Charlie Haughey, the former Prime Minister of Ireland, once said that deep down, he was a really shallow person, and some people feel the same way about beauty.
But for me, beauty is much more than skin-deep. I know how much my spirits lift when I walk into a simple room, for example in Japan or Scandinavia, with just one or two beautiful things in it.
And how much they sink when I encounter a room full of clutter and ugliness into which no thought has been put; which reminds me: I must clear out that space under the stairs one of these days.
Which brings me, naturally enough, to the new R18, BMW’s first cruiser since the ill-fated R1200C in 1997.
I must have been the only person in the world who liked it. Well, apart from Piers Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies that same year when they escaped from the bad guys on one.
This time around, BMW has taken inspiration from the lovely 1936 R5, and kept its simple and exquisite look, but super-sized everything else, with the R5’s 494cc, 24bhp and 165kg becoming a whopping 1800cc, 91bhp and 345kg.
That could have resulted in it going from young Marlon Brando to old Marlon Brando, but it hasn’t: it looked stunning in photos, and when I walked up to it in the sun at the dealers, it was all I could do not to swoon with Stendhal Syndrome, named after the French author who was so overcome by the beauty of Florence on his first visit that he fainted regularly and had to be revived with several large glasses of brandy.
I could have stood there and looked at it until the cows came home, although where those cows had got to is a mystery. Maybe being in the middle of a city had something to do with it.
Pulling myself together, I decided to sit on it and make a list of all the things I loved about it, starting at the front with the single classical headlight, and above it a single speedo with the minimum information you need – speed, gear, miles and which mode you’re in – Rock, Roll or Rain.
Yes, yes, I know – Schnell, Nicht so Schnell and Achtung, Regen would have been less weird, but who wants to be sensible?
The old school circular mirrors are perfect, as is the ferruled chrome filler cap, the classic black tank with ivory coach trim, the boxer cylinders which somehow manage to be both massive and tasteful, the fabulous blossoming curve of the exhausts and the exposed shaft drive. How BMW got that past health and safety is a mystery.
Even after that, it took me half an hour to get away, what with people coming up to admire it.
Start up, it kicks to one side just to remind you it’s a BMW boxer, and the air fills with a gloriously subterranean grumble.
Ride off, click through the solid six-speed box, drink your fill from a well of torque so bottomless that it hardly matters which gear you’re in, and laugh at handling so effortless that even on a bike weighing 345kg, before long you’re swinging through bends as instinctively as if you and the bike are one.
Even at low speed, full lock turns are child’s play.
If I have to throw tiny pebbles of fault in the mirrored lake of perfection, there’s no fuel gauge, just a warning light which comes on when you’ve 25 miles left, and the combination of a fairly firm seat and short travel rear suspension means getting off for a stretch every hour or so.
But then you can just stand and admire the bike for a bit before getting back on.
As I’ve said before, all bikes come with their own fantasy, and it would be very easy to ride along on the R18 thinking you’re on your way to a rally at Nuremburg to hear that nice chap Mr Hitler, but instead I chose a gentler image; that I was on my way to the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden in the summer of 1936 to meet my fiancée Gretchen for the quaintly named Roman-Irish Treatment.
For those of you not familiar with it, it involves getting your kit off, followed by 90 minutes of massage, hot and cold treatments and finally being wrapped in warm blankets and left to nod off for a bit, after which you wake feeling as if your soul has been spring-cleaned.
I highly recommend it, as I do the R18. It has now replaced the 2012 Victory Cross Roads Classic Limited Edition as my most beautiful bike in the world, and the Royal Enfield Interceptor as my favourite bike of all time.
Bike supplied by Belfast BMW Motorrad at Charles Hurst charleshurstgroup.co.uk/bmw
BMW R18 The Facts
Engine: 1802cc boxer twin
Power: 91bhp @ 4,750rpm
Torque: 116 lb ft @ 3,000rpm
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