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Old 5th September 2012, 02:32   #1
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Default The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions

In our series of global bike rides, some months back myself & wife toured the North East USA on some amazing backroads that was a treat to the senses.

Here is also a summary video of our US bike trip




However, the US bike trip was in some ways extra special since our third companion for the trip was the mighty flagship bike from BMW, the K1600GTL. I am no moto journalist to write everything from the text book from torque figures to bhp to nm to RPM, Dyno blah blah, but as a rider with experience on various BMW bikes I am penning down a simple ride review & personal opinions about this bike as I rode & experienced this bike for more than 1200 miles in real world road & touring conditions from an ideal view point for what this bike has been primarily designed: ‘2- up touring with fully loaded luggage cases and the wide open road in front of you’.

In fact my preferred choice of rental bike for our global rides has always been the BMW R1200RT, which is a very capable sport tourer and myself & wife are very much at home with this bike’s handling, controls, comfort etc and especially with its roomy OE sidecases & topcase, you can take anything including your kitchen sink! Anyways on this trip while making the reservations at MotoVermont Rentals in VT, the owner Eric casually mentioned that he recently added a K1600GTL to his rental fleet & if I wanted, he could upgrade it for a very minimal difference. Initially I was a little skeptical & turned down the offer & stuck to the R1200RT as our plan was mostly back road touring and I thought having such a huge bike like the GTL on tight twisty 2 lane roads would be a lot of work esp fully loaded & with a pillion as well. By chance, 3 days before the ride, I had dropped into a BMW showroom in Boston and as we entered the place right there in the middle was a gorgeous K1600GTL and it was my first time seeing this bike in person. Although, it had always appealed to me in pics & intro videos, but seeing it in flesh left me speechless. Not the razor edge styling design from the Italians in Bologna, but an absolutely bold, well-flowing, well engineered design from the boys in Bavaria with form & function going hand in hand. After some chit-chat, myself & wife were allowed to sit on the bike and as soon as I sat on it I found the handlebar-seat-footpeg positioning very well located and most importantly it sits closer to the ground than the RT or my own tall R1200GS. My wife who rarely has any suggestions on my bikes exclaimed, this bike seems very comfortable & roomy on the back seat. That’s when I got thinking why not take a gamble & reserve the GTL instead of the RT for our trip as its not always you find this bike in rental fleets, besides I get to play with one of the newest entrants to the BMW 2-wheeled family.

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-146.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-151.jpg


Come 23 April, amidst light evening showers, Eric from MotoVermont arrives in his large van to deliver the bike and as the door opens, it reveals an absolute beauty of a machine in deep blue-black paint with its brutal looking headlight staring right into my eyes. It sure had an intimidating look! Yes, there stands the majestic BMW K1600GTL- probably the most technologically advanced motorbike on the planet at this time. Its big and I am sure its heavy. After unloading the bike and going thru the formalities & the bike’s controls, Eric hands me the keys and as I am all ready to thumb the starter button, I can suddenly feel my heart beat getting stronger. The engine roars to life with the idling sound of the Inline-6 engine which by itself is scintillating…and a quick twist of the throttle throws out a deep & refined roar that is simply unexplainable….

After Eric departs, as a test run, I take my son as pillion and ride it in the parking lot taking some U-turns and I am astonished at the ease with which I am able to maneuver the bike, the only shortcoming I notice is since it has a lower seat height for a 6ft rider like me the knee folded at a sharper angle as compared to a R1200RT or R1200GS. No doubt it’s a heavy bike, but once it gets moving, it’s a breeze to handle.

The next day we started our road trip and as we ride out of thick traffic in Boston, I immediately get the feeling this is a very different beast between my legs and I am going to have a lot of riding entertainment with this. I couldn’t have guessed better. This was an immensely capable high speed luxo-sport-touring package. For once it seems BMW has ticked all the boxes rightly with this ground breaking bike in the luxury & sport touring category. Little wonder it has been accumulating one award after another from moto magazines around the world.


