BMW R 18 Roctane (2023) - Review


Price: £21,750 | Power: 91hp (67kW) | Weight: 374kg (wet) | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 4/5


BMW launched the first and rather striking version of the R 18 back in 2020. The giant retro-boxer took the biking world by surprise as nobody was really expecting a laid-back cruiser from BMW, never mind one that boasted such huge stats and featured an 1802cc air-cooled motor with 116.5 ft lb of torque. But it wasn’t just about the engine; the Germans were applauded for the R 18's design and style inspired by their machines from the 1920s and '30s.

Other models using the base R 18 platform soon followed. The R 18 Classic is easily identifiable by its large screen, spoked wheels and soft luggage. Then there is the R 18 B, a bagger with hard luggage and cut-down top fairing, complete a huge 10.25-inch screen and a four-way sound system. The daddy of the group is the huge R 18 Transcontinental, a full dresser with hard luggage and a huge rear 48l top box large enough to swallow two full-face lids.

The fifth bike to adopt the R 18 platform enters is this, the new R 18 Roctane. The Roctane stands out from the rest with a blackout finish, a large 21-inch front wheel, mini-ape bars and hard bagger luggage. In simple terms it sits between the standard R 18 and the R 18 B (Bagger) as a cooler-looking, non-faired Bagger.


Pros & Cons

  • Distinctive style and comfier than the standard R 18
  • Unique stand-out air-cooled engine with a huge amount of torque
  • Top-loading bags are useful and roomy
  • No wind protection (unlike the Bagger, Classic, and Intercontinental)
  • Clocks and tech levels are basic for this type of bike and price
  • Bags are not easily detachable


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
For and against
Engine & Performance
Handling & Suspension (inc. weight & brakes)
Comfort & Economy


2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Price

The base BMW R 18 starts at £17,450 and the Bagger at £22,450, so it should come as no surprise that the new Roctane comes in somewhere between the two at £21,750. You could argue the Roctane should be priced slightly lower as it doesn’t pack the tech of the Bagger, most notably its very clever 10.25-inch clocks and sound system, but it does have extra cosmetic details and those large wheels, which look like they have come directly from a custom shop in LA.

Looking across the market, the obvious competition is from Harley-Davidson, particularly their latest Sport Glide with similar fixed luggage and a laid-back riding style and which starts at £17,895, or the large Road King at £24,595. Indian’s similarly styled Sport Chief (without bags) is £19,995, making the BMW a pricier alternative to the traditional American tourers.

UK dealers expect to get the bikes in mid-July.



2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Engine & Performance

If size really does matter then BMW wins, hands down. This is the largest BMW Boxer the German factory has ever produced. When you sit on the bike you’re consumed by heavy engineering, especially those two huge protruding cylinder heads rocking underneath you. The right cylinder is closer to the rider's shin as it has to sit further back on the crank; each cylinder is not directly opposite, but slightly out of kilter due to the centre crank. The 1802cc motor, plus gearbox and intake top the scales at 110.8kg, which is just over 17 stone if you prefer. If you want to impress your mates then here's another stat: each bore is 107.1mm in diameter; about the same as a German stein beer class.

As you’d expect it’s all about bottom-end torque. There's a mammoth 116.5ft lb of the stuff at just 3000rpm via the beautifully finished shaft drive. Tickle the throttle between 2000rpm and 3000 rpm and you’re already producing 110ftlb of torque. Peak power is almost irrelevant with so much grunt and twist and drive on tap, but for the record is 91 hp at 4750rpm ­– and it is all over and done with by 5000 rpm.

When you throw a leg over the relatively low seat – it's at 720mm to the he standard R 18's 690mm – the experience is dominated by that giant air-cooled motor. With your shins almost touching the cylinder heads, feet on the footboards, there's a charismatic rocking with every blip of the throttle.

As soon as the Roctane starts rolling, it's shortshifting through the smooth six-speed gearbox all the way as you keep the revs low and ride the engine's giant wave of torque. The Roctane comes with footboards and a heel-and-toe gearshift (the standard R 18 has pegs), which I prefer and think matches the style of the new model. I found myself changing up at 2500rpm, or 3000rpm when in a rush! Sometimes it seemed natural to let the beast chug through 30mph villages in fifth and not even bother down-shifting. After all, the fuelling is excellent throughout, while Rain mode is more docile than a sleepy old guide dog, enjoying her retirement in front of the fire.

Cruising is effortless, even at 80mph the revs haven’t passed 3000rpm. Above 3000rpm things get a little vibey and you can rev on 5500rpm, where you hit a soft and doubtless slightly surprised rev limiter. Snappy overtakes can be accomplished with a quick handful of throttle. Fifth to sixth gear is a big step as top gear is intended as an overdrive for touring, so for a brisk overtake from low in the revs, it is preferable to tap back to fifth.

