BMW K 1600 B

Its con­cept was de­scribed by BMW as the “per­fect em­bod­i­ment of Amer­i­can tour­ing”, and by the firm’s de­sign chief Edgar Hein­rich as “the epit­ome of el­e­gance, power and lux­ury on two wheels”. We rode its pro­duc­tion avatar, the K 1600 B, in the English Midla

Bike India - - #BIKERS - STORY: ROLAND BROWN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: MARK MAN­NING

BMW’s “per­fect Amer­i­can tourer” rid­den in the English Mid­lands

THERE’S SUN­SHINE ON my back, wa­ter to my left, and a twisty road stretching out ahead as the big BMW cranks through a curve be­fore ac­cel­er­at­ing with another breath­tak­ing burst of six­cylin­der power. For a mo­ment I could al­most be in Cal­i­for­nia, aim­ing the Con­cept 101 bag­ger up the Pa­cific coast along the High­way 101 af­ter which it was named.

The re­al­ity is more down to earth. This is not High­way 101 but a nar­row mi­nor road run­ning along­side a lake in the English Mid­lands. And in­stead of the stun­ning con­cept ma­chine that BMW un­veiled two years ago at the Con­corso d’Ele­ganza Villa d’Este in Italy, I’m rid­ing the K 1600 B — es­sen­tially the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of that hand-built, Roland Sands-as­sisted cre­ation.

The K 1600 B is far from the first re­cent BMW to fol­low a con­cept model un­veiled at the fancy show near Como. You might re­call the stun­ning orange Con­cept 90 that led to the R nineT in 2014, and the racy Con­cept Road­ster that pre­ceded the R 1200 R. BMW’s strat­egy seems to be to in­tro­duce a strik­ing pro­to­type to gauge re­ac­tion and gen­er­ate in­ter­est, then fol­low with a show­room ma­chine a cou­ple of years later.

In this case, Con­cept 101 was de­vel­oped at BMW’s De­sign­works stu­dio in Cal­i­for­nia, close to High­way 101 (the name also sig­ni­fies the roughly 101 cu­bic-inch ca­pac­ity). It was de­scribed by BMW as the “per­fect em­bod­i­ment of Amer­i­can tour­ing”, and by the firm’s de­sign chief Edgar Hein­rich as “the epit­ome of el­e­gance, power and lux­ury on two wheels”. That gen­er­ated plenty of ex­pec­ta­tion for the pro­duc­tion-ready fol­low-up, which comes only in black paint­work, and with­out the pro­to­type’s brushed

The K 1600 B makes for a stylish and slightly more rider-friendly al­ter­na­tive to a full-blown tourer, es­pe­cially for rid­ers who don’t need to carry a pil­lion

alu­minium and pol­ished wal­nut.

The K 1600 B also has a taller screen and more con­ven­tional ex­haust sys­tem than Con­cept 101, but it looks sim­i­lar in most re­spects and has some of the Cal­i­for­nia-cool vibe that some­how only a low-slung rear end can gen­er­ate. Es­sen­tially, this lat­est in the K-se­ries line is the re­cently re­vamped K 1600 GT tourer, mod­i­fied with a shorter screen, low­ered rear end and one-piece drag han­dle­bar in­stead of the GT’s sim­i­larly positioned clip-ons.

Its front end is very sim­i­lar to the GT’s apart from the shorter screen, which is elec­tron­i­cally ad­justable and can be re­placed by the taller ver­sion as an op­tion. The fair­ing in­cor­po­rates the hand-ad­justable, ear-like wind de­flec­tors that were in­tro­duced with the GT. The lower sec­tion is cut away, al­low­ing fit­ment of for­ward-set foot­boards, though the GT fair­ing’s stor­age com­part­ments can be added in­stead, as another of nu­mer­ous fac­tory op­tions.

There’s more change at the rear end, where a lower sub-frame al­lows a seat height of 780 mm against the GT’s ad­justable 810-830 mm. There’s a com­pa­ra­ble re­duc­tion for the pil­lion who, like the rider, gets a gen­er­ous amount of real es­tate on the stepped, one-piece seat. The pan­niers are sim­i­lar in size, and big enough to al­low most full-face hel­mets, but are non-re­mov­able be­cause in bag­ger fashion they in­cor­po­rate the rear light sys­tems for a cleaner look. The rear mud­guard hinges to al­low rear-wheel re­moval.

The mighty 1,649-cc, 24-valve en­gine ap­pears in un­changed form, its new twin-si­lencer ex­haust sys­tem not chang­ing the max­i­mum out­put of 160 PS at 7,750 rpm. As with the GT, it comes with three rid­ing modes (la­belled Rain, Road and Dy­namic), ad­justable via a but­ton on the right bar, each with ded­i­cated set­ting for the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem. It also shares the fac­tory-fit op­tions of re­verse gear and two-way quick-shifter for the shaft-drive trans­mis­sion’s six-speed ’box.

So far, so much like the GT, then. But shorter rid­ers, in par­tic­u­lar, are likely to find the bag­ger notably more man­age­able than the sports-tourer, due to its 300 kg-plus weight be­ing lower to the ground. For such a big bike it was cer­tainly very easy to bal­ance and steer at low speed, aided also by its lengthy wheel­base. And the test bike’s re­verse gear, ac­ti­vated by press­ing the starter but­ton, soon came in handy for ma­noeu­vring out of a park­ing space.

