Published on April 11th, 2018 | by Boris0
2018 BMW K1600B REVIEW – THE IMPERIUM
GOOD IMAGES BY NICK EDARDS/HALF LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHIC
BAD IMAGES BY ME
I could just as easily have called the K1600B review ‘Warp Speed Butter Lounge’. Sure, it lacks the grandeur of ‘The Imperium’, but other than that, it’s pretty spot on. If it came in a box, that’s what I’d be writing on the box.
This is a motorcycle that transcends much of what you think you know about motorcycles.
This is a motorcycle entirely unlike any other motorcycle.
This is a motorcycle that stands quite alone.
On a big mountain.
Looking down on all of creation.
With a bit of a smirk.
It is styled as a Bagger, hence the B in its name.
To the uninitiated, the term ‘Bagger’ comes from the USA and normally refers to big-arse American V-twin motorcycles with large fairings, hard luggage (the baggery bits), and sometimes slammed rear ends. They are a huge thing in the States, especially in the custom scene where they sport 2000-watt stereos, 36-inch front wheels, and paintjobs straight out of a Vegas pimp manual.
The BMW K1600B is the German version of that wonderful concept so it only comes in black. And because it is the German version, and because it is specifically BMW’s version, it has none of the empty pizzazz of the traditional Bagger where style triumphs over substance and delivers a motorcycle that is all show, loud gangster rap, and very little go.
The BMW K1600B is all go. All of it. All the go there is to be had. And if you turn its stereo up, you can have loud gangster rap too.
Let me just put some numbers here for you to look at.
You need to see these numbers to understand exactly why the K1600B has no peers among those big eff-off Made In The USA Baggers.
Look at this: 160bhp at 7750rpm.
Now look at this: 175Nm at 5250rpm.
I love how Milwaukee and Spirit Lake go about their respective Bagger businesses. But nothing they make now, or will make in the future, will ever make these numbers.
If you read any American reviews of the BMW K1600B, you’ll notice they jerk off a lot about “heritage” and “tradition” and they will tell you the K1600 has none of that, and it’s really only a K1600GTL with a slammed rear-end. And they will tell you that like it’s a bad thing.
Look at those numbers again.
Tell me how that is a bad thing. Tell me what relevance tradition and heritage have when you’re riding alpine passes rather than American freeways.
We’re all adults here. We all know the laws of physics cannot be disobeyed. A 2.5metre-long motorcycle that weighs 336kg wet, and which can carry another 224kg, really doesn’t sound like a good cornering proposition, right?
This ridiculous thing goes in and out of corners like a bike half its size.
Why does it do that?
There’s a Duo Lever front-end (you’ll remember this separates suspension from braking) and a Paralever back-end. You can select a series of suspension preload settings (one rider, two riders, two riders with luggage), and BMW’s Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) works in all of them.
Confusing? Yeah, a bit. Especially if you’re unused to the levels of electronic sophistication BMW offers on its flagship bikes.
I lived with the K1600B for more than three months and put several thousand kilometres under its wheels. I kinda got used to it and I’m a technological retard. Basically, you push buttons and try things. If you like how it’s doing what it’s doing, stop pushing buttons.
And boy, does it have some buttons. There’s eleven of them on the left handlebar, four down the left-hand side of the fairing, and another three on the right handlebar.
The menu switch and the BMW dial-thingo just inside the left-handlebar run the show. I tended to snag the dial from time to time when using the blinkers, and this would change the radio station, or flip me through the menu. If this was the only bike you owned, you’d soon learn not to do this, but I am hamfisted and I did ride other bikes during my time with the B. So my synapses were all over the place.
I lost the radio at one stage and couldn’t find it again but persisted in mashing buttons until Jonesy and Amanda returned to assist me with my life choices.
The sound system is good up until about 120km/h, which is par for the course. You hear it best with the electronic windscreen all the way up. This is a shorter version of the standard GTL/GT screen which is a like a metre-tall Perspex barrier against all things wind. The B’s screen is fine and much better looking, but it’s not as all-encompassingly effective as the GT’s and GTL’s. This didn’t bother me none, but I’m telling you in case you’re weird about total wind protection.
So the vast array of electronics and the way I personally interacted with them all had its ups and downs.
Certainly the magnificent TFT screen delivers a comprehensive symphony of info – tyre pressures, trip metres, radio stations, Bluetoothery stuff, where your preload is, what engine mode you’re in, the time, if your bags are locked (yes, central locking), how many kays until empty, how warm your heated seats are, how toasty your heated grips need to be, and so on. To say it’s comprehensively equipped is to place an understatement before you.
