A change is as good as a rest, or so the old proverb goes. And as far as I’m aware, that’s a fairly accurate statement. I love a change. In fact a lot of the time, I’d prefer a change over a rest. Variety is the spice of life, and all that. So when I got invited to the launch of a bike that occupies rather a different corner of the motorcycling scene to what I’ve become accustomed to, I was well buzzin’. The 2022 BMW K 1600, with its 160hp, 180nm, 1.6 litre, six cylinder engine was to be launched in Malaga. And I had a ticket to ride.
I’d be lying if I said I’d never ridden a BMW K 1600 before, because I have, but for about a mile. And if I’m being honest, I couldn’t really remember what it was like anyway. So I’m saying that doesn’t really count. This launch was to be my first (proper) ride on a BMW K 1600. And, as luck would have it, there were all four versions of the new K 1600 to try; the GT, the GTL, the Bagger and the Grand America.
The first bike I got the chance to straddle was the GTL. At 358kg it was a real heavyweight, and it didn’t take long to realise. In fact just lifting it off the side-stand was a bit of an effort. I’m a big strong boy though so I managed. With the key fob in my pocket (yep, all these models have keyless ignition), I fingered a few buttons and eventually got the thing fired up. After an initial bark from the engine, the sound emanating from the beast beneath me was more akin to that of a motorcar; smooth and monotone.
In fact there were a few bits onboard the K 1600 that struck me as more ‘car’ than ‘bike’. The mirrors looked like they could have been pulled off a family saloon. The whopping 10.25 inch TFT dash was certainly big enough for a family saloon. Then of course there were the speakers. The speakers, which come as standard on the GTL and the Grand America, are new and improved for 2022. I did try them later on in the day, and I thought they were alright; they sounded reasonable, and went loud enough to be able to hear the music up to about 60mph or so. Although I can’t compare them to the old ones.
Weaving our way out of town, negotiating roundabouts and traffic was a slow and steady affair, but that was fine. It took a couple of roundabouts to get used to the sheer weight of the GTL, before which I felt as though I could have easily have just dropped it on its side if I wasn’t concentrating. As long as you keep rolling, you’re alright though.
When we got on the motorway (or whatever the Spanish call them), the GTL felt more at ease. It was a bit windy, so I (electronically) raised the mammoth windscreen to it’s uppermost position and instantly felt (and heard) the benefit. One of the good things about riding such a beefy bike on the motorway is that it doesn’t matter how windy it gets, you don’t get blown around the road, like you might on smaller, lighter bikes. It was quite a windy day, I could feel it on my body whenever we slowed down, but each one of the K 1600s I rode felt totally planted, all the time.
When we stopped for a coffee I had a go at pressing some buttons and seeing what I could make happen. The dashboard, which is more like a long thin iPad, has two sections; one with the fairly standard riding info like gear position, speed, revs, etc; and another which you can use to display various different things, like maps, radio station, and such like. Once you’re into the menus, you can check the tyre pressures, adjust the suspension and generally personalise things. There are four buttons near you’re left knee (as you sit on the bike) that can be configured to do various things – like ‘show maps’, for example. So there’s plenty to faff with.
After a coffee and a sticky bun we headed into the mountains and onto the more exciting roads. In fact they were really good roads. And it was at this point that I jumped on a Bagger. The Bagger and Grand America are essentially the same bike as the GT and the GTL, save from five main differences; the screen, the handlebars, the seat, the footplates and the rear subframe. Engine, (main) frame, electronics and suspension are all the same. The GTL is the trick version of the GT and the Grand America is the trick version of the Bagger.
Instantly the Bagger felt a quite a bit lighter than the GTL. Partly because it is lighter (slightly), but probably more so because the topbox on the GLT made it feel more top-heavy. But I didn’t ought to get too complacent, because there was still a fair bit of heft between my legs (for a change, ha).
In fact that heft made itself known almost immediately once the roads got twisty. 90% of the time, all was well, but whenever I let myself get carried away up the pace a bit, scary things started happening. There’s a certain speed you can go round a corner on a motorbike, that obviously depends on the bike, the tyres, etc. Sometimes you can push that limit a bit, and a lot of us do. Well my advice would be to definitely not try and do that on a BMW K 1600. Because if you’re in ‘too hot’ and the bike wants to run wide, it will run wide. There isn’t a lot you can do to stop it, your best bet is to hope and pray there’s space to run wide into. And, of course, that that space doesn’t have something in it.
Luckily for me, I learnt my lesson without writing off a bike and/or putting myself in a Spanish A&E. Eventually I stopped trying to make the Bagger do things it wasn’t designed to do, and instantly felt safer. Once I’d realised that I wasn’t riding a sportsbike, I started enjoying things I’ve never even noticed when riding a bike; the quaint roadside fruit stalls, the rising mountains and the particular aroma that anyone who’s ever been to Spain will be so familiar with.
The BMW K 1600 is a bike that only really responds well to being ridden calmly. Because of that, you notice so much more about your surroundings. And surely, that’s what traveling is all about, isn’t it? In fact being sat on top of a BMW K 1600 is a brilliant way to take in your surroundings, because there aren’t many things more comfortable. In fact the Bagger, with its extra footplates, I thought was extra comfy; the footplates meant you could have a change of position every now and then. Although, the footplates are only any good on straight roads because you can’t operate the gearshift and the rear brake from them.
As you’d expect, all the systems worked faultlessly during the 250km test ride, so there’s no complaints there. In fact, it’s difficult to complain about anything where the K 1600 is concerned. It does everything you’d expect a big behemoth of a touring bike to do, and more.
The fact that these models start at £20,215 might frighten a lot of people off. Realistically though, that’s the going rate for a bike of this ilk, with this amount of tech, in 2022. You can pay nearer £30,000 for a Honda Gold Wing, if you want to.
I’m not yet at a stage of life where I’m ready to slow down and start riding like a grown up, so I probably won’t be putting my name down for a 2022 BMW K 1600 (not that I could afford one anyway). But there will be people out there who are ready to do exactly that. If that sounds like you, it’d definitely be worth trying to blag a ride on one.