ENGINE:
As far as the engine is concerned, I strongly believe BMW first made the engine and then decided to build a bike around that.... Its an absolutely stunning engine with lots & lots of torque & bhp. The catalogue says something in the range of 170bhp- making it a cruise missile! The inline-6 comparatively takes up very narrow space, probably a tad bit wider than a regular Inline-4 engine. But the best thing is it’s a very very smooth engine even as compared to an I-4 engine and inspite of all the metal bits firing up the 6 cylinders, you hardly hear any big mechanical noises from inside other than the muted roar of the engine. There is plenty of torque available on its tap and you can easily cruise at 50kmph in 6th gear at about 2000rpm without jerking the bike. And if you wish to overtake another vehicle, under most conditions simply a sudden twist of throttle is all that is required, downshifting is merely an option! If you watch my video here, for the short blast to overtake the cars I did not have to downshift (remember we are fully loaded with pillion & full luggage).



And for the first time, I was riding a bike that did not have a conventional throttle cable, but a fly-by-wire throttle cable thats basically an electrical cable that sends the pulses to the fuel injection system. It takes some getting used to as the throttle control inputs are very sensitive.

Out on the Interstate, this bike turns into a whole different beast. I told my wife to sit back and enjoy the next few moments and as I entered the I-95 for the first time, I downshift & whacked opened the throttle hearing the fierce rumble of the 6 cylinders which catapulted us forward with more aggression than a jumbo 747 on its full throttle take off run and within seconds we were close to the 75mph ‘legal’ limit and I see the speedo needle has still only covered about 40% of the dial gauge! My wife yells out on the intercom, what on earth was that? I told her we are in stratosphere now!! Thereafter I set the electronic cruise control at 74mph and just glide on the road with not a thought in the world to distract me from the ecstasy of this comfortable ride…it was simply incredible.


FUEL:
Ofcourse, I cant answer the ‘kitna deti hai’ question coz I frankly did not calculate the fuel consumed on the trip with the whole gallon business in US which I am not used to.…besides, talking of fuel economy on this wonderful bike would be like a boring biology teacher explaining sex! However, the large capacity tank that holds about 7 US gallons (26.5 liters) did not need frequent fill ups, while depending on the different North Eastern US states we fueled up, I was filling the highest grade of fuel available; 93 or 91 and the bike did not show any marked differences in engine performance.

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-040.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day5-102.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-039.jpg




CREATURE COMFORT:
This bike has got every bell & whistle you can imagine to make your ride as comfortable as it can get on 2-wheels. Starting from an elaborate and colorful menu on the dashboard with more features than you can imagine, but all controlled from one menu button and a ring on the left handlebar. Everything from suspension adjustment to traction control to tire pressure, ambient temperature to what not is readily available like aladin's lamp. At first glance the menu looks complicated, but once you navigate thru the menu it’s a piece of cake and when compared to the numerous buttons & switches on a Goldwing or Electra Glide Ultra Classic, this makes life so much more easier with just about one control button. It also has the USB/audio input jack to integrate an IPod/IPhone kind of device into its factory equipped premium audio system.


The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-180.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-181.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-182.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-183.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-184.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-185.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-177.jpg




SPACIOUS DETACHABLE LUGGAGE:
I have always been a great fan of locking hard luggage on any bike coz its safe when left locked on an unattended bike, besides, each evening you simply detach the case and carry it into your room. Here is my video to show you how simple its on my R1200GS




The GTL features remote locking sidecases & topcase (that can be locked/unlocked from your remote key or from the handlebar menu controls). This is convenient if you wish, but it has been around on the Goldwing for a while now. Although spacious, my personal opinion is that the design of the sidecases on the R1200RT helps hold more stuff that the GTL side cases. Besides, the topcase on the GTL is technically detachable, but there is some extra effort as compared to the 1200RT and its not something I would like to do every morning & evening coz there is a round lever inside the topcase that needs to be turned anti-clockwise (imagine digging thru all your clothes/belonging inside and reaching that lever), then there is also the central locking power cable to be disconnected etc, so its not something I want to do everyday. So I instead used a regular sports bag that I stuffed into the topcase and removed just the bag every evening & carried that into the hotel room.

