Author Topic: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...  (Read 5442 times)

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Offline tjhess74

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Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« on: May 27, 2011, 12:02:42 am »
Our local BMW dealer just got in a K1600 GTL demo bike.  Apparently BMW is sending demo bikes before the ones that customers have ordered.  I was able to spend good time in the saddle and as a result I was able to form some immediate opinions and was able to sit and think about others.  This machine holds true to the German methodology of engineering...'If you don't need a gadget, we will design one for you anyway!'

Upon the initial viewing, it has a very 'K1200LT' look to it.  I like BMW styling, so I found it to my liking.  Color scheme and overall design is unmistakable in that aspect.  Upon sitting on the bike, some things struck me immediately; You sit IN this bike, not on it.  The seat height is very low (almost too low for my long legs). This bike feels like a K1200LT from the saddle.  The long pullback on the handlebars and overall cockpit design gave me that familiar feel.  Speaking of the cockpit, it is very forward from the riders position.  I have long arms and its a stretch to reach forward (not that you really need too).  The instrument panel is very well layed out and clear, even in bright sun.  Im 6' tall and the windshield in the lowest position is  just below eye level.  When setting up from the sidestand, this bike is top HEAVY!  Perhaps I should have expected it, but that 7 gallon tank up top really adds to the heft.  Initially, I was concerned how it would handle at low speeds and how difficult centerstand application would be.  Placing this bike on the centerstand was amazingly easy!  You could do it barefoot with one hand (if you dont have sensitive feet).

I played with some of the plastic panels and tried to get a sense of how they all come together.  I was a bit dismayed by the flimsiness of some of the trim pieces and i question how long they will last .  I think 'cheap feeling' is a good way to describe it, but there has been alot of that on expensive motorcycles recently.

There is plenty of storage.  There is a dry storage pocket by your left shin, and an iPod docking station by your right shin.  The three saddlebags were a little disappointing in there internal volume however.  The two side bags have many protrusions that limit the size, but my helmet did fit...barely. The top case is beautiful inside (really, beautiful?!).  It is very well lit and lined with a carpet mat and side liners.  It is wide, but not very deep.  A nice thing is that it is removable, unlike the Goldwing. All locks are both key usable and remotely controlled, as is the security system.

Upon turning the key, the bikes dashboard comes to life.  Like the Goldwing, the display greets you with some graphics...a '6' (BMW's symbol for this engine).  I played with the menu/toggle system and found it to be very user friendly and straightforward.  All other controls are standard (turn signals are the standard left/right button).  All suspension and performance settings are easily controlled using the Mode/Toggle controls and the settings are brightly displayed on the screen.

Here is where I really made an obvious cringe and was shocked by something I didnt expect...hitting the starter button resulted in a sound I can only describe as starting a 1981 Chevy Suburban...not just any Suburban, but the old 6.5 liter diesel one.  The starting of the engine is a huge turn off and is not in anyway a pleasant sound.  But, once the starter is laid to rest, the engine comes to life...and all is pleasant again.  If I had to use one word to describe this bike, it would be 'SMOOTH'.  No, seriously, it feels frictionless.  Ive never felt a bike so butter smooth when running.  It also has a great exhaust note...aggressive yet restrained.

It is now time to go for a ride.  The throttle is extremely sensitive...twitchy sensitive compared to what Im used to (and people say the Concours 14 throttle is sensitive!!!).  The clutch friction zone engages almost immediatly after letting it out, but I got used to the combination rather quickly.  Low speed handling was rather impressive (once you get used to the throttle and clutch).  The second it moves, the top heaviness disappears.  She also has a great turning radius! Low speed tight turns felt very comfortable.  Upon hitting the main roads, I felt the power was very adequate, especially for a bike this large.  Let me emphasize how SMOOTH this engine is all the way through the rev range...butter, I tell ya! Initial acceleration is slightly 'boggy', but after that brief second it starts to pull confidently. Something else hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as I started finding other gears...the gear box sucks.  There is more driveline 'slop' and clunking noise when accel/decelling than Ive ever heard on a bike before.  Combine that with the twitchiness of the throttle and it is a caucophony of clashing metal.  Also, shifting gears will draw attention from those around you, it is very loud.  I was extremely disappointed with the drivetrain.  The clutch has a 'pulse' in it that neither I nor the salesman could find a reason for.  It feels just like the pedal pulse from an activated ABS system, and is more pronounced on gentle downshifting.  I didnt think anything was wrong with it, Ive just never felt a clutch pulse repeatedly like this.

