Best Touring Motorcycle of the Year Winner: BMW K1600GT/GTL

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The touring segment is slow to change. Honda’s Gold Wing is always a contender and could easily take the win or the runner-up, and so too could numerous full-dressers from cruiser manufacturers. But in our opinion, nothing matches BMW’s K1600GT/GTL when it comes to combining all the comfort and amenities expected of modern mileage gobblers, with the performance and handling capabilities of more nimble sport-tourers. We even included the GT model in our 2014 Heavyweight Sport-Touring Shootout and the Beemer crushed ’em.

Likewise, the GTL basically bested the GL in a head-to-head back in 2012 (2012 BMW K1600GTL Vs. 2012 Honda Gold Wing Shootout) with us giving the Honda a fair shake in the closing paragraphs. “While reducing the Gold Wing’s weight and upping its horsepower would be beneficial, regardless of its competition, we feel it would be silly for Honda to chase BMW for the best performing luxo-tourer and stick with what the Gold Wing does best – delivering unmatched comfort in long-distance, two-wheel travel.

“Let BMW carve a niche for retiring sportbike owners with touring tendencies who revel in the challenge of bending a big touring bike through repetitive corners, while those who want to pound out big mileage crossing state lines will enjoy the Wing’s offerings.”

The K1600 outfitted in either GT or GTL guise is sportier than anything else in the Touring class. Its Duolever front end and optional electrically adjustable suspension deliver excellent composure at high speeds and deep lean angles. The inline six-cylinder sings like no other touring engine while delivering exhilarating acceleration. The BMW K1600 remains, and will remain, the ultimate expression of touring perfection in the slow-to-change touring class until Honda, or another OEM (possibly BMW itself) steps up with a new game changer – like BMW did with the K1600 or Honda with the Gold Wing before it.

Honorable Mention: Harley-Davidson Road Glide

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As we did with the BMW K1600GT/GTL, we’re sticking with lighter weight and better performance for our Honorable Mention selection, but our choice is the polar opposite when it comes to complicated electronics, high horsepower and Autobahn styling. Harley-Davidson arguably has more touringish models in its lineup, but when the Motor Company reintroduced the Road Glide in 2015 we fell for it and all its Project Rushmore upgrades.

When it comes to liking the cut of one’s jib, no motorcycle owns a profile quite like the Road Glide’s. 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.

2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide First-Ride Review

With the launch of the 2015 model, the Road Glide boasts 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, one-touch hard saddlebags, cruise control, adjustable air-ride rear suspension and new ergonomic hand controls.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Vs. Indian Chieftain

Ridden within its design parameters, the RG rewards its pilot with confident, competent handling. Pushed outside its comfort zone and you might use up the rear shock’s limited travel and bottom out a hard part, but if that’s what’s happening maybe you should be riding the touring bike highlighted above.

  • You’ve said it all about the beemer, but what I don’t get is 2″ of rear suspension travel on the road glide and the silly pillion accommodations. It’s contrast of form and function with these two bikes, that’s for sure.

  • Buzz

    If I didn’t still love my GTL I would have a Road Glide.

    The GTL is awesome for the open road and if I do a 300 mile loop from home I’m always amazed how quickly I get home. Passing slower cars is a breeze and it sounds awesome at any RPM especially with the Remus exhaust.

    • That six has a beautiful sound at full song. I like the GT better than the GTL because the seating position is more like my 2009 RT whereas the GTL seems more goldwing like.

      • Buzz

        I had a K1300GT but my wife didn’t like being perched up there while I was leaning forward. She’s a tiny thing and the more upright position on the GTL gives her more wind blockage and a more secure feeling.

  • JMDonald

    The K bike is a peach. I almost bought one instead of the RT.

  • Gordo

    Save a lot of money and buy a better bike, the Triumph Trophy SE. Everything is better except the engine, but the 1215 CC triple on the Trophy is magnificent.

    Clearly the Triumph is better than the Harley, but Harley (and BMW) must pay these guys a LOT of money.

