Excellence in engineering on two wheels beckons with BMW’s latest touring motor cycle, the K1600 GTL E, a Grand Tourer.
I never had a gap year. A seamless forty year thread from education to employment runs through my life.
I was always very focused on the many goals that I set myself and in the main I have accomplished the majority of them. I have been very lucky in life achieving what many people dream about. Many of my experiences have been fantastic and fascinating but also in a few instances, frightening.
However, there has always been a thought at the back of my mind that perhaps I have missed out and I should take a year out to see the world, go backpacking, be adventurous. Maybe there is still time but the appeal of roughing it has passed. I would still like to see the world but in style and luxury.
Luxury travel conjures various images; the comfort of a Bentley or a Rolls Royce but there is a possibility of greater adventure if I went for two wheels instead of four.
I love motorcycles and the camaraderie of the motorcycling fraternity, many of whom are in my age bracket. Excellence in engineering on two wheels beckons with BMW’s latest touring motor cycle, the K1600 GTL E, a Grand Tourer but on two wheels.
How do you define a Grand Tourer?
There are a number of criteria to be satisfied. It should offer effortless operation, comfort, engineering excellence which should push boundaries.
The question arises why I should want to give up the sumptuous leather and wood veneer of the classic, four-wheeled Grand Tourer. It may be the anonymity afforded by helmet and tinted visor and the fact that whatever the value or age of your bike the world of motorcycling has no snobbery and in addition there is excitement and exhilaration.
We often speak about being at one with your machine. This is most definitely true of motorcycling. You don’t just steer the bike. You and your bike are as one. You are exposed to the elements but that is part of the joy. It is all very well being cosseted and cocooned while on four wheels but the K1600 GTL E is capable of offering a completely different experience, a dimension unobtainable even in a luxury car.
An enduring brand
BMW have, for decades, had a reputation for producing exceptionally comfortable and capable touring motorcycles. Moreover, in terms of technological advancements and luxury, the rest of the motorcycling world has lagged behind.
The joy of six
To provide smoothness and flexibility, touring power plants have traditionally been a minimum of six cylinders. This poses a problem. Increase the number of cylinders and you increase the size, weight and sheer bulk of the machine. BMW have addressed the issue and come up with the only six cylinder motorcycle in production today. Set low in the frame and only 555mm in width, it weighs a mere 102 Kg, one of the lightest engines in its class.
With a dry sump and the engine tilted forward by 35 degrees, an exceptionally low centre of gravity is achieved. In addition, the engine is an integral part of the frame which adds to its torsional rigidity and enhancing handling and comfort.
The engine is wonderfully smooth in its power delivery with virtually no vibration through its seat and handlebars. It has accessible torque across the rev range, delivering a gorgeous note from the twin exhaust system. It all makes for a truly unique engine.
All this is controlled through the twist grip which uses fly by wire technology to ensure a crisp throttle response.
Power – Control
Not content with a simple tuned engine, BMW have developed three selectable throttle response settings. These provide choice dependant on preferred style of riding and prevailing road conditions. “Rain” makes the torque softer and limits maximum output. Choose “Road” and you have full access to all the available torque but with a softer power delivery. “Dynamic” delivers an instant throttle response. This bestows the rider with total control of how they want to ride the bike.
For such a large and powerful engine that is capable of 200kph, the automatic assumption would be that it must be bit of a gas guzzler. On the contrary, it is remarkably frugal. The 26.5 litre fuel tank allows a respectable range of over 300 miles between fill-ups. Although, naturally it all depends on which mode you select and how quickly you twist your wrist.
The Front Duolever Suspension is the bench mark by which other systems are judged. It set new standards with regards to comfort, breaking and handling. Its rigidity allows for superb high speed stability, especially under heavy breaking, ensuring maximum grip and comfort.
When braking a traditionally set up motorcycle dives forward putting all the weight on the front wheel as well as pushing the rider and pillion passenger forward. In the case of the Duolever Suspension, the diving motion is totally eliminated, keeping the bike flat, instilling confidence and making for a much safer and pleasurable experience.
The rear of the bike is kept in contact with the ground via BMW’s Paralever Suspension. Because of its design the Paralever system ensures that the suspension remains positive to the terrain over which it is passing. It doesn’t stiffen up under acceleration, as in normal set ups, but ensures that the power is delivered to the ground, propelling the bike forward without fuss and avoiding “wheelie torque”.
An ABS and DTC, Dynamic Traction Control system, helps keep it all under control and in contact with the tarmac, virtually eliminating any rear wheel slippage.
Despite its dry weight, tipping the scales at 321kgs, the K1600 GTL E is surprisingly agile making it easy to manoeuvre even at low speeds. This is aided by the low slung engine which as already stated by being an integral part of the frame gains rigidity and creates a low centre of gravity.
Heated seats are luxuries that we associate with a car, however, the K1600 GTL E not only has heated seats but also a heated handlebar grip.
The fairing has been aerodynamically hewn in a wind tunnel to ensure both rider and the pillions are kept well out of the airflow thereby allowing the bike to scythe its way through the elements.
The fairing is electronically adjustable whilst on the move allowing for height changes to suit personal preference and the riding conditions. There is also an option to actually specify either a high or low seat so that the bike is tailor fitted to the rider.
Slow speed riding in warm conditions is catered for. Two adjustable flaps on the fairing at roughly knee level alter the flow of air over the rider.
Riding position is paramount. On the K1600 GTL E, it is relaxed but purposeful. The handlebars seem to fall in a natural position whilst the footrests are just slightly behind the knee giving a slightly sporty natural position.
Pillion passengers needs are well met. A large elevated seat ensures that the view ahead is not obscured. A large luggage top box comes as standard which is also fitted with a back rest. It enhances the pillion rider’s comfort but also helps to inspire confidence for those less experienced passengers. The large pillion hand rails are positioned just below the seat which once again provides for a more natural riding position for the passenger.
An extended adventure
With two voluminous top panniers and a large top box there is plenty of space, 112 litres in total, allowing plenty of space for clothing on any extended adventure. The top box is fitted with gas struts to aid loading and unloading. All are available with remote central locking. They are easily detachable and can be provided with removable inner bags helping with packing.
We take much for granted in modern luxury cars; ABS, traction control, adaptive suspension, for example. However, such safety aids are a rarity on motorcycles. But, with the K1600 GTL E it is the norm. It is way ahead of the competition, resting alongside the most technologically advanced automobiles available today. There is even an adaptive headlight system available which compensates when the bike leans over whilst cornering and ensures that the road ahead is illuminated.
The spring/damper qualities of the rear wheel can even be adjusted to suit the bike loading or road conditions through a selection on the handlebars.
A sound system, Bluetooth technology and a detachable sat nav can be specified. The sat nav sits neatly in the fairing and is removable when the windshield is moved out of the way.
All the above can be controlled through a selection wheel under the right thumb on the handlebars and shown on an LCD display between the tachometer and speedometer.
So has the time come to take a year out? The jury is still out, in other words I can’t get the idea past my wife. One thing is certain, if you want freedom and adventure in a luxury package the BMW K1600 GTL E could fulfil your dreams on a daily basis.
It is most certainly a highly refined, luxury machine. It is at the forefront of motorcycle development which has sadly lagged behind that of the automobile.
It is truly a two-wheeled “Luxury Grand Tourer”, worthy of the title.