Best Touring Motorcycle of the Year: BMW K1600GT/GTL
If your dream motorcycle trip involves long distances and limited time, we don’t think there’s a better way to bridge that gap than BMW’s K1600 platform. Consisting of the sporty GT, luxo GTL and opulent GTL-Exclusive (which was the Best Touring Motorcycle of 2014), the K16s allow ambitious and well-heeled riders to comfortably and ably burn up miles by the thousands, no matter if the roads are straight or coiled. The K16 shrugs off every type of path its see-around-corners headlamp is pointed at, and it does so with immense grace once past the bike’s awkward phase below 5 mph.
The K1600 in any of its forms is much sportier than anything else in the Touring class, responding on a twisty road like a far smaller conveyance. BMW’s unique Duolever front end and optional electrically adjustable suspension deliver shocking composure at high speeds and deep lean angles that belie the BMW flagship’s 700 and some pounds, depending on model and options.
The only inline-six-cylinder motorcycle engine currently in production dramatically enhances the K16’s sport angle – it’s a real gem of a motor that pleases a rider’s butt dyno and ears with equal deliciousness. The 1649cc Six sings delightfully on its top end with impeccable smoothness, but it also delivers at the bottom end – some 70% of its torque is available at just 1,500 rpm,
The K1600GT starts at $21,650, and it nicely balances the sport and luxury ends of a touring bike. Standard equipment includes an electric windshield, adjustable seat, 7.0-gallon fuel tank, innovative and highly effective air deflectors that route cooling air to a rider, traction and cruise controls, and BMW’s efficient Multi-Controller wheel that allows a rider to control most functions and settings with a twist and a push.
The GTL version offers a more expansive cockpit, taller windscreen and the extra stowage of a top box. The GTL Exclusive is the best option for keeping your passenger coddled, as it uses a comfier saddle with heaters and a heated upper backrest, plus armrests. At $29,995, it’s inexpensive only to Harley’s CVO riders, but as we’ve said before, no other motorcycle balances speed, luxury and comfort as effectively as the GTL-E.
Honorable Mention: Harley-Davidson Road Glide
After a year hiatus Harley-Davidson’s Road Glide returned to the 2015 model line-up equipped with desirable Project Rushmore upgrades including a High Output Twin Cam 103 engine, dual Daymaker Reflector LED headlights, triple splitstream fairing vents, color TFT Boom! Box 4.3 infotainment system, a swept-back handlebar, cruise control, adjustable air-ride rear suspension and new ergonomic hand controls.
Another Project Rushmore upgrade comes in the form of revised one-touch saddlebag lids and locks. Identical in style to previous Road Glide bags, the new single-switch opening mechanism makes for easy ingress/egress – an attribute unattributed to previous H-D hard bags. The saddlebags are easily removable via two quarter-turn fasteners, exposing the adjustable air-ride shocks. Two voluminous fairing gills located at high-pressure points on either side of the headlights act like ram-air intakes, only instead of going into the airbox to feed the throttle bodies, the blast is directed at your chest, providing a climatizing airflow during a muggy ride.
Unlike this year’s uber-sporty winner BMW, Honda’s bigger-than-life Gold Wing or even H-D’s own super tourer Ultra, the Road Glide cuts a more traditional profile that straddles the Tourer/Bagger designation. The 2015 Road Glide, with all its Project Rushmore improvements, starts at $20,899 for the base Vivid Black version, ranging up to $23,699 for the Road Glide special, which sweetens the pot by also including the larger, premium Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system with touchscreen and GPS navigation, hand-adjustable low-profile rear suspension, as well as ABS and a security system.
Not only is the Road Glide unique in Harley-Davidson’s line-up, but also in the realm of cruiserdom. Others emulate the fork-mounted, batwing fairing of Street Glides and Ultras, but the Road Glide’s frame-mounted fairing and its distinctive styling sets it apart from the crowd. The Road Glide offers all the basic necessities of a touring motorcycle without piling on amenities like the Gold Wing and Ultra do, because not everyone requires a two-wheel Winnebago on which to go touring.