June 24, 2022
| On 3 months ago

2022 BMW K1600 B Review First Ride

Have I at long last, no sense of decency? Road test after road test, I shamelessly fawn and toady over all these $30,000 motorcycles loaned to me by the masters of the universe who produce them… I do feel some guilt, but this is really the only job skill I’ve got. Thankfully, sometimes the motorcycle makes it really easy to gush, which is the case with BMW’s freshly overhauled K1600 line. When they asked which one I’d like to ride home from a very nice lunch at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, California, a couple weeks ago, I had to go for the K1600 B. That’s B for bagger, and it’s the bike that won our Seven-Bagger Shootout, dang, more than four years ago.
There was quite a bit of static at the time of that win, as lots of people who aren’t even old and crusty yet were already convinced a bagger has to have a chuffy old V-Twin and weigh over 800 pounds. But in the end, the BM’s salacious inline-Six and lithe, 768-pound weight carried the day. What I said then and stick by now, is that it’s precisely the B’s duality that makes it such a great motorcycle. On the one hand it’s got the hulking heavy cruiser profile, and you can ride it around all day without ever revving it above 5000 rpm if you want to. On the other, there’s 135 snarling, luxe touring-car smooth horsepower waiting to waft out of the barn whenever you leave the gate open – all of it corralled by the latest electronic anti-crash measures, and housed in a chassis that’s up for whatever you can dish out; certainly for whatever I can.

Why shouldn’t you have it all?

BMW’s snooty enough not to care whether you like it or not, frankly. All the K1600s, they say, are for people who are all done compromising. They want all the performance, all the technology, and all the safety all the time. They don’t really want to haggle, and they don’t care whether you like their bike or not. Conveniently, that’s also a great rationale for packing nearly every bike BMW imports with various pricey options packages, as it’s always done. They say it just makes it easier for the dealer and everyone concerned.

I could’ve had a K1600GT, the sportiest touring K. Or the GTL, which gets the top box and less aggressive ergonomics for long-distance touring. Since I was more interested in a bike to ride around on every day, I chose the B.

The one BMW hooked me up with has a base price of $22,545, but as a Guest Prince of the Universe, I also received the $3400 Bagger Package: Radio Software, Audio System with Radio, Center Stand, Keyless Ride, Gear Shift Assist Pro, Central Locking System, Anti-Theft alarm system, LED auxiliary lights, Engine protection bars, and Floorboards.

No two are alike.

Then I needed the $2750 Option 719 Special Edition Midnight color scheme, with Meteoric Dust 2 Metallic paint including special water transfer prints, and the Option 719 seat with black quilting. They also threw in the Floor Lighting option, $100, tacked on a $795 destination fee, and when I came to, we were looking at $29,590. Had I been paying more attention last October when Dennis wrote all about these bikes, I could’ve asked for the Grand America, which is in fact an options package for the B that adds a top case, upgraded audio system 2.0, floorboards, and a taller windscreen – all for $27,745. The check is in the mail.

Floor lighting, why not?

Big Updates for the ten-year anniversary

It’s been ten years since those first K1600GT and GTLs blew our socks off in 2012. Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment was big news in 2017, and now for 2022 we get a semi-major overhaul along with the jump to Euro 5 compliance.

In addition to our clean new engine, all the new Ks receive “Next Generation” Dynamic electronic suspension adjustment, with fully automatic load compensation, a new full LED adaptive headlight, a new 10.25-inch TFT color display, and the new Audio system 2.0. I don’t know what “Welcome”, “Good-bye” and “Follow me home” light functions are, but I will get to the bottom of it. Electronics engineering must be a booming field.

Big Dam Tour Part Due: BMW K 1600 B Vs Honda Gold Wing DCT

Underway

Right off the bat, it’s easier to get underway on the B, as it and the GTL share a seat height of just 29.5 inches from the deck. Settled in to my cush and broad Option 719 quilted seat and looking up at the new 10.25-inch control panel feels like sitting at a drive-in movie. Seven-hundred and 84 pounds (wet, MO scales) sounds like a lot, but it’s all relative. After the 930-lb Indian Pursuit and Harley Road Glides we tested a couple months ago, the B feels like a really big scooter, and somehow feels really easy to balance at parking lot speeds, too. Does that long, transverse crankshaft act as a Flying Wallenda balance pole? Not that it’s that long. The 1649cc Six is 21.9-inches wide and weighs 226 lbs, says BMW.

Nobody goes anywhere til Gina nails the selfie. (Photo: G. De Pasquale)

One writer for a BMW publication had loaded a map of mostly two-lane roads back to South Carolina into his phone, plugged it into the BMW’s nav system, and was on his way. I was only going 37 miles back home on the 91 and required no assistance. Sad.

