#1 – BMW K1600 GTL/GT


Since its debut a few years ago, BMW’s flagship six-cylinder touring motorcycle has drawn innumerous and inevitable comparisons to the Honda Gold Wing. Our own Kevin Duke illustrated many of the similarities and differences in his March 2011 review. We concluded while “the Gold Wing still holds a clear superiority in passenger accommodations and a slight advantage in ultra-low-speed handling … the K1600 GTL otherwise significantly advances the super-touring category in every other way possible,” noting the bike’s technology, power and weight advantages.

BMW’s engineering might has advanced the state of the art of touring bikes, causing us to anoint the K1600GTL as the supreme luxury-sport motorcycle and claim the number-one spot on our list of the Top 10 Touring Bikes.

  • clasqm

    Nice list, thanks. How about a follow-up? Something like “10 Touring bikes that dont weigh and/or cost as much as a small car?” The BMW F800 range comes to mind immediately. Or get a Suzuki V-Strom 650 with panniers and try to find a place it won’t take you.

    Seriously, there’s still a recession out there.

    • Piglet2010

      I would take the Wee-Strom or mid-size Beemer over any bike on this list. Bigger is usually *not* better, and if I wanted to see where a gravel or dirt road lead to, 800+ pounds of weight or 120+ HP at the rear wheel are not beneficial.

      If I was starting from scratch and did not own a Honda Dullsville, the Wee-Strom and NC700X would be high on the list. Or maybe even a Honda CB500F with aftermarket hard bags and windscreen.

      • Errol Smith

        Touring one up on the smaller bikes would be just fine but see how far you get on a wee-storm with your wife on the back and enough luggage for two for a couple day trip. These bikes a big because they’re designed to handle a lot of weight and to be ridden by riders who want a plush ride to eat up a ton of miles effortlessly.

        You made some good suggestions, though. Those bikes would be perfect for someone who’s still new to riding and wants to tour, or someone more experienced who wants a bike that can easily be used for both touring and commuting. I just feel that in the context of this article (purpose built tourers) the bikes listed are spot on.

        • Piglet2010

          I thought the point of motorcycle touring was to get away from your wife? 😉

          And if the list includes a trike, it should have also included at least one middle-weight bike.

          Of course, if I have to time to ride to Deadhorse some day, I might just find a old Super Cub (aka Passport) to use. 🙂

          • rudedog4

            I finally got my wife to ride on the back of my bike. I rode off with a wife, I came back with an old lady. She’s taking the motorcycle class this week, and her new Street 750 should be delivered to the dealership soon. I think I created a monster.

        • Vrooom

          I’ve taken 10 day trips with my wife on my V-Strom 1000, no issue whatsoever. In fact stints in triple digits are all too easy.

          • Errol Smith

            I’m not saying it isn’t possible to eat up miles on other bikes. You can drive 1000 miles in a Chevy Aveo without issue but you’d probably be more comfortable in a big, plush Cadillac.

            All I’m trying to say is that as a list of bikes built specifically for touring, this is pretty comprehensive.

        • James Boyles

          Better check the payload on the monster tourers. They may weigh more but that doesn’t mean they can carry more payload. Most are less then the wee’s 490#. Payload is manufacturers GVW minus wet or curb weight.

      • james lagnese

        I don’t know of any 800lbs dirt bikes or Adventure bikes for that matter. Where bigger (heavier) is better is when: The rider is big, when there are strong cross winds, when you need something to carry a lot of gear. The R1200’s are very good at that as they are under 600lbs and have capacities of over 500lbs. For me, the bikes you mention would be like a Shriner riding a minibike.

        • Piglet2010

          Say you are on a Gold Wing or full dresser cruiser that weighs 900+ pounds, and there is something you might want to see on few mile long side trip on a gravel road – do you ride there or not? On a Wee-Strom or NC700X you ride the gravel with no real concerns.

          • james lagnese

            And I have ridden the apache trail with my RT. So what. Plenty of GWs and Ultras have ridden to Deadhorse.

    • David FJ Haney

      those bike arent for touring unless you wanna stop ever 10 mins to rub all your sore bits , sure some people COULD tour on them , but the average rider , and certainly someone of advanced years and size (like myself) would not want to ride those 2000 miles .

      • There were plenty on the list. I’d pick the K1600, may be the Trophy, but I still have the RT.

        • David FJ Haney

          I have a 1150 RT , amazing bike . I would love the k1600 but thats not going to happen in my lifetime ..hahaha . My comment was in reply to clasqm`s comment tho . None of those bike he mentioned would be suitable for doing many many miles

          • May be for jockey sized people.