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day4-138.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day2-012.jpg



THE BEST STOCK SEAT EVER ON A BMW:

Although motorcycle seats are very subjective depending on each ones butt design & density! and BMW is known to put some notoriously harsh seats on its otherwise wonderful bikes, personally for me this is the first stock seat ever on a BMW that I found very very comfortable for long rides unlike all the stock seats on other BMWs that I have ridden. My personal 1200GS recently went thru a steep US$ 600 upgrade with Russell Day Long saddle, but IMO that’s one of the best aftermarket touring seats that money can buy and the stock GTL seat is fairly close to my Russell. My long haired general also found the pillion seat on the GTL way more comfy than the stock seats of the 1200RT or 1200GS. Since we rode in sub-zero temperatures in many parts, the heated seat (together with the heated handgrip) was like a blessing sent down from heaven and made a huge difference in the chilly weather. It has a lo & hi setting for seat heat, but we had to leave it on the hi to get tangible benefits. BTW, the seat heat can be individually controlled for the rider thru the dash board & the pillion thru a switch on the pillion seat.


The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-150.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day4-159.jpg

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WIND PROTECTION:
The electrically adjustable windshield is huge and did a phenomenal job of keeping me & wife cozy in those chilly windy conditions. Same with the fairing design which directs most of the air away from your body. But for hot days there is a small manually adjustable deflector on either side that can be used to deflect some air towards you….which we did not get to use for obvious reasons!


RIDE & SUSPENSION:
The Duo-lever suspension like the other new generation K bikes from BMW is a piece of engineering marvel in its own right and I have not had a more plush ride on any other bike I have ridden especially even comparing with the wonderful para-lever suspension on the R series from BMW. Also the whole suspension adjustment is done at the flick of a button on the handlebar to suite your riding, road & load conditions. I have heard a lot of people complaining a lack of front end feel unlike the regular fork equipped bikes, but for me once you get used to this style of ride, the traditional forks feel very harsh even from the best in the business. So much for its ride quality my wonderful wife momentarily dozed off (see our ride report) on the freeway on our last day of riding.


REVOLUTIONARY LIGHTING:
Coming to the headlight, one of the most striking features of the GTL is its fierce looking headlight console. Beneath the brutish looks is the self leveling zenon adaptive headlight that’s another industry first on a bike (BMW has a long list of such functional firsts on bikes). It not only levels the light depending on the load on the bike, but the best part is the adaptive feature. On all our international touring, we rarely ride after sunset, but on our first day of the US ride, with lots of delays enroute, we rode for close to 3 hours in pitch dark conditions on tight & twisty back roads. Here is where the adaptive feature was very useful. Initially I did not take note but as we started turning into one curve after the other I suddenly noticed that the bike was lighting up into the curve way before I actually entered into the curve and pointed my handlebar into that direction. Infact, it has some kind of sensors that senses the bike tilting & immediately turns the headlight a few degrees in that angle to illuminate the road ahead so you don’t have any dark spots going into a turn at night. Goes a long way in spotting deer, moose or other road debis a few seconds faster than conventional headlights. Our GTL model also comes equipped with standard fog lamps that are mounted low on either side of the bike making us visible in low light or rainy conditions. Pics here:


The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-298.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-296.jpg



GPS SAT NAV SLOT:
I have a Garmin Zumo660 GPS that I use for all my bike trips and luckily the GTL is designed from the factory to take a Zumo660 in its GPS slot that is pre-wired. So no brackets or Ram mounts or power outlets to be attached to bike to fix the GPS. The Zumo660 sold thru BMW has a few more Bluetooth features etc , but my standard Zumo did perfectly fine. Just that it’s a long reach to the GPS screen when seated on the bike or on the move. Here is my video of how easy it is to slide the GPS into that slot



The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-004.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-005.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-006.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-008.jpg




CONCLUSION:
To sum up the bike in my personal opinion - Its incredibly powerful, silky smooth & supremely comfortable.... I can boldly say this bike has set a new benchmark in luxo-sport-touring.


