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BMW K 1600 GT: MD First Impressions

We just picked up our BMW K 1600 GT test bike a couple of days ago, and have put roughly 70 freeway miles on it at this point. This article is meant to be nothing more than a report on our first impressions of this flagship tourer from the German brand.

First of all, we should note that our test bike is a 2022 model, but it is essentially unchanged for 2023 (more about that in the next installment). The headline feature of all of the K 1600 models is the six-cylinder engine displacing 1,649cc. The in-line configuration of the motor translates to supreme smoothness as it delivers the claimed 133 foot/pounds of torque at just 5,250 rpm.

Our freeway ride revealed smooth, effortless power and acceleration. BMW has obviously paid close attention to the ergonomics, including seat comfort. Our editor’s back issues would normally flare up after a freeway drone of this length, but he arrived at the MD offices fresh and relaxed.

Not just the rider triangle, but wind protection on the freeway is very good. The adjustable windscreen protected the editor’s 5’11” torso, and buffeting at helmet level was minimized, or eliminated, by adjusting the screen height.

This bike is a tour de force (pun intended). We have plenty of thoughts to share about other aspects of the bike, including the impressive electronic suspension components. This is enough for a first impression, however, and we certainly need to put more, varied miles on our test unit before we provide a more comprehensive report.

In the meantime, while you wait for our next report, you can take a look at BMW’s web page dedicated to the K 1600, as well as our most recent review of Honda’s direct competitor, the Gold Wing.

39 Comments

  1. Walter says:

    The BMW is comfortable because your editor is 5′ 11″. At 6′ 3″, it’s a little cramped. Knees are way too high. I love BMW, but they are not for tall people.

  2. Artem says:

    BMW motorcycles are cool.
    The only thing I would, probably, buy is “break” engined one.
    Unusual.

  3. Gary in NJ says:

    I am one of those light-weight fanatics that loves high-spec mid-sized bikes. But I got an opportunity to ride a K1600 a few years back and I must say that I’m a bit obsessed with the bike. If I ever wanted a comfortable bike with serious long legs, there is no other choice. Now in my 60’s, can can see the day on the horizon…way out on the horizon.

  4. My2cents says:

    No doubt BMW has been at the front of sport touring for decades. I am surprised that they produced a inline 6 after the experience with the K models. The fairing leans a little too much towards a scooter look but aerodynamics are likely cocoon like. The comparison to the Honda CBX 1047 is misleading until the 1981 which was equipped with a fairing and hard bags. Being a owner of a 1979 CBX I can speak from experience that they are not difficult to maintain although parts are sometimes scarce and sometimes pricey. I would suspect BMW parts to be pricey as well. The CBX is still a thrilling motorcycle that doesn’t seem out of date and is the pinnacle of air cooled motorcycle technology. The KZ 1300 was a poor contender at approximately 100 lbs heavier and burdened with all the negatives that a shaft drive transverse engine motorcycles could have. I will be kind and not mention the visual comparison.

  5. Grover says:

    No doubt this is a nice touring bike. My only gripe is dealing with BMW parts and service. Especially the $ervice. It’s not that I can’t afford the bike or the service, I don’t like that “just raped” feeling.

  6. Fastship says:

    I always look at this bike in the context of Honda’s iconic CBX1000, a landmark bike for me given my age, it defined the end of one era and the beginning of another and I suspect that the BMW engineers behind this project had this in common.

    The sheer size and heft of any six lends itself to grand touring types of bikes but I always thought it would be daring of BMW to make a stripped out sport version, closer in concept to the CBX1000 which I think inspired the BMW engineers.

    I used to peer through the glass of the dealership at the CBX’s, could never afford one and still can’t afford BMW’s but I think I must have one at some point if only to honour my youthful self.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      I went to my Honda dealership as a kid just to stare at the big CBX, as well. Do you remember Kawasaki also made an in-line 6 at one time?

      • ORT says:

        I rode the Voyager 6 around the track at the introduction of the original Ninja 900 in California. All my friends got to ride the Ninja but I was a touring enthusiast.

        And slow.

        R E A L…………..S L O W.

