2018 BMW K 1600 B Bagger | Road Test Review

2018 BMW K 1600 B action
Inspired by the Concept 101 and based on the K 1600 GT sport tourer, the new-for-2018 K 1600 B is a high-tech bagger that can be equipped with nearly every comfort, convenience and safety feature you can think of. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

You really get to know a motorcycle when you ride it all day, every day, for an entire week. Long hours in the saddle give you plenty of time to contemplate what works and what doesn’t. After two days of riding the new BMW K 1600 B in the mountains and foothills near Asheville, North Carolina, during the press launch, I spent the next five days riding it through 14 states on my way home to California. Riding the K 1600 B from sunrise to sunset for several days in a row made its virtues and faults abundantly clear.

2018 BMW K 1600 B beauty
Lean and mean, this machine elicited lots of compliments from folks on the street.

During that weeklong, 3,500-mile odyssey, the impeccable smoothness of the K 1600 B’s perfectly balanced, turbine-like in-line six-cylinder engine was indeed a virtue. With cruise control set at the 75 to 80 mph speed limits that prevail on Interstate 70 across wide-open stretches of Kansas, Colorado and Utah, the mirrors remained crystal-clear, there was barely any vibration and the bike felt as stable—and as fast—as a bullet train. I was grateful that, with the windscreen set at just the right height, airflow around my head was smooth and quiet, the seat was all-day, day-after-day supportive and the riding position created no pain points. I also enjoyed the convenience of thumbing buttons or spinning the Multi-Controller wheel to change riding modes and suspension settings, dial up heat for the grips and seat, check tire pressure, raise or lower the windscreen and much more. And every time I toe-tapped rapid-fire, clutchless upshifts while accelerating hard out of a corner, I almost forgot I was riding a bagger.

2018 BMW K 1600 B action
Ample cornering clearance and a high-performance engine and chassis make the BMW K 1600 B the best cornering bagger you can buy.

Wait—a bagger wearing the BMW roundel? That’s right. Inspired by the Concept 101, a 2015 design study by Roland Sands and BMW Motorrad, the K 1600 B is a bagger based on the K 1600 GT sport tourer that won Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year award in 2012. Alas, the Concept 101’s wooden accent panels didn’t make it into production, but much of the K 1600 B is faithful to the original. Compared to the GT, the B has a shorter windscreen, a tubular handlebar, longer, narrower saddlebags with integrated LED taillights and howitzer-like chrome mufflers that are horizontal instead of angled upward. To give the K 1600 B the appropriate bagger profile, the rear subframe and passenger seat were lowered by 2.8 inches, and a new rear fender folds up for easier removal of the rear wheel. The rider’s seat height is 30.7 inches vs. 31.9/32.7 inches on the GT, and a no-cost optional seat is just 29.5 inches. Suspension travel is also lower on the bagger, but there’s still 4.5/4.9 inches front and rear.

2018 BMW K 1600 B engine
The liquid-cooled, 1,649cc in-line six is remarkably smooth and churns out gobs of torque.

Beneath the Black Storm metallic bodywork is the same liquid-cooled, 1,649cc in-line six-cylinder engine with DOHC, four valves per cylinder and a 12.2:1 compression ratio that powers the K 1600 GT. With a narrow 72mm bore (stroke is 67.5mm) and cylinder sleeves spaced just 5mm apart, the engine isn’t much wider than an in-line four. Perfect primary and secondary balance eliminates the need for counterbalancers and the cylinders are canted forward 55 degrees to lower the center of gravity, put more weight on the front wheel and allow the rails of the aluminum alloy bridge-type frame to pass over rather than around the engine. Even though the K 1600 platform (which includes the B, GT and GTL) has been made Euro4 compliant, BMW claims that engine output is unchanged from previous model years: 160 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque at 5,250 rpm in Dynamic and Road modes, and 147 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque in Rain mode (measured at the crank). When we put the K 1600 B on Jett Tuning’s dyno, however, it produced lower than expected horsepower and torque at the rear wheel with irregularly shaped dyno curves, as compared to the last K 1600 GT we tested in 2013. Some motorcycles electronically limit engine output when the front wheel is immobilized but the rear wheel is spinning rapidly, as is the case during dyno runs, and such a restriction may have been incorporated into the K 1600’s engine management software. We contacted BMW Motorrad to inquire about this, but we did not receive a response before going to press. We’ll follow up in the near future.

