The new BMW K1600GT raises the technological bar and sets a benchmark for motorcycle innovation.

World’s first, attention grabbing isn’t it? BMW breaking new technological ground with the revolutionary K1600GT. Well not exactly, some of the tech on this bike is not new at all, what the Bavarian boffins have done is cherry pick existing automotive technology, develop it to the limit, and create possibly the most advanced motorcycle of the moment, that lays the foundations for motorcycles of the future.


Turning headlights were available as far back as 1928, and it was the Citroen DS that brought this concept to the masses in 1967.  This was abandoned (blame US regulators) for some 40 years and has, until now, been unavailable on bikes for the simple reason that your clever round-the-corner lights will dazzle oncoming road users. Hence normal headlights being required by law to light up the hedgerow rather than approaching traffic.

BMW use a sophisticated bank angle sensor module and a front facing camera that sends data to a constantly pivoting and pitching mirror, projecting an HID (High Intensity Discharge) or ‘Xenon’ light beam around the corner, illuminating the road ahead and potential hazards. As soon as an approaching light is detected, the mirror adjusts to give maximum illumination with minimum distraction.  The tricky part that has taken so long to develop has been distinguishing a distant street light from that of a car, whilst leant over at 27 degrees, in 3rd throttle 76.7% open, with a 52.6kg pillion, half a tank of fuel, 2 overladen panniers during a full moon at 7.32 pm in April. You do the math! Oh and in case you are wondering, when riding in anywhere other than Australia, South Africa, Japan or Papua New Guinea there is a wrong side of the road setting in the on-board mega computer.

No more fumbling for the pass switch while blasting a country lane, squinting to read a road sign before missing the junction or swerving an unobservant pedestrian. ABS, traction control, and all wheel braking are now proven on two wheels and here to stay, this latest trickle down from the car world is coming to showrooms near you.


Switch Gear - Clever copper nano technology

Corroded connections, water in your starter button and indicator switches with the integrity of a Happy Meal toy are not suitable for the 16 strong, constantly communicating control units on the K1600GT’s CAN-bus electrical system so BMW have employed genius technology from Kromberg & Schubert GmbH.

The plastic switch casings are made from a special material, rich in copper nano particles that when laser etched, provide perfect small scale 3D circuitry.  The whole unit simply clicks onto a single connector, one on the left and one on the right.  This not only improves longevity, serviceability, reliability and eventually recyclability, but also reduces weight.

This will be a game changer as the fully automated manufacture process is price comparative with current methods and reduced production time, labour and materials will have all major bike brands will clamoring to introduce this type of switchgear to their premium models.

 Expect to see, or not as it happens, Moto GP and Superbike teams running new handlebar furniture before too long.  But more importantly for you, no more RAC call outs because of a dry joint or loose connection.

Six Pack - The tech behind BMW's motor.

With similar dimensions and weight to a 4 cylinder engine, just how has BMW squeezed in an extra two pots to create a silky smooth engineering masterpiece that holds the lengthy title of ‘lightest and most compact serial production 6 Cylinder engine in a motorcycle’? Bear with me, this could get technical.

The internal and external couldn’t be more inextricably linked.  Fat Camp starts from the inside by slimming the cylinder bore slightly to 67.5mm, creating an under square motor, a longer 72mm stroke maintains displacement and therefore oomph from low revs. Short skirted slipper pistons with relatively flat crowns, due to tight valve angles, keep things feather light, but sturdy enough to cope with the high, emissions and BHP friendly, 12.2:1 compression ratio. Hollow camshafts have their cam lobes pressed on rather than machined shaving a further 1kg, reducing rotational mass and provide an internal oil way for the valve gear.

Still awake?

The cylinders are crammed together with only a 5mm gap between each, which is only possible as coolant flows from the front, hot exhaust side, to the back, cooler intake side of the engine block. The result is even thermodynamics across the different materials, or in old school, no warped heads or cracked barrels. Warm up from cold is quicker, reducing wear, fuel burn and heat transfer is more efficient which equates to better MPG and your neighbour from Greenpeace inviting you for tea.

Straight 6’s are naturally balanced (Joy of Six article - removing the need for heavy, space robbing balance shafts.  And there isn’t even an additional gear on the end of the crank to power ancillaries or final drive, instead one of the crankshaft counterweights (the bit that balances out the mass of the conrod and piston) has teeth cut into it to provide direct drive to the gearbox.

Nearly there.

This  engine in canted forward 55 degrees, think Jawa Speedway bike, which has more than the obvious centre of gravity reduction benefit. A cavernous space becomes available above the crank which means all the bits from the side, back and bottom of a normal engine can get a piggyback. Everything is mounted above the crank and driven straight from it. Brilliant. The air intake trumpets are a bit further up and are much longer to give more torque, a staggering 70% of this is available from a sniff above idle.

To make way for rapid advances in electronics and technology, and with heavy components like ABS becoming standard or obligatory, engineers are pushing the boundaries to eek every last drop of performance and shed surplus grams to keep their models catwalk fit.  Automotive development is accelerating at a rate not seen since Henry Ford’s time, which is great news for us bikers. Advances are rapidly filtering down to the safer, faster and more efficient motorcycles of today, which makes for a seriously exciting future.