Add an optional SatNav in the nacelle above the dash and you’ve got Mission Control happening, baby.
But all of that electronic stuff… well, that’s just the honed and polished edge of the blade.
The blade itself is astonishing.
I did things on this motorcycle I had never done on any other bike.
For example, I filled its 26.5l tank with petrol and left my home in Sydney’s northwest. I stuck the cruise control on 120km/h (BMW has the best Cruise Control ever) and did not stop or get off the bike until I got to Gundagai (375km), whereupon its computer told me I could have carried on for another 90-odd kays.
Not only was this a beaut thing in terms of petrol consumption (about 5.8l per 100km), but the fact that I did not need to get off or stretch or moan or walk around at any time between Sydney and Gundagai is astonishing. I normally stop every hundred or so kays on the Hume because it is so utterly mindless and soul-destroying, I just have to get off and move around a bit to remind myself I’m alive. Paradoxically, this only prolongs the agony of riding it. The BMW is the first bike I have ridden which has made long boring stretches of road not only bearable, but totally immersive.
The ergos are a huge part of that. I could actually put my feet in four different places – the normal footpegs, the ergonomically correct tilted-up footboards, the rear pegs, or halfway between the rear pegs and the rider’s pegs (toe on the rider’s pegs, heel on the rear pegs). I could also stand up if I wanted to because the K1600B has perfect stand-up ergos. But sitting down was where it was at.
I loved the seat. It was everything a seat should be. Wide, firm, supportive, nurturing, and up for it if you wanna go for a bit of a scratch. So just like the girlfriend you’ve always dreamed of, rather than the compromise you ended up with. It’s alright. I wrote that. You didn’t think it. You’re not guilty.
Let us move on as if that never happened, shall we?
So underpinning the remarkable ergos is that engine. That stunning, glass-on-glass-with-love-butter-between-the-panes engine.
Sure, it’s got its own unique way of delivering throttle response via fly-by-wire. The slightly delayed response despite there being no play in the throttle is something owners get used to, but it’s a little different to other fly-by-wire set-ups. When you combine it with a clutch that doesn’t engage until it’s almost all the way out, your rapid departure from the lights when you’re dragging off lesser bikes can be a little bit of overkill in the revving department.
Once you’re away though, that motor will hurl you at the horizon with venomous intent. And it sounds utterly amazing when you get up it. One massive throttle body…six ports whooshing into one at the airbox makes a sound like nothing else. It sounds more like a metallic hurricane than a motorcycle.
Its top speed is said to be 200km/h. Or something maybe a bit north of that. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.
And somehow I managed to hear that over the Quick Shift Assist Pro. This item alone helps push the K1600B into the Special Zone.
The K-series Beemers have never had the smoothest-shifting gearboxes. So rather than trying to engineer the clunk and stiffness out of them, the Germans engineered around the issue with the quickshifter. It works both up and down, and it’s better than you’ll ever be at changing gears.
It likes the throttle loaded on the way up the gears and it likes it to be totally off on the way down the gears. Do what it likes and the cops will have to slap the smile off your face.
But there’s more to the K1600B than just its sublime ability to tour and eat miles like a fat boy necking pies.
There’s the way it goes around corners.
I did the Mitta Mitta to Omeo road with it.
I did Granya Gap, the Putty Road, the Murray Valley Highway, Mt Hotham, and Thredbo to Tumbarumba.
It’s ability in the tight stuff beggars belief. It’s the size of mastodon, but it dances like a gazelle.
It’s aptitude in fast sweepers is the stuff of legend. It’s two-and-half-metres long and as stable and sure as the Swiss economy.
It’s capable of lean angles that would grind American V-twins into scrap.
I also spent a fair amount of time commuting on it. It’s delightfully poised and nimble through traffic. No, it’s not an MT-07, but it is surprisingly manoeuvrable.
The non-removable rear panniers which will take a full-face helmet each, are no wider than the handlebars. If your elbows will fit through the gap, the K1600B will follow.
So what else?
Ah yes. The lights. I’m thinking there a billion Lumens there. Maybe even two billion with the high-beam on. Sensational.
And the horn. This is the greatest stock horn ever fitted to any motorcycle ever made. Thankyou, BMW. I can now express my displeasure at car drivers electronically rather than orally.
I reckon that about covers it. But there’s quite a lot going on here and it is possible I missed something.