Handling was a bit disappointing too.  The heavy feel returns when you reach 45mph or so.  You really need to muscle the bike around, especially in emergency left/right maneuvers.  The best way I can describe the handling is 'soft and spongy' despite the suspension setting being on sport, its tightest setting.  At these speeds also, there is quite a bit of buffeting off of the windscreen.  Raise the screen and calmness returns (but its too damn high and so far forward you cant even reach it!).

On the interstate, the bike was expectedly smooth, but seemed to wander in the lane and was subject to being bounced around by the windblast of other vehicles.  For a bike of this size, it didn't feel planted in its track.  Low screen buffeting on the interstate was distracting.

Something else began to annoy me after about 20 minutes...the 'buzz' of the engine (not the exhaust).  It has a high pitched whine very similar to an electrical interference from a car stereo that goes along with the engines rpm's.   I was having trouble ignoring it.

As with any bike, it takes time to get used to a new one.  One thing that I was having trouble with was getting my thumb past the large scrolling dial on the left grip.  Being big makes it easy to use, but it also makes getting to the turn signal and horn switch awkward.  The horn switch is actually buried deep in the grip design.  Covering the horn button is not too easy on this machine...good luck if you have short fingers.

Today was in the mid 90's here in Charleston, but I stayed very cool on this bike.  Engine heat management was excellent and the fold out side air vents were equally as effective.  They delivered a great blast of air to the chest area.  This is some of the best air management Ive seen on a bike.

Overall, I did like the bike.  However I think there are some serious 'fit and finish/refinement' issues for being a BMW (especially a $27k one).  I would expect that transmission from a Hyosung, not a BMW.  If you are in the market for a large touring bike, then compared to the Goldwing (among others), this could be a very viable choice.  Despite the items I didn't like, I would consider it against a Goldwing.

Here is a compact list of likes and dislikes:

+ pros
-SMOOTH (did I mention how smooth this engine is??!!)
-Very comfortable
-Lots of gadgets to play with and make life easier
-Extremely effective side air vents.
-Good power
-All settings adjustable on the fly
-Removable tail trunk
-Easy to navigate electronics package

- cons
-TRANSMISSION. way too loose and loud
-Clutch pulse (what is that?)
-Electrical interference-like engine whine
-Small mirrors
-'Floating' sensation on the highway
-Very sensitive throttle/clutch
-Scroller interferes with other left hand controls
-Some bodywork/trim is 'chincy'

Check with your local BMW shop, if they have a demo bike they need to put miles on them before it can be sold (2500 to be exact), so test rides come easy. I encourage you to feel for yourself.
Tom Hess  North Charleston, South Carolina    COG #8406  IBA #30337  CDA #248 (C10)    97 c10 (former)  08 c14 (current), 2007 Honda VFR800 RWB

Offline John

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2011, 12:22:42 am »
Tom:

Thanks for the great writeup of your impressions.  When I started reading the 1st paragraph on gadgets, my initial thought, seems things don't change much.    :)    I have the older version, K1200LT, and again, seems not much has changed; clunky transmission, poor fit and finish.  The only surprise was on the handling.  The older model handles quite well, it is also heavier, and does not ramble back and forth on the road.  Oh throttle response, I'd take the C14 over any beemer.

tcars
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Offline COGnosticator

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2011, 07:32:24 am »
I am headed to Yemassee for lunch tomorrow, looks like I may have to make a ride to Charleston and see if I can get a test ride.   ;D

Thanks for the write up
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Offline Cap'n Bob

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2011, 07:35:04 am »
Nice write up Tom. I really want to try out one of these! I can see more manufacturers employing the cooling vents. They are a great design that all tour bikes should use!