          • David FJ Haney

            lol , indeed . I`m 6`8″ and 17st , i just about fit on the bmw ..lol

          • I’m only 6’5 and 24 st

        • Kim Moon

          I just traded up my RT for a GT t his year. I liked the wind protection on my RT better and low speed manueverability was better as well, But for straight line mile eating, the GT does seem more stable above 80mph wen passing trucks or getting hit with crosswinds. Of course that probably more to do with wieght and wheelbase. Still I’m glad i made the change…now i have a reason to get an R9T…:)

          • I’m too big for the R9T. The RT or GS is about as small as I’d go. I had to raise the bars and lower the pegs on the RT as it is and put the seat in the high position. Still haven’t tried the new RT or the GT yet.

  • lilbear68

    what appears here seems to be a commentary on gadgets and crap that can break and leave you stranded. pre-programmed ride mode?? W T F is that? and how would the ride be if it wasnt there? i think many have lost track of the picture, its the ride not the destination and if your totally wrapped up in your stereo, cb and intercom with your passenger IMHO youve lost the flavor of the ride itself and you might as well be in a car. Charles Kurralt once said of the countrys freeway system ‘you can travel for thousands of miles and never see a thing’. riding since 62 ive kept the spirit ‘4 wheels move the body, 2 wheels move the soul’ try it some time without all the expensive crap.

    • Sam

      EXACTLY ! Thanks for bringing it back to reality. As seasoned (not old) rider with over 45 years on two wheels, of many flavors, I now personally lean towards simplicity, over bells and whistles on a bike. Did the BMW thing, and still have my fathers 79 R100RS as a keepsake of the cross country trips we took together. I personally would not put my hard earned money on anything newer from Bavaria, as they just don’t meet my (preferred) dollar/mile ratio. I’m not trying to say that BMW doesn’t make nice bikes, they do, but I feel the cost of ownership takes away from the experience, IMHO. They are certainly not the only brand cashing in on peoples disposable income. The Point and the Good News is, there are So Many great bikes to take you down that free road to Great Memories. You should not get caught up in all the marketing hype telling you, you need to deplete the retirement fund to experience 2 wheeled travel.
      So spend less on the bike, blow the money on a longer trip !
      P.S. Another option is rent a few bikes to get an idea what will stir your soul !
      Chance are, it won’t cost as much as a luxury auto.

  • HB

    Stopped reading at Can Am.

    • Richard Oswalt

      Yep, I think whey you buy one of those, you get a free helmet and mouth guard.

  • james lagnese

    No R1200RT? Surprised. Surprised the HD was placed ahead of the beemer too. One caveat I think should be mentioned though: Most test riders here and at other pubs are jockey sized people. For even average sized people, I wonder what their choices would be? Some of the bikes listed here are cramped for those much over 6′ tall, SO, like most reviews, take them with a huge grain of salt if you are sized at the ends of the bell curve.

    • Jon Langston

      We didn’t want to overload it w/ Sport-tourers, James — felt the need to spread the love a bit. And for what it’s worth, Editor Duke was disappointed I placed the H-D ahead of the Beemer too – but you’re absolutely right, it’s all a matter of P.O.V. For him, it’s a no-brainer — he’d pick the BMW in a heartbeat. But I’m not ‘jockey-sized,” so I’d much rather take the Ultra on my long-haul tour.

      • james lagnese

        Even the Ultra is tight for me. I’m 6’5 and not a stick figure either. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a review with test riders in my size class. It would be good to read reviews with riders of all shapes and sizes to get a broader range of opinions. Until then, I take reviews with a grain of salt when it comes to ergonomics.

        • Jerry Powers

          I have a 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Classic LT. I’m 6’4, 225lbs and I wouldn’t trade my bike for any of these! I love it on short and long trips! Granted it could use a little more storage space but nothing some aftermarket stuff can’t fix.

          • james lagnese

            Before my RT, I owned only Kawasaki’s, 4 of them. My last bike was a 2007 Nomad. I looked at the V2K when I bought the Nomad and I liked the way it looked, but the Nomad had a little more storage and a better history of reliability. It’s cool bike, but at this point it’s a pre-owned option as Kawasaki discontinued it and went another way with the Vulcans. More plastichrome, cheaper and flimsy luggage and ergonomics more like a HD. Your V2K is a lot more roomy that what Kawasaki offers now. I belonged to what was Kawanow and now is the VBA and a lot of people went with Victory. What was Kawasaki thinking?

          • Jerry Powers

            I agree! They should have stuck with what was good!

