Man, it’s been a while since we managed to get seven baggers together for a real-live comparison, but last time we did, in 2018, this BMW won it against the usual suspects from Harley-Davidson, Indian, et al. They’ve all received upgrades in the ensuing years, but nothing earth shattering to upend the pecking order. And nothing to upset our earlier, semi-collective conclusion that a bagger does not have to be built in America or powered by a big V-Twin.
The R18 Transcontinental and R18 Bagger have been getting a lot of attention lately, as BMW‘s foray into large-displacement cruiser touring segment. Getting somewhat lost, however, are BMW’s existing K1600 range, which used to be the company’s representatives in the touring category. While still part of BMW’s lineup, the six-cylinder models have not been updated since the 2017 model year, not even receiving any changes to meet Euro 5 standards that came into effect last year.
Earlier this month, BMW and Japanese builder Custom Works Zon presented a rather industrial-looking retro-styled roadster at the 27th annual Mooneyes Show in Yokohama, Japan. The bike itself, christened the “Departed” by builders Yuichi Yoshizawa and Yoshikazu Ueda, was an interesting combination of vintage styling and modern production, making use of a lot of milled aluminum, steel piping and sheet metal and drawing inspiration from the bikes ridden by racer and landspeed record holder Ernst Henne in the ’20s and ’30s.
Okay, right, we already had this discussion about whether a bike not powered by a rumbly big V-twin qualifies as a “Bagger” shortly before the K1600B blew everybody’s doors off in our Big Dam Tour last February. Instead of a big V-twin, this one’s got BMW’s 1649cc inline-Six, which not only out-torques all the big Twins – 106 lb-ft at 5200 rpm – it also demolishes them in the horsepower department: 132 hp at 8000 rpm is 57 more than the best-bagger runner-up’s 75. Yeah, but it lacks character, some say. Blow me, is the proper retort. Character schmaracter.
When last we left it, in February, the BMW K 1600 B won out over a pack of six other baggers on our overnight whirlwind tour to Hoover Dam, Sin City and parts east. Some didn’t feel the six-cylinder German wonderbike should win since it’s not really a V-twin bagger, but then we’re not really bikers, either, so we just picked the motorcycle we liked best. The BMW was the smoothest, fastest, comfiest, highest-tech two-wheeled vehicle out there that sports saddlebags and a windshield.
What’s a “bagger” anyway? I may not have been aware of the term as it applies to motorcycles until I saw a copy of Baggers on the newsstand, back when we had those (newsstands). They really were the rage there for a while and maybe still are. I mean, what’s better for the average Joe America Motorcyclist than a hot-rod Harley with integrated hard bags to transport your stuff in? A bike with a windshield you can go places on but still be cool, man. Especially if you can crank up a little Molly Hatchet en route. Hot mamas in bikinis will be lining up to pose on your bike for photography.
BMW announced its initial batch of models returning for 2018 with new colors and optional equipment. We’ve already written about the two most notable changes, a new ex works customization program called BMW Motorrad Spezial for RnineT and touring models, plus a new optional Bluetooth-connected 6.5-inch TFT display for the R1200GS and R1200GS Adventure, called the “Connectivity Option.” Several models also receive Emergency Call feature, though this will only be available in Europe. The rest of the announcement includes cosmetic changes and revisions to BMW’s various optional packages
Developed for the U.S. market, and available midway through 2017, BMW’s K1600B made its official debut today at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles. The new bagger model is based on the Concept 101 Bagger we reported on in May 2015. Expect the base price to be around $20k, while a fully loaded unit will retail around $25k.