First Review: BMW K1600GT/GTL

UK Motorcycle journalist Kevin Ash has posted what I believe is the first ride review of the new 6-cylinder BMW K1600GT/GTL motorcycles.  This torque-monster of a motorcycle (129lb.ft) has been highly awaited as BMW has trickled out all sorts of press releases about the technology.  Is it worth the wait? Well, maybe…

What you’ll be hoping for then is a bike laden with well thought through gadgets, a super smooth engine and real muscle from idle upwards. You get most of that, but not quite all…

The big complaint about the bike seems to be the way it performs at the lower end of the rev range.

The motor is a little disappointing at lower revs, especially in the 2,000-3,000rpm zone where you find yourself a lot, as the gearing is tall and the engine so smooth it will trickle down to idle even in the high gears without complaint. Given the fat torque curve you’d hope to be able to snick the smooth-changing transmission into top and leave it there until you switch off at the end of the day, but in practice typical 50-70mph (80-110kph) overtakes demand a couple of downchanges if you’re going to despatch with slower traffic rapidly. And that’s solo, with a passenger, full luggage and steep mountain roads to negotiate (which is the point of a bike like this) you’ll be using the gearbox a fair bit more than you might have expected.

Other than that, Ash lauds the smoothness of the engine, the low weight (relative to the various accouterments, the handling, and, happily, the banshee scream of the inline-6 when you push it into the higher rev ranges.  One surprise to me, having ridden the K and R series bikes, is that he’s not all that impressed with the performance of the suspension when set to the harder “Sport” mode.

In Sport the ride gets harsh and choppy and the lack of compliance means you’re not only more comfortable staying in Normal even when going for it, the bike feels happier too. I’d even go for the plushness of the Comfort setting in preference to Sport when riding fast, as stability doesn’t suffer too much and aside from some floatiness over undulating bumps, the wheel control remains good.

Maybe the K1600-series is different, but on the R and earlier K bikes, I prefer the Sport mode for hard riding.  Maybe this is one of those subjective assessments that can only be confirmed–or denied–through personal testing…which I intend to accomplish, and relate to you, as soon as these bikes make it to Southern California, and are available for testing.

At any rate, Ash’s ride review make for interesting reading, and make me lick my chops for a chance to unleash that I-6, myself.