Once un­der way the sen­sa­tions were al­most iden­ti­cal to those I re­call from rid­ing the GT. That stomp-pulling

six-cylin­der en­gine takes cen­tre-stage in ev­ery way. It’s not just the sheer force of the ac­cel­er­a­tion, which seemed to keep on com­ing in a creamy-smooth surge whether I short-shifted through the box or held the revs to­wards the 8,500-rpm red-line. The distinc­tive straight-six char­ac­ter added to the en­ter­tain­ment, as did the ad­dic­tive purr and oc­ca­sional crackle from the chrome-fin­ished, slash­cut si­lencers.

On a dry day the Dy­namic rid­ing mode was smooth enough that I rarely both­ered with Road (let alone Rain), but for town use the softer op­tion would be worth­while, if only for its au­to­mat­i­cally re­cal­i­brated trac­tion con­trol sys­tem. Given that the mighty mo­tor grunts out 70 per cent of its vast 175 Nm torque max from as low as 1,500 rpm, use of the gear­box is al­most op­tional but not to be missed. The two-way shifter was gen­er­ally a joy to use, though a cou­ple of times it re­quired a sec­ond press of the lever to en­gage on down­shifts, as I re­call the GT’s also do­ing.

Also help­ing make the per­for­mance very us­able was the sub­stan­tial wind pro­tec­tion, which doesn’t quite match the GT’s but still gave a very re­lax­ing ride. De­spite be­ing tall, I found the shorter screen use­fully pro­tec­tive and fairly tur­bu­lence-free on its high­est set­ting, al­though I couldn’t hear the sound sys­tem clearly at cruis­ing speeds. For long dis­tances, es­pe­cially on a mo­tor­way, I’d pre­fer the taller GT screen but rid­ers of nor­mal height might dis­agree.

Whether to opt for the test bike’s foot­boards or stick to the GT’s fair­ing low­ers would be another tricky de­ci­sion. The ex­tra stor­age space, which in­cludes an elec­tri­cal socket (re­lo­cated to a pouch in a pan­nier on this bike), would some­times be use­ful, but on a long mo­tor­way trip I’d also ap­pre­ci­ate the chance to rest my feet fur­ther for­ward. On nor­mal roads I rarely both­ered with the foot-boards, be­cause you can’t use the gear-lever or rear brake. The stop­per is, how­ever, also op­er­ated by the han­dle­bar lever, via a linked sys­tem.

De­ci­sions, de­ci­sions. Choos­ing

which of the two modes to se­lect for the Dy­namic ESA sus­pen­sion sys­tem, on the other hand, was easy. The stan­dard Road set­ting gave a good blend of re­spectably sup­ple ride qual­ity and taut damp­ing. I kept the BMW on that set­ting for most of the day be­cause the softer Cruise set­ting, easily ac­ti­vated on the move via the click-wheel on the left bar, gave a much more vague feel. It would be all right on a long mo­tor­way trip, at least with a light load, but was un­der-damped for even mod­er­ately hard rid­ing.

The K 1600 B’s sus­pen­sion, like that of the GT, also al­lows elec­tronic shock preload ad­just­ment, but doesn’t ad­just au­to­mat­i­cally to suit load in the way that the lat­est R 1200 GS’s Dy­namic ESA sys­tem does. It’s still a pretty so­phis­ti­cated setup, con­tin­u­ally vary­ing the front Duolever and rear Par­alever units’ damp­ing de­pend­ing on whether the bike is ac­cel­er­at­ing, slow­ing or main­tain­ing a steady pace.

The sus­pen­sion’s con­trol helped make the K 1600 B im­pres­sively ag­ile for a long bike that weighs over 330 kg with fuel. The BMW de­mol­ished smooth main-road curves ef­fort­lessly and was fine on bumpier back-roads, de­spite hav­ing only 125 mm of rear shock travel against the GT’s 135 mm. It even showed re­spectably gen­er­ous ground clear­ance when the Bridge­stone BT22s were work­ing hard in turns, where the for­ward-set foot­boards’ de­lib­er­ately stick­ing-out scraper pegs were first to touch down.

That helped make the B-bike fun to ride hard on a twisty road, de­spite its size and weight. As with the K 1600 GT, its front brake blend of fourpis­ton calipers and 320-mm discs gave pow­er­ful stop­ping, backed up by the linked, same-sized rear disc plus an ef­fi­cient ABS set-up. Be­ing so low-slung does the BMW no harm, ei­ther. Given that the bike slows as ef­fi­ciently as it ac­cel­er­ates, it’s just as well that the pil­lion gets sub­stan­tial grab­han­dles on each side.

Like other bag­gers, in­clud­ing In­dian’s Chief­tain, Honda’s CTX1300, and the Har­ley Street Glide that be­gan the trend, the K 1600 B makes for a stylish and slightly more rider-friendly al­ter­na­tive to a full-blown tourer, es­pe­cially for rid­ers who don’t need to carry a pil­lion. For those who do, the ex­tra wind pro­tec­tion and lug­gage-car­ry­ing po­ten­tial of the

GT, or even the fully-equipped

GTL, would prob­a­bly make more sense.

Good mix of ana­logue and proper dig­i­tal

Shorter screen than the GT; taller op­tion avail­able

Master­ful in-line six cylin­der en­gine in­cred­i­bly re­fined and pow­er­ful

One-piece drag han­dle­bar in­stead of GT’s clip-ons Yes, it’s made pro­duc­tion. And, yes, it’s only in black

Two-way quick-shifter and re­verse are on the op­tion’s list

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