          • Eeyore

            How in the world could you be comfortable on a RT being 6’5″? I am 6’1″ 200 and test rode a RT. Could not wait to ge the bike back to the dealer as I felt bunched up and very uncomfortable. Not to mention the trans was not smooth and felt clunky during shift changes.

          • Bear Dalrymple

            I’m 6′ 5″ / 305 lbs. The best bike I’ve ever owned was my ’99 R1100RT. I went from that to the K1200LT, but thr RT was so much lighter and sportier. 350 mile days were easy. 500 mile days after the Corbin

  • Piglet2010

    How could you not include a single maxi-scooter on the list???

    • Jon Langston

      It was btwn the Can-Am & a Burgman, Piglet. Sorry to disappoint you 😉

      • Sam

        Honda Trail 90 ! Don’t laugh, I have stories…lol !

  • George Erhard

    These big bikes are nice… if you’ve the credit or disposable cash to pay for one.

    I’m still in the midsize section – just recently graduated from a ’92 BMW K75RT ( which if it were still made should have made your list) to a Triumph Sprint ST 1050, another bike that puts the sport in sport-touring.

  • Run_Forest_Run

    I am surprised the Honda ST 1300 didn’t make the list. I have the Multistrada S-Touring, which is a fantastic touring, sport touring, and sport bike. You can even take it off road, if desired. Expensive no doubt, but worth every penny.

    A buddy has the Wee-Strom and an ST. The Wee-Strom is a nice little bike for short hops or out by yourself, but please, for high speed long hauls, it has no legs and is gasping for breath against the Multi or the ST, or any other bike on this list for that matter. Nothing against the Wee-Strom, I have just been out all day on a Saturday with it, and it just can’t keep up.

    • james lagnese

      The ST and GW are very long in the tooth. I mean the ST doesn’t have cruise control and some of the controls that are in the dash should be on the switch gear. With the gold wing, it reminds of a remote control with 100 buttons. The problem is that it isn’t user friendly. They should take a cue from Apple on usability. May be with the next versions they will correct the shortcomings.

      • Sam

        Yeah sure, just try riding your iPhone !

  • Ted Menard

    I went through this about 4 times looking for a Yamaha Venture….. Is it not in this list, The GW and another 1947 Harley are there. Oh, I get it now … this is not a real top 10 list is it? Why is the Venture always seeming to get a bypass??? For a ton of money less, you get more than the H-D, but niot quite the GW still at a bunch more money. The Venture will easily carry two up as long as you wish to ride, carry in the bags and trunk more than enough for 2-3 day trips, with or without the cruise on, or the intercom lit, or the super clean stereo singing away. It will without effort pass any H_D tourer on the road, keep up with the GW, better mileage than the Kaw or the Vision, and do all of that reliably! If one needs the toys…. then the GW is of course your baby. If you want to ride the same thing your dad delivered mail to the GI’s with, then the H-D is still there for you . If one is concerned with a great ride, economy, reliable, and touring seriously, then the Kaw, Victory Starship, or the Venture has to be right there…… unless of course you are still bias towards the GW and the payments from H-D are still coming.
    Tourers are changing their styles and needs , and that’s why you are seeing the Can-Ams, and “Touring” Scooters, and dual purpose machines such as the “Adventurer” making big strides in the market. I will continue to ride 2 up with 45 mpg, the radio and intercom working and the Venture taking us on all those 2 lane roads we can find. If we need more than 2/3/4 days of road work, there is always the trailer which we seem to fill to the brim before we return. When I can’t hold my Venture upright, then we will no doubt be Spyder customers. My take on the “List”

    • james lagnese

      Must be the cassette player.

      • Ted Menard

        No, it’s the 10 disc cd changer in the right saddlebag where we keep the raingear, tools, odds and ends. It might also be the simple fact that I paid 15k and change for it brand new out of the box , and it has everything the wing has + and more than any under 26k H-D will have. I get an honest 45 mpg with normal roads and weather. drops to 41/42 with the trailer, (Shoei). It has hero cam/gps/radar as well, and I still don’t have as much in it as a GW or the other one. But, here is the best part….. I can ride with them all day, anywhere, rain or shine, and get off at the end of the day and still be able to walk upright. Good friend bought the Victory Vision Mega tour, (we call it theStarship) and 2 others own the newest Kawasaki’s. All 3 traded FLTHCUI’s for their bikes and are verrry happy with the trade. None of us feel that we would gain 1 thing by going to a new GW or an H-D.

  • Ryan Urlacher

    My opinion; I just can’t see the justification to put a “Touring” bike with mid controls anywhere near #1 on this list. All true “touring” bikes should have floor boards & forward controls. A guy has got to stretch out on long rides. You can’t be comfy w/ your knees locked up? I can’t believe these manufacturers even build them w/ mid controls? That’s just my 2 cents……..