The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day5-203.jpg

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day3-338.jpg

Mission accomplished

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-173.jpg

The GTL taking a breather after our week long New England sojourn

The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions-day7-178.jpg


Retailing around Rs 34 lacs in India, if you ask is the steep price justified? I don’t know the answer to that as I sure can’t afford one in India but if you have deep pockets to afford this stunningly capable bike it’s a lot of fun. As for riding this bike in India, let me be frank, although its very maneuverable in tight traffic, once you get out of the city onto the highway, that’s where it belongs, but I would say our highway systems including the GQ though adequate for the job, but I would be more at home on the flat US Interstate, the Autobahns in Europe or even the smooth backroads in US/Europe for “prolonged” riding fun. But if you have a hefty bank account & plan on coffee-shop hopping with this bike, I sincerely suggest you look elsewhere…..pls don’t insult this lovely bike!

Ride safe.

Haroon

Exploring the world on two wheels.…little at a time



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Last edited by GTO : 5th September 2012 at 14:29. Reason: Please avoiding linking to personal websites
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Old 5th September 2012, 08:14   #2
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Default re: The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions

wonderful review. thank you.
how much better or worse is the bike while maneuvering at standstill speeds. i mean while parking or backing up? can it be easily done?
regards
Harsha
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Old 5th September 2012, 10:47   #3
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Awesome review of K1600GTL. I guess the only things missing are a toilet, and a kitchen. Otherwise, this thing would be a house on two wheels BMW do manage to think of everything, and everyone.

So, after India, SA, USA and Europe, where next? China? Russia? I enjoy each one of your informative posts, with from the heart experiences and opinions. Greatly regret meeting you, when you were in Bangalore
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Old 5th September 2012, 11:16   #4
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unable to edit my previous post so adding it here.

the exhaust design is brilliant. looks like a flying motorbike from the future. i think a similar design was seen in the the 2009 start trek movie when the bike chases the kid. and wish someone would design a watch with that dash as an inspiration.
34L maybe sound like a lot ..but as you have correctly pointed out. its VFM fr those who NEED this capability.
aimed at the diehard BMW offroad fans who are 2-3 decades older now and looking for some extra comfort to continue plowing through every terrain that nature can throw at them.
only major drawback is SHOULD something fail DIY repairs maybe just too complicated.
regards
Harsha
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Old 5th September 2012, 11:22   #5
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One word sir - Incredible!! Extremely well written and practical review of a bike that I shall always dream about, but never own!! A straight 6 in a bike!! That's insane! And technology to shame a 30 lakh car!!

I always drool over the flat-twin BMW bikes (ie R1200). But the K1600 is in a league of its own!

And my God you guys really do amazing touring! Its really awesome! A salute to your wife who shares your passion! It is a great inspiration to me, as time and finances are holding me back from my passion at the moment. Waiting for my next season of touring to start!!

Great job and keep us posted on your endeavors! Cheers!

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Old 5th September 2012, 15:18   #6
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Thanks for the kind comments.


Quote:
Originally Posted by harshaguduru View Post
how much better or worse is the bike while maneuvering at standstill speeds. i mean while parking or backing up? can it be easily done?
regards
Harsha
Although the bike is heavy, since it has a lower seat height I was comfortably able to back it up with the pillion & fully loaded on a level surface (surely not possible on an incline). For some reason BMW have done away with the electrical reversing mechanism that was standard on its previous K1200LT bike or also found on the Goldwing. BTW the wide pulled back handlebars makes it easier to handle in slow speeds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hifisharu View Post
So, after India, SA, USA and Europe, where next? China? Russia? I enjoy each one of your informative posts, with from the heart experiences and opinions. Greatly regret meeting you, when you were in Bangalore
I am thinking you regret 'not' meeting me. Sure, we could catch up sometime in blr.
Next trip? Not finalized. But before Russia etc, we still have to taste Oceania and South America, so those should be next when I have saved up enough....anyway will update the rides on my website.

