After riding and enjoying my Harley touring bikes for a few years, I found myself looking at Sport Touring bikes to satisfy a desire for better power, handling, and all-around performance. The Harley was getting a bit boring to ride due to its limited power and handling capabilities. After looking around and reading reviews, I decided to buy a 2012 BMW K1600GTL in August of 2012.
I really never saw myself as a “BMW guy” but, after taking a test ride, there was no denying that the K1600 had everything I was looking for in a motorcycle – power, handling, braking, and comfort. The BMW has made riding fun again.
The 6 cylinder motor in this bike is simply outstanding. It’s smooth, has great power, and has averaged 40+ mpg over the first 25k miles. The low-end power is quite good and once you get the revs above 5K, it really starts to get fun. For a big touring bike, this thing is fast.
The GTL seems to have every electronic gizmo that has ever been put on a motorcycle. It has 3 fuel maps, 3 position electronically adjustable suspension, traction control, ABS, cruise control, GPS, heated grips, heated seat, electrically adjustable windshield, bluetooth audio, and an adaptive headlight that moves as you’re riding. All of these are easily accessible from the handlebar controls.
My favorite feature has got to be the adjustable suspension. Every time I go for a ride, I find myself choosing different riding modes as the road changes. The ability to change the suspension while moving down the road is one of the things I miss when I get on my other bikes.
I used to think that the 2010 Ultra Classic handled corners pretty well for a big bike. However, the BMW is so much better that there’s really no comparison. When you get to twisty sections of road, you switch the suspension to “Sport” mode and the BMW transforms from a touring bike to a sport bike. Cornering on the GTL is easy and confidence inspiring.
I took the BMW on my annual NY to CA ride for the first time in June 2012 and, while not as comfortable as the Electra Glides, it’s a really good long-distance touring bike and excels when you get to the mountains in the West. For a big touring bike, this thing goes around corners very, very well.
The only real complaints I have are the short tire life and that it’s still a pretty heavy bike. Tires seem to last 5k-7k on the BMW while I was getting 13k-14k or more on the Harleys. As far as the weight is concerned, it’s about 150 lbs lighter than the Harley Ultra Classic but it’s still a 750 lb bike. It’s also more top-heavy than the Harley making it a bit more of a challenge when backing up.
If I’m going for a long ride, riding two-up, need to pick-up groceries, or the weather is going to be cold or rainy, the GTL is the bike I’ll be riding. All-in-all, the K1600 GTL is a magnificent bike that seems to do everything well. It’s got to be one of the best bikes ever made skillfully marrying the power and handling of a sport bike with the comfort of a touring bike. So far, it’s been reliable and I’m hopeful that it will provide many more miles of trouble-free performance.
UPDATE: After riding the K1600 for 3 years, I ended up selling it to the insurance company after I crashed into the side of a Ford Escort that made an unexpected left turn in front of me. It was a great bike and changed the way I looked at riding. I now enjoy riding more powerful and sportier bikes.