Entering the American V-twin dominated space that makes up the Bagger category, the 2018 BMW K 1600 B is based upon the highly regarded touring platform that is the K 1600 GT and GTL. Using that unshakeable foundation as a starting point, the K 1600 B brings a unique level of sophistication to the Bagger segment.Ultimate Motorcycling Senior Editor Nic de Sena headed to Asheville, N.C., to check out the Bavarian Bagger, spending two days on some of the finest roads the United States has to offer.
1. The 1649cc inline-6 doesn’t disappoint. The heart of the K 1600 B is remarkably smooth and features a claimed 160 horsepower at 7750 rpm; 129 ft/lbs of torque arrive 2500 rpm earlier. The engine delivers a linear power delivery, with torque as a nearly ever-present characteristic, in spite of its inline-6 configuration. Rolling on the throttle from the depths of the rev range will gladly pull you through any corner without rushing through the gearbox, even if you’re clearly in the wrong gear. There are no discernible hiccups in fueling throughout the entire rev range.2. The 2018 BMW K 1600 B’s powerplant has many personalities. The big six allows the rider to cruise about and take in the bagger experience, or hammer the throttle on and make use of its vast power. Grab a fist full of throttle and you’ll be on your way to driving out of any corner with a noticeable grin.3. Throttle response is a bit vague. When first rolling on the throttle of the K 1600 B, I experienced a noticeable amount of throttle lag. Though this does offer a slightly more relaxed ride and eliminates the problem of throttle snatch, it can become a bit unnerving when first setting out since you’ll often over-rev the engine. Other times, it entices riders to grasp for more throttle than needed when exiting corners. Once used to that aspect of the bike, it can be overcome, but there is a bit of a learning curve.4. Three riding modes dictate ABS, throttle response, and traction control settings. Dynamic, Road, and Rain control the levels of intervention regarding all electronic aides. Dynamic offers the most aggressive throttle response and least intervention, while Rain predictably provides the most relaxed throttle response, combined with the most intrusive ABS and TC. Road is a happy medium.5. ABS and TC levels are non-adjustable and cannot be disabled. Actually, that’s not completely true, as it is possible with a wild adventure into the user interface, which BMW does not recommend and we won’t reveal. That said, the electronic features didn’t negatively interfere with the ride one bit.6. Gear Shift Assist Pro will set you back $475, but is a worthwhile expenditure. When equipped with BMW’s propriety quickshift system, you will be able to focus on the ride, whether you’re commuting to the office or hitting some canyons on the weekend. Kill times have improved over the earlier iterations of GSA Pro, allowing for uninterrupted up- and down-shifting.7. The GSA Pro system requires you to close the throttle to downshift and get on the gas to upshift. I tend to use just a tiny bit of maintenance throttle, depending on the corner, and if the throttle is cracked, the K 1600 B’s transmission won’t downshift. That won’t affect most riders, though some familiar with other quickshift systems will have to adapt. Do it BMW’s way and it is flawless.8. The 2018 BMW K 1600 B might be labeled as a Bagger but that doesn’t mean it can’t be ridden with zest. With a substantial 63.7-inch wheelbase and cast aluminum 17-inch wheels, the Bavarian Bagger is an extremely intuitive machine. In fact, that is easily one of its greatest strengths against its competitors. The subtlest suggestion will allow the rider to tip in and maintain a line with the utmost confidence, making its claimed 741-pound curb weight seem like an error on the specification sheet.9. BMW has not officially reported lean angle capabilities, but riders need not fret. You can expect plenty of ground clearance that will allow for more than what most would consider spirited riding before hard parts touch down. It is inspiring, without a doubt.10. The 2018 BMW K 1600 B gets BMW’s proprietary Duolever and Paralever suspension. Up front, BMW uses the unorthodox single shock suspension with no fork tubes and a natural anti-dive function. In the rear, a second arm to reduce the effect of the shaft drive on handling supplements the swingarm. It works.11. Dynamic electronic suspension is standard aboard the K 1600 B. Complete with two modes—Road and Cruise—the electronic suspension alters damping characteristics based on the road conditions, passenger status, and luggage settings. I spent the clear majority of my time in Road, which offers a firm, yet comfortable, riding