2018 BMW K 1600 GTL vs. Honda Gold Wing Tour | Comparison Review

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
Honda’s all-new Gold Wing Tour and the BMW K 1600 GTL are the fastest and arguably most refined luxury-touring bikes on the road. Both have 6-cylinder engines, aluminum frames, dual-wishbone front ends and single-sided swingarms, but their performance and personalities couldn’t be more different. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

My, how the luxury touring landscape has changed.

Since our last comparison test of these two high-performance, 6-cylinder luxos in 2012 (the year the BMW was introduced and the Honda was mildly updated), the ranks of V-twin full dressers like Harley-Davidson Ultras and the Kawasaki Voyager have swelled to include the Indian Roadmaster and Yamaha Star Venture. At the rate they’re selling, Americans clearly want traditional V-twin touring bikes. Is there still a place at the table for big six guns like the BMW K 1600 GTL and Honda Gold Wing?

Read our Luxo Touring Comparo: Harley vs. Indian vs. Yamaha.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
The new Gold Wing Tour has lost 85 pounds and looks and feels more compact overall, yet has gained some bottom-end power, ride quality and electronic sophistication, and hasn’t lost much in the way of comfort.

Mark’s Gear
Helmet: Nolan N87
Jacket: Tourmaster Transition Series 5
Pants: Rev’It
Boots: TCX Airtech Evo Gore-Tex

Honda must certainly think so, otherwise it would not have so thoroughly revamped the Gold Wing for 2018, knocking off 85 pounds, broadening the bike’s powerband and giving it a full suite of modern engine, suspension and chassis components like riding modes, an electric windscreen and a dual wishbone front end (Rider, January 2018 and here). BMW has kept the K 1600 GTL’s momentum going as well, with upgrades to its top-line touring bike for 2017 that include Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (D-ESA), ABS Pro, Reverse Assist and optional Gear Shift Assist Pro for clutchless up- and downshifts. It also received numerous styling improvements like new mirrors, foot guards and redesigned lower storage compartments. With the new Gold Wing, Honda expects sales of its flagship motorcycle to climb back to 2006 levels. Could it be the harbinger of a renaissance for luxurious, fully dressed touring bikes that go vroom-vroom instead of potato-potato-potato?

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
BMW’s consummate touring machine was updated for 2017 with Reverse Assist, Dynamic ESA, ABS Pro that works in corners and optional Gear Shift Assist Pro. Launched in 2012 alongside a GT sibling without a top trunk, the GTL is about 44 pounds lighter than the Honda and has a sportier personality.

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: Vemar Zephir
Jacket: Spidi Globe Tracker
Pants: Fly Terra Trek
Boots: Sidi Gavia

Our Magic 8-Ball merely replied, “Ask again later,” so we decided it was best to put these two high-powered butt massagers back-to-back and let you decide if they outshine the spud shooters. I can say that after 850 miles and two long days of flogging the shiny six-bangers in the mountains and deserts of Southern California, in temperatures ranging from 26 to 80 degrees and the dark of night to the high sun of midday, we are reminded just how good it can get in the saddle of a motorcycle.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
One of the interesting features in the desolate desert landscape surrounding the Salton Sea in California is Salvation Mountain, a labor of love near Niland created by Leonard Knight with local adobe clay, hay bales and thousands of gallons of donated latex paint. Knight passed away in 2014 and the site has been maintained by volunteers ever since. It was pretty cold when we visited and we were quite happy to be riding the warm and cozy luxos.

For this comparison we pitted a $26,700 Gold Wing Tour model with top trunk and manual 6-speed transmission (rather than Honda’s 7-speed DCT automatic) against a BMW K 1600 GTL with the Premium package and optional Navigator GPS, which boosts its base price of $25,595 to $28,844. Equipped as such the bikes share numerous features like 6-cylinder engines in aluminum frames, single-sided swingarms with shaft final drive and individual interpretations of a Hossack-like dual-wishbone front end, which eliminates fork dive and bump steer, separates the steering from the suspension, reduces friction and allows better suspension and ABS tuning. The two bikes also have throttle-by-wire, riding modes, cruise control, hill start assist, reverse, electric windscreens, keyless ignition and central locking, Bluetooth-enabled audio systems, heated grips and seats, GPS navigation and centerstands. If that seems like a lot of similarities, well, it is. But they just make the differences between them really stand out.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
Gold Wing’s cockpit features a fully integrated, Bluetooth-enabled infotainment system with Apple CarPlay. Most vehicle and audio functions are controlled and displayed on the central 7-inch TFT display, but Honda wisely kept separate buttons for quick access to things like the heated grips and seats.
BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
The Honda’s top trunk will hold a pair of small full-face helmets, or you can use the exterior helmet lock (as long as your helmets have chin straps with D-rings).

