Sadness. Loss. Renewal. Hope.

My New BMW K1600GT

I love the Triumph Trophy. I love the character and power of the motor. I love the handling. I love the electronics. I love the stereo, bluetooth, and iPod connectivity. In fact, I love everything about it. Oh, yeah, except its reliability. That isn’t very good at all, especially when the bike is your primary transportation. Indeed, for several months, my only transportation.

Since I purchased a Triumph Trophy SE in January of 2015—a brand new unit that was still in the shipping crate when I ordered it—a number of things have gone wrong. A week after I got it, the radiator cap blew and leaked most of my lovely anti-freeze all over the ground. That put it out of commission for a week. It turns out that Triumph hadn’t designed the radiator cap very well, and it had a tendency to fail under pressure when the engine got warmed up. So, a new radiator cap had to be put on. Finding this out two trips to the dealer and three days of downtime.

The stereo didn’t work well either, and would often just disappear from the electronics, with a little message appearing telling me that the bike couldn’t find the stereo. Happily, a firmware update for the electronics came out that fixed that problem, too, though it cost me a few trips to the dealer, and a couple of days without the bike to get that update.

At 8,000 miles, the transmission grenaded itself. What may have been the first sign of trouble, though I don’t know if it was related to the eventual problem, was that, when shifting from first into second, the transmission would grind a bit before settling into gear. The unmistakeable indication of a problem, though, was when I would suddenly lose all power for a second or two when accelerating, then the power would come back at full blast. Having this happen when leaning into a decreasing-radius turn while entering the I-5 freeway was…bracing. One might say “exhilarating”. One might even say “pants-shittingly terrifying.” But let’s not quibble about semantics. The upshot was that a new transmission had to be ordered from Triumph, which took more than two months to arrive.

Last month, while riding in the city, the gear shift pivot bolt just sheared away flush with the engine casing when I shifted from 2nd into 3rd. Do you know how long it takes to get a simple machine screw from England? Another month, apparently. Because I guess in Triumph world, 3/8-inch machine screws have to be doled out as if they were vials of gold. 

Overall, in 22 months of ownership, the Trophy was unridable or in the shop for nearly four months, at various times. Now, I’m no Albert Einstein, but four months out of twenty comes out to a downtime percentage of 18%.

So, let’s say that my long-term Triumph Trophy experience went…badly.

Meanwhile, during that 22 months of ownership, North County Yamaha in Escondido packed it in as a Triumph dealership, and went back to selling only Yamahas and Victorys. San Diego Triumph gave up completely, auctioned off their bikes, and closed shop completely. Thanks for destroying the local resale and trade-in values for all the area’s Triumph owners, guys.

I didn’t have a car when the transmission self-destructed. So, since I couldn’t really afford $1,000 per month in rental cars or Uber rides, I went out and found a ’99 Volvo V70XC—which I call the Vulva—for $3,800. So, at least I had a backup for potential Triumph troubles. Oh, and rainy days.

When the gear shift pivot bolt broke, I started driving the Vulva every day. Which was fine for two weeks, until the Vulva decided it didn’t like starting any more. I mean, it would eventually start, but it didn’t like doing it at all. So it had to go into the shop. It’s been in the shop for two weeks, now. I first took it to my local shop, Cardenas Auto Repair, and they couldn’t find anything that would cause the starting problem. It took them a week and a half to finally admit this. So, I picked it up, and drove it to my local independent Volvo specialist shop, which took about 4 hours to discover that the starter and friction plate was hosed. They say they’ll get it back to me next week, right after the holidays, and will let me drive it home as soon as I give them $1,500.

So, without a car or motorcycle, I spent a week Ubering to work every day at $45 per day, until the gear shift pivot bolt for the Triumph came in. Finally, this past Friday, I got the Trophy back.

Let me be clear: At this point, I’ve been getting a bit disgruntled with the Triumph Trophy ownership experience. But, I finally got the bike back, I had a vehicle once again, and I was feeling relatively satisfied on my way home. Right up until I noticed that, when shifting from first into second,  the transmission grinded once. 

Jebus Cripes. I mean, Jebus H. Cripes on a popsicle stick!

Now, like I said, I dunno if this was related to the tranny going bad, but at this point with this bike, I’m paranoid as hell. Now I’m thinking that every little squeek or niggle is another six-week wait for warranty repairs. 

Well, that tore it. Saturday morning, I drove down to San Diego BMW Motorcycles. (There’s a BMW Motorcycle dealer near my home, in Escondido, but I don’t hear good things about them, and my dealings with them when I was shopping a BMW along with the Trophy in 2015 weren’t great.) Still upside down on the loan for the Triumph, I wasn’t sure I could trade her in yet, but I wanted to see what my options were.

It was a long day. I told the saleswoman all about the bike’s sad history of warranty repairs, told her I was terrified that this was going to be an ongoing lemon, and asked her if there was anything we could work out. As it turned out, they had a dealer demo 2015 K1600GT with 306 miles on special for about $18,000. I like the K1600GT a lot. In fact, I reviewed it a while back.

