Gaze At This Retro BMW Concept R18 Motorcycle As It Wows Villa d’Este

The Concept R18 is just a concept, for now.

BMW Motorrad

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is the type of event that manufacturers tend to showcase stunningly beautiful concepts that hark to each’s history. Cars and motorcycles that revive long-beloved shapes and designs and create a throughline between the past and present. As such, BMW’s Motorrad division took Villa d’Este’s pebble-strewn drive with a reinterpretation of BMW’s classic 1960’s motorcycles with the all-new Concept R18. 

The chopper-like motorcycle is centered around the BMW’s massive 1.8-liter 2-cylinder boxer engine. Unlike classic BMWs which were strictly air-cooled engines, the Concept R18’s 1.8-liter boxer engine uses BMW’s modern air- and oil-cooled unit, but fed two Solex carburetors—a nod to BMW’s history and as BMW points out, are “similar to those in the BMW 2002” classic road car. 

The Concept R18’s block and transmission are aluminum in makeup and have been blasted with glass-beads to allow BMW’s engineers to then hand-polish the exterior for a mirror-like reflection. Similarly, the Concept R18’s driveshaft was chrome-plated to give the entirety of the motorcycle a more bespoke watch-mechanism appearance. Everything about the Concept R18 is about beauty and functionality, which was something designer Bart Janssen Groesbeek used as the Concept R18’s overarching theme. 

“The biggest challenge in the design,” says Groesbeek, “is to render everything visible. Every part has a functional purpose. There are not many who would dare to take such an absolutely honest approach.” Even the paint scheme BMW Motorrad and Groesbeek chose became part of that methodology. According to BMW, the black base color was chosen to represent the classic BMW motorcycle coloring. While a series of white and gold hand-applied flourishes give the motorcycle a far more eye-pleasing appearance.

Though the Concept R18 harks to the past with its design and mantra, there are a few sneaky modern BMW Motorrad touches throughout, including the U-Shaped headlight which hides BMW’s latest LED headlight technology. There’s also an integrated spring setup underneath the motorcycle’s seat to give riders a more comfortable cruise. And long rides are exactly what the Concept R18 is intended to do. 

Head of BMW’s Motorrad Design Edgar Heinrich, said, “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.”

As for the Concept R18’s production, we wouldn’t be squirreling away any savings just yet. Though BMW has brought out three custom large-displacement old-school motorcycles in the last year, all of which show off the company’s latest air-cooled boxer engine, the likelihood of these heading into production is slim. Yet, Heinrich understands that it's becoming more common for riders to demand purist experiences from their motorcycling adventures, saying, “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 analog statement in a digital age.” Maybe then, there is hope after all.