HOW do you make a full-dress tourer cooler? The answer, obviously, is to take off that massive top-box, shrink the screen and lower the seat and panniers.
Suddenly you’re ever-so-slightly middle-aged behemoth is what’s known as a bagger. They’re big in America and manufacturers are presumably hopeful they will catch on a bit more over here. We’ve seen Honda do it with the Goldwing to make the F6B; and with the Pan European to make the CTX1300.
And now BMW has done it with the K1600 series to make this, the K1600 B.
So let’s find out what this bagger nonsense is all about…
Here’s a rule: any motorcycle engine with more cylinders than you can count on one hand is likely to be good.
With six pots making 160hp and 129lbft, the K1600 B is like a sumo wrestler on the legs of Usain Bolt.
The bottom-end’s pleasingly smooth before the mid-range and top-end pick up the pace like a tidal wave. It’s very satisfying to ride something so big that goes so fast.
Would a sumo wrestler on Usain Bolt’s legs change direction effortlessly? I don’t know, but the K1600 B does.
It’s got new, straighter handlebars than the other bikes in the range (K1600 GT and top-spec K1600 GTL). A bit of counter-steer through those and it changes direction with a weight-defying ease that makes you want to find corners just to do it again.
Obviously it doesn’t haven’t the nimbleness of a smaller bike; just more than it seems to have a right to.
It means that, for such a huge machine, it seems really easy to dominate.
It’s not just going so fast on something so big that's pleasing. It’s going so fast on something so big and comfortable.
The suspension is the same as on the other K1600’s (as is the aluminium frame and swing-arm along with the wheels and brakes).
It’s got BMW’s electronically adjustable suspension, which the firm calls ESA. Not ‘Dynamic ESA’, which is semi-active, changing damping settings automatically according to conditions, but just ‘ESA’, the slightly less sophisticated system which lets you change them by pressing buttons.
You can choose between ‘Cruise’ and ‘Road’ settings. The former, obviously, is where the sense of high-speed luxury is best. It makes the road feel as smooth as a bowling green, and it does it without getting sloppy, keeping the bike’s 336kg stable and poised.
I tried ‘Road’ for a while, and the sense of contact with the tarmac was increased, but me for this bike seems to be all about going fast in opulent comfort, so I switched back soon enough.
The four-piston calipers biting twin 320mm discs up front haul the K1600 B down from speed almost as impressively as the six-pot engine hauls it up. There’s ample power delivered with easily controllable progression.
Brake really hard and the LED brake light starts to flash. And ABS is of course standard.
Where do we start? Standard equipment includes traction control, heated seats, cruise control, the ESA suspension and an electrically adjustable screen which retracts when you switch off, at the starting price of £16,750.
Options include a ‘Premium Package’ (£1,825) adding an electric reverse gear, sat-nav ‘preparation’ and an audio system.
Or there’s a ‘Comfort Package’ (£1,455) adding a keyless ignition, an up/down quick shifter and auto-blipper (which BMW calls ‘Gearshift Assist Pro’), central locking for your panniers, an LED fog light and an alarm.
Then there are two separate editions of the bike. You’ve got the K1600 BSE, costing £17,760 and including a centre-stand and hill-start control (so you don’t roll backwards).
And there’s a K1600 BLE edition, costing £19,405 and including the audio system, the reverse gear, the centre-stand and the hill-start control. Plus more.
The bike I rode was the BLE edition, so fitted with all of the above, plus footboards (£195) letting me stretch my legs, crash bars (£185) and the Comfort Package, bringing the total on-the-road price to £21,240.
We could spend all day talking about BMW’s long list of individual accessories, so I won’t.
The audio system can pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth and sounds good and clear up to about 50mph, where it gets drowned out by wind noise. The reverse gear works well and the up/down quick-shifter is exceptionally smooth.
The K1600 series is basically an exercise in luxury and equipment so it seems a shame not to get all the extras you can afford.
The fact that it seems to bring a bit of cool to the K1600 range without compromising much on the touring capacity. Obviously, you don’t get the huge top-case and pillion back rest of the K1600 GTL, but there’s plenty of room for weekend luggage or more in those panniers.
The shorter screen still provides good protection, and you can swap it for the taller one from the other K1600s if you want.
We don’t like
All the options are controlled by navigating menus on the dash using a wheel on the left-hand handlebar. I found it frankly baffling.
No doubt it would become intuitive soon enough though. To many BMW riders, it already will be.
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