Join along with us on our first ride aboard the 2012 BMW K1600GT and GTL. We share our first thoughts in real-time as we experience them. Learn about the bike, it's features, and how it all works and sounds with us. We show it like nobody else, you'll feel as if you're there riding.
Displacement: 106 ci / 1731 cc
Engine Type: 4-stroke 50° V-Twin
Dry Weight: 659 lbs / 300 kg
There’s something about riding a motorcycle with your arms hung high that fosters machismo. Maybe it’s because the bikes that first captured my imagination were ‘70s choppers with crazy-high Ape Hangers. As a kid, I remember seeing club members rumbling around the Bay Area, tattooed arms hanging defiantly high. Maybe it’s because Apes over a certain height will get you a ticket in some states. They’re like a finger in the face of conventionalism. This style of bars are not usually standard fare on an OEM bike, but then again, Victory Motorcycles isn’t one to follow conventions. The American V-Twin manufacturer proved that when they released the Vision.
The reach to the bars of the 2012 Victory High-Ball is just above shoulder height for me at six-feet tall. Its padded leather solo seat is slunk at a low 25 inches and the stretch to the bars tilts the ergos slightly forward. The foot controls are set more than mid-mount but don’t feel like the full stretch of forward-mounted controls and my knees are bent slightly up. The bars vibrate at speed, a buzz more than a shake. Cool thing about the High-Ball’s bars is that they can be dropped down to a more “laid-back” position with simple hand tools without affecting the control mounts or the cables.
The 2012 High-Ball aims to tap into a new market for Victory Motorcycles. Don't worry, no manatees were harmed during testing.
With its thick whitewall tires, laced wheels, bobbed front fender and high bars, the bike’s throwback styling has me in a chill, cruising mood as I hit Main Street in Daytona Beach during Bike Week. Behind my visor I’m noticing plenty of eyes turning as I ride by. With the high bars, the front end wants to lean in at extremely slow speeds, a situation that’s remedied with a little throttle. The stop-and-go crawl of Main Street also brings the bike’s stiff clutch pull to my attention. And though the stares the High-Ball garners are cool, I’m anxious to hit the bridge on the other side of Main Street to shoot up to I-95 and open this baby up because even though the bike’s styling screams cruiser, there’s a claimed 97 horses beneath me dying to be unleashed.
Reaching the highway on-ramp, with a good twist of the throttle the acceleration snaps my head back as I run through a few gears. The 50-degree V-Twin has a quick-revving nature. The torquey low end is matched throughout the powerband and distribution is even throughout. There’s excellent response from the EFI with every release of the clutch cable and Victory’s Freedom 106 V-Twin in its Stage 2 state of tune is one of the bike’s strongest features. It doesn’t sign off early on the top end and the tranny can withstand winding out each gear before banging it up to the next. Gearing down, there’s a generous amount of engine braking. Victory’s mill does dole out a healthy amount of heat on the right leg, a combination of the nature of an air-cooled V-Twin and the placement of the rear pipe.
The High-Ball’s six-speed overdrive constant mesh transmission engages smoother than a Harley, but its lower gears are still notchy, a trait I’m beginning to believe is inherent in American V-Twin transmissions. But it’s only that initial engagement of the big gears that creates any audible noise because the High-Ball’s transmission functions quietly and efficiently otherwise. First gear will get you up to the mid-40s and carrying higher rpm in fifth will give you plenty of passing power on the freeway. Pop it into the overdrive sixth gear and the engine settles into a loping 2600 rpm at 70 mph highway speeds.
