Published on May 12th, 2023 | by Boris0
2023 BMW K1600B – THE VERY GRANDEST TURISMO
IMAGES BY NICK ‘FATHERLAND’ EDARDS
The BMW K1600GT is the finest grand touring motorcycle on this earth. There. I said it. It’s true. And yes, of course, I will certainly tell you why.
There are several motorcycle manufacturers with the same pretensions as BMW decided upon when it made the K1600B.
The pretences probably go like: “Let’s build a great touring bike. It’s got to be supremely comfortable, have great range, carry bulk luggage with security, have a ruthlessly powerful and glass-smooth motor, handle brilliantly, be mind-bogglingly sophisticated but user-friendly and maybe allow itself to be ridden in anger if the rider decides he’s suddenly in a hurry to be somewhere.”
And then they got one of their normal bikes, slapped a set of panniers onto it…and kinda gave up on the rest, relying on brand-loyal customers to forgive them.
But that is not how BMW Motorrad works. BMW Motorrad went right ahead and built exactly what it set out to do, and that is why the K1600B (and its several iterations) is hands-down the best touring bike you can buy. And that’s an entirely objective statement.
Here is what I want from a grand tourer – which is pretty much what anyone shopping in this niche would want, and indeed, expect.
I want to the bike to be so comfortable I don’t have to stop for anything either than petrol or to make wee-wee. The K1600B provides that. You even have two positions for your feet. The normal, neutral-erg pegs, or stretch out on the cleverly-placed “footboards” built into the fairing. The seat (a mere 750mm off the ground) needs to be experienced to be understood. I’m convinced sorcery is involved. Yes, it’s heated. Of course, it’s heated.
That fairing, by the way, is an aerodynamic marvel. The screen is electronically adjustable, and you can go from having a face full of wind to sitting in a cocoon of much stiller and quieter air. You won’t even get all that wet if it starts raining.
A four-hundred-plus range is on the cards. I have ridden from Sydney to Gundagai (375km) and still had enough for another 80-plus kays. The Euro 5 rules ensure serious fuel economy.
Electronically, it has everything. And while it does not yet offer to fizz you up an espresso or a beer on the go, I’m quietly confident BMW is considering it. The big colour TFT dash – quite obviously the best dash on the market and ubiquitous throughout BMW’s range – is easy to read, the menus simple to navigate, and the scope of information available is incredible.
And all of this is wed to a motor that just astonishes each time you want it to. That low-slung, in-line six is a masterpiece. And in its current updated iteration utterly flawless in delivering 160 horses and 180Nm of torque. And yes, of course there’s a slick-as quickshifter for you to enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy the affronted “Hrummf!” sound the exhaust makes when you’re downshifting hard, you have no soul.
She’s a big girl with a 1688mm wheelbase. And she weighs 344kg. But she’s happy to haul a further 216kg around like it was nothing. I don’t even know my wife, who weighs 55kg, is even on the back – and that’s after she’s bunged 60kgs of weekend girl-things into the panniers.
And here’s where BMW delves into another level of motorcycle sorcery. It doesn’t feel at all ungainly to ride – especially at pace. It’s like some kind of magic trick. Sitting on it at standstill it feels vast, because it is. But ride off and you’re amazed at how nimble it suddenly becomes. Thus the K1600 is absolutely useable for every-day commutes and doesn’t become that bike you only ever take on long trips. That Paralever front-end is the gift that just keeps on giving.
But it’s the actual riding of this grandest of tourers out on the road that makes the heavenly choirs sing. Yes, hyperbole, but the K1600B is worthy of it. The whole package is capable of being ridden quite…erm, spiritedly. And I have visions of myself sitting on a placid 190km/h on some perfect German autobahn on my way to Wellheim im Oberbayern for a weekend of alpine majesty and maybe wolf-wrestling.
Of course, belting out to Gilgandra ain’t quite the same thing, but one has to work with what one has.
And the K1600B makes every trip an absolute pleasure. That we live in a time when you can easily acquire what is manifestly the final word in true motorcycle Grand Touring, is simply great. I have lived long enough to see this happen. A bike I can ride for 12 hours a day, over all kinds of roads, at all kinds of speeds, and that actually corners and stops, with a road presence simply unequalled (no matter how much noise your UltraGlide makes), is cause for wonder.
Still not convinced? OK, I get that. People like what they like, even if what they like isn’t the best thing they can get for what they want to do.
The only way to fix that is to compare the K1600B to every other bike with pretensions of grand touring. Actually go out and compare them. Touch them. Sit on them. Open the panniers, and make the sale-person show you the suite of electronics at your disposal. Note the level of finish on each.
Then ride them. Back to back, if you can. But not to worry if you can’t. Because once you ride the K1600B, it will stay with you forever. Yes, it’s precisely THAT kind of bike.