Common Tread

You needed to know: BMW K1600B edition

Nov 15, 2017

The third edition of our series You Needed to Know, answering your questions about bikes we have in the ZLA garage, examines the BMW K 1600 B. As a man of the people, I have cherry-picked questions that either A) I didn’t cover, B) that I saw pop up over and over or C) made me laugh. In effort to drive Lance dotty, I have not edited the questions, so formatting, spelling and basic common rules of decency may have been omitted throughout the article. Here goes!


Shaneyb: How does it compare bang for buck to the current (Milwaukee 8) Street Glide? Is this going after potential Harley buyers, or possibly looking for a niche of its own?

How it stacks up really depends what you’re measuring. For instance, a B will smoke a Street Glide both off the line and at high speed. But the B’s saddlebags are a puny 37 liters apiece, whereas the Street Glide almost doubles that up at 128 combined liters. The B has a power windshield from the factory, but a Street Glide has floorboards standard. I think the B may attract some Harley customers who probably weren’t very happy with their Harley, but for the most part, I see this as being a bit of a specialist bike for a very specific set of riders.

It's a touring bike. Why am I fighting for space? RevZilla photo.

Dusan.licina: Does it provide both the sport touring bike feeling and the comfiness of the baggers?

Yet again, it depends. It acts like a sport-tourer in many ways, but instead of hitting the Harley feet-slightly-forward upright position, it felt like it was trying to force me into an “extreme forwards” position up on the footboards, and my hands were a bit higher than I expected or liked. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t feel like either type of bike to me.

Tuchscherer: Sure, it's comfy, and fun, and fast. And it has bags. So is an fjr1300. Why is it 12k more expensive?

I don’t know. I don’t build or price these bikes. It has two more cylinders, satellite radio, dual-zone, dual-temp heated seat, and a quickshifter, among other things. A 2001 Yamaha FZ6 with Cortech throwovers is comfy, fun, and fast. And it has bags. Why is an FJR $11,000 more expensive?


Rob Alexander: Besides the usual, the two "big deal" things that get overlooked often in reviews: 1. How is the engine heat, especially in comparison to other bikes. 2. How does it do in high crosswinds? I've owned bikes that DGAF about high winds, and bikes that are terrifying in them... and also: 3. It's supposed to be a bagger, so can you get all the bagger amenities (backrest, etc) that are givens with companies like Harley and Indian that really know this market? I'd ask this about any cruiser-style bike that wasn't a Harley or Polaris.

First, Rob, back off on the questions. One is expected. Two? Two is doable. But three? Come on, pal. You're just making work for me. Now, let's get to the meat and potatoes, Rob. I refuse to penalize bikes for engine heat. It’s a motorcycle. They get hot. I know your mileage may vary, but I don’t expect to be pleased in a thermal sense when I am aboard a bike. You’re putting your two cheeks on top of a metal box of explosions. It’s gonna feel hot. The K really likes to throw heat. If it bothered me, my six-cylinder BMW test vehicle would likely have been a 3 series.

To your second query: in crosswinds, this bike is A-OK. 740 pounds does not get blown about easily.

And as far as your last question: The BMW has amenities galore if you pop for the options. Satellite radio, hill start assist, reverse gear, power locking saddlebags — there is no shortage of creature comforts. You mention a backrest, though, which leads me to wonder if you’re talking about accessories, which is a different kettle of fish entirely.

At the time I first wrote this piece, accessories were damn near nonexistent for this bike. You could get a few items from BMW, and a sparse offering of aftermarket pieces will likely show up, but tailoring this bike with aftermarket bits looked to be difficult at best. Since then, however, BMW announced a Grand America version, which adds a top box and a taller windscreen, That's great and all, but why not just include the top box with the B, or remove the B as a model? I have no info on the G/A yet, but I'd be keen to find out how quickly that box can be popped off. It's like BMW had one piece to add to the accessories catalog, and then pulled a Harley-Davidson and added it to a bike and pronounced it a separate model. (And I have a feeling the Grand America will probably cost more than simply buying the box and 'shield for a B, though in fairness to BMW, that is simply a sour supposition on my part.)