2018 BMW K 1600 B action
Accessory floorboards, a supportive seat and a relaxed riding position make the K 1600 B comfortable for hours on end.

Out of the dyno room and on the road, on the other hand, the K 1600 B feels unimpeded, spinning up rapidly and sending ample power to the rear wheel through a 6-speed transmission and shaft final drive. Lots of torque is on tap even at low rpm and response from the throttle-by-wire is precise, though there’s some lag on inital throttle opening that takes some getting used to. Other than a supercar-like, high-revving whine under hard acceleration, the engine and exhaust are very quiet—too quiet, really, for a bagger (BMW should have had the same engineer who designed the R nineT’s growling exhaust take a crack at this one). There’s some heavy engine braking in lower gears, but otherwise this big in-line six feels like the heart of a thoroughbred.

2018 BMW K 1600 B on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Most of my cross-country ride was on Interstates, but I routed myself through some of the best riding areas in America. My ride began with a scenic cruise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo by the author)

Being based on a high-tech, high-performance sport tourer, the K 1600 B is likewise laden with state-of-the-art technology. Standard equipment includes riding modes (Dynamic, Road and Rain) that automatically adjust throttle response, torque output and intervention by the lean angle-adaptive Dynamic Traction Control, and ABS Pro is similarly optimized for cornering. Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) has two modes—Road for all conditions and Cruise for softer compliance—that automatically adjust damping. Other standard features include self-leveling xenon headlights, heated grips and seat, cruise control, the Multi-Controller, an onboard computer and dual power sockets. Our test bike also included the Premium and Touring packages, adding central saddlebag locks, auxiliary LED lights, an anti-theft alarm, a tire pressure monitoring system, the Adaptive Headlight that points into corners, Hill Start Control, Gear Shift Assistant Pro for clutchless shifting up and down, Keyless Ride, Bluetooth, an audio system and GPS preparation. There’s also Reverse Assist, which uses a worm gear that runs off the starter motor to provide low-speed reverse to assist with parking (up to a maximum gradient of 7 percent).

2018 BMW K 1600 B Multi-Controller and switchgear
The rider’s left thumb operates the Multi-Controller wheel, and also actuates cruise control, windscreen adjustment, settings menu, reverse, auxiliary lights, turn signal and horn.

That may sound like a lot of bells and whistles, but everything is nicely integrated with an intuitive bike-rider interface. In terms of infotainment, the Sirius satellite radio subscription hadn’t been activated, and I didn’t bother pairing my iPhone via Bluetooth. Listening to music blaring out of external speakers while I’m going down the freeway at 75 mph wearing earplugs isn’t my thing. But I’ve used the audio system on the K 1600 GT and it works fine. Our bike also did not include the accessory BMW Navigator VI GPS ($999), which drops into a slot on the top of the dash and is easily controlled via the Multi-Controller, which works great on other BMWs we’ve tested.

2018 BMW K 1600 B at the Pig Trail Scenic Byway Ozarks
After crossing five states on the freeway, I rewarded myself with back road riding in the Ozarks, including the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. (Photo by the author)

Not surprisingly, the K 1600 B attacks corners like a sport tourer. In the hollers and gaps of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains, the big bagger felt nimble and well planted, its Bridgestone Battlax BT022 sport-touring tires providing tenacious grip. Despite my best efforts, on only a few occasions did the peg feelers scrape the ground. The massive brakes scrub off speed easily yet also provide subtle feel at the lever. And the Dynamic ESA keeps the chassis stable and the tires in contact with the ground, absorbing the worst of beat-up back road pavement and even the whoop-like frost heaves around Summit Lake on the road up to the top of Colorado’s Mount Evans.