As the all-new machine, the Honda benefits from the latest technology and thoughtful integration. Up front there’s a comprehensive infotainment system with a high-resolution 7-inch TFT display, built-in navigation and Apple CarPlay, so it automatically detects your iPhone and you can run Apple Music and Maps manually or with voice commands, make phone calls and send text messages using Siri and a Bluetooth helmet headset. Most of the buttons that cluttered up the previous model’s fairing are gone, replaced with an intuitive menu system. Audio from multiple sources pumps through two speakers in front and two in back and/or wireless headsets. Luggage capacity is significantly down from the previous GL1800, though the top trunk will hold two smaller full-face helmets and the styling and integration of the trunk and saddlebags is beautiful and seamless.

Gold Wing engine
The Honda’s opposed flat-six lowers CoG and produces prodigious torque from idle on up.

The Honda’s flat opposed 1,833cc 6-cylinder engine is all-new, lighter and more compact yet has an even broader powerband now, and still delivers smooth, stump-pulling torque from idle to a relatively low redline of 6,000 rpm with a much deeper voice than before. We’ve written about the available DCT automatic transmission in two previous reports—for this comparison we requested the new 6-speed manual transmission, which has been refined with a cam damper and assist-and-slipper functions that greatly quiet and smooth shifting. Engine rpm at 60 mph is reduced from 2,550 rpm to 2,000 for less noise as well, although the engine’s louder exhaust note makes for a noisier experience overall. Peak output remains about the same—on the Jett Tuning dyno the Honda made 101.4 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,500, but now the engine starts making more than 100 lb-ft about 800 rpm lower, at 2,300 rpm, and doesn’t fall below 100 until 5,100 rpm as before. There’s never a lack of grunt on tap, and even two-up the Gold Wing rarely requires a downshift to make a quick pass or zoom out of a corner.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
The BMW predates the trend toward large central TFT displays and divides up its navigation and audio/vehicle function control between a smaller TFT display and optional BMW Navigator touchscreen GPS unit. A Multi-Controller wheel on the left bar helps make changes quick and easy.
BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
The BMW predates the trend toward large central TFT displays and divides up its navigation and audio/vehicle function control between a smaller TFT display and optional BMW Navigator touchscreen GPS unit. A Multi-Controller wheel on the left bar helps make changes quick and easy.

By adding D-ESA, ABS Pro and Reverse Assist to the K 1600 GTL and updating the bike’s styling and wind protection for 2017, BMW has maintained the GTL’s feature-for-feature competiveness and the advantages of its more modular design. Up front there’s a smallish TFT display with a comprehensive menu system for most of the bike’s audio and riding functions, and it’s accessed with a slick Multi-Controller wheel on the left bar. Unlike the Honda, a separate BMW Navigator GPS touchscreen unit that pops and locks into its own compartment above the instrument panel provides navigation; it can be partially controlled with the Multi wheel. Four speakers up front—two woofers and two tweeters—belt out the tunes from all of the same sources as the Honda, although there are no rear speakers or Apple CarPlay, and connecting an iPhone requires a special BMW USB cable. Bluetooth headsets are easily connected. Claimed luggage capacities are 110 and 115 liters for the Honda and BMW respectively, including their fairing pockets, but in reality the BMW holds about a third more than the Honda among its larger top trunk and saddlebags, all of which are easily removed. The saddlebags in particular are much larger than the Honda’s—each will easily hold a full-face helmet and the trunk holds two.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
The BMW’s in-line six engine layout puts the emphasis on revs and mid-range horsepower.

