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New BMW K1600 B Redefines What Makes a Bagger

It’s not a Harley or an Indian, but that’s probably the point…or maybe it should be.

The local BMW dealer, A&S Motorcycles , has established a tradition of offering up their demo fleet every weekend to any schmuck with a license and time on their hands. Since they’d been peppering me with emails reminding me that the new bagger from BMW would be part of the demo runs on Saturday (August 19), this schmuck grabbed his license and went to check it out.

While I waited my turn to ride the one K1600 B that A&S had available, I got to talking to one of the guys who runs the demo rides. Turns out, those of us getting to ride that day were part of an elite few who could claim such a fete. BMW was just getting around to parsing out the requisite number of units to dealers and had only recently unveiled the bike to the public at this year’s Sturgis Rally earlier this month.

Interestingly, most of the guys who were waiting with me to ride the Beemer bagger were current or previous Beemer owners. Curiosity was probably their biggest driver. Since three guys were waiting ahead of me, I got to hear their comments after they’d completed the short demo ride.

“Really smooth shifting. Not the more rapidly available torque feel of my 1600 GTL., but I like it.”

“Lots of electronics, but I like the way it handles.”

“I have to figure a way to get rid of my 800GS to get this!”

The rider ahead of me awaits the go-ahead.

Then it was my turn.

We immediately hit a fast pace out of the parking lot before heading down a surface street. The first thing I noticed wasn’t how smooth that engine was – it was – but how the shifter and brake pedals were nowhere near the floorboards. They’re positioned right about where they would normally be on a typical cruiser, but the floorboards are pushed ahead of the foot controls and cantilevered at a slight upward angle. So, if you want to use the floorboards to stand up or move your feet around a bit, you can’t. The only thing you’re standing on are the foot pegs.

When we came to a stop, I noticed another odd design characteristic. For anyone who rides a more traditional bagger a lot, the natural inclination is to drop both feet straight to the ground. But the position of the rear brake pedal and accompanying foot peg on the 1600 B forces you to have to find someplace else to put your right foot when it hits the ground. That tends to be just behind the peg or way off to the side if you have longer legs. (I don’t.)

Once I made a mental note of those two items, I settled into how the bike felt. The best description I can come up with is butter. It’s an overused analogy, but the 1600 B literally felt like you were sliding through butter. Especially once I adjusted the windshield height on the fly with a simple push of the button. A more apt analogy is that BMW has given what looks like a bagger the performance characteristics of a sport bike.

Photo courtesy of BMW.

I’ve been on the BMW 1600 GTL and it shares the same inline 6-cylinder engine with the bagger, but it’s taller and has a big ass trunk, so it feels more top heavy before you get moving. In fact, one guy who tried the 1600 B said he owned a GTL and his issues with equilibrium sometimes made that bike hard for him to ride. The lower center of gravity made the 1600 B ‘easier’ for him to handle.

BMW has priced the base K1600 B at just under $20,000, not including handling fees. The stock bike comes with the standard electronics you’d expect from the German marque, like three riding modes (Rain, Road, and Dynamic), Dynamic Traction Control, ABS, heated seats and hand grips, power adjustable windshield, cruise control, multifunction display with on-board computer, and Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (D-ESA) with “Road” and “Cruise” damping modes.

The K1600 B has a pretty aggressive stance and good sized side bags.

Several different packages will add to the cost, but try finding all of that on a Harley or Indian. Those bikes are nice and powerful, but neither make a stock bike that comes close to those standard features nor do they kick out the claimed 160 horsepower and 129 ft/lbs of torque that BMW attributes to the K1600 B. And considering this bagger weighs in at a relatively svelte 740 lbs, that’s a pretty good power to weight ratio.

If the old school look of current baggers doesn’t appeal to you, and you’re looking for a more modern bike in looks and performance, the K1600 B might be a good option. Just rethink where you put your feet.

The K1600 B started out as a concept bike. Here's a quick video.

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