Joel Combs: Can the experience beat the feeling of feeling like a bad ass on a street glide? I can guarantee you that the BMW is better in every way performance and comfort wise but is it enough to trump the feeling of riding a loud hog and being a part of that community. That is my struggle. At this moment I'm leaning HD.

I don’t know, Joel. I don’t feel like a badass or part of a community when I’m on my bikes, Harley or not. I’m just a guy out for a ride, hunting down wild ice creams in their native habitats. I suppose my point is that I’m not looking for a motorcycle to make me feel “badass,” so I am probably a bad judge of that quality. I want a motorcycle to make me feel happy. I am a badass, and I happen to have a motorcycle. The two are unrelated.

I suspect most people on a Street Glide ain’t gonna try and work a trade-in at the BMW dealer, nor do I think many non-native Harley intenders are going to ride both and choose a Harley based on empirical rationale. Ride ‘em both, then buy the one you like better. Simple advice, and maybe obvious, but that’s the best I got.

Next up, we have some comments, not questions.

Dan Harris: Lemmy is the kind of biker who would race Doug DeMuro with slow karts.

Yes, Dan. That is completely true. If you know Doug, tell him to return my emails. We’re local to each other, and I really want to meet him and play with motorized toys together. If anyone can arrange this, I will set aside time for the three of us to drink some beers and debate the merits of cars and motorcycles in my garage.

Mike DEredita: Lemmy - I would love to see you review the new Yamaha touring/bagger bikes.

Mike, I’d love to see one hit my doorstep. They look incredibly promising. The level of luxury the manufacturers are bringing to the game right now is unparalleled, and BMW certainly has a dog in the fight right now, right alongside Yamaha. The beneficiaries, of course, are all of us who ride and buy these things.

Exhaust volume is low, but exhaust volume is also quite high. (It's a joke! Get it?) RevZilla photo.

David Ingles: Why did they decide absurd-looking exhaust pipes were more important than saddlebag space?

Ice-cold, Dave. But true. The pipes are huge and the bags are tiny. I believe those pipes probably contain a huge catalyst substrate, and probably some valving in there, too. Remember, all bikes larger than 281 cc (in this country) have to meet the same emissions standard. For a 1600 cc inline six, I would imagine that takes some creative exhaust solutions. But I’m feeling your pain. They look like they came off a Peterbilt.

Eric Rosten: Will BMW make an engine that isn't goofy expensive and also not boring at the same time?”

Ever ride an Airhead, Eric? Jeez.


Brandon Clark: Please pay close attention to low-speed fueling.  Nothing bugs me more than a searching throttle at low speeds and my BMW has one. (S1000r). Thanks!

Well, Brandon, the low-speed fueling sucks. The throttle has an immense amount of lag. I’m amazed BMW let this bike out the door like this. Spurg thinks it's not so bad. I think Spurg is a monkey.

Litch Rider: Can it do a 3rd gear power wheelie?

Nope. But it will do one in first with the greatest of ease. Let’s just say putting the wheel in the sky on a bike that weighs nearly 800 pounds with 160 pounds of torque and low-speed throttle lag was a creative way for me to gauge how quickly I could end a bowel movement in an emergency situation.

Mr MegaTruong: How much shit can I put in the bags? Helmet? full leather jacket? Case of beer?

Not much shit at all, Mr MegaTruong. Not much at all. No helmet, a jacket maybe (if you squish it) and I'm not sure on the beer. A full case is a no go. If you were willing to unpack the beers... maybe. The bags are almost comically small. I couldn’t even get my little lunchbox into the right-side bag, but oddly, it would fit in the left bag. The bags are appropriate for solo work with camping gear, or (maybe) a few days on the road two-up if you’re hoteling it. Mrs. Lem and I used helmet bags in the saddlebags to save space… it was that bad.

Gordon Kratz: One thing I'm always interested in: How difficult is it to maintain this bike without a dealer's help, assuming a decent set of tools and the garage space to do it in.

Man put it together. Man can tear it apart and repair it. But this bike will either be painful in terms of time or money to keep running. But it’s a BMW. You knew it wouldn’t be cheap or easy.