The BMW’s transverse in-line 1,649cc six is also silky smooth, and has a racier sound and feel that endeared us to it immediately. While it needs more throttle to ride away from a stop and doesn’t pull quite as hard down low, as soon as the revs reach 4,500 rpm its horsepower advantage kicks in and it leaves the Wing behind and never looks back all the way to its higher 8,500 rpm redline. On the Jett Tuning dyno the BMW made 129.4 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 106.1 lb-ft of torque at 5,200—the same peak torque as the Honda—but it doesn’t crack the 100 lb-ft ceiling until 4,000 rpm and drops below it by 6,350.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California straddles the cactus-dotted Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert and has unique scenery to die for, though rising for photos at 5 a.m. when it’s 26 degrees is not the best time to enjoy it. Unless perhaps you’re on bikes like these, with heated grips and seats and tall electric windscreens. Both headlights work very well at night, especially the BMW’s Adaptive Xenon low beam that turns with the bike, though the Honda’s all-LED setup is more visible in the daytime.

When BMW introduced the K 1600 GTL, it boasted that it had built “a shark, not a whale,” taking an indirect swipe at the then much-heavier Gold Wing. Although the lighter new Honda has dropped the weight disparity to just 44 pounds with both bikes fully fueled, the two machines handle even more differently than before. The Honda is a model of—dare I say it—automotive-like stability now, with an ultra-low center of gravity and rock-solid feel on the highway and back roads regardless of the surface conditions that is confidence inspiring and relaxing, especially two-up. As such it steers slowly, drags its footpegs early and requires more effort than before to hustle around corners, though it holds a line through them like it’s on rails, even when it’s bumpy. This handling character is probably perfect for the bike’s intended riders, most of whom don’t associate large touring bikes with sportbike-like handling and just want the motorcycle to deliver a safe, predictable experience regardless of where it’s ridden.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
Seats and passenger backrest have been slimmed down and aren’t quite as plush as the BMW’s, but are still plenty comfortable.

If it’s a big shark you want, though, the BMW remains quite predatory. Its handling is the complete opposite of the Honda’s, with effortless, quick steering that helps the bike slice and dice corners like a big sportbike, and we never touched a footpeg to tarmac. Combined with its racy engine character and strong, immediate power output, a faster rider who also wants a lot of touring capability need look no further for a good time. The GTL’s luggage can be easily removed, too, further lightening the load and wind resistance for even more fun in the canyons. The tradeoff is on the highway and Interstates, where the BMW twitches and bobs in a straight line like an anxious thoroughbred and requires your full attention at all times, especially on irregular pavement surfaces. When it’s cold and dark and you’ve got many miles to go, this can get really annoying. Removing the luggage doesn’t really help, though we have heard that swapping out the stock tires for better ones can calm it down somewhat.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
Comfortable rider and passenger seats are heated like the Honda’s but the passenger backrest is not.

Both bikes offer different riding modes (Sport, Touring, Rain and Econ on the Honda; Dynamic, Road and Rain on the BMW) that alter throttle response, suspension damping, traction control and braking characteristics accordingly. On the BMW the two Dynamic and Road suspension settings can be adjusted independently of the engine riding mode, and the BMW’s Dynamic ESA also constantly adjusts the suspension damping on the fly within the set mode. Suspension preload is set electronically to one of four positions by the rider at a stop. Throttle response on both bikes in any mode is nicely dialed-in, and as you might expect of such premium machines the suspension on both works brilliantly, providing a silky smooth or controlled sporty ride as needed and seamlessly soaking up the bumps without a hiccup. The Honda does a slightly better job of subtracting small bumps, seams and cracks on the highway from the riding experience, and the BMW’s dynamic suspension response is better at softening sudden whacks.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
BMW’s Duolever (top) and Honda’s dual-wishbone (bottom) front ends are both similar in function to a design by Norman Hossack, which has several advantages over telescopic forks, namely separating the suspension from steering. They also reduce friction, front-end dive as needed and maintain wheelbase under compression.

Since their dual-wishbone front ends prevent fork dive and both bikes have linked triple-disc brakes with ABS that works in corners, slowing and stopping them from any velocity really is a non-event. Both have great feel at the lever and pedal and enormous braking strength, and when you hammer both brakes the ABS prevents wheel locking smoothly and seamlessly. We didn’t try braking hard enough in a turn to engage the cornering ABS on these big bikes…but do let us know how it turns out for you.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
After two days and 850 miles, the only thing we felt missing from our ride was more time to enjoy these pleasure perches. Their user-friendliness, comfort, convenience and fun factor will spoil you.

