Return of the Intergalactic Mothership – 2014 BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive – Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol
Following up on my review of the 2014 BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive and the Starfighter outing to Lake Isabella earlier this year, I decided to give BMW’s über touring machine another go – only this time in its element, the grand tour.
At the core, the 2014 BMW K 1600 GTL E serves as a platform on which any road trip can be launched. I’m a sportbike guy at heart and, as such, appreciate comfort but will never trade that for diminished performance and ability.
In a class of its own, the K 1600 GTL Exclusive allows its rider to stash any reasonable quantity of equipment, yet still offer speed and handling unlike any other heavy touring rig, and some much lighter. Over-the-road rideability is superb whether on an Interstate highway or careening through fast and tight terrain on roads some riders only dream about.
With its 1649cc, 24-valve DOHC inline 6-cylinder, 160 horsepower, 129 ft/lbs-producing powerplant there is never, I mean never, a lack of immense thrust available on demand. Even though it weighs 850 pounds (wet) and, when fully loaded, probably more like over 900, plus the rider, I never experienced a scenario in which the bike felt like it needed more grunt.
When asked, the BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive smoothly powers through any situation faithfully following the pilot’s instructions and can do so in the gear selection of your choice. So, whether you want to putt along at 50 in 5th or kick it down a couple of notches and give it a firm twist, the choice is always available. Remarkably, even at 50 in 5th, a twist without a downshift will still stretch your arms.
The K bike rolls on Metzler Roadtec Z8 rubber size 190/55-17 in the rear with a typical 120/70-17 in the front, and I had no complaints with that fitment. The tires handled the weight well, rolled smoothly and effortlessly over freeways and allowed aggressive cornering to the limits of clearance while retaining impeccable manners at all times.
Riding in the Dynamic mode automatically sets suspension values and loosens the traction control settings to allow for some drift of the rear tire; the Metzelers never complained and the ride inspired confidence.
My partners for this trip, Alex and Zaid, were both riding BMW K 1200 R naked bikes and were excellent wingmen for the GTL. I give them both credit for their stamina since, compared to the wind protection offered by the GTL, they had little to none.
On the other hand, I often needed to use the fold-out wings at the top of the lower fairing to allow some airflow in a cabin that can be quite isolated from the blast. Such is the level of protection. During this trip we experienced temperatures ranging from 108F down to 50F and, when traveling one leg, from inland to the coast, we witnessed a drop in temperature of 48 degrees within a 25-mile span, with the GTL Exclusive keeping close tabs on the temps.
The GTL E’s entertainment system consists of a radio, Sirius satellite radio, music from a smartphone and memory stick plugged into the lower right compartment USB port. If you have a BMW Bluetooth communicator in your helmet then, reportedly, all this will work for you. BMW recommends the C3 as helmet of choice for their unit but, unfortunately, I only have the Schuberth SRC-S. With that I can pair with the sound system, but not the GPS. On the bright side, I was able to charge phones in that compartment and all three of us took advantage of that capability.
Back on the GTL E, all systems serve to make grinding out the miles easier and more enjoyable. Besides the obvious performance abilities, the GTL E has Hill Start Assist. It’s designed to make starts from a stop easier when heading uphill and is enabled by a firm squeeze of the front brake lever when stopped. It works effectively but for every time I’ve used it on a hill, I’ve used it 10 times when stopped just to keep from rolling. Why keep your hand or foot on the brakes at a long light?
Another treat is the great cruise control, which is easy to set and easy to resume. Double-tap up and down to lose or gain 1-2 mph. It is so easy to get just the right speed and it cancels, like many systems, by closing the throttle. In the case of the GTL, rolling off cruise control at a fast pace will gently back down the speed and not produce an abrupt deceleration as in some others.
On the prolonged ride having the cruise control was essential and, while my partners had no such luxury, they benefited by following my steady pace without the need to keep an eye on their speedometers.
The Garmin-sourced GPS navigated well most of the time, but under pressure, such as when you key in a route without taking time to review that route or choose one on the fly, there can be problems. In one case, the GPS had us leave the freeway two exits early and ride along a frontage road for 15 miles even though there was an exit near the hotel.
Another time it wanted us to take the wrong freeway and the capper was when we were trying to get to BMW of San Francisco in rush hour traffic before they closed. Even though the unit had the correct address in the database it chose to route us to an abandoned warehouse over a mile from where we wanted to go. My advice is to always check the route before actually embarking upon it.
There is nothing better than a long ride on a great bike with all the right equipment. The 2014 BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive is a fabulous vehicle for the long haul and just about perfect for making me comfortable, happy, and safe in many circumstances.
Action photography by Don Williams
Hearing protection: NoNoise Motorsport
Jacket: Vanson Leathers Cobra Mark 2
Vest: Macna Dry Cooling
Gloves: Dainese Mig
Pants: BMW City 2
Boots: Dainese TR-Course Out Air
2014 BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive Specifications
Type: Oil/water-cooled 4-stroke in-line 6-cylinder engine, two overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 72 mm x 67.5 mm
Capacity: 1649ccRated output: 160 hp (118 kW) at 7,750 rpm
Max. torque: 129 lb-ft (175 Nm) at 5,250 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.2: 1
Mixture control / engine management: Electronic intake pipe injection
Emission control: Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3
Maximum speed: 125 mph
Fuel type: Unleaded super
Alternator: three-phase alternator 580 W
Battery: 12 V / 19 Ah, maintenance-free
Clutch: Multiple-disc clutch in oil bath
Gearbox: 6-speed, helical, gearbox
Drive: Shaft drive
Chassis / brakes:
Frame: Bridge-type frame, cast aluminum, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspension: BMW Motorrad Duolever; central spring strut
Rear wheel location / suspension: BMW Motorrad Paralever
Suspension travel front / rear: 4.9 inches / 5.3 inches
Wheelbase: 63.7 inches
Castor: 4.3 inches
Rake: 27.8 degrees
Wheels: Cast aluminum wheels
Rim, front: 3.50 x 17″
Rim, rear: 6.00 x 17″
Tires, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tires, rear: 190/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Dual disc brake, diameter 320 mm, 4-piston fixed calipers
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 320 mm, 2-piston caliper
ABS: STANDARD (part-integral)
Dimensions / weights:
Length: 98.0 inches
Width (incl. mirrors): 39.4 inches
Height (excl. mirrors): 57.7 inches
Seat height, unladen weight: Standard: 29.5 inches; High: 30.7 inches; Extra high: 31.9 inches
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled: 794 pounds
Permitted total weight: 1,235 pounds
Payload (with standard equipment): 441 pounds
Usable tank volume: 7.0 gallons
Reserve: Approx. 1 gallon
2014 BMW K 1600 GT Exclusive MSRP: $29,950