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BMW R 18 Heavy Duty Is the Radical German Cruiser That Rocked Daytona

German bike maker BMW made a glorious comeback to the cruiser segment back in 2020, when it unleashed upon its competitors, but mainly Harley-Davidson, the mighty R 18. The bike may not be yet a force to be reckoned with off the shelf, at least compared to what the American-made bikes manage to do in terms of sales, but in the custom industry, the R 18 is slowly creeping its way into becoming a very important machine.
BMW R 18 Heavy Duty 15 photos
Photo: BMW
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In the relatively short time that has passed since its introduction, the R 18 seems to have been customized by European garages with a speed and force rarely seen. Sure, American crews haven’t really picked up on it yet, but the ones over on the Old Continent seem to be having a field day modifying the Bavarian two-wheeler.

And they have good reason to, as BMW Motorrad itself is actively backing their efforts. Just remember how just in the final two months of last year BMW released two separate batches of factory-backed R 18 customs. We’ve had them all under the spotlight here on autoevolution at the beginning of 2023, but there still seems to be room for a lot more.

And guess what, the Germans once again delivered, taking advantage of the Daytona Bike Week held in Florida last week. Using the major motorcycling event as a platform, BMW and partner Fred Kodlin Motorcycles launched into the wild the amazing build you’re looking at now.

For custom motorcycle fans in general, but for Daytona Bike Week goers in particular, the name Fred Kodlin needs no introduction. The German has been modifying two-wheelers since the 1980s, unveiling some of them there. Even more, in 2007 he became the first non-American to be inducted into the International Master Bike Builders Association (IMBBA) Hall of Fame.

BMW R 18 Heavy Duty
Photo: BMW
So, a great name behind what is perhaps the most radical and exciting BMW R 18 we’ve seen to date. It’s called Heavy Duty, and it’s no longer a stock cruiser, but more of a heavily updated touring machine, the kind we’re used to seeing from Southern Country Customs, for instance.

If you’re thinking that the stock frame and engine of the R 18 can still be found under all that massive body and the bright colors, you’d be just partially right. Kodlin seems to have left nothing to chance with this one, and altered pretty much everything.

First up, the bike’s original frame was modified by installing remade upper tubes. This allowed for the seat, but also the overall line of the bike, to be lowered to a height more in tune with the kind of ride being put together.

The engine, on the other hand, had no reason to be tampered with. So we still get the stock-but-mighty 1,802cc Big Boxer, which is presently listed by BMW with an output of 91 hp and 158 Nm of torque. It does breathe, however, through a custom exhaust system.

BMW R 18 Heavy Duty
Photo: BMW
The Heavy Duty was then propped on an air suspension system and is connected to the ground beneath it by a 21-inch front wheel, hidden under a fender so large it seems to wrap halfway around its diameter, and a rear one of undisclosed size.

The wheel at the back is barely visible, almost completely hidden from sight by the two massive side cases. They’re made of fiberglass and shaped in such a way that their lines seamlessly flow into the rest of the build. Most importantly, though, this is where the bike’s sound system is hidden: two loudspeakers and an amplifier.

All the body parts added to the R 18 were not easy to make. We’re told they alone took roughly three months to complete, but the effect is simply stunning.

It all starts up front, with the large fairing that holds the bike’s headlight front and center, and is topped by a chopped windshield. Then, up on the frame, we get the bike’s fuel tank, not the original one, but a custom bit that is longer and also appears a tad larger.

BMW R 18 Heavy Duty
Photo: BMW
The side covers on the Heavy Duty are made of sheet metal and it’s them that blend right into the side cases for a great visual impact. Caught between them and aft of the fuel tank is the custom, massive seat wrapped in Alcantara and imitation leather.

Airbrushed into an apparent work of art on two wheels, the BMW R 18 Heavy Duty disappeared from the public eye as soon as the Daytona Bike Week ended. Neither BMW nor Fred Kodlin said what would happen to it from now on. We also do not know how much it cost to make, as few people in this industry like to brag about that.

The bike is the product of Kodlin’s first adventure into the still-nascent BMW R 18 world, but we certainly hope it’s not the last one.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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