Our late winter ride took us from the California coast the long way out to Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea and back, subjecting the bikes and our bodies to fierce crosswinds, cold temperatures and hours of Interstate droning in addition to plenty of twisting roads. Seated behind large fairings and electric windscreens on wide, thick heated seats and holding luxuriously warm heated grips, life on a motorcycle just doesn’t get any better. Differences in comfort amount to nitpicking in fact, since the rider’s seats are both comfortable and less than 30 inches high, and the heated grips and seats all excel. The BMW’s seating position is slightly more aggressive, with your feet positioned underneath instead of in front of you; BMW also offers no-cost high and extra-high seat options for taller riders. We found that our feet stayed warmer on the BMW, and our upper bodies were better protected on the Honda, since the windshield can be raised all the way without any buffeting. Overall it really comes down to how you prefer to sit when you’re riding, with feet below or out in front; either way you can easily stay in the saddle for a long time on either motorcycle.

Passengers also found both bikes supremely comfortable, though the rear-seat nod goes to the BMW for its superior wind protection with the windscreen raised, more comfortable seat and easy-to-reach grab rails. But its rider and passenger footpegs are close together, so passengers need to avoid toeing the rider in the calves, and while the Honda passenger feels more wind its low pillion is easier for passengers to mount and dismount.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold WingBMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold WingWith so many convenience, electronic and audio features in common, it’s hard to pick one bike over the other when it gets down to which is easier to live with. Luggage capacity on the Honda will be an issue for some—even though it’s easily solved with a trunk rack and waterproof duffel, that lump will detract from the beauty of the tailsection. A larger issue for this control freak is how the Honda locks out most of the navigation, phone and vehicle functions when you’re underway unless you have an iPhone and can use Apple CarPlay (which does work very well). With the exception of changing the rear suspension preload, anything you can do at a stop on the BMW you can also do moving down the road, including navigation inputs, though the Navigator GPS screen is much smaller and the Honda’ s overall feature integration is far superior. Honda’s claim of better fuel economy also bore fruit on our ride, where it averaged 40.7 mpg from regular gas vs. the 34-36 typical of the previous GL1800, giving the new bike a range of about 224 miles from its 5.5-gallon tank. The BMW requires mid-grade dino juice but holds a full 7 gallons; at its average of 39.5 mpg it will go 277 miles before its tank fills with air.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold WingIn the end it really comes down to your performance priorities. The BMW’s combination of excellent comfort for two, exhilarating power and handling and greater removable luggage capacity—at the expense of some highway stability—could be just the ticket for an experienced solo rider or adventurous couple who live for speed and corners. The Honda, on the other hand, offers a more civil touring experience with great comfort, unflappable handling, supreme smoothness, locomotive-like power and refined, contemporary electronics. Whichever bike you choose, it’s not going stay parked in the garage much.

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
2018 BMW K 1600 GTL

2018 BMW K 1600 GTL Specs
Base Price: $25,595
Price as Tested: $28,844 (Premium package, BMW Navigator GPS)
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: 18,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: BMS-X EFI, 52mm throttle bodies
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; Paralever single-sided aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 63.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 27.8 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 29.6 in.; optional high seat: 30.7 in.
Suspension, Front: BMW Duolever w/ Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment, 4.5-in. travel
Rear: Single shock w/ Dynamic ESA, 5.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ radial opposed 4-piston calipers & partial integral ABS
Rear: Single 320mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS
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: 787 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 448 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,235 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 7.0 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 89 PON min. (low/avg/high) 37.7/39.5/41.5
Estimated Range: 277 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,750

BMW K 1600 GTL vs Honda Gold Wing
2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour

2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour Specs
Base Price: $23,500
Price as Tested: $26,700 (Tour model)
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles, transferable
Website: powersports.honda.com

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled, longitudinal, opposed flat six
Displacement: 1,833cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.0 x 73.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Valve Train: Unicam SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 24,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 50mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.9-qt. cap
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 1.795:1

Electrical
Ignition: Fully transistorized
Charging Output: 1,560 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 20AH