    I will be discussing this list in an upcoming Law Abiding Biker (LAB) Podcast! http://www.LawAbidingBiker.com

    Great article though!

    • PreachJohn

      That all depends on the proportions of the Rider’s frame to the proportions of the Bike. I am tall in the torso, but relatively short in the legs; sailor’s build.
      For example I rode 3 Yam XS 1000s over 11 years. Very many miles. My feet automatically went to the hwy crash bar Pegs. Even on short hauls around the Hood.
      But on my 1200cc Goldwings, I am very comfortable on the rubber Pegs.
      The crash bar Pads are only used occasionally to change position for blood flow long distance.
      Just a tho’t to throw into the mix.

  • James Boyles

    Ride what makes you feel good not what others or the media thinks is the best. To paraphrase the author Louis L’Lamour: “Remember the ride is the thing, not the end of the ride. Travel to fast and you miss all you are riding for.”

  • Picaboca

    I would never class a Gold Wing as a Touring bike. Even Honda has it classified as a Cruiser.

    • Gene Lester

      The Goldwing hasn’t been classified as a cruiser by Mother Honda since 1980. I’d recommend you look up the definition of a cruiser and a touring bike. And then, try to take a cruiser on a long distance ride of about 1000 miles in one day, and then try it on a touring bike. Then, you will know the difference.

    • Sam

      WHAT ?

  • Lew Cope

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to throw my ST1100 into the ring. I am a newcomer to motorcycling at the age of 55 having passed my direct access test this year. I did some research, sought valued opinions and went for the ‘Pan. I don’t have any other big bike experience but my bike has stuck a fat smile on my chops since buying the thing six months ago. I’ve done 3,000 miles so far, longest run being 350 miles in two rides on consecutive days. It probably lacks a modern bike’s technical wizardry being 12 years old. However, I paid less than four grand for a bike with 20,000 miles on the clock and a full service history. You need to be concentrating at walking pace on a windy day, but any quicker than that and the weight drops into the road. It pulls like a train solo or two-up and 120 mph (and rising) was way quick enough for me.
    Lined up with the bikes on this list, my bike would look very modest. Then again I always considered modesty to be a strength….

  • David Hillemann

    I will say that I own a Victory Vision now and came off of a HD Ultra. The Vision is a MUCH better touring bike. Its not even close!!!

  • Custom Cycles Gòmez Muela

    You are full of sh…. BMW in first place? Who make the list

  • vishnu

    wat happened to indian roadmaster

  • Ninja Hitchhiker

    Oh I would have liked a BMW but didn’t want the headaches with repairs and to much technology. I started with an 06 Honda Rebel then quickly went to a Vulcan 500 but that was to small within 4 months so bought an 05 1100 Honda Sabre. I really liked this bike but remember I was just getting started. My wife got so she liked going riding with me and it became apparent very quickly that it was to small so next was an 03 Kawasaki Nomad in tan and red color. Oh I loved this bike but who ever installed the power commander didn’t wire the throttle sensor correctly and it wouldn’t run quiet right. When my wife said she didn’t want to go on any long rides with me because of her fear of it would break down, I sold it and bought an 08 Yamaha Tour Deluxe. It only had 4,500 miles on it and I bought it out the door for $7,000. It was exactly what we wanted but darn it I couldn’t find a trunk for it without doing a lot of work so when I suggested we buy a Goldwing she said go look around. I took her for a ride on a black 06 Goldwing and she said BUY it. Before this we had tested some BMW’s, ST1300 and a few others but the Wing was it. Now that I have ridden it for almost 2 years I think it is an awesome bike. When it comes to touring 2 up with my wife I don’t think I could find one I would like better. Sure there are lots of nice bikes out there and I would love to have a dozen of them. But I am not rich so since I had to settle for one it is my 06 Goldwing with 33,000 (43,000 now) miles on it. I really feel when it comes to reliability, power, comfort, great handling, resale value and beauty a Goldwing can’t be beat. Would I drive a BMW, or FJR1300 or Kawasaki Counours, you bet I would. But my Goldwing takes me to work everyday or to the grocery store, out to dinner with the wife and from state to state with no complaints and does it very well. So I am happy.

  • Saeeduke

    Guys thank you for the afore in making this list, BMW is nice ride but I’ve noticed some rider they just sale the bike after a year of using! Any explanation?!
    and to add the can am in this list is unfair as its falling under its own category!
    Thank you again and all the best

  • Harley FJ Cruiser

    please please please update this list, give us a new top 10…