Fred Harmon’s Review of the GTL – BMW K1600 Forum : BMW K1600 GT and GTL Forums

21 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Fred Harmon’s Review of the GTL – BMW K1600 Forum : BMW K1600 GT and GTL Forums
BMW K-Series Naked

Fred Harmon’s Review of the GTL

BMW GTL 1600 – My first ride impressions

This bike appears to be placed somewhere between the Sport Touring and the Luxo-Touring motorcycle market. So owning both a Kawasaki Concours and Gold Wing, it seemed like it was right up my alley. I remember thinking on the way over to the dealership that it might actually be possible for me to sell both my bikes and replace them with the new BMW.

More on that later….

The first thing I noticed when I start looking over the bike is that there is rear drive oil splattered around the rear rim. Not sure if this is left over oil from it just being filled up or a more ominous sign of problems already surfacing. Given the amount of problems BMW has had in the past with rear drives, this doesn’t look good.

When I mounted the bike, I noticed right away that it has a very comfortable seat height, and I can flat foot it. It felt better in this respect than does my Concours, which has a significantly higher seat height. The seat also felt comfortable though I really didn’t ride in it long enough to form an opinion on how would hold up over the course of a 800+ mile day.

Score one for the BMW.

In the parking lot I tried to familiarize myself with the electronic controls. The dial ring on the left handgrip seems to work well, and BMW was able to greatly reduce the amount of buttons in the cockpit by incorporating many functions into it. However, this comes at a cost, since now you have to navigate through menu levels and look down at the meter panel to try to find the item you are interested in. While it does declutter the cockpit, it also makes it harder to use the controls.

The throttle by wire mode control has it’s own separate buttons on the right grip and some of the audio controls are on the left side, so not all the controls are done with the control ring, thankfully. However, there are enough of them that do use it that it will definitely take some getting used to.

I suspect after a few hundred miles you would master it and it wouldn’t be a big issue, but given the option, I think I’d rather have dedicated buttons for each function that are easier to locate and use without taking my eyes off the road. Score one for the Gold Wing.

Pulling away from the parking lot, the first thing I notice is that the bike was lurching a little in 1st gear as I pulled out into traffic, though I was still trying to get the feel of the clutch, but it did give me pause wondering what was going on. It almost felt like the clutch was slipping. I never felt it do it again the rest of the ride.

I did however feel the clutch lever position moving as I got on and off the gas with a couple fingers covering the clutch lever. I’ve felt other bikes do this some too, but never this much. I also found the typical cluncky BMW transmission as well as an alarming amount of driveline lash that upset the suspension during on-off throttle transitions.

For a bike of this caliber, I really expected better. Strike one BMW.

Once up to speed I started playing with the setting for the throttle adjustment from “Road” to “Dynamic” and “Rain”. I found the differences it gave the way the throttle responded was to basically “dull” the responsiveness of the throttle. It seemed like the “Dynamic” mode gave it the best response.

After playing with a bit, I came to the distinct conclusion that this was a useless gimmick and provided no real value at all. Once you get used to the way a throttle responds on a motorcycle, you simply adapt to it. I also noticed several times when in the “road” mode, I had a disconnected feeling between the throttle and engine that I didn’t care for.

I’ll give the drive-by-wire system a basic “pass”, but if I had my choice, just give me a good old fashioned throttle cable that makes the bike respond in a way I can predict at all times. I see absolutely no value added in the various modes either.

The ergos of the bike were somewhat similar to the Wing with regards to the riding position, though my knees were slightly more bent. I don’t think I’d have any problem doing high mile days on this bike. The bike does feel significantly more narrow than the Wing, which also helped give it a more nimble feeling. As a result, it had less wind protection than the Wing, but I would say it was about on-par with the Concours 14 and FJR.

The bike also felt strangely tall once underway, and I’m not sure why. It may just be the high position of the gas tank and meter panel, because the seat height itself really wasn’t much taller than my Wing.

The suspension and brakes and handling of the new BMW were the high points. Though I found the “standard” mode of the suspension system far too soft for my tastes. It felt much taughter in the “sport” mode and if I owned one of these bikes, this is where I would leave it 99% of the time.

BMW K-Series Naked

The brakes were outstanding and coupled with the tele-lever front end the bike was really easy to stop quickly. I also engaged the ABS on the rear during one quick stop, and it worked flawlessly. I didn’t get a chance to sample the traction control though.

One thing that surprised me was that the bike also actually felt “flickable”, and I would say that it would hold it’s own with most any sport touring bike out there on a twisty mountain road. It had a light feel to it, and never felt top heavy in slow speed maneuvers and was quite responsive to small steering inputs. Score two more points for BMW for brakes and suspension.

The engine has it’s own unique power output a little unlike anything else I’ve ridden. It didn’t have the low end grunt of the GoldWing, but it had significantly more mid range “punch” as well as an easier revving feel with a higher red line than the Wing, though well below the 10,500 limit of the Concours. The response curve from it (when the throttle control was in the Dynamic mode) felt like it was well placed in-between the two bikes for both high end HP and low end torque.

I’d have to say that the engine is very well suited to the bike, and it’s very easy to ride this bike quickly. It accelerates very well, and you can really feel the power come on stronger quickly as the rpms build. While I don’t think this bike is as fast as my Concours, it’s not far off.

I didn’t mess with the radio control much during my ride and the bike had no where to plug a headset into. You had to have some sort of BlueTooth set up in your helmet to listen to music unless you wanted to use the external speakers. While the external speakers sounded “OK” in the parking lot, to me they didn’t sound as good as the OEM Gold Wing system.

And while everyone oohs and ahhhs over the fancy headlight on this bike, I noticed it didn’t have self canceling turn signals, or a horn that was any good. While I like the idea of the rotating headlight in corners, I’d trade it for a good loud horn and self canceling signals (like the Wing has) any day of the week. The BMW did have tire pressure sensors that would read out the actual tire pressure data on the meter panel, much like my Concours does.

The Wing also has tire pressure sensors, but Honda doesn’t display the actual pressure, instead they just give you a single idiot light. So take away two points from BMW for the horns and turn signals and add one point for displaying the tire pressure on the dash.

I tried out the cruise control and found it to work very well, and I also enjoyed the 6th gear out on the highway, which allowed a more comfortable cruising RPM, though I can’t honestly tell what it was at 70mph, I had too much traffic around me and other things I was trying to pay attention to. The electrically adjustable windshield, which now has become pretty much standard on this class of bike, also worked well.

Interestingly enough, the GoldWing still lacks this feature (strike one Honda). I found that if I wanted to look over the windshield I had to have it down near the bottom of it’s adjustment to do so.

So back to my earlier thought about using this bike to replace both my Wing and my Concours. At the end of the ride, I came to the conclusion that BMW did indeed place the bike squarely between the two market segments of the GoldWing and Concours 14, but I also came to the conclusion that in reality, it would not be able to replace either of my bikes.

It had no where near the level of creature comforts and all-day-long two-up touring ability that my Wing does, and while it was plenty sporty, it simply didn’t have the “fun factor” that my Concours gives me. I guess it’s kinda like the El-Camino in that respect, half car half truck, but it doesn’t really excel in either category.

BMW K-Series Naked
BMW K-Series Naked


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