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Cruiser motorcycles naturally have similarities. A relaxed riding position and focus on operator comfort, making certain styling choices obvious. Low seat heights and comfortable positions make long trips seem shorter. The 2021 BMW R 18, therefore, shares plenty in common with the new Harley-Davidson models lined up on the freeways and in café parking lots everywhere. But still, the Beemer stands out from all of them. Why is that? We’ll compare the unique, exciting new BMW R 18 to some of the more popular Harley-Davidson choices and see why the R 18 tops them all. To see the stunning new 2021 BMW R 18 in person, stop by San Jose BMW Motorcycles today. When you do, your search for the perfect modern cruiser will be over.
First, let’s compare the 2021 BMW R 18 vs. Harley-Davidson Softail Slim. While the new R 18 makes 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm with a thundering torque peak of 116 ft.-lbs. of torque at 3,000 rpm, the 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim trails behind in the torque department. It pushes just 110 ft.-lbs. at that same 3,000 rpm. Harley-Davidson is not quite as forthcoming as BMW when it comes to horsepower ratings. Typical of Harley-Davidson engines, the Softail Slim has an undersquare design. Its bore of 100 mm is more extensive than its 111 mm stroke, often called a “long-stroke” design. The R 18 has a more modern, oversquare engine, with a 107.1 mm bore and a stroke of 100 mm. The shorter stroke design results in a faster revving, more enthralling engine than its competition.
In the looks department, we humbly submit that there is no comparison. Superficially, both motorcycles have a similar appearance. This owes to the facts of life when it comes to designing a modern cruiser. Solo seats with a low height and LED lighting are also shared. But only the BMW R 18 gives its owners a cruiser that is 100 percent unique. Harley-Davidsons are a dime a dozen on the road, but there is only one true BMW cruiser, so far. Just compare the Softail Slim’s typical Harley-Davidson straight-shot exhaust to the Beemer’s gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, low-slung silencers. Their note announces something different is coming, and the unmistakable BMW persona announces it has arrived.
Both the V-twin Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe and the big boxer 2021 BMW R 18 cruiser are nods to each iconic brand’s long histories. The BMW’s 1,802 cc engine is slightly larger than the Softail Deluxe’s 1,753 cc (107 cubic inches) mill, which contributes to the Beemer’s extra torque: 116 ft.-lbs. at 3000 rpm versus the Harley-Davidson’s 109 ft.-lbs. at the same place in their respective power curves. The Milwaukee Eight® 107 cubic inch engine typically produces less than 80 horsepower compared to the R 18’s publicly announced 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm. With numbers like those, why would we hide them?
To compare the 2021 BMW R 18 vs. Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe in appearance is to compare a technicolor film to black and white. At first glance, the 2021 R 18 and the Softail Deluxe may seem cut from the same cloth. Their long lines, low seat heights, and hardtail-type frames have remained cruiser design hallmarks for a good reason. Yes, they both harken back to some of the earliest models of each marque dating back nearly a century, but only the Softail Deluxe is stuck there. The 2021 BMW R 18 is thoroughly modern, using a fly-by-wire throttle to enable the rider to select three ride modes (Rock, Roll, and Rain). The Softail Deluxe, however, offers the rider no such abilities. It is not just a throwback to the days of yore; it is still living in them.
When setting out to compare the 2021 BMW R 18 vs. the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, the performance aspects seem somewhat more level. The Fat Boy’s 1,868 cc engine is closer in spec to the BMW R 18’s 1,802 cc power plant, giving the Harley-Davidson a torque peak of 119 ft.-lbs. at 3,000 rpm to the BMW’s 116 ft.-lbs. But those scant 3 ft.-lbs. come at the expense of a higher compression ratio. The Fat Boy’s 10.5:1 ratio stresses its engine more than the R 18’s ratio of 9.6:1. Motorcycles with higher compression ratios tend to require more maintenance and repairs than do bikes in a milder state of tune.
To see another difference between these bikes, let’s consider the Harley-Davidson drivetrains compared to the BMW. The 2021 BMW R 18 utilizes an ultra-smooth and famously reliable shaft drive system, a system BMW owners have come to trust over generations. Owing to its history, Harley-Davidson chose a belt drive for the Fat Boy. Both will outlast a chain, but the BMW’s shaft drive is maintenance-free and should last the motorcycle’s life. When the Fat Boy’s belt needs replacing, the time, cost, and effort will be considerable.
The 2021 BMW R 18 is simply in a category by itself. Its boxer engine, the largest ever of its kind, has no equal in the world of cruiser motorcycles. The engine shines through the natural smoothness through, requiring no balancing shafts to calm, unlike a Harley-Davidson. The R 18 is a unique vision of what a cruiser can be, in turn, a BMW. A throwback in appearance only is a thoroughly modern machine for the enthusiast in all of us. The first of its kind will be turning heads and stopping traffic for generations to come, just like the BMW motorcycles that came before it.
San Jose BMW Motorcycles has the largest selection of new BMWs in northern California. Proudly serving areas near Santa Clara, CA, near Milpitas, CA, and near Campbell, CA, we offer BMW motorcycle financing on all of our inventory. Visit our showroom today to see a new 2021 BMW R 18 for sale in our gallery and find out why, when comparing a Harley-Davidson to the art in motion that is the new R 18, there is no comparison.
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