First Rides: BMW K1600B

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Article And Photos By: J. Ken Conte

Originally Published In The October 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Anyone who has read my reviews knows that typically I like to write about the experience and less about all the tech and specs. This bike does not allow that because it is so full of tech. I got to pick up the BMW K1600B that was loaded with options at the BMW headquarters in New Jersey. The fi rst thing I noticed was how big the bike was and how small the bags were. I had to pack for the bike, so I knew that it had a mere 37 liters of storage capacity, needless to say, I packed light. When I got the rundown on the bike, there was so much information that I knew I was going to have to try everything out for myself and learn the bike on the fl y. I set out on my way to Gettysburg Bike Week through the winding hills of New Jersey and immediately felt the BMW difference. The 1649 cc six-cylinder engine that distributes it through a shaft drive begs to be ridden hard. It throttles up very nicely, and as I made my way north I could feel the 160 hp and 129-footpounds of torque. This bike was happiest cruising in 2nd and 3rd gear in the ‘twisties’. I quickly realized that shifting could be achieved with no clutch. That’s right, you can shift up or down without using the clutch, it just takes a bit of getting used to. As I got on the interstate, the 30-inch seat height disappeared as I adjusted the windshield up. Although the adjustable windshield did a great job at buffering the wind the fi xed fairing was narrower than I’m used to and did not give as much protection from the elements.

Highway cruising is easy with this bike because it is so big and has so much technology packed into it that it keeps you occupied while riding. I could stretch my feet out from the mid controls to some forward placed fl oorboards and mess with the 15 plus buttons and switches on the handlebars. I tried several different ride modes (one person, one person with luggage and two-up) that work in conjunction with the Dynamic ESA, which is a fancy way of saying automatic adjustable suspension controls. It is implemented on several BMW’s models, and this touring model makes use of it very well. I had to adjust the proprietary Duolever front end which separates the dual disc braking up front from the front suspension (think no dive), it was smooth sailing through some very windy roads. This bike LOVES the corners, with tons of ground clearance and suspension to back it up, especially in the Dynamic mode. On the tech side, this bike had almost everything and would typically come with a price tag of $24,885 up from the base price of $19,995. Some of the options included on this test bike were reverse (nice for a bike of this size),

Bluetooth interface (which worked fl awlessly), Radio (which was great in town but on the highway was almost impossible to hear) and hill start control which I was too chicken to test, but I have heard great things about it. You essentially can let off the front brake on a steep incline and as you let the clutch out the bike automatically lets off the brake. It is an ingenious idea that has been around for a few years and sounds very appealing while riding two up on the K1600B. My ride ended with a very soggy highway tour through Pennsylvania that had weather alerts going off on my phone and cars pulling over because visibility was so bad. I, of course, kept riding because you always eventually end up on the other side of the storm. I did put it in Rain mode, which offers the softest suspension compared to the Dynamic and Road mode and it handled the moisture like a champ. I was riding through what I learned later were fl ash fl ood warnings, and the high windshield, as well as my Schuberth helmet, kept my face and head water tight while the rest of me got soaked. No other test was necessary after that; I dropped it off at BMW headquarters knowing that this bike is for the rider who demands a high tech, performancedriven bike, doesn’t mind packing a little less and replacing the seat for one that was built for long distance.

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