The 2012 High-Ball is based on the Victory Vegas but it’s more compact, with a wheelbase that’s 1.5-inches shorter and its overall length has been trimmed down 3.5 inches. Victory also brought in the rake to 31.7 inches, 1.2 tighter than the Vegas. Add a front tire that’s short at 16 inches but chunky at 130mm to go along with a 16-inch rear that’s relatively svelte at 150mm wide and you’ve got a bike whose Dunlop Cruisermax tires stick tight to the road and feel planted in corners. The High-Ball could easily take on more lean than the pegs allow. The flat, straight roads around Daytona Beach had us clamoring to find a corner to test the High-Ball’s handling, but on the few turns we did find the High-Ball impressed us with its neutral turn in and stability when leaned over. Our primary grievance was its limited cornering clearance. A washboarded dirt road gave us a good barometer for its suspension. The preload adjustable spring on the rear suspension is firm and admirably soaked up road imperfections at speed. While the rear is well-sorted, the telescopic front fork moves through its 5.1 inches of travel fairly easy and the front end dives a bit under heavy braking.
With power numbers at a claimed 97 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque, the quick-revving Freedom 106 has a torquey low end and power is evenly distributed throughout its rev range.
Speaking of the braking department, the High-Ball’s back brake is very bitey. It doesn’t take much of a push to get the two-piston rear calipers to dig hard into the 300mm floating rotor. There’s no shortage of power or feel at the pedal. The front brakes aren’t quite as impressive, though. The notable bite of the rear is not there. It takes a hard squeeze at the lever to get the four-pot arrangement on the front disc to apply the pressure needed to instill confidence in the unit. There’s no fade, but there’s not a load of feel, either.
Keeping true to its stripped-down theme, the High-Ball has minimal instrumentation. A small, round analog speedo is mounted high enough between the bars to make it easily visible. All readouts are contained within the speedo face, including a Neutral indicator, turn signals, gear indicator, odometer, clock, high beams, low fuel, tripmeter, and assorted diagnostic lights like oil pressure. A button on the switchgear of the left handlebar allows you to toggle between the odometer, tripmeter and tach. The control housings are plastic and don’t match the quality of the rest of the bike’s fit and finish.
Because for a factory bike, Victory has done an admirable job of injecting the High-Ball with vintage styling cues, from the way the white paint accentuates the recessed tank to the way the whitewalls make the chunkiness of the tires stand out. Spoked wheels stay true to the theme of the bike while its slim swingarm keeps the tail end open so you can enjoy an uncluttered view of the whitewalls. The few glimmers of white makes the blacked-out treatment of the engine, frame, bars, pipes, headlight bucket, triple trees, fender struts and cylinder head covers stand out that much more. The high cylinder heads sit compactly into the frame and the back pipe is routed cleanly out of the back of the rear cylinder head. While shooting photos at High Bridge Park on The Loop outside of Ormond Beach, an owner of a Suzuki cruiser summed it up best, saying the combination of styling cues on the High-Ball “just works.”
Custom builder Roland Sands has already demonstrated the customizing potential of Victory’s High-Ball with his version called Ol’ Vic that debuted at the New York IMS. Sands looked to hot rod culture for his version of the High-Ball and wanted to “keep it clean, keep it simple.” With Ol’ Vic he converted it to a suicide shifter, ran an internal throttle through custom bars and swapped the stock angular headlight out for a round one. He also switched out the cover on the primary drive, added a handful of stainless steel pieces and powdercoated the wheels to match the trim of the paint in a color called “camel.” Victory says accessories designed for the Victory Vegas like a passenger seat and pegs will fit on the High-Ball and claim it’s got a black 2-into-1 aftermarket exhaust in the works as well. Not bad considering the bike’s not even available until April.
The best attributes of the 2012 Victory High-Ball are its powerful engine and smooth handling. Based on the conversations we had in Daytona Beach about the bike’s styling and by the attention it garnered, it’s fair to say Victory’s engineering team captured the essence of the era they were shooting for. Then there are the intangibles, like the old school cool you feel when riding with your arms hung high, whitewalls spinning beneath you on a bike with a factory bob-job. Add to the equation it’s priced at a competitive $13,499 MSRP and fills a niche most manufacturers don’t address and Victory’s got a potential hot seller.
