BMW K1600B: PH2

Some American trends don't translate that well once they pass over the Atlantic to our shores. I'm a fan of big American cars, but a huge classic Pontiac Bonneville or Cadillac de Ville looks weirdly out of place on our narrow roads. There again, crispy bacon on pancakes dripping with maple syrup rocks, so it's not all bad. So which side does the current trend for baggers sit on? To be honest I'm still undecided, as this style of bike - effectively a long and low cruiser with solid panniers and a nose fairing - certainly has both positive and negative points. And it appears I'm not the only one, as while a considerable number of manufacturers now sell baggers (Honda, Harley-Davidson, Victory and Indian) they are still very much a niche market in Europe. Which is why BMW's entry into this segment is a bit of a surprise. Although that said, I have a feeling the K1600B has its eyes more on the American market than the European one.

Bags of power
The K1600B, as the name suggests, builds upon the already solid foundation of BMW's K-series platform. Powered by the same inline six engine as the K1600GT and GTL, the Bagger (which is what the B stands for in its name) makes an identical 160hp with 129lb ft of torque. It swaps the GT's blocky panniers for curved solidly mounted items though, while adding more stylish exhaust pipes and a chopped screen alongside tubular handlebars. Optional forward foot rests, and a lower seat and subframe give a relaxed riding position and droopy rear end look.

The rest of the bike is pretty much the same, so you get a full list of accessories (some of which are standard, some of which are not, depending on the spec of model) that includes traction control, dynamic ESA, cruise control, up and down quickshifter, hill start control and, for the first time in ages, the option of a reverse assistant. Some may snigger at a reverse gear on a bike, but when you need to manhandle 336kg of bagger, doing it under the power of an electric motor (it's actually the starter motor reversed) is bloody useful.

Bags of fun
Autumn in the UK isn't the best place to experience a bagger and, as well as cold, wet roads, my ride involved mist and a bit of rain, so was a far cry from living the Californian dream (and is also the reason the pictures are press images). But even in miserable conditions it's not hard to warm towards the Bagger. The K1600GT is a big old bus but despite the Bagger weighing as much, at 336kg, it feels far less intimidating. It's partly down to the lower seat, allowing you to position your feet solidly on the ground, but also the pulled-back bars which give a greater feeling of control. At slow speed the Bagger has a nice low centre of gravity, making it easy to maneuver, and is far from intimidating, despite its large size. However the fun really starts once you get up to cruising pace.

On the go, the Bagger not only looks amazing, but feels really cool to ride too. Yes, it's a long and heavy bike and so there is a bit of a feeling of the front wheel being quite remote (this was made even worse by wet roads and extra caution), but through flowing bends the Bagger's weight sees it roll into corners with good poise. A sensation that is further enhanced by the excellent dynamic ESA, which comes as standard on the Bagger. But it does have a few irritations...

The Bagger comes with lots of creature comforts and as a result I found the left-hand switchgear suffered from button overload. You have the traditional BMW toggle wheel thingy, but as well as the menu and screen height buttons there was also cruise control and accessory lights. For me the indicator, quite a useful button, got lost and the horn (also pretty handy) was almost inaccessible. Then there are the forward pegs.

On the Bagger the optional extra forward pegs are simply resting places for your feet with no access to the brake or gear lever, which is fair enough, but I found the engine's case obstructed my foot on the right-hand rest and the rubber coating on both footplates became slippy in the wet. A small irritation, but one that did spoil a bit of the added relaxation that these pegs brought with them. That said, the standard pegs are perfectly comfortable enough for me. But no matter how you ride the Bagger, it is that inline six engine that dominates the show.

Any revs, any gear, the Bagger's powerhouse of a motor pulls and pulls. It's a wonderful engine that is built for cruising thanks to a smooth power delivery, bags of torque and not even the slightest hint of a vibration. One or two up, with the (slightly too small) panniers loaded or unloaded, it just steams ahead without breaking sweat. It really is a beauty of an engine, but one that isn't cheap to make...

Is it a European rider's bag?
The Bagger is a bike that will certainly split opinions, and at £16,750 for the base model, £17,760 for the SE and £19,405 for the all-singing LE it is one hell of a price, but it is fun to ride and loaded with tech. The issue I have with BMW's Bagger, and all other bagger models for that matter, is that they aren't really suited to the UK's roads or riding culture. We don't have long straights through the wilderness, and riders who tour want more than the limited space the Bagger's panniers allow and more protection than its low screen offers. Not to mention more pillion creature comforts. The GT makes sense as it ticks these boxes, but in the UK the Bagger feels a bit of a fish out of water. It's a lovely bike to ride, and looks amazing, but I struggle to see how it would suit a UK rider's needs. Maybe that's just me though, after all, there is a growing culture for American cars in the UK, why not baggers?

2017 BMW K 1600 B
: 1,649cc DOHC inline six, liquid-cooled, 24v
Power (hp): 160@7,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 129.15@5,250rpm
Top speed: 140mph (est)
Weight: 336kg (wet)
MPG: 50 (claimed)
Price: From £16,750



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Comments (6) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Harry_mac 01 Nov 2017

    Reaally want to build a kit car around one of these engines!

  • Jazoli 01 Nov 2017

    I saw one of these at the Winter Gardens bike show, quite an interesting bike and a million times more desirable than the bike its based on.

  • podman 01 Nov 2017

    Harry_mac said:
    Reaally want to build a kit car around one of these engines!
    Id normally consider that a sacrilege but in this case, id rather see that engine in a car than that bike...

  • mikeg15 01 Nov 2017

    podman said:
    Id normally consider that a sacrilege but in this case, id rather see that engine in a car than that bike...
    That reminds me that I'd always intended to put an F6C Valkyrie flat 6 engine in a Ginetta G15 as a mini-911. One of these days.................

  • thatdude 02 Nov 2017

    Harry_mac said:
    Reaally want to build a kit car around one of these engines!
    I have a honda civic (EP2...1.6 litre, 110 bhp - ok, let's call it a more honest 90 bhp) which in a couple of years will be worth fk all. How do we get that BMW straight 6 into my engine bay? How would the transmission be mated up? The bike engine will definatly have more power, and probably as much torque.

    It'd certainly be very interesting to accomplish, and provide an interesting vehicle to drive to work when I can't use my bike.

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