2018 BMW K 1600 B low seat
The K 1600 B has a lower rear subframe and passenger seat, and the rider’s seat height is 30.7 inches. Shown is the no-cost optional 29.5-inch low seat.

Two of the K 1600 B’s features are strokes of genius, both of which debuted on the K 1600 GT/GTL in 2012. One is the Multi-Controller wheel on the left hand grip, which makes it so easy to scroll through menus and make changes that riders are much more likely to take advantage of the many available settings. The other is the air deflector winglets on either side of the front fairing, which can be rotated outward to direct airflow into the cockpit. These are the sort of details that elevate a motorcycle from good to great, making the lives of touring riders much easier. On cold mornings, I kept the winglets closed, raised the windscreen and used the Multi-Controller to turn on heating for the grips and seat. As the day warmed, I turned off the heating, rotated the winglets outward to allow more airflow and lowered the windscreen. The windscreen, which has stepless height adjustment, caused no buffeting though in the lowest position there’s quite a bit of wind noise.

2018 BMW K 1600 B Adaptive headlight
Center light is the optional Adaptive Headlight that points into corners with input from lean-angle sensors.

The accessory floorboards, which replace the small locking storage compartments on the K 1600 GT and require the accessory engine protection bars for installation, also won me over. They’re really “highway boards” since they provide a second, more forward position for your feet, which must be on the pegs to use the foot controls. With long hours in the saddle, the floorboards allowed me to stretch out my legs, change my knee and hip angles, and move around on the seat.

2018 BMW K 1600 B atop Mount Evans
And after riding across the Great Plains and into the Rockies, I rode to the summit of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in North America. (Photo by the author)

For my cross-country ride, I loaded both saddlebags and strapped a big, waterproof duffel to the passenger seat. The K 1600 B’s saddlebags are not removable, and they have shallower lids but are longer than those on the GT, offering the same 37 liters of storage but with a different shape. Inside the left bag is the release lever for the seat, and inside the right bag is a removable pouch and a USB port/micro jack for plugging in a smartphone or other media devices. Also good for touring is the big, 7-gallon gas tank. My fuel mileage wasn’t the best because I either had the hammer down or was scuffing the sides of the tires on tight curves.

2018 BMW K 1600 B instruments
Analog gauges are complemented by a full-color, comprehensive TFT display. Center button is the Keyless Ride ignition switch.

Both of my complaints about the K 1600 B have to do with temperature. The part of my view that never changed was the cockpit. The 5.7-inch, full-color TFT display has crisp, easy-to-read graphics, and what information is shown is customizable. I always like to see the ambient temperature gauge, but I’m not sure why the K 1600 B (and other BMWs we’ve tested) shows temperature in tenths of a degree when temperature changes are given in odd, 0.9-degree increments. Riding across the Mojave Desert, the temperature crept up from 112.1 to 113.0 to 113.9 degrees, where it stayed for a while, and then finally topped out at 114.8. Minor, I know, but long hours of riding encourage such nitpicking obsessions.

2018 BMW K 1600 B action
The K 1600 B’s sleek fairing and short, adjustable windscreen slice through the air cleanly. Air deflector winglets on each side of the fairing can be rotated outward to direct air into the cockpit.

The other complaint was an isolated incident. On the first day of the press ride we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for over an hour on a hot, humid day, and after a while my feet started to roast and the engine temperature gauge spiked, changing from white to red and flashing a warning symbol. The bike never overheated, but it was uncomfortably hot until we got moving again. After that, engine heat was never an issue, even after riding in 105-plus degree temperatures for six straight hours while crossing the Mojave, often going slowly through Vegas-to-LA traffic on I-15.

2018 BMW K 1600 B beauty
Stretched out saddlebags with integrated LED taillights and dual howitzer-sized mufflers give the K 1600 B a distinctive look. In the background is the Biltmore House (if you can call a 175,000-square-foot mansion a “house”) in Asheville, North Carolina.

