Large capacity motorcycle tourers are big business. They’re also big on sheer size, big on specification, big on technology and big on price.
Wafting onto our streets in 2011, BMW’s K1600GT caused quite a kafuffle, replacing the aged K1200GT and didn’t so much throw the gauntlet down amid the existing Big Boys, as scatter armour to the four corners.
If you ride an FJR, a Pan European, a K1300GT or a Kawasaki GTR, and fancy going full tourer without dulling your sporting desires, then the K1600GT will provide you with a comprehensive pass to NASA territory – this is two-wheel Pan-European level.
Some other Six’s
Those of us of a certain age will remember the Benelli Six, an Italian child of the 70’s, which came with less than 80bhp, a smoothie that came with six pipes and an aversion to our liquid sunshine that rendered every journey one of mystery.
Honda’s CBX hung its in-line six from its frame and was truly, is truly, a delicious motorcycle, delivering its 105bhp as only a six cylinder can. Sitting on its wide saddle, as your knees grip the equally wide tank, your eyes look onto a beautiful red-lit console, with the 24 valves logo reminding you what lay beneath.
K1300/6 produced some 120bhp and was a big, physical motorcycle that would intimidate you from the far side of the street. Once on board, I found it a comfortable, creamy smooth projectile, with a very healthy disrespect for numbers and places, demanding continuous restraint with one eye trained on the square instrumentation, as the speedo needle’s intent to go lunar was a constant.
Anyone who has ridden Honda’s 1,800cc flat-six GoldWing can only come away impressed. A full-blown tourer with enough in-built luggage capacity for a world tour. Coming with a barrage of switches that require you to have fingers like knitting needles, the Wing has been with us virtually unchanged since 2000 and can still allow you and your pillion chase the horizon for days on end in ridiculous comfort, all the while camouflaging its size with Fireblade intent.
Tour de Force Tech
Such is the level of tech on the KGT that there is a definite chance that owners will automatically qualify for a Master’s Degree after three months of use. Not that it is mind-boggling, but it is comprehensively up to date, demanding owners familiarise themselves with the myriad of menus and technical voodoo before they move off. Once you have everything of relevance consigned to muscle memory, you will get the best of it without on the road distraction.
The K- BMW GT is propelled by a 1,649cc, straight six, twenty-four valve, across the frame engine, tilted forwards at 55°, placing the rider in an upright, but supportive riding position, the adjustable saddle height on my test bike ranged from 31.9” to 32.7,” suiting my 34” legs mighty fine – a lower saddle is optional for those less elevated.
The Sound of Music
Rarely has a motorcycle, straight out of the crate, delivered its power, (160bhp in this instance), in such a melodic manner. Only those without a pulse will fail to be moved by the engine’s melodic warble, the exceptions being wigged personnel in our justice system, who might not see the relationship between Wagner and your Bavarian baritone.
On the Road
Large touring motorcycles can intimidate simply on reading the spec sheet. Weighing in at some 320kgs, with a full, wide fairing and panniers, the K16 can easily cause doubts to manifest. The KGT’s seating effectively places you in the bike, where you feel part of all of its substantial physicality. While it has the look of large about it, it is worth noting that it is some 60lbs heavier than the FJR1300 Yamaha, a figure it carries easily and will only phase the few.
Personally, I liked it and once the light clutch was engaged, followed by a press down on the gear lever, it will move off on the flat without any throttle input – smooth, with the Telelever front end providing a smooth, even feel to the steering. Moving it up through the gearbox my test bike was a bit notchy, but not enough to intrude and cancelled out by the talented tones emanating from the twin exhausts – honey for the ears.
Coming with Electronic Suspension Adjustment, you get the choice of Normal, Comfort or Sport mode selection via the ‘Mouse’ wheel on the left handlebar. This Mouse also provides access to all manner of comfort and entertainment features on the GT – easy to get used to, but again, riders should pre-select before self-tutoring on the road.
After sampling the other two, I left the bike on Normal setting, which satisfied my needs and desires across a wide variance of roads. Out on the old national routes, the K16 can consume all you can feed it, and then some. Turn left or right onto our R-roads and it can be placed into bends with more enthusiasm than what previously assumed – the continuous issue one of checking the speedo as it can bring you into the bad lands in a blink.
Leaving the K1600GT back with Paul at Joe Duffy Motorrad, I was sad to say goodbye. Having used it previously on a 2,500-kilometre tour some four years ago, my reunion with it reaffirmed my opinion then that this is one brilliant motorcycle. I would not compare it to a GoldWing, or a Harley Ultra Classic Electra Glide, or an Indian Chieftain, which is soon to be launched here in Southern Ireland by AKB Distribution. All are individually great motorcycles, all offering entirely different lifestyle and motorcycle experiences. This is a motorcycle that combines agility, poise, and power, all with that wonderful six-cylinder noise – addiction is guaranteed.