Air-cooled 110 cubic-inch V-Twin
Harley-Davidson brings back one of the most tenured models in its CVO program for 2012, the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide. The Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide made its CVO debut in 2005 and hasn’t missed the lineup since. The Motor Company thinks so highly of it they even offered a special blacked-out CVO version in 2010.
The 2012 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide puts the “L” in luxury touring motorcycle. Harley took one of the comfiest seats around and made it even better by reshaping the rider area of the suspended seat. Both rider and passenger are in control of the independently adjustable heated seats while lumbar support will help those long miles pass by comfortably. Heated hand grips, cruise control that’s easily operable via controls on the right handlebar, and ABS contribute to its list of touring luxuries. Another luxury item is its power locking system. Owners can lock or unlock the ignition, saddlebags and Tour-Pak luggage using the key fob. The fob is an important device to the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide as it also activates the Smart Security System and the bike won’t start unless the key fob is within range.
Touring’s also all about storage space and the CVO Ultra Classic has it in spades. Its King Tour-Pak offers 2.26 cubic-feet and is capable of easily holding a couple of full-faced helmets. It has nice chrome trim in the form of an Air-wing rack on the outside and new bass booster ports on the inside. The 2012 CVO Ultra Classic has a chrome wraparound LED which is highly visible when riders get on the brakes (I noticed while trailing the bike). Then there’s space in the hard saddlebags and pockets in the fairing lowers to boot.
Like the other CVOs, the 2012 CVO Ultra Classic also pumps up the volume with the addition of a Boom! Audio High Performance system which includes bagger speakers and “Audio Bass Booster Ports” in the bottom liner of the Tour-Pak. An 8GB iPod nano is part of the package and is now accessible via the hand controls. A Road Tech zumo 660 GPS, standard gear on the CVO Ultra Classic, will keep riders on the desired path. Harley mounts it on the upper left corner of the fairing so they didn’t have to rearrange the layout of the Ultra Classic’s gauges. It also makes it easy to see when in motion. And while high-end electronics and an improved sound system is appreciated, the bike’s most striking new feature is its Mirror Chrome Chisel Custom Wheels with matching Chisel brake rotors. It’s hard to believe they put such cool custom seven-spoke wheels on a big tourer, but they did. I could easily see these wheels being used for other, more sporting applications.The air-cooled 110 cubic-inch V-Twin is rubber mounted and is very vibey at idle but settles into a lumping cadence at speed. The powerplant features Harley’s Engine Idle Temperature Management Strategy where the rider can manually deactivate a cylinder to keep the air-cooled engine from running hot. The 110 on the CVO Ultra Classic was able to pick back up from a very low rpm without bogging down when an uphill hairpin turn caught us off-guard. It has a high performance clutch, which helps the transmission engage a touch quieter and smoother. But finding Neutral, especially on the Ultra Classic, was difficult at times.
With a 63.5-inch wheelbase, the CVO Ultra Classic feels compact. Ergos are very upright and comfy, good for the long haul. ABS helps haul this almost 900 pound behemoth to a halt, and we noticed the system on the Electra Glide is a bit more touchy than the others. But there’s a reason Harley has brought the motorcycle back for eight consecutive years. It’s fit and finish for a classicly styled luxury tourer is unparalleled, it offers plenty of storage, has excellent range and handles sharply after you get it above parking lot speeds. Harley’s premium luxury touring motorcycle comes at a premium price with an MSRP of $37,249. Exclusivity doesn’t come cheap.
Up to this point, the ride on the 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom had been very sedate. Curvy roads and blind corners out of Calistoga have kept speeds in check and gearing seldom above third. Though we haven’t gone beyond cruising speed, action on the front end is light thanks in part to frame mounting the Shark-nose fairing. We spit out close to Highway 101 and the onramp finally provides a chance to open this baby up. What good are 1803cc and a high-flow intake if you don’t get to open it up now and again? I downshift to make the turn then unleash a healthy dose of throttle. The CVO Road Glide Custom lurches beneath me. Kicking it into the next gear, the rear end slides out with the surge of roll-on power. As a grin creeps across my face, I’m thinking “Impressive hit for a factory bagger.” And that summation comes after recently testing Kawasaki’s Vaquero and currently riding the 2011 Star Stratoliner Deluxe.