Later, with a little help from the interwebs (and a friendly salesperson at Irv Seaver BMW in my hometown), I was able to get all the BMW’s electronics up and working.

There’s a lot going on in the new 10.25-inch TFT, all of it controlled via left thumb.

All you have to do is make yourself an account at BMW Motorrad Connected (Dr. John Burns) and have quite a bit of patience. Instead of loading destinations into the bike, for one thing, you load them into your phone. BMW says that makes it easier to change things up and share with your fellow riders at lunch stops, etc. BMW says: With the smartphone app, the rider also continuously receives the latest software for navigation. In addition, the app enables maximum flexibility during planning. This means planning can be carried out in the app itself and you can apply planned routes, e.g. from Basecamp, or download route suggestions from an internet portal… It contains further attractive additional functions, such as recording driven routes or displaying riding statistics and information. Recorded routes can be shared directly with other bikers via the Rever Community.

I wasn’t planning any trips, and the Connected app works okay for me around town, since I mostly already know where I’m going. But it’s the same system E. Brasfield sampled on the R18 B on a tour from Colorado last year, about which he had some strong opinions, not all of them positive.

In other words, bring some maps too.

Everybody got a short little official BMW cord to plug their phone into the purpose-built phone receptacle up top, which doesn’t lock but is impossible to open once the windscreen comes all the way down, which it does when you turn off the bike. Then, you remember your phone is in there, and turn the bike back on again so you can get it out. In typical BMW fashion, there’s a cooling fan in there that switches on at 86 degrees (and off at 77).

Audio 2.0

What I really do like in all this is the new audio system. We’ve got speakers up front, but BMW says they’re not for people who like to ride around blasting their Skynyrd at top volume, which suits me fine. Where the previous audio system was connected to the motorcycle as a primarily independent system, says BMW, the new 2.0 is integrated into the electrical system, which means you control it with your left grip controls. Highlights of the system include: Studio profile optimized for listening experience without helmet audio. Bass-boost, treble-boost, voice and balanced profiles optimized for maximum listening experience with in-helmet audio. Highly flexible sound architecture (treble/bass) with a wide range, even at high speeds. And, Standard SiriusXM satellite radio with 1-year subscription.

There are also two internal antennae now instead of one external, for better reception. I could never get enough volume out of my Cardo Packtalk Bold JBL helmet speakers before: Bluetoothed into the BMW’s system, though, they’re much louder and clearer. It’s almost worth the $30k if you enjoy your music.

Bombing

Bombing along at 85-ish on the SoCal freeway on the B is as swell as it ever was. In contrast to your booming V-Twin baggers, the B needs a few revs to get rolling, and the more you rev the silken Inline-Six, the more you want to keep doing it. You can barely hear the big dual exhausts at 80, but they definitely send up that classic howl shifting through the perfectly adequate, quickshifter-equipped 6-speed around town. Even the one-two upshift is nice and clean provided you just hold steady throttle or roll it open. The adjustable clutch lever’s really light too.

Naturally, there’s an electric up-and-down windshield which I couldn’t quite find a peaceful setting behind, but there are many options to cure that. Ergonomics favor the short of leg and long of arm, but still perfectly acceptable for a wide range of body types. The optional 719 seat on my bike positively caresses my rear end deep-dishedly, and deploying the optional floorboards for the classic American feet-in-the-wind posture feels like a good alternative on long, straight rides.

Cara mia…

You can reach the flaps on either side of the fairing, too, which direct more air into the cockpit when it’s warm and reduce turbulence.

Try to avoid getting into high-speed chases: While all the new K1600s are limited to 124 mph, BMW says the K1600B with floorboards is governed to 111 mph, and the B Grand America to just 100. Having your size 14s hung out there at top whack must not be so aerodynamic? It’s probably for your own good. (Nobody must’ve told my bike it’s got floorboards; it roosts up to an indicated 125 easily.)

BMW says “The power output of 160 hp is now achieved at 6,750 rpm – 1,000 rpm sooner than before. Maximum torque increases from 129 lb-ft to 133 lb-ft at 5,250 rpm.” They’re being modest; they succeeded spectacularly in this Euro 5 engine. Our 2018 K1600 B didn’t make its 131.8 hp until 8000 rpm, and produced a measly 106 lb-ft of torque at the same 5200 rpm.

The Six is more a grand tourer engine than a real screamer, with a deeply delectable midrange they claim is even more potent than before. I can’t disagree. A new ECU is joined by two knock sensors and two additional lambda probes, which BMW says “represent the centerpiece of the updates. The two knock sensors are on the rear side of the cylinder bank at cylinders 2 and 5, which enables optimized ignition timing. They also allow the use of fuel of varied quality which is particularly beneficial when traveling in remote corners of our planet,” like Riverside, CA.