Quote:
Originally Posted by harshaguduru View Post
34L maybe sound like a lot ..but as you have correctly pointed out. its VFM fr those who NEED this capability.
aimed at the diehard BMW offroad fans who are 2-3 decades older now and looking for some extra comfort to continue plowing through every terrain that nature can throw at them.
only major drawback is SHOULD something fail DIY repairs maybe just too complicated.
regards
Harsha
Yes, for those with the extra money and wanting to tour in the lap of luxury, this is a fantastic weapon of choice. Surely with all the tech gizmos, the DIY maintenance & repairs is very difficult esp since BMW bikes need special BMW specific tools & diagnostic equipment for some of the work like their 4-wheeled brothers.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thumpingheart View Post
I always drool over the flat-twin BMW bikes (ie R1200). But the K1600 is in a league of its own!

And my God you guys really do amazing touring! Its really awesome! A salute to your wife who shares your passion! It is a great inspiration to me, as time and finances are holding me back from my passion at the moment. Waiting for my next season of touring to start!!

Great job and keep us posted on your endeavors! Cheers!

Thanks. Will surely keep my website updated with all our ride stories.

Actually the R1200 bikes have a lot of functional technology but are relatively simpler to work on and will do almost everything a tourer wants from them. Whereas the K1600 is in a territory of its own...touring with an oomph factor- Five star
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Old 8th September 2012, 10:05   #7
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Awesome review Haroon! I saw your thread pop immediately after you finished writing early morning our time. I was too drowsy to read through the whole thing. Only now I finished reading it and must say it was really a marvellous effort. Really well done.

When are you heading to our shores? Would like to meet you and catch up :-)
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Old 8th September 2012, 20:14   #8
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Awesome review Haroon! I saw your thread pop immediately after you finished writing early morning our time. I was too drowsy to read through the whole thing. Only now I finished reading it and must say it was really a marvellous effort. Really well done.

When are you heading to our shores? Would like to meet you and catch up :-)

Thanks Jayanth. I should hopefully be in blr around Dec...so will try & catch up then
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Old 12th September 2012, 13:16   #9
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Excellent review there Haroon, as always. You sure are living a biker's dream and in a good way we are all envious of all the fun you have on two wheels

Will look forward to your visit to Blore. More when we meet. Ride safe.
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Old 12th September 2012, 15:04   #10
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What a fantastic writeup. Gave a very good account of the tremendous capabilities the k1600 has. Lovely pictures to accompany the ink. The bike is purpose built to tackle continents . Since you have hands on experience with sports tourers how would you compare this to the Honda Goldwing ?
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Old 13th September 2012, 03:16   #11
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Originally Posted by n_aditya View Post
Excellent review there Haroon, as always. You sure are living a biker's dream and in a good way we are all envious of all the fun you have on two wheels

Will look forward to your visit to Blore. More when we meet. Ride safe.
Thanks Aditya for the nice words of encouragement. Just fulfilling my biking dreams that took shape from very humble beginnings.