        They sent someone out to find me and bring me in off the track.

        I really wanted an ’82 (White!) CBX but knew I could not afford the maintenance. Dammit. 🙂

        ORT

      • 5229 says:

        August of 1978. I’ll never forget the night I rode home on my brand new Honda CBX. One of the if not the coolest bike ever built. Very similar to the RC166 GP bike. Good stuff.

    • Dave says:

      While no sport bike, they did do a “B” version of this platform that’s more like a high-tech German bagger. Not my thing but a pretty cool bike for cruising and light (er) touring.

    • TP says:

      A ‘79 CBX was the most exhilarating motorcycle I ever rode but it’s just not practical. Renewing one will cost you at last $25K beyond the price of the bike. It’s incredibly demanding to maintain and takes a genuine professional level of competence. Parts, if available, will make you cry. See The Motorcycle Project to learn more. The KZ1300 was much more practical and a bike I’ve always liked. Water cooling, shaft drive, 3 carbs instead of 6, 12 valves instead of 24, 2 cams instead of 4 (the CBX uses an Oldham coupler that has to be hand filed to fit). See what Alan Milyard does with a KZ1300 and other Kawis. Great machinist.

  7. TP says:

    Cool bike but BMWs all leave me blasé. And try to get out of the dealer with something less than fully loaded. BMW doesn’t import base models. You’ll look in vain.

  8. ORT says:

    That is a LOT of money to still get wet when it rains. The maintenance on BMWs can be stupid expensive and tires? Big touring bikes eat tires, especially so the rear and we can all bet that replacements for this bike are very expensive and do NOT last.

    I had a GL1800 and it was a lot better than this bike as far as maintenance costs but it still cost way too much for tires. I am no longer all that intredasted in this type of bike and to be honest I would consider a Honda NC750X DCT for its vastly superior mpg as well as lower overall cost of ownership. I ride alone so I do not need the extra power of this bike either for carrying a passenger or hauling around my ego. 😉

    For those that own one or at the least want the BMW or a similar big rig touring bike I say have at it!

    ORT

    • Tim says:

      I had a 2013 K1600 GTL. The motor was addictive…smooth and fast with a glorious sound when you got the RPM’s up. The sound of the motor drove me crazy at lower RPM’s, where there was a whine or almost whistle type sound. I hope they’ve corrected that. For me the big downside was the weight. It felt light once moving, but I always had to pay attention coming to stops. I had it 9 years and never dropped it, but I came close a few times. I think the newer models have an electric reverse, which would have been a game changer for me. Just getting it out of the garage was a chore.

      You mention rear tire wear, ORT. Actually, I thought the rear tire wear was acceptable on the GTL, but the thing ate front tires for breakfast. I’ve always been one to replace both tires at the same time, but that usually meant replacing a rear tire that still had two or three thousand miles left in it.

      It was a great touring bike, no question about it. I replaced it with a 1250 GS and love the low center of gravity it offers, compared to the GTL which carries its weight up high. An 800 mile day on the GS isn’t quite as comfortable as it was on the GTL, but I can live with that for the lighter weight. The fuel mileage at 75 or 80 mph was actually a little better on the GTL. I typically got 41-43 mpg at highway speeds, pretty good given the huge motor and weight of the bike. In the mountains I often got over 50 mpg.

    • Tom R says:

      Wow ORT, for a motorcyclist you are quite the bean counter. Everyone who has ridden for even just a couple years knows that almost all motorcycles cost more than cars to operate on a per-mile basis. We just try to keep this fact from our significant others as long as possible. They are in indulgence, not a necessity…the motorcycle, that is.

      Sounds like you need a Miata. Or a Prius with a sunroof.

      • TimC says:

        Did we read the same comment? ORT said big bikes eat tires AND stated an alternate bike with lowER tire/general cost. He even does not begrudge those willing to go for the size/weight/cost/performance package involved here!