Harley claims there’s only one all-new CVO model for 2012, the 2012 Road Glide Custom, but there was a Road Glide CVO last year in the guise of the Road Glide Ultra. This year The Motor Company ditched the topcase and hot rodded its bold bagger even more with a big engine, boomin’ audio and bitchin’ paint. The pushrod-operated engine is the most powerful V-Twin Harley offers in a production motorcycle and you’ll only find it currently on the CVOs. Harley’s added a Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather Intake and chrome dual exhaust with four-inch touring mufflers to spice up the CVO Road Glide Custom package.
On the amenity side, Harley stuffed its largest speakers to date in the Road Glide Custom’s fairing, a pair of big 5X7s, to go along with a set of two-inch tweeters, to handle the output of the kickin’ Harman/Kardon stereo system which pumps out 100 watts per channel. Having a stereo system that you can hear over the rumble of the bike’s pipes at 80 mph is a bonus. Having clean sound is even more impressive. There’s a spot to hook up an Apple iPod nano, which comes with the bike, in the right saddlebag for times you’re not listening to the AM/FM radio or a CD.
The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom is the total package. Throttle response is immediate, its steering is lighter than its fork-mounted counterpart, the CVO Street Glide, and its suspension is dialed-in to provide a plush ride. With forward-mounted floorboards and a seat set at 27.5 inches, ergos are stretched out and comfy with a slight forward tilt to reach the bars. The stock saddle is well padded and the two-piece custom seat comes with an easy-to-remove pillion. Harley’s done an excellent job of matching up the bike’s aesthetics as the black billet aluminum muffler end caps match the aluminum cut-backs of the Heavy Breather air intake and complement the contrast cut of the Chrome Agitator wheels.
The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom is one smooth ride. Throttle response is immediate, its steering is lighter than its fork-mounted counterpart, the CVO Street Glide, and the suspension is dialed-in to provide a plush ride. Rip open the throttle and this thing will hook up and move out. Its Heavy Breather intake feels like it adds a few ponies and gearing is definitely wider than a stock Road Glide. Redline comes on a couple hundred rpm later. Its only drawback is that the pipe on the Heavy Breather intake is so wide it prevented me from getting my foot flush on the rear brake pedal.
There’s a very creative individual who comes up with the names of the colors Harley offers the CVOs in. Case in point. The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom’s options are called White Gold Pearl and Starfire Black with Real Smoke graphic, Maple Metallic and Vivid Black with Real Smoke Graphic, Candy Cobalt and Twilight Blue with Real Smoke Graphic. Creative, but different. Will give them credit, though. We like all the striking combos the CVO Road Glide Custom is offered in. Production of Harley’s factory custom bagger is limited to 2100 units, each with an MSRP of $30,699. It’s available with the optional color-matched Tour Pak. A treat to look at and even funner to ride, the 2012 CVO Street Glide Custom is indeed one hot rod bagger.
Harley-Davidson’s CVO Softail Convertible returns for the third year running in 2012. And with good reason. In essence, you get two motorcycles in one as it converts from tourer to cruiser in minutes without the need of any tools. The windshield detaches quickly, the saddlebags pop right off and you can remove the passenger pillion and backrest entirely. Best part is, it looks custom stripped down, too. Without the bags and windshield on, attention is drawn to the cool chrome mini-ape handlebars and the 200mm backside. The fender is draped in plenty of high dollar paint and chrome pulleys, a shiny chain guard and an 18-inch Mirror Chrome Stinger wheel look sharp uncovered.