BMW has re-invented the Bagger, but in a way that transcends the genre altogether.
The K1600B is imposing to look upon (it only comes in black) and has a road presence second to none. It backs its looks up with stellar performance, both on the highway and in the tight stuff. It tours, it scratches, and it can carry vast amounts of luggage and pillion.
It truly does stand alone atop a very tall mountain looking down upon us all with sublime imperiousness.
All I can do is applaud.
SECOND OPINION BY AL
MISTY MOUNTAIN HOP
My preferred method of killing rabbits is the .22 WMR round, but Boris chose the BMW K1600 Bagger as we were leaving the mist in the hills north of Omeo.
It was a small black kitten, about a third grown, and it came out from under the Bagger in one piece, surprisingly given that the motorcycle weighs 336 kilograms without Boris and his luggage on it.
We’d gone to Omeo to get drunk with Victorians. The Victorians had gone to Omeo to get drunk with Queenslanders who were riding to Phillip Island for the Island Classic race weekend. We’d slabbed it down the Hume to Albury the previous day, turned left along the Murray Valley Highway, and stopped at the Mitta Mitta pub for an excellent steak and three glasses of the excellent local beer.
After lunch, we rode the 108 km of curves to Omeo. They are relentless. Most have advisory signs recommending 30-40 km/h. At least half are blind. As soon as you straighten up from a turn you’re lining up for the next one. It is exhilarating, and tiring, and a little bit dangerous. In short, the Omeo Highway is why we ride motorcycles, and it is glorious.
It rained as we arrived. We drank beer with Victorians. Queenslanders arrived. We had dinner and drank more beer. My memory of the night becomes hazy after maybe 9pm. I think I was arguing with Boris before I left to walk to my motel. I wanted to genocide the Irish, for reasons which escape me right now, but may have involved innate criminality and having apostrophes in their surnames. Boris was saying that he would not permit me to do it because the Irish were the western-most Serbs and had poetry in them and were fun to drink with. He was proving to be stubborn and impervious to reason.
I put this behind me the next day and was chasing him through the mist in a spirit of amity and camaraderie at about 8:20 when he slaughtered the rabbit. “Blood!” I yelled inside my helmet. “Blood for the Blood God!”
The mist cleared. The overnight rain had washed the road clean. The Omeo Highway was just as much fun as it had been the previous day.
We fuelled up and swapped bikes at Mitta Mitta. I’d long lusted for a motorcycle with a Hossack front end, but I’d never ridden one.
The K1600 Bagger is an intimidating bike. It weighs, as previously noted, 336 kilograms. It’s also nearly 1.7 metres axle to axle. The weight doesn’t seem to matter, though, because the engine is canted severely forward and the weight is low.
It makes about a hundred and sixty horsepower, which is adequate for most situations, and it is very quiet, which I like in a touring bike. And that double wishbone front end is everything I thought it would be.
There’s almost no dive under brakes. You don’t lose ground clearance if you brake late into a corner. If you hit bumps while under brakes the suspension deals with them just as if you had hit bumps while not under brakes.
We turned back on to the Hume at Albury and I spend two hundred kilometres playing with its electronics. There’s lots to play with. There are eight or nine switches on the left handgrip and three or four on the right. I engaged the cruise control, and flapped my arms like eagle’s wings, and gave Boris a thumbs-up signal with my right hand. I put Gundagai into the GPS so I would know when to turn off for lunch. I switched the electronic suspension control between road and cruise a few times. I cycled through all the tripmeters and fuel consumption and range calculations.
I turned on the FM Radio. It was confusing, because I had earphones in my ears and was already listening to music on my smartphone. I don’t remember what came on the FM, but it sounded like Alison Krauss on the smartphone was singing “You can’t always trust a penis”. I wondered what she meant by this, because I have always found my own a reliable companion through life. I turned the FM back off, and the next time the chorus came around she was singing “You can’t always trust happiness”, which, let’s face it, makes more sense.
We lunched and fuelled at Gundagai, and stopped a final time for fuel at Pheasants Nest. I got home around five.
I spent the rest of the night looking at K1300s on Bikesales.
A man could get used to riding on double wishbone suspension.
HOW MUCH: From $34,390.
YOU CAN SEE ALL THE TECH STUFF HERE
YOU’LL NOTICE I AM WEARING SCHUBERTH HELMETS IN ALL THESE IMAGES.
If you wanna know about the full-face R2 the report is HERE
Fancy the amazing M1 open-face? Lookee HERE