    • I’d have to know what it’s like to maintain one and I’d like to see the fit and finish is, particularly the bags and trunk and how they seal and mount. What’s it like to take the body work off? The engine as a bit more stonk, the trophy is heavier than the RT too (I own a 2009 RT, so that’s the type of bike I’d be looking at). I don’t peruse the forums, so I’d have to know what the idiosyncrasies are. All bikes seem to have them. The biggest deal for me with the 1600 is the valve service and some of the dickering problems, like the water pump, the radiator that if you aren’t careful, will get nicked and leak. I reliable and simpler, but the K bike does sound nice and the extra power would be welcome.

    • Gordo

      The Trophy is a much better value. At 660 lbs wet, the Trophy has to be lighter than the K bike. If you go to any of the Trophy SE forums you will find owners who are in love with their bikes.. Perhaps it is not in the same class as the K bike, because I have always thought of it as Sport Touring, not Touring. My Trophy has been flawless. Some of the early models had issues that have all been resolved by Triumph. Easy to maintain, valve adjustment at 20,000 miles, and as I said, a sweet engine. Body work not too bad to remove, but have nothing to compare it with.

      • Kevin Duke

        “Perhaps it (the Trophy) is not in the same class as the K bike, because I have always thought of it as Sport Touring, not Touring.” Exactly why it’s not here in the Touring category. Oh, and for how much we’re being paid by Harley and BMW, try to find any advertising by them here.

      • someguyinhouston

        The Trophy is a hell of a machine, no doubt about it. It isn’t the equal of the K1600 though.

        For the record, the Trophy is 660lbs wet WITHOUT THE BAGS. The K is 707 wet WITH BAGS. Basically they weigh the same.

        I’ve had them both so I am speaking from personal experience.

    • someguyinhouston

      Gotta disagree. I’ve had a Trophy. I traded it for a K1600gtl. The trophy is more like an R1200RT. The K is in a class all its own.

  • William Kearney

    From what I have heard from new owners of the BMW the whining sound is nauseous! Like HD the fix is in the works???

  • MorrisGray

    Get the Road Glide Ultra starting at $25,995 and it has the trunk and comfortable lounge chair seating for your passenger. I believe it is now water cooled also. I like the BMW but worry about having a dealer around for service.

    • The road glide ultra starts at 26,299 and that’s if you like black. I don’t. Figure on at least 26,899 for one color and over 27K for two tone. Dealers are that much of a problem for BMW, unless you expect to break down in the worst possible places. Maybe that is a concern with owning a HD. Lastly, the HD isn’t well suited for big people. I’ve ridden an Ultra classic and felt cramped and all the weight on the tailbone from the feet forward position is a killer. It’s a lot of money for a “lifestyle” where function follows form.

      • MorrisGray

        I not sold on Harley just like them. I have only owned and still own one 2012 FXDC Dyna Super Glide Custom. I also currently own a 2012 Honda ST1300 and love it but I want a bigger bike for longer travels and more comfort for my wife. She will decide which I buy ultimately and if not then I will not be buying another bike because for just me I like what I already have. Best I remember the BMW was more top heavy and the GT was a little more sport seating posture than the Harley. I did not ride a GTL but may need to try that. The only downfall of the ST1300 for me is the forward lean posture as my neck gets sore if my rides are too long, Harleys tend to sit you straight up in the saddle. I am not trying to argue which may the better bike but which one may suit my taste and needs better. I like the BMW and the Harley but feel the Road Glide Ultra may serve my needs better. I also tried the Gold Wing but found that it was tight fitting and very boring, no character from a driving standpoint for me.

        • I ride a 2009 RT. I don’t ride two up much, so it’s not a problem. If I did, I might get the K1600GT or probably something else, like a Miata. I fixed the forward lean problem with bar risers and also installed peg lowering kit. The ergos are more like a GSA now. Thing is, I am 6’5, the wife is 5’10 and we’re not waifs, so that really limits the choices in terms of what’s going to work, hence my Miata comment. A Victory CCT, Indian Roadmaster or GW would be the best suited space wise, but I don’t like any of them for a variety of reasons. Once I get into spending over 20K on a bike, I become very particular.