Few new bike launches have been as controversial as the BMW R18. Seeing a German contender in the cruiser market has perplexed many people, and some of the styling touches—such as the fishtail mufflers—have furrowed a few brows.
But as multiple road tests have since pointed out, the R18 is a cracking good example of the genre. And custom builders have been quick to whip out the grinders and reconfigure the biggest ever boxer.
The latest workshop to tackle the R18 is FCR Original, led by Sébastien Guillemot. With the help of the Parisian BMW dealer Bärenstark, he got a brand new R18 delivered to his workshop—a four-hour ride south, in the small rural town of Chauvigny.
Sébastien and his crew have gone for a sporty vibe, dialing down the classic elegance of BMW’s ‘First Edition’ styling and amping up the muscle factor—a German FXDR, if you like. They’re calling this machine the ‘Sport Edition,’ and planning is already underway for a short run of customs in this style.
It’s an unusual approach for FCR, who usually go for a classy, nickel-plated vintage style. But BMW have already nailed that angle with the stock bike.
The biggest change to the character of the bike is the new exhaust pipework, which is virtually straight through. Sébastien describes the sound as “raucous and powerful,” and we believe him.
It’s matched to a new intake system, “to replace the original plastic parts that are too big,” says Sébastien. “Our design office redrew the intake pipes in 3D and printed them, before creating the final parts in aluminum using CNC. We also made a new support for the original intake itself. The air filters are now K&N.”
With all the noise and emissions constraints removed, we reckon this R18 will be putting out considerably more grunt than the standard 91 hp.
The big boxer looks even more impressive than usual too: everything has been repainted in black. It meant dismantling the entire engine, but the effort was worth it.
The enormous valve covers are now carbon fiber. “We designed these in 3D and then printed molds for the carbon.” There’s a new ‘Sport Edition’ engine plate too, just to ram the point home.
On the dynamic front, the biggest change is the wheel size. The stock bike runs F19/R16, and FCR have switched this to F18/R17 to balance things out. “We wanted to keep the bike easy to ride, and didn’t want to put a big tire on the back—which would make the bike feel ‘heavier’ to ride,” says Sébastien.
The wheels are painted in a gloss black, and were assembled and finished in the FCR workshop. The R18 normally runs Bridgestone Battlecruise or Michelin Commander rubber, but FCR have fitted sportier Michelin Road 5 GT tires.
The stubby exhaust is the biggest—and most needed, according to some—visual hit here, but other tweaks include close-fitting aluminum fenders and new bars, which are narrower and have less pullback than the stock bars.
FCR have refitted the standard (and perfectly fine) controls, but changed the brake and clutch master cylinders to Beringer items. The compact turn signals are FCR’s proprietary items, installed on custom brackets, and at the back they double as brake lights.
On the factory R18 the seat is a deep v-shape, filling the gap above the hardtail-style rear frame tubes. FCR have opened things up with a more compact bobber-style seat that moves the rider closer to the bars and reduces the visual bulk.
“It’s a custom-made kit which will be available on our website in the coming weeks,” says Sébastien. “The aluminum saddle support is adjustable, with three positions to suit the size of the rider. The upholstery is Alcantara.”
After meticulously taking apart and painting all the hard parts black—right down to the driveshaft and brake calipers—the FCR crew turned their attention to the bodywork. They’ve settled on a simple and traditional BMW Pur Metal silver.
We’re digging the style and suspect it’s also pre-empted a future sporty version from BMW. If you’re an R18 early adopter, keep an eye on the FCR website as the components become available. There’s a ‘bobber’ version listed there, too …