BMW’s retro-styled R 18 inaugurated the most powerful flat-twin engine the German bike manufacturer has ever developed. It’s a cruiser, meaning it wasn’t developed with flat-out performance in mind, but the Big Boxer’s impressive specifications inspired custom bike designer Roland Sands to turn it into a dragster.
“With an engine that’s so visibly the centerpiece, I immediately thought of muscle cars. My family has always been into going fast, and my dad was a drag racer, so I thought it made sense to strip the bike down to the essentials and shape it to go fast on a straight track,” Sands said in a statement. He added that turning his sketches into reality was simpler than it sounds because BMW gave the R 18 a highly customizable design.
Appropriately called R 18 Dragster, the one-off two-wheeler retains the donor bike’s stock neck geometry but gains a redesigned rear end. Sands and his team also tweaked the front and rear fenders to make them fit the modified frame, removed the rear suspension (drag racers don’t need it), installed a headlight bezel made with milled aluminum, fitted a fork sourced from BMW’s R NineT, and added a seat built from scratch.
Sands noted dealing with the on-board electronics was the most difficult part of the project. Although the flat-twin remains stock internally, his team removed the stock exhaust, modified the intake, and added nitrous oxide. “It was a bit of an experiment, but we dialed it in,” Sands said proudly.
Performance figures haven’t been released yet, but it’s quick enough to justify installing a front braking system from BMW’s S 1000 RR superbike.
While it doesn’t sound like the Dragster will join the BMW range as a regular-production model, it illustrates what’s possible when the bike ends up in the hands of skilled designers and builders. BMW introduced the R 18 earlier in 2020, so it’s still a relatively new model, and we expect to see other builds in the coming months. Some might come directly from BMW; it hinted the 1.8-liter Big Boxer will power a line of production motorcycles in the not-too-distant future. As for us, we’re wondering if the air-cooled flat-twin fits under the hood of a Citroën 2CV.