What we finally worked out, after about 5 hours of back and forth, working the numbers, and the usual dealership stuff, was that they would offer me, pending a mechanical inspection, $9,000 for the Trophy, which left me $5,000 short of the $14,000 payoff for the loan. In return, since I had good credit, they would cover that shortfall by charging me full retail on the K1600GT of $23,000.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure I liked that deal. My inclination was to say, “No thanks, I’ll keep the Trophy for another six or eight months, and come back when the numbers are a little closer.” I’ve been paying substantially over my required payment on the Trophy by sending in $500 per month, so I thought that taking another $3,000 or $4,000 might get me much closer to a better number in the spring of 2017. Assuming the replacement transmission didn’t decide to explode into a thousand tiny bits, of course.

As it turned out, though, that “pending a mechanical inspection” bit caused a little wrinkle. The Trophy, it seemed, had one more little gift to throw at me. The sales manager told me they had a little problem with the Trophy, took me back and showed me that one of the front fork seals was leaking oil, and there was a small oil leak on the engine, too.

Well. That just tore it. I was done with the Trophy, done with Triumph, and just wanted to be finished with the whole deal. How much would those fixes cost me in time, effort, and waiting on a part to be delivered by tramp steamer from England to San Diego by way of Hong Kong? Another month? Two? Who knows. What I did know, right then and there, was that I was finished. The Triumph Era was over.

I was now short another $500 on the numbers but I didn’t care. The sales manager said that they were happy to reduce the trade-in to $8,500, and raise the price of the K1600GT to $23,500. I said I’d be happy to never look at that Triumph Trophy again, and did the deal.

My New K1600GT

While the paperwork got started, I went out to what was now my BMW. Well, somewhat mine, but mainly BMWs. But I would get to pay them for the privilege of riding it, at any rate.

Now, this K1600GT has all the bells and whistles. Stereo, Bluetooth, free Sirius XM until 2019, Navigation system prep…I mean, it’s the top of the line. It even has a smoked shorty windscreen (which I must replace for winter, though I usually do that, anyway), and the optional fog lights at the bottom of the fairing that fry chickens at forty paces. She’s orange and black. I call her “Orange Crush”. I’m hoping the K1600GT will be reliable. That’s BMW’s reputation anyway, so I’m praying that my experience of Triumph ownership won’t be repeated.

While looking my new bike over, I opened the glove box on the right side of the fairing and noted that there was a foam insert to hold my iPod and a USB connector. I plugged in my iPod, and the green charging indicator came on. “Neat,” I thought. Then I set the stereo input to USB and was greeted by the message “No USB Connected”. My iPod wouldn’t play through the stereo. Inquiring about this, I was informed that you can’t hook up an iPod to a BMW on the same crappy little USB cable that dirty, poor people or Triumph owners use. No, this requires a special USB cable for BMWs that costs…wait for it…$100. Thus, I was introduced to a phenomenon known as the BMW Owners Tax. Everything additional costs money. Usually, a lot of money. But, I want to listen to my music, and I want to listen to my favorite podcasts, which means that I have to have the cable.

So I gritted my teeth and shelled out $100 at the parts counter.

For a USB cable.

In any event, I did the deal, signed the papers, jumped on my new BMW K1600GT, and rode away into the night.

Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.

8 thoughts on “Sadness. Loss. Renewal. Hope.”

  1. You’re an amazing detailist!!! Is that a real word??? You should write a book about you’re exciting experiences!!! Enjoyed the story!!! Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

  2. I am unfortunately a 16 year expert at paying the BMW Owners Tax. Got a payment coming up in fact – I’m pretty sure it’s time to get a new clutch, and that will no doubt be about double what it would be on a regular car.

  3. “I’m hoping the K1600GT will be reliable. That’s BMW’s reputation anyway”

    Perhaps that’s the case with their motorcycles — I wouldn’t know. Their automobiles are nothing but continuous high-expense BS repairs. We had a BMW X3 SUV and it was always something. I’ve never been so happy as the end of that era. I’d rather have a fucking Yugo.

      1. Dale,

        I have no idea where the X3 was built — or where your motorcycle was built. Many brands of car for sale in the US seem to be manufactured in the US these days even if the company is domiciled elsewhere (including at least one of the Volvos we’ve earned — I have always pronounced that the same way you do, btw). Is that not the case with motorcycles?

        1. The first generation X3 was manufactured by Steyr Magna in Austria, then subsequent manufacturing wss moved to South Carolina.

          Motorcycles, on the other hand, are generally manufactured in the country of origin. Honda had a US manufacturing center for motorcycles that they closed five years ago, to move production back to Japan. BMW Motorrad only produces at the factory in Germany.

    1. My 16 year old BMW 330ci (made in Germany) has been a joy to own. Not as bulletproof reliable as my wife’s Honda, but nowhere near a burden. Typically something fairly minor will cause a trip to the shop every couple of years, and the repairs are always a lot more than I think they ought to cost, but I willingly pay the BMW Owners Tax to drive this car. It drives better than the 280Z I drove for 17 years.

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