Harley’s spent a lot of resources making the touring side of the CVO Softail Convertible more pleasurable, redesigning the windshield, going both taller and wider in an effort to reduce wind blast around the head and torso. The new design features the addition of two new lower wind deflectors as well. Its most noticeable result is less windblast to the head. They’ve also made it easier for riders to find their destinations with the inclusion of a Road Tech zumo 660 GPS Navigator with turn-by-turn commands. The nav is positioned so it’s easy to see, high between the bars. It is integrated into the back of the detachable fairing, which also holds two 3.5-inch speakers.
A Road Tech zumo 660 GPS Navigator with an MP3 player is integrated into the redesigned windshield of the 2012 CVO Softail Convertible. system so it will give you turn-by-turn commands over the speakers and automatically pauses music for navigation commands. The fairing comes with a small amp hidden away and the audio system includes an MP3 player.
The 2012 CVO Softail Convertible uses a counterbalanced Twin Cam 110 engine mounted rigidly to the steel frame. The Twin Cam 110B engine is teamed with a high-flow Ventilator air intake. Being the only CVO not to tip the scales at over 800 pounds (close though, its curb weight is a claimed 788 lbs), the CVO Softail Convertible will flog any stocker. Makes me wish they used this powerplant across the board. It’s geared to give you that immediate hit, with plenty of available torque in the midrange. The added horses are encouraging me to rev the throttle and dump the clutch to squeal some tires.
Jumping off the Road Glide Custom, the rider’s triangle of the 2012 CVO Softail Convertible feels very compact. The bars are down and in and easy to reach. At a laden 24.4 inches, the Softail Convertible has the second lowest seat height among Harleys and its rear suspension has been lowered an inch. After getting spoiled on the CVO Road Glide Custom, the suspension on the CVO Softail isn’t up to par as some of the bumps in the road are absorbed in the abdomen. The combination of a 200mm wide rear and floorboards that touch down way too early cost the Softail Convertible in cornering.
The bagger segment was well represented in the 2012 CVO lineup as Harley chose to customize both the Road Glide and Street Glide. The primary focus of the upgraded 2012 CVO Street Glide went to its audio system. The Motor Company has reworked the fork-mounted bat-wing fairing to contain a booming sound system. Two amps, one of them hidden within the left saddlebag, provide 400 watts of power to eight speakers. There are speakers in the fairing, fairing lowers and even a set in the saddlebag lids. The custom saddlebag lid speakers are 5x7s with bridged tweeters, two 6.5-inch speakers sit in the lower fairings, and four 5.25-inch speakers are nestled in the front fairing. The 200-watt amp is tucked away in the bottom of the left saddlebag without sacrificing much storage space. It, too, has an iPod dock and holder.
The new stereo literally encompasses the rider in a cocoon of sound and is a system you’d expect to find at a custom bike show. Besides the ability to pump out bass you feel in your bones, the sound of the new system is not only indisputably loud but clean as well.
The CVO Street Glide has enough ground clearance to lean it over with confidence.
A 19-inch, seven-spoke Mirror Chrome Agitator wheel leads the way on the 2012 CVO Street Glide. Another attractive feature of the 2012 CVO Street Glide is its new custom two-piece, low-profile, leather touring seat. It’s wide with big beast leather inserts and is ultra cush. The passenger pillion and backrest pop off quickly if you’re looking for a solo, custom look. Harley did a great job of making the rear fender look natural without it on. The bike’s got all-day ergonomics, upright in the saddle, the bars positioned so they fall naturally at hand, legs stretched comfortably forward on ample-sized floorboards. Though it only has a shorty smoked windscreen, the bat-wing fairing provides a decent buffer from the wind. Give credit to the fairing lowers for deflecting wind around the rider’s legs, too.
On the CVO Street Glide, it’s all about the attention to details, from diamond-cut charcoal engine cover inserts and diamond-cut instrument faces to its smoked turn signal lenses. Its thumping TC 110 has been powder-coated in granite and the cylinder heads are stamped with 110 Screamin’ Eagle identifiers. There’s plenty of chrome, from small items like front axle nut covers to the chrome-plated mirrors to the sharp-looking 19-inch Agitator front wheel.