Sure want to meet up with all of you on my Dec visit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bigron View Post
What a fantastic writeup. Gave a very good account of the tremendous capabilities the k1600 has. Lovely pictures to accompany the ink. The bike is purpose built to tackle continents . Since you have hands on experience with sports tourers how would you compare this to the Honda Goldwing ?
Thanks bigron. Coming to the Goldwing, my actual ride experience is only about 10-12 kms (on the first generation GL1800) when I swapped bikes with a friend on a group ride and we did not do very tight & technical riding. But from that outing I can say irrespective of what kind of riding you do, the Goldwing always reminds you its a big bike. It does everything well- Comfort, luxury, power & handling. So riding on a flat interstate highway munching thousands of miles is what it does best. So I agree with its place in the 'Luxury-Touring' segment. Whereas on the K1600GTL, once you get moving it feels a lot smaller than its actual size and the handling is crisp, while the engine is phenomenal. So it does everything exceedingly well. Infact the R1200RT which is lighter and relatively smaller feels almost the same size of the GTL while riding it in twisty backroads. In capable hands the GTL is almost as flickable as a busa or a ZZR14. Thats why I mentioned its a 'luxury-sport-tourer'. If I were to again tour the alpine roads (with a pillion ofcourse), I would not hesitate to take the GTL, whereas definitely NOT the Goldwing although the GL also has a wonderful & smooth engine. The only other sport touring bike in my experience that comes a distant-second to the GTL in riding, power & handling would be the Kawi GTR1400. Its a brute. But surprisingly for slow speed manuevering the GTL is still a shade better than the GTR1400 (probably seat height and wider handlebars). And although pricey, I am eager to see how the 2013 Triumph Trophy with its super sweet inline-3 engine is going to perform...

So for a rider who has ridden street bikes and some 'sedate' sports bikes all his life (or in some cases the mid-size cruiser types) and now wants to probably take his better-half/GF along the rides the Goldwing would make a very good choice. But for a guy who has ridden super/sports bikes (and aggressively!) all his life, if he were to take a mid-life decision without losing out too much on the adrenaline factor the GTL is the bike.

Like I said in the closing line of my review, I strongly feel the GTL is not for the 'Starbucks gang' as this is a bike that just begs to be ridden long & hard, whereas the Goldwing which has been the undisputed industry standard for long distance luxury touring for more than 3 decades, for the ocassional coffee-shop hopping also, it would not be out of place.

Last edited by Haroon : 13th September 2012 at 03:20.
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Old 12th December 2014, 01:13   #12
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Default Re: The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions

I was confused between Goldwing and GTL, but decided to go ahead with the GTL. Compared to the 2012 features discussed above, nothing much has changed. Got a Garmin navigation device for $650, without which the bike feels meaningless.

Here's the breakup (For california)
1. MSRP - 25500 (With adaptive headlights and fog lamps as company fitment)
2. Dealer discount (Since buying in november when 2015 model is already launched, 2015 model having keyless start/stop) - $1500
3. California tax: 10%
4. BMW riding jacket: $(620-500) (500 is gift from BMW)
5. Rain cover : $125
6. Engine guard: $400
7. GAP Insurance (Like 0 dep policy) : $700
Almost 100% financed at 5.99% APR
Picked other accessories like 12V car adapter jack, USB charging and tire inflator.

Initial Impressions:
Riding posture was upright and felt tall. At highest windscreen position could feel the wind buffeting. I used to ride a Harley Superlow 883 back in Bangalore, and this felt felt heavy at 360 kgs. I'm 5'8". Adjusted ride height so that feet are flat and then the controls felt better. The brake pedal is too close to fairing and not as ergonomically placed like my CBR 250. Spend few days, I learnt how to put in main stand and since then bike starting feeling lighter. I think it has to do with muscles developing

It is very easy to topple it if the balance is not respected. Once its moving (or crawling), the handling is very good. I have been adviced to run-in the tyres as they are new and slicker now.

It uses premium 89 octane fuel and averages at 33 mpg in city conditions. I had undergone MSF rider course to waive off skills test at DMV. It was real quick, just took written test and attached the MSF DL389 form, I was all set.

I will be more than happy to clarify any doubts regarding this vehicle as long as I stay here in California.
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Old 26th December 2014, 12:55   #13
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Default Re: The BMW K1600GTL : My riding / touring impressions

Excellent review Haroon. I have been reading a bit about this bike and hence expected a post of you somewhere in the www!

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Originally Posted by devsoftech View Post
I will be more than happy to clarify any doubts regarding this vehicle as long as I stay here in California.
re

Great buy. Do keep us posted.

Adding few youtubes which will help one understand more about this 7 series on two wheels.


And they say this handles well, check out how it does on race track.

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