Subjected to a 3,500-mile torture test in a wide range of conditions—including 14,130 feet of elevation at the top of Mount Evans and hours of scorching temperatures in the desert—the K 1600 B passed with flying colors. There are so many ways in which riding a motorcycle this far in such a short amount of time could have made me miserable, but there was nothing about it that made me want to get off before the day was over or dread the next long day in the saddle. If you want rumble and heritage, then the K 1600 B clearly isn’t for you. But if you want a bagger that will ride circles around every other bagger, has class-leading performance and technology, and has all the comfort and convenience you need for the long haul, then your stallion awaits.

2018 BMW K 1600 B Specs
Base Price: $19,995
Price as Tested: $24,390 (Premium and Touring packages, engine protection bars, floorboards)
Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles
Website: bmwmotorcycles.com

ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line six
Displacement: 1,649cc
Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 67.5mm
Compression Ratio: 12.2:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: Varies, computer monitored
Fuel Delivery: BMS-X EFI, 52mm throttle bodies x 6
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 4.75-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 2.75:1

ELECTRICAL
Ignition: BMS-X computer controlled
Charging Output: 700 watts max.
Battery: 12V 19AH

CHASSIS
Frame: Cast-aluminum-alloy twin-spar main frame w/ engine as stressed member & aluminum subframe; cast-aluminum Paralever single-sided swingarm
Wheelbase: 63.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 27.8 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 30.7 in.; optional low seat: 29.5 in.
Suspension, Front: BMW Duolever w/ Dynamic ESA, 4.5-in. travel
Rear: BMW Paralever w/ single shock & Dynamic ESA, 4.9-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual floating 320mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers & ABS Pro
Rear: Single 320mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS Pro
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 190/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 770 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 465 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,235 lbs.

PERFORMANCE
Fuel Capacity: 7.0 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 89 PON min. (high/avg/low) 33.8/37.7/43.5
Estimated Range: 264 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,750

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: X-Lite X-1004
Jacket: Tour Master Intake
Pants: Firstgear HT Air
Boots: Tour Master Epic Air

 

 

24 COMMENTS

  1. These bikes are so lame! I’m sure they come equipped with a neon yellow riding suit. Everyone laughs at these clowns whenever they see them!

    • Everyone, Nason?

      The only “clowns” I know are those who judge others because they like different rides than I do. I wouldn’t buy the Bagger, but for what it is it offers a lot of value.

      You keep going on your scooter, though. Pretending no one’s laughing at you! 🤣

    • Laugh away Nason. I see nothing wrong with being visible. But if you and you ” look at me I’m Different like everyone else” Riders want to laugh with your Antiquated and inefficient machines that’s okay.

  2. Greg, the odd decimal increments for ambient temperature result from converting degrees Celcius (used practically everywhere) to Fahrenheit (used in the US).

    • Good point, Bones. Assuming that the ambient temperature gauge shows Celsius readings in tenths of a degree, then, given the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion formula:

      Temperature (F) = [Temperature (C) * 1.8] + 32

      the Fahrenheit readings should be in 0.18-degree increments (rounded to 0.2-degree increments). But if the temperature gauge’s sensitivity is limited to 0.5-degree Celsius increments, then the conversion to Fahrenheit would be in 0.9-degree (0.5 * 0.18) increments, which gives the same readings I saw while riding across the Mojave Desert:
      T(C) T(F)
      44.0 111.2
      44.5 112.1
      45.0 113.0
      45.5 113.9
      46.0 114.8 (HOT!)

  3. Hi Greg, thanks for the review! I thoroughly enjoyed the K16GT test ride at the MOA Rally last year. This B version looks great! Can you give approximate height and inseam measurements to give a better idea of how the bike compares to you, the rider, in your pics? Thanks much.

    • Dave, I’m 6 feet tall with a 34-inch inseam. The optional low seat didn’t work for me (and it’s less comfortable, since the 1.2 inches drop in seat height is due to less foam), and I found the floorboards to be essential for the long haul.