As mentioned, there's no power increase for the Roctane but it does feel livelier than the R 18 B and Transcontinental. That is due to the fact that the new bike is lighter than its bigger, fully loaded siblings, making it quicker to respond when you open the throttle. It's just a shame the exhaust doesn’t sound as fruity as it looks.



2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Handling & Suspension (inc. Weight & Brakes)

As you’d expect, the R 18 uses a similar base platform across the board, but this is where the Roctane stands out from the rest. Mainly for cosmetic reasons the Roctane runs a 21-inch front wheel, 18-inch rear wheel combination, as opposed to the 19/16 combination on the other models, aside from the Classic which runs 16/16. The large wheels have both disadvantages and advantages. On the plus side, the raised ride height gives more ground clearance; they also change the chassis geometry giving a sharper steering head angle. On the downside the larger front wheel at the front slows the steering and in theory the wheels will be heavier, too, meaning more un-sprung weight, although BMW wouldn’t say how much.

We could at this point dive into the detail of the Roctane's chassis geometry and dimensions, but with a bike as laid-back and thoroughly relaxed as this, doing so seems thoroughly pointless (that said, if BMW produced a race version to race in the Bagger series in America, we wouldn't be overly surprised!). All we really need to know is that the Roctane has more ground clearance than the other R 18 variants due to those large wheels. Yes, the footboards will soon drag, but it takes a little more effort than with the standard R 18. Furthermore, even when you start to cover a following rider in a flurry of sparks, the gargantuan boxer doesn't feel like it’s on the limit; far from it in fact.

Yes, you’re constantly aware you’re piloting a big bike, its rocking and engine heat a regular reminder, but you don’t have to send a letter to the front end requesting it to turn. Obviously, it's no sports tourer but it is the sharpest knife in the BMW R 18 boxset.

You learn to go with the Roctane - get the braking done early, roll in, boards sometimes touching down at the apex, then to hit that huge wave of torque on the exit. Once you get used to this style of riding, you can have a spirited blast that can take other road users by surprise, and I had some terrific rides on the two-day test on the Austria/Germany border.

Rider aids are limited to traction control and ABS, with neither being lean-sensitive. You could argue that you don’t need anything more on a laid-back cruiser, while Rain mode softens the power plenty in tricky conditions anyway (and increases the intervention levels of the rider aids). At a standstill, you can turn off the TC and, should you wish to, dumping the clutch off the line will get the rear spinning like a dragster, thanks to that ocean of torque. A cold tyre first thing in the morning can easily be provoked into a smoky spin, and in the wet I’d recommend Rain mode and keeping the TC active...

Front brakes are universal, across-the-range, twin 300mm items, with another 300mm disc on the rear. The only difference is the weight they are stopping. The Roctane tops the scales at a claimed 374kg, which is heavy compared to the standard R 18 at 345kg, but lightweight compared to the Transcontinental at 427kg. The stoppers are up for the job, which is a lot to ask, as the Roctane plus rider is double that of a BMW S 1000 RR. However, if you want to haul up the R 18 sharpish, you’ll need all four fingers on the lever, not just two. The rear brake is strong and used more frequently than on most bikes, mainly down to the relaxed riding style, the footboards and the Roctane's long wheelbase and stability, though at times you can feel the rear ABS kick in.



2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Comfort & Economy

Long-distance comfort was a slight criticism of the standard bike. I’ve covered serious mileages on the standard R 18 touring the harsh roads of Costa Rica and certainly had a numb-bum by the end of the trip. The Roctane comes with a comfier, softer seat than the standard R 18 and it really makes a significant difference. On the standard bike, you can do a few hundred miles without a problem but on the Roctane you can extend that to a full day in the saddle without any complaints at all.

There is an argument for and against bodywork on a cruiser. Personally, I prefer the naked look and feel of the R 18 and the Roctane. For me, cruising means riding below 80mph so I don’t need any wind protection. On this test I did a long-ish stint on the autobahn cruising at 75mph (and only 2500rpm) that passed without feeling any complaints from body parts. I simply set the (now standard) cruise control and sat back, holding onto the mini ape bars, which I prefer to the wide standard R 18 bars.

However, if you prefer life in the fast lane, anything above 80mph is uncomfortable; those tall bars and that lack of wind protection mean you take all the windblast square on your chest. It’s a good workout but not good for any prolonged period of riding. If you regularly cruise at speed or ride in an open-face helmet you may prefer the Bagger, Classic or Intercontinental, or to fit an optional screen. In the dry I loved the cooling windblast from the lack of bodywork, but that feeling was reversed in the rain. Incidentally the protruding cylinder heads do you keep your feet relatively dry and warm in the wet.

The Roctane gets the attractive 16-litre fuel tank of the R 18 and not the 25-litre tank of the Bagger. I managed just over 50mpg, similar to BMW’s claim, which in theory gives a range close to 200 miles whereas, in reality, the fuel light comes on between 130 and 150 miles. On the standard R 18, you’d be thankful for a break but on the Roctane, with its comfier riding position due to the Ape bars and plusher seat, some might have preferred a longer range and larger fuel tank. Also, I prefer a fuel gauge to the Roctane's fuel light.