Offline Big Poppa

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 01:49:34 pm »
I am headed to Yemassee for lunch tomorrow, looks like I may have to make a ride to Charleston and see if I can get a test ride.   ;D

Thanks for the write up

Wow COGnosticator...reading your post brought back memories. I grew up in South Carolina but left after joining the Marines. I haven't seen "Yemassee" in over 25 years! LOL

Even though I recently rode my C14 back east for my Dad's funeral, I didn't make it out towards Charleston. Other than the trip to Hilton Head to lay my father to rest, I spent most of my time in Fairfax (Allendale County).

Next time I get back to SC, I'll make sure to look you up for some pleasure rides.  ;D
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Offline Wes

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2011, 12:29:36 am »
On Saturday my wife and I spent an hour on the K1600, and then we spent an hour on a Goldwing, and then we rode an UltraClassic. Although my impressions are not as technical as others, here they are;

First off, all I'll say about my brother's Ultra is that it will accelerate almost as hard as the Goldwing, other than that it is not in the same league as the Honda or the BMW.

The seating position on the BMW is completely different than that of the Goldwing. The BMW position is kind of sporty and the Goldwing is more like full out touring. I prefer the riding position of the BMW, but I could have used about another two inches of seat height (I'm 6' tall). My wife and I are both either over weight or under tall whichever you prefer, and the Goldwing allowed a little bit more room for the two of us. The suspension on both bikes worked well, but I preferred the feel of the BMW better, we had it set for two up dynamic. The protection on the Goldwing is better hence it was much warmer on the Wing. I liked the electrically adjustable windshield on the BMW. The Goldwing had an after market windshield on it (which was two tall to suit me) and at highway speed it felt like someone was pushing down on the top of my helmet. With the windshield on the BMW down most of the way I could look over it without too much buffeting. The transmission on the BMW does klunk, but from what I understand this is classic BMW. The most annoying things I found on the BMW were the extremely light (like use one finger) pull on the clutch, which took a lot of getting used to, and the abruptness when the throttle was closed the whole way. This was just noticeable right off the stop, if you didn't roll the throttle off completely to the stop it was fine. Being used to the up high weight of the C-10 I didn't find the BMW top heavy at all. My wife found the pillion perches on both bikes comfortable enough to go to sleep on, but gave the Goldwing the edge. She also said the BMW was quieter than the Goldwing. As far as the power plants go, the in line six rocks the house. Once underway, neither bike really needs 1st and 2nd gear as they both have plenty of power, but the BMW accelerates like nobody's business and is very smooth. I felt like the Goldwing could use another gear.

I preferred the BMW because I'm looking for a sporty bike that is good for two up touring, but I think I could be happy with either. I have yet to ride a C-14, but I can't really see the BMW being competition for it. Ultimately though, it may come down to price, providing when I'm ready to buy I can still find a 2010 Wing as I really don't like the back of the 2012's. If I choose the BMW the C-10 goes, and if I choose the wing the C-10 stays.
HTH

Offline tjhess74

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2011, 02:55:46 pm »
wes, you mentioned 'sporty' in regards to the k1600...did you ride the gtl or the gt??  the gtl is a straight up sitting position. the gt is slightly more forward and thus 'sporty'.  how did you like the adjustable air vents on the beemer?!
Tom Hess  North Charleston, South Carolina    COG #8406  IBA #30337  CDA #248 (C10)    97 c10 (former)  08 c14 (current), 2007 Honda VFR800 RWB

Offline COGnosticator

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2011, 03:04:41 pm »
I rode the GTL this past Saturday.  I felt like I was sitting down in the bike, the front dash looked huge and no wind hitting me at all and I was hot.  I didn't know about the wind deflectors until I got back but I can't see how they would make that much difference.

I wasn't impressed with the bike at all.  I would like to ride the GT though and see how different it was.
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Offline Wes

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2011, 01:08:05 am »
We rode the GTL. The seating was upright with my legs more tucked, the Wing was like sitting in a chair. There was no pressure on my wrists at all, like there is on the C-10. On a couple of tight turns my boot touched while riding the wing and didn't while on the BMW, I'm assuming because the pegs are a little higher on the BMW. There was much more ventilation on the BMW, but it wasn't an overly warm day. The way the tank rises up from the seat you do kind of feel like you are sitting in the bike. Because I rent I'm pretty much limited to one bike and I feel the BMW will let us do two up touring with out having to give up the sporty feel of the C-10.