      • todd says:

        My 1990 K75S that I have put well over 100,000 miles on over the last twelve years has proven much less expensive than any car I can think of. I bought the bike for $3,000 and have only needed to replace tires. The tires are cheap, originally $110 a pair, now about $150, and they go 8-16,000 miles depending on how hard I am running through the hills. I get around 45mpg and it runs regular. The bike makes a great touring mount and is lighter and handles better than the latest boxer RTs. If I had to, I could easily sell it now for $3,000. Before this bike was my equally frugal and reliable 650 Seca I got for free…

        If I bought a similar (pristine) condition 1990 BMW E30 instead, maybe I would spend about the same for tires (twice as long but twice the price) but gas and any service items will cost double. I doubt I would be able to daily it without any problems like my experience with the bikes. Motorcycles have been so much less expensive, more reliable and more enjoyable that I haven’t had to buy a car since the early 90s!

        • My2cents says:

          The BMW K75 S might be the best BMW street motorcycle ever. I was lucky enough to score an extended test ride on one throughly enjoyed the linear powerband, smoothness, handling and refinement. The addition of a four valve head would have improved top end power plus if it had stuck around long enough to share the displacement increase of the K100 – K1200 this would have been fantastic.

          • Jeremy says:

            About 10 years ago, I spent 4 days riding a K75S when I flew out to visit a friend. I was surprised how good the bike was, especially considering how long ago it debuted. The guy has gone through a lot of bikes over the years, but he keeps the K75 around.

    • Mickey says:

      I made that move when my wife quit riding in 2021. Traded in an FJR for a 2021 NC 750x DCT I thought would be cheap to run. I now have just over 23,000 miles on it in a year and a half. It does get good mileage mid 60s in winter with tall shield and handlebar muffs and low 70s in summer with cut down shield and bare grips. I run it in standard mode and generally between 45 and 60 mph…65-75 on infrequent expressway rides.

      However considering it has 58 hp at the crank, and weighs less than 500 pounds, it doesnt get very good mileage out of tires for some reason. I got 7,130 out of the stock Metzler Tourance’s, then 8,579 out of a set of Michelin Road 5s, then 7,696 out of a set of Pirelli Angel GTs. Tomorrow it goes in for a set of Shinko Raven 09’s (plus a chain,and set of brakes).

      I get better mileage out of the tires, chain and brakes on my 2014 CB 1100 with 30 more more hp and 75 more pounds of weight, which has 69,000 miles on it now.

      The oil and filter change recommendations on the NC are twice as long which is weird considering they spec the same oil filter and oi,.

      • ORT says:

        Thank you for your input on that bike! I very much appreciate it.

        On my GL1800 (I no longer own it) I got 20,000+ out of the front and the rear I would get 15,000 or so unless I darksided it and then I got 25,000+.

        Thank you again!

        ORT

        • Mick says:

          It always amazes me how much wear some guy’s get out of motorcycle tires. I usually get around 2000 miles. Maybe 3000 if I ride like a grampy. I have never even come close to 4000.

          I do buy sticky rubber. But I don’t buy tires that are known not to last. And I never do burnouts.

          In the end, I got into street biking at 25 after dirt biking since I was a boy. So I came with the attitude that every ride should be fun. When I commuted I would always rip around the countryside either on my way to or from work. I only speed up for the corners. I guess my tire wear reflects that. The sides wear out first on the rear and the fronts get all cupped and nasty and feel horrible.

          Life here in the northeast is frustrating. There are a lot of twisty roads. But the insane population density means that the whole place is one big residential area with a 30mph speed limit. I do most of my quality riding elsewhere. The wife has been making Sicilian noises…

          • todd says:

            It all depends on where you ride. For a couple years, I commuted to a shop that was 40 miles down the straightest freeway in the area. Traffic was always tight so speeds were slow, mostly lane splitting. I would seriously get 10-12,000 miles rear, 16-18,000 miles front on my K75S. I work at a different shop now in the same area but generally take the canyon roads to get there. My tires are seeing 4-6,000 miles, 3,000 on my Duke. All other riding with friends on the weekends through the backcountry cuts in even more.

          • Mick says:

            Yeah well, I am alawys 1000% focused on venue. For street biking I have triad my best to maintain a “no rides ths suck” policy. I generally feel a that any ride if done repeatedly would wear a flat spot in the center of your tires it is a ride that sucks and should be altered in some way so as not to suck or be avoided.

