Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve owned a few motorcycles in my time.
I began riding bikes again 20+ years ago on a Honda CBR 600 after 20 years of driving cars!
After my CBR, I rode a number of other sports bikes before moving on to sports tourers. I now ride a BMW K1600 which is an out-and-out touring bike. Some say it’s because I am getting older, but regardless of that truth, I do not feel that I am older, or missing out on anything.
The touring bikes I've owned have been Kawasaki GTR 1400s, a BMW R1200RT and my current bike, which is a BMW K1600GT SE. Of those, the Kawasakis were all brilliant; great handlers, smooth and quick, but they do not manufacture them anymore which is a shame.
I found the Boxer engine on my 66 plate R1200RT a bit rough for my liking. However, I have ridden the new R1250RT and have to say that it is a lot smoother. All of the above are more than capable for most situations and for my longer European journeys, but I have to tell you that I think the K1600 is the best yet.
Granted, moving the K1600 about is quite daunting to begin with because of its bulk and weight. After all, it is over 350kg (nearly 800lbs in old money) so there is no doubt that moving it at low speed can be a handful, even without adding a full tank of fuel and luggage. It is so heavy that pushing it back on the slightest downward slope is nigh on impossible. So, step in the factory fitted, starter motor driven, electric powered reverse gear - an essential bit of kit for such a heavy machine.
Once you do get the bike moving forward and through the gears, it is an absolute dream. I pondered long and hard about fitting any accessories to mine. I had to do that when considering the standard bike and BMW factory fitted extra costs. What I’m glad about was choosing one particular extra - the factory fitted BMW Gear Shift Assist Pro, or quick shifter. This is a great piece of kit which delivers seamless and clutchless changes up and down the gearbox and I would say it is a must if you are carrying a pillion.
The 6-cycliner 1649cc in line 6 engine is silky smooth and it delivers a punch at 160 bhp, topping off at in excess of 125 mph (or so I am led to believe). On a long journey, the 7 gallon tank will easily set you up for in excess of 300 miles between stops and that distance is easily doable when you are sitting on the exceptionally comfy and, if required, heated saddle, for rider and pillion. I once did Ijmuiden to Munich in a day, a trip of over 530 miles, with no aches and pains at the end.
When you do want to stop, the dual floating 320mm front disc with ABS coupled with the single 320mm rear disc do an admirable job on such a big lump and, before you ask, I am referring to the bike, not me!
Another extra I dispensed with when I bought my bike was a very expensive top box. I bought a much less expensive BMW canvas luggage bag instead. It straps onto the rear rack perfectly well and while the canvas bag has a greater capacity than the carnivorous top box, it does come with a major disadvantage, so perhaps I made a mistake there.
You see, I do a lot of European touring and if you have read some of my previous blogs you would know that. The canvas bag, while secure enough when motoring along, is not secure when it is left on the bike, as there is no locking mechanism for the bag itself and nothing to keep it fixed to the rack. It is not the end of the world but it is quite annoying, especially if you are moving point to point each night.
On the other hand, standard solid panniers are large, lockable, and would easily do you for a long weekend, or even a week on the road.
Other standard features of this bike are the fully adjustable screen with memory for its last position. The screen is wide enough to protect you from inclement weather and it retracts when the ignition is off to secure the Motorrad satnav unit (an extra) into the pre-prepared binnacle area.
Cruise control, heated grips, heated front and rear seats, and a host of useful outputs through the instrument panel complete the package. Via the thumb operated knurled wheel on the left grip, it provides read outs on temperature, 3 trip mileage options, tyre pressures, heat levels for grips and seats, as well as a few other things including sat nav controllability. These are all at your fingertips through the BMW system.
Electronic Suspension Adjustments are available as standard and they allow the rider to switch between rider only, rider and pillion or rider, pillion, and full luggage, in seconds. These options, coupled with a ‘rain’ ‘road’ and ‘dynamic’ setting on each, allows great suspension control to suit every riding condition.
The 118 kW (160 hp) is delivered to the rear wheel via shaft drive, so it is clean and relatively maintenance free, but beware, tyres for this bike are heavy duty due to its weight and they are not always a dealer stock item.
I cannot think of anything else that I would rather have to replace my bike but if I did I buy another one, I would consider having a set of fog lights fitted to augment the already large and bright xenon headlight with automatic levelling.
This is without doubt an expensive piece of kit and I know I am lucky to have it. Looking at second-hand values, I can see really good examples starting around £8,000, so if you have a mind to move to a touring bike and you would like to own one with a big capable engine and extreme comfort, a BMW K1600 is achievable at a reasonable cost.
Oh, and if BMW are reading this, why no folding mirrors?