Ten years ago if you wanted a bagger a Harley was the only option but now there are plenty. The nearest rival is the Indian Chieftain but the formula (big twin + fork mounted fairing = American muscle) is pretty much the same. The new BMW K1600 Bagger is completely different however, so how does it compare?
From a technological standpoint, the BMW blows the Harley out of the water. Despite only being released this year on a brand new platform, the Harley’s electronics consist of ABS and that’s it (other than the infotainment system). If you tick every single box on the BMW order form, it comes to £21,415 and for that you get rider modes, traction control, electronic suspension, keyless ride, cornering ABS, heated grips, heated rider seat, heated pillion seat, electric windscreen, a quickshifter, an autoblipper, central locking, LED fog lights, reverse gear and emergency call. It also includes the GPS, radio and Bluetooth functionality of the Street Glide. In fact the only thing the Bagger is missing is the double barrelled badge on the side of the tank and some glitter in the paint.
In practical riding terms the BMW has nearly twice the power of the 107 Milwaukee-Eight plus 10% more torque. The ride is smoother (thanks to the ESA), the brakes are better (ABS Pro), the tyres have more grip and doesn't let go in the wet (TCS), the panniers are a more sensible shape and the pillion seat is much more comfortable. It doesn’t have quite the same noise as the Harley but if you chop the throttle the bike backfires angrily and reminds you the 1649cc engine isn’t for the faint-hearted. It even looks good.
The Bagger's blacked out bodywork is brooding in a way the chrome of the Street Glide doesn’t quite manage and when I rode it to a small gathering of folks with custom bikes, it drew the biggest crowd. The only thing that lets it down is the stereo, which struggles to be heard compared to the booming Harley but that’s a small jab in an otherwise one way bout.