  4. Wow Greg. You really put it to a full on touring test! Good for you… sounds like a great tourer. I rode my R1100RT from Maine to California and back.. This new machine had obviously taking that older design to new heights.. I know this is trivial, but I think it’s the best looking bike BMW has done with the brick engine.. I do like the new Scrambler as well.. great article and pictures..many thanks.. Rod Welles

  5. Nice review Greg. A buddy and I are looking to purchase a couple of these gorgeous baggers after labor day weekend here in Texas. We did the adventure bike thing for a year riding weekends in Texas and vacations in Ouray Colorado. There is not a better 24 mile ride on this planet than Silverton to Ouray on the million dollar highway. My ride is a 2013 Ducati multistrada gran turismo. His a KTM 1190 adventure. Both bikes are dual sport and awesome. We learned that long distant traveling was ok, but a bit grueling if we went over 300 miles a day. So we’ve decided if we want dirt, we’ll ride dirt bikes. If we want the highway, we’ll ride luxury road bikes. Neither one of us like the big touring boats like the 1600 GTL, or Goldwings. With the huge fairings you feel like you’re riding in something than actually driving/riding a motorcycle which is why we ride. I want feedback and control when I ride. Unlike that clown Nason who is about riding to be cool, I ride because I love performance, comfort, and in this case, looking pretty cool while exploring our beautiful country. My buddy and I were locked in to getting the BMW 1200rt. The more I looked, the more I realized we were trading for a bike real similar to what we were already riding. I would be giving up 25hp, and a huge tour pack for a bike that had a sticker of $23,510. Didn’t make sense. If I’m laying down that kind of money then I want POWER AND LUXURY!!! Your awesome review convinced me that the BMW 1600 BAGGER is the prescription for a power hungry, corner carving, endless horizon, all day comfort, conversation piece, and next adventure bike for my buddy and I. After I passed on your review to my friend, he texted back and simply said…..Let’s do this!!!!
    Thanks, James of Arlington Texas.

  6. The 1600B is supposed to be going after the touring market. But… If that’s the case why would they leave off a backrest AND a tour pack for luggage behind the passenger seat. If my wife is not comfortable than obviously I’m not. Wanted to buy this machine but they quit too soon. I’m out.

    • There’s no trunk on the K 1600 B accessory list, and the trunk from the K 1600 GTL won’t fit (there’s no luggage rack to attach it to). If the bagger sells well, then more accessories are likely to be added, but only time will tell.

      • There’s a guy on the K1600.com forum that custom mounted a GTLE too case on his bagger. The top case doesn’t really work well with the bagger’s side cases and he canted the top case forward.

    • Bought a K1600B Sept 5, 2300 miles today Sept 18, talked to the BMW rep Saturday and BMW is in the process of designing a top case to be out this year.

        • No, we haven’t had any issues, problems or concerns. It has been great, but we’ve only put about 4,000 miles on it. Regarding ownership issues, I recommend getting on some of the K 1600 forums to find out what sort of maintenance or service problems are common. It is a BMW, so parts and service, when needed, are not cheap.
          – Greg Drevenstedt, Senior Editor

  7. Greg i think this is quite a machine. Most BMWs from the get go are. I however will not own another one unless I can afford to put a whole lot of money in a repair and maintenance account and have a personal mechanic. When they run, which is usually they are quite fine, when they don’t it is miserable. Unfortunately road tests are rarely at 30,000 miles. If they were I think a lot of reviews would be quite different. Thanks for the article.

  8. Why not get the k16 gtl and ditch the top case and or the side bags any time they are not needed? Takes less than 5 minutes and looks like a totally different bike in each configuration.

  9. The first comment made about the bike being laughed at was made by an immature rider. I’ve a HD Softail Slim S murdered out and bad ass. But I personally think the HD Baggers are ugly. For a bagger this BMW is a superior bike in every way. On Horsepower and Tourqe alone HD has nothing not even the former Vrod that could compare. This BMW is anything but ugly. It is a beautiful machine and will fit nicely between my FLSS and VRSC and while I’m riding it I’ll wear whatever suites me at the moment. Could be leathers and boots or shorts and flip flops.

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