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BMW R 18/3R

By 02.08.2022No Comments



Reverse trikes (or backward trikes, which means their design scheme is 2 + 1 — two wheels in front, one in the back) are experiencing a kind of boom now. However, such construction arrangement used to be treated as some kind of technical oddity as long as twenty years ago before the advent of Can-Am Spyder. Still, the oddity has a rich history. There was time in the 1920s–30s when the English Morgan tree-wheelers, built according to that scheme, were quite successful on racing tracks. It’s interesting that they were competing both in the class of lightweight cars (aka cyclecars) and sidecars. So, it would definitely make sense to reimagine that blast from the past applying state-of-the-art technologies and materials.

Customizers, as you may well understand, could not get past this topic simply by their nature. And the workshop ShifCustom, which is known for its perfectionist approach, just dived in deeply, made it thoroughly, and came up with a tricycle presented here giving it a compact index R 18 / 3R (3R is from the German Dreirad, that means tricycle: brief, neat and to the point).

This, for sure, is a tribute (or hommage, as they say today) to the brand of BMW — and actually to both its two-wheeled and four-wheeled products (Isn’t that why we see here something in-between, three wheels?). The cruiser model R 18 is taken as a base, but the styling is an unambiguous reference to the BMW 328 — the legendary roadster of the 30s with a body designed by Peter Szymanowski — with its set of vibrant components: from leather belts tightening the «hood» to the front wheels outwardly copying those characteristic centerlock wheels of Rudge-Whitworth type.

There’s an important thing to note in this case: all body elements that create an image in the spirit of the streamline design of the 30s are, just think of it, not plastic parts from a 3D printer but a real handmade Carrozzeria product made of no less real aluminum.

Road stability and cornering are simultaneously important and problematic characteristics of a trike. Reverse trikes undoubtedly have more advantage here. But there’s also a well-known drawback: when a rider passes road bumps and pits between the front wheels, the single rear wheel immediately hits the obstacle — however, that doesn’t matter at all if the roadway covering is smooth. After all, a hole can be caught with any wheel, and no one is safe from the danger.

This trike can boast its unique road “tenacity” largely due to the double wishbone independent suspension of the front wheels designed and manufactured by ShifCustom.

The power-to-weight ratio is more than all right, too. Two-cylinder boxer engine with a volume of 1.8 liters (91 hp, 158 Nm) is easily doing what it’s supposed to.

An eye stopper, fun machine — this is definitely about R 18 / 3R, but should the list of qualities consider cost efficiency and operating economy?

It is difficult to give a definite answer. It would be, perhaps, equally difficult to measure absolute values of impression or pleasure.

From the point of view of marketing, «backward-looking» trikes as well as trikes of the classic design 1 + 2 are exclusively niche products. And if at first glance the niches are different, in the end those people who buy them are driven by the same inducements. The amount of adrenaline released into the blood of the rider and the emotional effect transmitted to the public – these indicators are highly correlated with each other.
And in conclusion, can one have the heart to call the trike R 18 / 3R from ShifCustom «reverse»? Only forward and ahead!


text Dmitry Dolnik , photo Andrew Schukin