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BMW K 1600 B – Slimmer and Less Mass, The Same Devastating Ability

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

Riding along any highway can be a soul-destroying thing to do – I don’t care where in the world you might be, although a highway through the Alps is pretty special. Yes, they’re convenient and, by and large, efficient, but all you have to do when you are riding along one is to look either side at the countryside to realise what you are missing by speeding along in your hurry to get somewhere. Whatever happened to the journey being the adventure?

Be that as it may, sometimes highways are unavoidable, in which case, choose your weapon carefully. Choose something with power, comfort and wind protection in equal measures, pack your credit card and a spare pair of undies and set off into the wide blue yonder, for there lies the adventure. Just remember to take the right turn-off!

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

Talking of the right weapon, for the past week a not inconsiderable amount of space in the garage has been taken up by a BMW K 1600 B, the ‘bagger’ version of BMW’s tour de force.

Large? Yes. Good looking? Yes. More comfortable than a feather mattress? Yes. Designed to eat up the miles with little or no stress to the rider? Definitely.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

Despite the size, it is remarkably well balanced at slow speeds and during tight manoeuvres. Threading it through traffic is easy, as long as there is a space wide enough. The reverse gear means you don’t have to be careful where you park it…

Oh, shut up! Just shut up! Here you have one of the finest touring motorcycles in the world and all you can talk about is how easy it is to park.

Imbecile. Get to the point.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

On the open highway, the K 1600 B is simply staggeringly brilliant. There is not a whisper of vibration from the engine, no matter where in the rev range you are. At an indicated 140 km/h, the engine is ticking over at a mere 3,500 rpm, with another 6,500 rpm in hand! It is not especially torquey so whipping the throttle open for an overtake doesn’t produce neck-snapping acceleration but it picks up its skirts pretty sharpish in a linear rush as if you are attached to a large rubber band.

However! We’re talking about a six-cylinder engine here and you should all know how wonderful they sound when they are revved. A couple of dabs on the bi-directional quick shifter, crack open the throttle and just listen to this thing howl! Intoxicating doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s all out of character to the rest of the experience, like finding out your local vicar likes death metal.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

The suspension which, around town, is too hard and gets very tiring over the bumps on what passes for urban roads in this country, is designed for smooth tarmac and, when it finds it, the big Beemer is majestic: it just floats along but never, ever feels anything but taut and perfectly controlled.

Moreover, the relatively hard springing and stiff shock absorbers come into their own when the open road starts to wind its way through the countryside: this is a large bike that can be hustled. I suspect that it would give many other bikes a fright on a mountain pass, when the chassis dynamics, firm suspension, low centre of gravity and an engine that could be left in third to sing its way up and down its rev range like Julie Andrews cavorting through the edelweiss would reveal another, unexpected side to the K 1600 B.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

Having it sitting in the garage was one of those ‘what-if’ moments: what if I just get up early one morning, say goodbye to the wife and call her later that same day when I’m in Cape Town? I was itching to do it because I knew it would be so easy. For the first time in years, I could actually look forward to that journey, the only drawback being that I would actually arrive and have to stop when the Atlantic hove into view.

Of course, I didn’t do it. But it’s a mark of the not-so-hidden talents of this machine that I seriously contemplated it.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

So, what’s wrong with it? Like so many of today’s bikes, not much. In fact, nothing would tip the scales in favour of another bike. Personally, I found the screen too low, even on its highest setting, but I would wager there is an option to cure that in the parts catalogue.

There is a lot of plastic, which I suppose is necessary to prevent it from weighing as much as the Titanic. Still, it is typically BMW plastic: high quality with excellent paint, in this case, a rather fetching shade of dark olive/khaki green.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

But for faults or criticisms, that’s it, really. Yes, it’s not great around town but then it’s a touring bike so what do you expect? It’s like criticising a scooter for being rubbish on a 1000 km highway trip. Having said that, it is so docile at low speeds with absolutely no snatch from the gearbox and so well balanced overall that, if you could have only one motorcycle in your garage, it wouldn’t be a hardship to have this one.

The ‘B’ version of the K 1600 range might lack the ultimate luggage capacity and frontal wind protection of the GTL, not to mention a backrest for the pillion but, for me, that is to its benefit and definitely not a drawback. It’s stripped down to just the right level to make it lighter and leaner but without compromising the reason for its existence.

Image source: BMW Motorrad South Africa

BMW K 1600 B

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

2023

BMW K 1600 B

Pricing From R449,150 (RRP)


Brand: BMW Motorrad
Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
From an early age, Harry was obsessed with anything that moved under its own steam, particularly cars and motorcycles. For reasons of a financial nature, his stable of fine automobiles failed to materialise, at which point he realised that motorcycles were far more affordable and so he started his two wheel career, owning, riding, building and fixing many classic bikes. Then came the day when he converted his love of bikes into a living, writing, filming and talking about them endlessly. The passion for four wheels never left him, however, and he has now converted his writing skills into singing the praises of cars in all their infinite variety. Bikes are still his favourite means of getting around but the car in its modern form is reaching a level of perfection that is hard to resist. And they're warmer in winter....
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