2012 BMW K1600GTL vs. 2012 Honda Gold Wing Shootout [Video]
The heavyweight luxo-touring fight of the decade
In the red corner, weighing 903 pounds wet, boasting 1832cc, spanning 66.5 inches between contact patches, the Wing of Welfare, the Velvet Glove of Two-Wheel Touring the 2012 Honda Gold Wing. In the blue corner, tipping the scales at a lithe 767 pounds with fluids, displacing 1649cc and with a similar 66.1-inch wheelbase, the Barcalounger Beemer, the German Winnebago, the 2012 BMW K1600GTL.
This two-day, 750-mile heavyweight match was contested on the freeways of California’s Central Valley and on the twisty two-lane roads of the Southern Sierras. The riders/judges for this bout, MO editors Pete Brissette and Tom Roderick, with Maria Sia providing passenger feedback, endured hot and cold temperatures, straight and curvy roadways as well as gravel, tourists and insects in determining the strengths and weaknesses of both bikes.
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Returning under cover of darkness early on a Sunday morning in the first week of July, all three participants were tired and sore from two very long days in the saddle. If, hypothetically, you were in their position and forced to continue, which would be your bike of choice? The answer to that question depends on what kind of rider you are and the topography between you and your destination.
The aging Gold Wing has its hands full. The BMW is the younger, lighter and more powerful contender. Not that Honda hasn’t kept the Gold Wing in top condition by revising its suspension for 2012, updating the Wing’s look with a restyled fairing as well as tweaking its Satellite Linked Navigation and its surround sound stereo systems and enlarging and restyling its saddlebags.
The BMW definitely has the advantage of being the all-new model while the Honda is largely unchanged since 2001 when improvements and upgrades were heaped upon the original design of the 1800 format. But the old adage, "Why fix what isn’t broken?", definitely applies to the Gold Wing because, until now, there hasn’t been any significant competition besides other BMW models. With the introduction of this exciting six-cylinder Beemer, though, Honda must be sweating its new adversary.
Other manufacturers gave up competing with the Gold Wing years ago, leaving only BMW as a luxo-touring alternative to the Honda. The Gold Wing usually receives “Best Touring Bike” honors from various media outlets each year, with BMW getting the occasional nod to keep the category from stagnating. The K1600GTL will certainly swipe many “Best Touring Bike” trophies from Honda’s mantle this year because, in terms of technology, the new Beemer has leap-frogged the Honda.
In addition to the K16’s technological upper-hand is the bike’s performance advantage. BMW has apparently chosen the lure of light weight and high horsepower over the Gold Wing’s array of creature comforts and the low center of gravity offered by its horizontally opposed six-cylinder motor. In fact, with a weight closer to an ST1300 rather than that of a Gold Wing, the K16 has possibly created a new category, something along the lines of Sport-Luxo-Tourer.
But, for all of the newness and apparent advantages of the Beemer, it’s far from a first-round knockout. So onto the blow-by-blow action.