Offline tjhess74

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2011, 01:52:14 am »
wes, yea youre right, the pegs are more tucked now that i think about it. i was so caught up in the low seat height that i forgot to think about the pegs.

jerry, you would be amazed at how well those air vents work!  definately one of the best qualities of the bike.

a friend of mine posted my review on a bmw forum.  some agree with my thoughts, others are predictably thin skinned and defensive that i dare say an unkind word about a product from der vaterland.

i will say that i cant wait to ride the gt, i think itll be right up my alley.  now if i can just remember where i left that $25k....was it over here...no...how bout over there... :rotflmao:
Tom Hess  North Charleston, South Carolina    COG #8406  IBA #30337  CDA #248 (C10)    97 c10 (former)  08 c14 (current), 2007 Honda VFR800 RWB

Offline tunes

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2011, 01:21:15 am »
My friend had his K1200GT in the shop the day before our scheduled 5 day trip to North Carolina from Illinois.  They broke a piece when putting the K1200 back together and couldn't get a part before we left.  They offered him the K1600GTL for the entire 3000 mile trip.  He rode it most of the time but I got several chances.  It is indeed a great bike.  Wow. If I wasn't so happy with my C14, I would sure be interested in a K1600GT (not the L).  Ours had the built in GPS/Nav and about every feature you could ever expect on a bike.  I believe the GTL will give the Goldwing a major run as it has more hi-tech features and it actually less expensive.

It handled like a much lighter bike.  It was very comfortable and fun to ride.
Tunes

Offline m8rt

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2011, 01:41:46 am »
"They offered him the K1600GTL for the entire 3000 mile trip."

Superior customer service!

Offline Cap'n Bob

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2011, 07:56:39 am »
"They offered him the K1600GTL for the entire 3000 mile trip."

Superior customer service!


IMO, it makes a big difference that other manufacturers don't seem to get!  :-[

Offline tunes

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2011, 11:06:52 pm »
No kidding.  3000 mile round trip "test drive."  Props to Gateway BMW in St. Louis.
Tunes

Offline tjhess74

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2011, 01:29:01 am »
that may be a great dealer, but i doubt they offered that ride out of kindness.  bmw will not let them sell the first batch of bikes until they have 2500 miles on them, then the dealer also gets a good percentage of the sale in free incentive case.  im sure they saw that as a way to make good on a mistake and get the miles they need to earn the cash they want! 

i rode the 1600 again yesterday and the dealer told me to keep coming back.  he has a buyer but can release the bike just yet!
Tom Hess  North Charleston, South Carolina    COG #8406  IBA #30337  CDA #248 (C10)    97 c10 (former)  08 c14 (current), 2007 Honda VFR800 RWB

Offline Wes

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2011, 01:58:38 pm »
So, after putting a few more miles on the GTL, do you have any more observations?

Offline tjhess74

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Re: Rode a BMW K1600 GTL today. My thoughts follow...
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2011, 11:02:32 am »
i felt better about the bike the second time around.  the adjustment to the clutch/throttle combo came instantly this time.  the gearbox still sucks, but is considerably smoother at higher revs (around 4-5k).  i dont rev that high a majority of the time so that doesnt help me at all in liking the gearbox more.

i think the tires are what i dont like about the handling.  at very slow speeds you can feel a slight rumble in the bars.  at speed, the bike still did not feel planted.  it wanted to wander around like a distracted dog on a leash.

some of the ride was in rush hour stop n go traffic.  the heat management is still the best ive experienced on a bike.  once you get going, those air vents really do a great job of pulling in cool air right to the rider.

the brakes are also very good on this bike.  they are smooth and powerful, yet not overbearing.  the front links to the rear seamlessly.  the rear does not link to the front, which i like for low speed maneuvers.  i think they did a very good job on that system.

overall, i still have some 'sport' left in me.  its just too big for what i need as of yet.  i look forward to riding the gt version, as its a bit more sporty with a smaller windscreen.
Tom Hess  North Charleston, South Carolina    COG #8406  IBA #30337  CDA #248 (C10)    97 c10 (former)  08 c14 (current), 2007 Honda VFR800 RWB