Chassis
Frame: Aluminum tubular & box-section double cradle w/ single-sided cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 66.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 30.5 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 29.3 in.
Suspension, Front: Double-wishbone w/ Showa shock, electronically adj. (as tested), 4.3-in. travel
Rear: Pro-Link w/ Showa shock, electronically adj. (as tested), 4.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ 6-piston opposed Nissin calipers & C-ABS
Rear: Single 316mm disc w/ 3-piston floating caliper & C-ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 18 in.
Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/70-R18
Rear: 200/55-R16
Wet Weight: 831 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 428 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,259 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 86 PON min. (low/avg/high) 40.1/40.7/42.5
Estimated Range: 224 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,000

SaveSave

60 COMMENTS

  1. Great write-up, two great motorcycles each designed for there target market. I rode Harleys for 28 years until I test rode the new BMW K1600B or Bagger. BMW opened my eyes and I love it.

    These are truly golden years for motorcycle enthusiasts. I only wish today’s bikes had been available when I was younger.

  2. An area where I expect to see a very clear winner is maintenance costs. What will the scheduled maintenance cost at a licensed dealer for the first 50K km or 30K miles? For a touring oriented publication this is essential information.

    • I can tell you right now that the Honda’s first major service (24,000 miles) and the BMW’s first major service (18,000 miles) are both going to cost you right around $900.00 ……………..get your wallet out!!

  3. I’m both a Honda and BMW fan – and I wish Honda made the GTL to be honest, only for the reliability and probable lower maintenance cost. That said, there’s no way I’d give up the BMW GTL’s greater lean angle, shorter wheelbase, lighter weight, longer range, added storage capacity, and easily removed topcase and saddlebags – they’re simply worth any additional cost. In the end they’re also priced in the same ballpark. So for a technical rider, the decision is simple. If you’re a cruiser you can take your pick.

  4. I’m 54 years old and I don’t see myself on any touring bike anytime soon. I think the new Gold Wing is a huge improvement of that previous eyesore of a bike. I couldn’t get over what Honda designers have been doing the last 10-years with several models. This bike to me would be my choice especially because BMW’s are not known for reliability and cost more to maintain.

    • I’m not sure where you get your information, but I’ve been riding BMW’s for the last 45 plus years and have owned 5 Harley’s and several Honda’s…they’re all reliable, especially BMW’s!! There is no other motorcycle made that you can put 500,000 miles on…labor costs are pretty much the same everywhere anymore….

      • Okay, I have been hearing what the comments tend to be. I am just a poor working man and have a Suzuki Boulevard 1500 2013 Boss. I can do everything with just a fraction of what they are charging. However, I lean more getting the Honda. I guess for the feet and leg comfort. 68 year old man just talking shit.

  5. I’m in the midst of a long wet cold beautiful ride just bedtime at the motel. Guess what sticks? “ . . . the BMW twitches and bobs in a straight line like an anxious thoroughbred and requires your full attention at all times, especially on irregular pavement surfaces. When it’s cold and dark and you’ve got many miles to go, this can get really annoying.” Guess what bike I’d choose?

    • I’ve been riding BMW’s for 8 years, started with a ’99 K1200LT, then upgraded to the 2012 K1600GT four years ago (bought it used from a dealership). The ’99 hated wind and both bikes hate tar snakes – not sure any bike likes those! BMW intentionally sets their bikes at a slight angle to deter riders from riding hands-free as a safety measure. So you can’t ride down the road with no hands, unless you’re leaning heavily to one side – not a big deal to me. Then there’s the fact the BMW sits up higher, which I actually love – I’m easier to see, cornering is insanely sweet, and I can see over cars, but it takes a little getting used to initially, and ‘can’ make handling at extremely slower speeds possibly more work… I say that b/c once you get used to riding a BMW, these ‘things’ go away, but that is something I’ve read elsewhere – slow speed handling due to height of bike. I don’t notice it. However, other than tar snakes, and extremely high, gusty winds, and possibly parking lot-type slow speeds, the K1600GT is truly effortless. I can ride it at 110mph with one hand, as smoothly and effortlessly as if I were at 60mph. I note the info on twisties and corners from the article… the Honda was sluggish, slow responsive, and the foot pegs dragged, compared to the BMW smooth as silk, quick responsive handling an no concern about peg dragging… NOTHING corners like a BMW. If you want to be dragging your pegs, or even having that in the back of your mind as you’re going through corners, something I cannot do, and don’t have to do on my BMW, if you want sluggish, slow response in corners (who does?) v. smooth as silk quick responsive handling, then the Honda’s a great choice! Otherwise – if you want the power, speed capability, cornering, more luggage, more miles between fill-ups, being able to see over cars, have them see you easier, handling, etc., etc., etc., guess which bike I already chose?

