMW has churned out flat-twin-powered bikes for many decades, the Big Boxer stands proud as the largest engine the firm has ever put in a production model.
One of the coolest design features — and one of the few parts that’s not blacked-out — is the driveshaft visible when you look at the right side of the bike. While most modern motorcycles use a chain or a belt to drive the rear wheel, the R18 Roctane and other members of the R18 family are fitted with an old-school metal driveshaft. It’s spun by a six-speed transmission, and a reverse gear driven by an electric motor is offered as an option. Find a straight stretch of road and you’ll hit 62 mph from a stop in 5.5 seconds on your way to 111 mph.
Available now, the BMW R18 Roctane carries a base price of $18,695 excluding destination. Deliveries will start in the third quarter of 2023.