MCN Fleet: Rich puts in a 501-mile day on the BMW K1600GT

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The Proclaimers might have been perfectly happy to perambulate 500-miles on multiple occasions, but I much prefer to employ an engine and two wheels in my travel assignments. And with the prospect of a sunny day and nowt else of more import to distract me, I devised a 500-mile loop to hit a few favourite roads and key destinations in order to see how the big K stands up to persistent mile-munching.

From my Stamford base I headed West over to the Cotswolds, then plunged Southish down through Bath and Shaftesbury and onwards to Corfe Castle, Swanage, over the ferry to Sandbanks, then up to Winchester to wiggle East on the A272 before heading North for a cuppa with my Dad in Kent, and finally resorting to big roads for the last leg towards home. 501 miles, 11hrs42mins in the saddle, averaging 45mph and 49.5mpg revealed a few observations…

A day of touring for the BMW K1600GT

Firstly, the BMW K1600GT is defined by a vitriolic pursuit of trying to give you whatever you want, whenever you want it. It may be a big old boat, but it never gets in the way of your ride. If you want to stop, it’s because you’re ready to stop – not because the bike has motivated you to.

Some bikes hurt you after an hour or two, the K doesn’t. After about eight hours I was getting oddly stiff knees and thigh muscles – but all the other usual pain points (hands, wrists, bum, feet, back, neck…) were all no more abused than they would be after fifteen minutes settling into your sofa.

Rich's mammoth route

You do settle into the K, too. The more the miles increase, the more you feel at one with its rhythms, finding the sweetspots in the engine, gelling with the flow of its mass transfer as you throw it around on sinuous roads.

The engine is your cheeky mate along for the ride, keeping you entertained, amusing you with its chat, and keeping you sharp and focussed. It may boast close to 160bhp and diesel train levels of torque, but it never dominates the ride. It’s like double cream with a shot of whiskey in it – sickeningly smooth with a tingling punch of menace.

The Dynamic ESA isn’t quite as effortlessly composed as it is on the RT and GS – the sheer gargantuan mass of the GT (the weight of an average human adult more than either) giving it much more to cope with – but it’s still excellent, if not quite faultless. The screen is definitely a bit of a let-down though, and always has been on the GT.

In a low position it’s like sitting in a wind tunnel, at full extension the vortex pushes you forwards like a grumpy pillion, and at infinite degrees of somewhere-in-the-middle it never seems to be quite where you want it. Time to experiment on that front.

Previous updates:

Update One: BMW’s K1600GT is a bonkers inline-six behemoth

Published: 18 May 2022

BMW K1600GT on the road

If you’ve got a bucket list of roads and regions that you’d love to ride on two wheels, it should include the roads around Franschhoek and Chapmans Peak Drive, which hugs the ocean from (you guessed it) Chapman’s Peak to Capetown, South Africa. Just stunning. And it was on these roads that I first sampled BMW’s insane super-tourer, the K1600GT. It was the original bike’s launch, now over a decade ago – and the big GT feels no less exceptional today, especially when confined by British roads.

This is the first dedicated touring bike I’ve ever ‘lived with’, and the physically biggest, heaviest, and largest capacity, too. It’s also the only inline-six. So, after 10,000 miles on Ducati’s superb Multistrada V4S last year – what are the immediate impressions of the Special K after 2000 miles of road-rolling?

Silky smooth operator

It’s impossible for the whole riding experience not to be dominated – defined, in fact – by the 1649cc inline-six that powers it. From the rasping bark that’s emitted every time you thumb the starter, to the silky seamless drive that surges, soars and screams as the revs built, it’s an incredible unit. A sick part of me would love to shove this surprisingly compact lump into a super-naked. The torque is exceptional, the drive is turbine-like, and it’s just so, so smooth. It doesn’t feel aggressively fast, but the rate at which the horizon approaches, and other road users shrink in your mirrors gives context to its pace. If the K didn’t weigh so much, it’d be ballistic.

Beaming Rich and the Beemer

Widescreen TV (and radio)

The Multi has a class-leading dash, effortless access to info, and a tidy interface. And the K16’s 10.25in widescreen certainly matches it in most regards. The scale is unsurpassed by any other, and the ability to use split-screen displays is genuinely useful. Some info is hard to access, and some menu functions are a little counter-intuitive and buried, but there’s ample customisation (see next) and once you’ve got your head around the menus, spinny command wheel and buttons – it’s fairly effortless. This bike is spec’d with full connectivity and a DAB radio, too – so you can humiliate yourself in public with your poor music taste both on your own player and over the airwaves. It’s crystal clear, but the speakers don’t offer enough punch if you’re going over 50mph in a full-face lid.

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4

The four numbered shortcut buttons are a real benefit. Each is customisable to deliver the menu screen for whichever function you pre-set. I’ve got 1 as Navigation, 2 as Heating, 3 as Radio, and 4 as Media. Saves a lot of button pressing and command wheeling when on the move. And they’re backlit, which is more than you can say for the rest of the switchgear, sadly (come on BMW, sort it out).

Mission control on the BMW K1600GT

Who you looking at?

The stunningly good headlamp is a biking unicorn. I honestly can’t think of another bike that delivers stronger illumination, which is great because I’m a real night riding addict. The adaptive day-maker isn’t just bright, it’s clever, too. It’ll self-level depending on load, and when you peel into corners it turns itself to look where you’re going, too. The sensation on a sweeping road can make you feel a little drunk at first, but it really works.

Windy corner

What’s less accomplished is the airflow management. Despite (or perhaps, because of) the massive frontal area and huge screen, it’s near-impossible to achieve a turbulence-free set-up. In the lowest screen position you’re blasted, in the highest there’s a vortex that pushes you forward as the airflow somersaults you – and anywhere in between never quite delivers a clean flow. Screen tests needed this year.

Front end shot of the BMW K1600GT

The weighting game

Holy moly – it’s a biggun. Tipping the scales at 343kg (kerb) it’s 100kg heavier than the MultiV4S! It’s inescapable, too. Yes, the K feels light on its toes and surprisingly agile, but swift direction changes, undulating roads and manual handling all bring that weight to bear. Good luck paddling backwards up a mild incline, or on a gravel drive, too. There’s a good reason it has a reverse gear – you need it.

Where’s the radar tech?

Despite being utterly laden with tech and features, there are some flagship elements missing against the competition (and BMW’s own range). Where’s the adaptive radar-enabled cruise control? The RT has it, but the GT doesn’t. Ditto the lack of blind-spot detection. For a bike of this type, and at this price, and considering it’s destined to spend much of its life touring on big roads, it suddenly feels like a glaring omission. It certainly can’t have been left off due to weight concerns.

I’ve had a soft spot for the Special K ever since riding on its South Africa launch back in 2011 – but I’ve never had a dedicated tourer in my garage, so this is going to be an interesting test. Will it change how I ride, where I ride, why I ride? Just how good is it at delivering its horizon-shrinking brief? Will I ever use the reverse button? And how/why does it weigh 343kg?! All these questions and more will yield to some – hopefully – serious miles

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in MCN Fleet…

Richard Newland

By Richard Newland