experience that is still decidedly sporty. However, cruise is much more in line with what you might expect a Bagger to be– built for comfort with softened damping; great for long hauls.12. The 2018 BMW K 1600 B remains stable on the edge of the tire. The big bagger doesn’t become unsettled, even when at speed on thoroughly abused asphalt thanks to the outstanding active suspension. Those same commendable suspension characteristics allow a good amount of information to be transferred to the rider, even under hard braking, making it a relatively connected ride.13. Plenty of braking power is available on the K 1600 B. Equipped with dual floating 320mm discs in conjunction with four-piston calipers in the front, and a single 320mm rotor in the rear, braking power is not a concern. Lacking any cruel initial bite, the brakes are progressive, and have an exceptional amount of feel, especially when trail braking. While my own tastes would prefer a bit more attack during the initial application, the K 1600 B can shed speed easily, and the ABS is always there if you are overly aggressive.14. There is enough storage for a trip to the store, a ride down the coast, or trip across America. It wouldn’t be a Bagger without bags and I found the 37-liter storage capacity to be more than adequate; although my Shoei RF1200 wouldn’t seem to fit, other full-sized helmets might. The left bag is designed for easier removal, to facilitate tire changes. Also, the right bag has a USB and an audio input, allowing you to keep your electronics going while out on the road or to listen to your favorite tunes.15. Low seats and a narrow chassis make the K 1600 B accessible to a variety of riders. With two seat-height options—29.5 and 30.7 inches—the K 1600 B will accommodate riders with shorter leg-length, and didn’t create any excessive knee bend for my 32-inch inseam. With a spacious cockpit and roomy tubular handlebars, the K 1600 B is quite comfortable, allowing the rider to distribute weight through the footpegs when needed, or just sit back and relax.16. The seat is firm, and does take its toll after some time. If this were to be added into my stable, I’d opt for a softer compound saddle before embarking on longer trips.17. Don’t worry about wind protection, the K 1600 B has you covered. Featuring an adjustable windscreen, the K 1600 B has a high level of shelter from the wind, whether the windscreen is in the up or down position. When traveling down the highway with the windscreen up, there is little wind buffeting, helping you keep focus on longer trips. Additionally, winglets on the upper portion of the fairing can be adjusted to direct air towards the rider, which does help a bit in hot weather—I certainly experienced that in the summer Carolinian heat.18. Infotainment is available, at a price. Luxuries such as navigation, radio, satellite radio and Bluetooth capability will set you back when singing on the dotted line. My test bike was equipped with radio and satellite radio, allowing me to cruise about the Carolinas while listening to some sweet tunes. They can be heard with a fair amount of clarity, even when traveling at highway speeds. Readers will be happy to know that the 5.7-inch full-color TFT LCD display is standard aboard all K 1600 B, and visible in direct sunlight.19. This one goes in reverse. Reverse is an extra option and one that might not stand out as something that is a dire necessity. However, as someone who has pushed his fair share of baggers around, it’s more than appreciated when I have it. The reverse gear runs off of the electric starter motor, as you would expect, and will allow you to back up at a maximum speed of one mph on inclines as steep as seven percent.20. Baggers are about individualization, and BMW is taking steps to satisfy those needs. With a burgeoning list of accessories that cater to just about every personality out there, BMW will be expanding options in the future. If you don’t see the backrest or audio option now, there is a chance it will make its way into the catalog soon enough.21. The boundaries of the Bagger category have been expanded by the 2018 BMW K 1600 B. In a segment largely occupied by American V-twins, the futuristic K 1600 B offers a riding experience that is far more refined and performance minded. That can easily be seen when first tipping into a tight set of canyon corners, where the K bike feels perfectly at home. The K 1600 B’s nimble nature, electronic aids, and powerful engine give it a decidedly different take on the bagger experience. Still low slung and blacked out, the 2018 BMW K 1600 B is a motorcycle well suited to just about any environment.Photography by Kevin WingRIDING STYLE
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!