            Other guys I know would argue that point. That’s fine. Everybody gets their own kicks in their own way.

          • Mickey says:

            For me, riding is like flying. As long as I am gliding along, feeling the wind in my face, straight up, dipping left, dipping right, accelerating or braking, I’m happy.

            Doesnt matter what I ride, how fast or how far, only that I ride… every day possible.

            For the record I’m 72 years old and still average 302 days and 22,552 miles a year, and I live in a 4 season midwest state

    • Jim says:

      I worked at a BMW dealership. The tires for these bikes are dual compound, regardless of mfg. It wasn’t unusual to see tires come off a 1600 that were down to the belt on the shoulders and had a half inch of rubber in the center, so it’s how you ride.

      Also acquainted with a guy who’s an Iron Butt competitor and rides a 1600. He runs a narrow car tire on back. He admits it’s a bit squirrelly in the corners.

      • TimC says:

        “He runs a narrow car tire on back. He admits it’s a bit squirrelly in the corners”

        WOW/KEK

      • Dave says:

        “runs a narrow car tire on back.”

        I’ve seen this done on Piaggio Mp3’s. Apparently they consume rear tires quickly too.

      • DaveSykes says:

        I ran car tires on a Honda Valkyrie GL1500C I owned. My riding buddies said I was crazy. I never had any issues riding it (though I have never been a peg scraper on the corners). 25k out of a good quality car tire. And the rear braking capability strait line was amazing. That said there is a fortnine video that strongly recommends against it so there are lots of opinions on both sides. My K1200LT eats front tires much faster than rear tires. I have to replace it now (and the rear is fine) and they are not cheap (there are only a few tires that meet the load/weight specs). That said both the Honda flat sixes and the (laid flat 4) K1200 (older gen) bikes are very reliable.

  9. Ricardo says:

    I have a 2013 K1600GTL, and in sport mode/Dynamic, the bike behaves like a sport bike. Having owned a Ducati 999, I feel more confident on the BMW even with all the extra weight. Bad comparison but it illustrates how these BMW bikes besides being an excellent tourer is also a very fun bike on the twisties.

  10. Buzz says:

    I’ll be looking forward to reading your opinions. I’m a huge fan as I have a 2012 GTL. I think the biggest difference is the big screen entertainment system. Does BMW still restrict which helmets will fully function with it?

    My 2012 would only fully function with the awful Schuberth helmet that you had to buy from BMW. It was so painful I demanded refunds my my helmet and my wife’s.

  11. GT08 says:

    Hello Dirck,
    Could you compare it to the Concours 1400. It is really worth the 1000 and 1000 more dollars in wind buffeting comfort etc.
    My Concours is a little bit disappointment for the wind noise.
    i’m asking myself if i should change for the BMW, but it a lot of money.
    Thank

  12. todd says:

    Nice bike for long, boring roads.

    • Freddy says:

      Don’t disregard touring bikes too quickly! As a track day rider that much prefers the twisty bits, I came to the realization a couple years ago that I could get more riding in if I rode something that’s more practical for the mostly flat, straight roads I have at my disposal here in SE Michigan. I ended up with a 2015 Triumph Trophy, and though really appreciate the comfort, I have been surprised that I can ride it nearly as fast on the street as something much smaller and lighter. The only real downsides are how much space it takes up and how heavy it is to push around the garage, and…it looks like a touring bike. But it is a nice bike for long, boring roads!

      • Johnnie says:

        Freddie, as someone that grew up, and started riding, in SE Michigan, you have my sympathies. There really aren’t any interesting roads in that part of the country, the roads themselves are in pretty rough shape, and — worst yet for me — the available race tracks (Grattan, Mid-Ohio, Nelson Ledges) are all pretty far away. Personally, I would rather just use a big, comfortable, car on those roads… but if you’re going to ride a motorcycle, something like this (or your Triumph Trophy) makes a lot of sense there.

    • Dave says:

      We have no shortage of long boring roads in the US. We have some long pretty ones, too. These big heavy tourers were never interesting to me but like HD’s, I kind of get it.

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