There’s always one CVO model whose paint really pops. Such is the case with the 2012 CVO Street Glide. Everything’s color-matched, from fairings to fenders, tank and saddlebags. It’s offered in three new paint schemes, all with custom pinstriping and phantom flame graphics on the front fairing. The CVO Street Glide doesn’t feel as hopped up as the CVO Road Glide Custom, but will still haul the goods when you roll on the gas. The only strike against CVO Street Glide was its metal air filter which got hot on our right leg when we rode and was almost untouchable afterwards.
The Street Glide is the bagger that sets the mark. It’s the original, so opting to include it in the CVO line is only natural. The 2012 CVO Street Glide raises the standard once again. The fit and finish is incredible, from the accents of the seats to the color-matched cockpit to the Rumble Collection grips. Even if you’re not a fan of flames, the paint on this thing is done with such panache, it will make you a fan. It’s a striking motorcycle with plenty of punch and a sound system that will rattle the fillings in your head loose. It’s all that and a bag of chips for the MSRP of $32,699.
$21,395 for the GT and $23,695 for the GTL
160-horsepower - in-line 6-cylinder - 767 pounds
The two models are powered by a new 6-cylinder in-line engine that develops a total of 160 HP and a maximum torque of 175 NM. The rider of the K 1600 models has three different engine characteristics directly available at the press of a button at the right-hand end of the handlebars so as to be able to adapt to different uses such as touring on the road, riding on wet surfaces and sporty, dynamic motorcycling - the modes "Rain", "Road" and "Dynamic".
REVIEWS of BMW’s new luxury-class touring motorcycle, the 2012 K1600, tend to be in agreement: this bike handles well. Yet the evaluations often seem to harbor the same implied asterisk: it handles well for a big bike.
Yes, it’s a big-boned machine. With a 160-horsepower in-line 6-cylinder engine, it’s bound to be. But the bike’s 767-pound assemblage of aluminum, steel and plastic composites is beside the point. The K1600 is a plush, responsive long-distance ride that tackles highways and twists adeptly, never mind the size.
The sweat went into the engineering of the most innovative design of an open-class touring machine since the Honda Gold Wing made its debut nearly four decades ago. The Gold Wing, the obvious point of comparison for the K1600, has been refreshed many times, with larger engines, slick body work and updated electronics. Even so, at this point it’s a spry grandpa with multiple organ transplants and titanium hips.
The K1600 emerged, in part, from BMW’s own encounters with the geriatric ward.
“The K1200 LT was already long in the tooth,” said Pieter de Waal, vice president of BMW Motorrad USA. ”We had to decide: Are we going to modify the LT or start from scratch? In a market where you sell things nobody needs, what will give them enough reason to say, ‘I have to have that product.’ ”
The Beemer think tank divined that riders would want a bike with an in-line 6, a NASA-spec suite of electronics and the sportiness that the BMW brand holds dear.
The result was two K1600s, the luxury GTL and the sportier GT. In BMW’s plan, the GTL will replace the current K1200 LT and the GT model will elbow aside the K1300 GT.
Both bikes come well appointed with heated seats and grips, cruise control, onboard computer, commodious saddlebags and a self-leveling xenon headlamp. The GTL adds, among other things, Bluetooth connectivity, an audio system and a cargo box big enough for three bags of groceries.
The major difference between the models is that the GT has a sportier riding position, with its handlebars positioned forward and footpegs rearward by comparison with the GTL.
A main source of the appeal for both K1600 models is the in-line 6-cylinder engine, a design central to BMW’s heritage. Previous attempts to use an in-line 6 — notably the Honda CBX 1000, Kawasaki KZ1300 and Benelli 750 Sei — resulted in ungainly machines. Honda introduced a 6-cylinder Gold Wing in 2001, but it is an opposed-cylinder layout.