2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Equipment

The Roctane comes with cruise control as standard (it's not standard on the R 18), and ASC (Automatic Stability Control) or TC to me and you. You also get the three riding modes, non-cornering ABS and LED lights. There is keyless ignition, while the top loading cases share the same key and are easy to open and fill. Unlike some Harley ‘Bags’, which are easy to remove and carry, they are fixed, meaning you have to use and inner bag as you can’t take the solid luggage with you.

Our bike had heated grips fitted which unusually for BMW aren't standard equipment. Other optional extras which most riders will want include Hill Start, TPM (tyre pressure monitoring) and reverse gear.

In terms of cosmetic extras, it’s simply down to your imagination and budget. There are various screens you can fit; you can change the seat, add luggage, crash protection, even change the wheel sizes should you wish to. The choice is seemingly endless meaning you can make your Roctane as individual as you want cosmetically or add functional items ranging from a USB charger to a first aid kit.



2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Rivals

The obvious competition comes from Harley-Davidson and their Sports Glide complete with hard panniers (Bags) and this time a small fly screen. It's not as large or powerful as the BMW but is lighter and cheaper – something not always said about Harley. Indian doesn’t produce an obvious direct competitor to the Roctane, but the closest would be the 1890cc air-cooled Sport Chief (and you would have to add the bags/panniers). And let’s not forget Triumph, who have the Rocket 3. And if size matters the Rocket wins hands down.


Harley-Davidson Sport Glide | Price: £17,895

Power/Torque: 84.3bhp/102.5 lb-ft | Weight: 317kg (wet)


Indian Sport Chief | Price: £19,995

Power/Torque: 89bhp/119.5 lb-ft | Weight: 311kg (wet)


Triumph Rocket 3 | Price: £21,995

Power/Torque: 165bhp/163lb-ft | Weight: 291kg (dry)


2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Motorcycle Review Details Price Spec_27


2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Verdict

I think I have developed a soft spot for the R 18 range, which made its debut back in 2020 at the bike’s world launch. I applauded BMW for being so daring and brave in terms of design and engineering, for dreaming up a modern-day cruiser dressed for the 1920s and '30s. Since that first ride, I’ve ridden every incarnation and even spent a week touring across Costa Rica on one, and my fondness for this bike has only increased.

Now comes the latest incarnation, the Roctane, and it’s the best of the bunch. I love the styling, while the bags are as useful as they are pleasing to the eye. The mini-ape bars, plusher seat and cruise control add up to much-improved comfort over the standard R 18. I prefer the naked look and feel of the Roctane over its pricier brothers, too.

Power and torque remain the same as its siblings', which is more than enough. With an R 18 you get a huge amount of torque for just a tickle of throttle, but with its larger wheels, the Roctane feels a little sportier, if that’s a word I can use to describe a 374kg bagger, thanks to its improved ground clearance.

Lean-sensitive rider aids, particularly ABS, would be preferable, so too more informative clocks with a proper fuel gauge instead of a light, and maybe just a little more tank range, maybe a 20-litre fuel tank instead of 16 litres, given that BMW has improved long-distance comfort.

I guess the final buying decision will be based on price. £21,750 isn’t cheap but you can see the quality of the engineering: it feels and looks like a premium bike. But that’s just the starting price; add a few extras – heated grips, hill start, reverse – and then make a few cosmetic tweaks and that price will soon escalate. With so many accessories I’d behave like a child in a sweatshop but if you do opt for BMW’s R 18, you be buying a quality piece of engineering, which is as beautiful as it is functional and, in many ways, sits above the traditional American competition.


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2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Motorcycle Review Details Price Spec_73


2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Technical Specification

New price

From £21,750



Bore x Stroke

107.1mm x 100mm

Engine layout


Engine details

Air-cooled 2-cylider, 4v per cylinder


91hp (67kW) @ 4,750rpm


116.5lb-ft (158Nm) @ 3,000rpm


6 speed, shaft final drive

Average fuel consumption

5.6l/100km 50.4mpg claimed. 53mpg tested

Tank size

16 litres

Max range to empty

186 miles

Rider aids

ABS, Traction Control 3 rider modes


Double cradle steel frame

Front suspension

49mm conventional 120mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

None adjustable

Rear suspension

Single rear shock 90mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

None adjustable

Front brake

300mm discs, four-piston radial caliper

Rear brake

300mm disc, four-piston caliper

Front wheel / tyre

120/70-21 Metzler

Rear wheel / tyre

180/55-18 Metzler

Dimensions (LxW)

2615mm x 953mm



Seat height



374kg (wet)


2 years

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated



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2023 BMW R 18 Roctane Motorcycle Review Details Price Spec_32


What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.