Keep the big bar graph tachometer between 3 and 6000 rpm, and you’re moving right out in the time-honored way served up by a classic BMW or Jaguar automobile, but on two wheels, and with the ability to snarl all the way up to nearly 9000 rpm; 8000 is plenty. In fact, max power now occurs at just 6500 rpm, so there’s usually no point in going much past there. Who knows what this engine would be capable of unleashed?

Yes, we’ve got an IMU

And it works with the new auto-leveling Dynamic ESA suspension system, whilst damping is automatically adapted to the riding conditions and riding style.

The signals from the new 6-axis sensor box and the two sensors at the front and rear enable comprehensive data collection and thus sensitive adjustment of the K 1600 to the riding conditions. Riding conditions such as spring compression, acceleration and deceleration are also recorded and are used to adjust the damping forces on the rear suspension strut and the Duolever front suspension. This adjustment is made by electrically operated control valves within milliseconds.

On my K1600B, there are “Cruise” and “Road” modes, while the GT and GTL get “Rain” and “Road.” On all of them, Dynamic ESA “Next Generation” is preset to Road. Pressing a button on the right handlebar lets you switch to “Dynamic,” which firms everything up when the going gets sporty. Everywhere else on the B, Cruise serves up a Cadillac ride, though Road is just as comfortable for me, and I like the firmer ride all the time, really.

The long and winding road

The one called Angeles Crest, specifically, that climbs from the LA basin 7903 feet into the mountains, is perfectly fine on this bagger. The same uprightish ergonomics that have your feet up under you to make the B comfortable around town, also make it great for attacking fast, flowing curves. Altitude doesn’t seem to affect the 1649cc engine much at all, which pulls nice and hard and smoothly right from 2000 rpm. The quickshifter and new MSR system (which basically functions as a slipper clutch), means you can bang rapid downshifts into corners or right in the middle of them without upsetting anything. Your brakes have the proverbial massive stopping power without needing much pressure, but with really good feel too. And grabbing big handfuls of sonic six-zylinder delight at the exits makes you feel like the $30 g’s you spent on this motorcycle were a bargain. Or in my case, class envy.

Though we were sailing through the Crest’s fast curves at a surprisingly rapid clip, not so much as a footpeg ever dragged. And the bike’s chassis maintains strict control regardless of what you ask of it: your Gen 2 Dynamic ESA must be doing its thing. Stability is what it’s all about. You can hustle things along, but again, the B feels like half a luxury touring car as much as it does a motorcycle, a snarling, high-performance convertible that leans.

Yesterday, in the tighter curves of Highway 39, we learned the B has no trouble hanging with a Suzuki GSX-1000GT camera bike. For being as large as it is, it steers swiftly over the top and side-to-side. I skimmed a boot edge but never a footpeg in the sharpest curves. And again, something about the B makes it much easier to swing through repeated tight U-turns for the Brasfield Canon than most other motorcycles its size.

It’s also the world’s biggest scooter

I hate to admit that when I have American V-Twin baggers in my garage, lots of time they sit there while I handle most of my around-town business in the automobile or scooter, if I have one around. That’s not the case with the BMW. You wouldn’t think there’s that much difference between its 784 pounds and the 835 we measured for our last Road Glide (847 for the 2019 Indian Challenger), but for some reason it feels like a bigger gap. The BMW just feels lighter and easier to roll out of the garage. Part of it’s the ergonomics, having footpegs where they belong instead of floorboards, maybe part of it’s the super-smooth running cross-the-frame engine… but whatever it is, we happily hop onto the Beemer for downtown runs that used to be reserved for the old XJ8 Jaguar.

A size L Shoei Neotec 2 modular will just fit, too, if you pop off the communicator.

Yesterday, I rode it to the big-box hardware store for some small stuff but wound up bringing a tomato plant home in the left saddlebag, too. I never had even tried to put a helmet in those other guys’ saddlebags, but lo and behold, a size L Arai will squeeze in either side (though not by much) on the B – and an open-face round-town helmet stashes easily. Together, those bags will carry more than a few groceries. The fob is pretty handy when you get used to it; you never have to lock or unlock anything, you just walk away.

It’s the imperfections that make it perfect

I don’t really care much about Apple Carplay, but plenty of people do, and we don’t have that. BMW says you should keep your hands on the bars! Speaking of, the K’s black steel handlebar is not a thing of beauty. The electronics take a long time to sync up every time you plug in your phone, and some other things seem more complicated than they need to be. But once you learn the drill (we’re told some people eventually learn all of them), all the BMWisms seem like small blemishes. Beauty marks. Given the way this thing magic-carpets you, a friend, and quite a bit of stuff around town in quiet comfort, or projects you over the mountain in hair-on-fire blitzkrieg mode – or anything in between… for me, it’s no use trying to not fawn or toady. I never thought I’d become a bagger guy, but I think I love this thing more than ever.


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