BMW addressed the size challenge with manufacturing technology developed for the S1000 RR superbike, resulting in an engine that is just “fractionally larger than our existing 1300 cc 4-cylinder,” Mr. De Waal said. And, he added, it uses 10 percent less fuel than the 1300.
The engine assembly, including transmission, clutch and alternator, weighs a svelte 221 pounds. By angling the cylinders 55 degrees toward the front, BMW was able to mount the engine lower, a bonus for stability. In the GTL model, the engine sips from a 7-gallon fuel tank, giving a range of 350 miles if you are gentle on the throttle (280 miles on average in my testing).
The engine produces 80 percent of its torque at 1,500 revs; its red line is at 8,500 r.p.m. With 160 horsepower, it will pull away from a stoplight like a muscle car, its muffler emitting an engine note that goes from a civilized turbine whine down low to a banshee-with-a-toothache screech by 6,000 r.p.m.
The K1600 is loaded with gadgetry like electronically adjustable suspension and throttle, Sirius Satellite Radio, an iPod dock and optional navigation ($899).
It’s not all MP3 frippery. The throttle offers three choices of electronic settings, Dynamic, Road and Rain. The amount of throttle twist to open the butterflies increases from the dynamic mode to the rain mode, helping the rider maintain control in slippery road conditions.
Similarly, the suspension can be set not only for riding alone or with the weight of a passenger or luggage, but for sport, normal or comfort, which adjusts the preload, damping and rebound.
In the K1600’s braking system, the four-piston calipers in front are linked to the two-piston single caliper in back, delivering confident stopping power with a squeeze of the right-side handlebar lever alone. The rear brake can be activated independently with the foot pedal.
A remarkably useful feature of the bike is the adaptive headlight. Normally, when a motorcycle leans into a turn, the headlight beam no longer provides ideal illumination of the road ahead. The K1600 has a center headlamp that levels and faces the turns when the bike leans.
All this comes together in a ride that is compliant without being lumbering. Even with the suspension in its comfort setting, the K1600 carved smartly through the curves and was easier to ride than a touring machine has a right to be. I felt the weight of the bike only at stops, when I sometimes had to put my foot down harder than I’d like to keep the bike upright.
The low seat height, just under 30 inches for the GTL, made it easy to stand flat-footed even on sloping pavement. Over all , it was a relaxing, grin-inducing machine that could lure me into riding through multiple Zip codes and make me wish I had time to transverse time zones.
Any vehicle equipped with a full arsenal of electronic features faces a problem. Should there be a buttons for every function? Or should it make do with fewer buttons but with lots of menus on a display screen? BMW chose the latter.
While critical functions like lights and ride settings have dedicated controls, many of the bike’s features are set using the motorcycle version of BMW’s iDrive. A ring inside the left handgrip controls the iDrive-style menus. Push the ring left or right to change menus, then rotate it to scroll through the menu.
It’s a challenge to learn what function is under which menu. I couldn’t recall them all after riding the bike for several weeks. The placement of the ring often led me to bump it when trying to thumb the turn signal, changing the radio station instead.
The bike has a few other quirks. Because the coolant from the radiator enters the right side of the engine and the exits on the left, there is a noticeable difference in temperature between the two sides. It felt like a hair dryer was blowing up my left trouser leg.
The electronic wizardry is impressive, but not easy enough to use. The built-in Bluetooth requires separate pairing to connect a phone, helmet and GPS — not unusual — but I couldn’t seem to get them all to work together, even when the three devices said they were linked. In addition, the iPhone dock needs work. My phone, which I tested using its iTunes function, would occasionally freeze, requiring a full reboot.
I found the styling of the K1600 fairly generic, yet strangers came up to me asked if they could have a photo taken with the bike.
“It looks expensive,” theorized a friend. Indeed, at a base price of $21,395 for the GT and $23,695 for the GTL, you are creeping up on the price of a 4-wheel BMW.
But most likely, strangers won’t ask to have their pictures taken with your 1 Series.
Skull & Bones