  6. I am a long time goldwing rider. I have always thought the bike to big. I was delighted when the new goldwing came out. But I will switch to the bmw for one reason. Honda’s sparse luggage capacity simply makes it an impossible choice for two up touring.

    • I agree. I rode my GTL to the Honda dealer and was a little apprehensive I might like the Honda more. Sat on one and was relieved. It’s more like an ST1300 now. Seat was junk, I felt like I was sitting on top rather than in bike, and where is the luggage space? I think it’s a great bike but not for long distance touring.

  7. A long distance tourer that lacks highway stability? I’m currently shopping for a touring bike, after 20 years touring on my 99 Valkyrie. I’m leaning towards the new Wing, there’s a lot to like about the redesign, figure a luggage rack will give us just enough storage for two up touring. I’ve never heard anyone say the K1600 was twitchy on the highway, going for a demo ride this weekend to see…

    • I can tell you I’m a big BMW FAN. Have had RS, 2 GTs, GTL and now a K1600B. The GTL and now the B twitchy side to side highway action. Hate that. I talked to corporate many times and they won’t even acknowledge it so this is my last BMW. It is sad. Everything about these bikes is superior to all others but if I have to be anniyed by the weaving for hours is rather have a Harley or a Wing.

    • I ended up buying a 2018 GTL, after riding both the BMW and new Wing. The new Wing is very nice, and as a long time Honda guy I wanted to love it. But, in my opinion, the GTL was much more rewarding to ride. After 3000 miles in the saddle in the two months I’ve owned mine I have found it to be stable as can be on the highway, and I’m loving it more each time I ride it…

  8. Put 3000 miles on a GTL rental through AZ, UT, CO and NM. It was as solid as a rock at high speeds on ANY type of road. You could set the cruise control and ride no hands sipping cocktails two up. Completely stable, no added attention needed at all. There was definitely something wrong with your test machine, most likely the tires.

    • I agree. I have 5000 miles on it now and just returned from a trip from South Florida to Tail of the Dragon, Blue Ridge Pkwy, Skyline Drive and Washington DC. I’ve not noticed the instability at highway speeds mentioned in the review.

  9. Mark I’d like to start off by saying that was a great article I totally enjoyed reading it.
    My wife and I owned a 2009 Harley electric glide. We loved the Harley but there was always little problems with the engine or transmission over the years so we sold the bike at the end of last summer. It was a huge toss up between the BMW or the Honda. We were going to go for the BMW and then we went to a bike show in Toronto and sat on the new 2018 Goldwing Tour and that was it, my wife love the way she was able to get on and off it as a passenger and for myself I was looking for a bike that was more sporty and a lot more reliable on long trips. The new 2018 Goldwing Tour met and exceeded our expectations for our new bike.

  10. I have owed two Goldwings a 2008 followed by a 2012 gold wind airbag .
    I know they updated the Goldwing this year and it was time. I never had trouble with either bike.

    In 2015 I tried a ride on a new BMW 1600 GTL exclusive and was amazed and we bought one in the fall 2015. My wife said the riding position was superior and the heated seating fantastic . She was more comfortable and had a better view as the Goldwing she could not see in front as my head obstructed her view .
    I feel the safety was better with all the ride modes and the bike just took the corners on its own , the headlights follow the curve. The detail that BMW is down to smallest detail , for example small wings that turn out to deflect wing to cool air on you to down on hot days.
    Maintenance is more expensive but remember you get what you pay for a more for a vastly superior bike.
    I was so very happy with the BMW so much that last July I bought a 2017 BMW R 1200 GS Adventurer in a triple black what a bike.
    In my personal opinion the German engineering is vastly superior .

    • Larry
      My story is identical except only one Goldwing!
      Live in South Africa and use the GTL in our Winter 10-25 degrees C and the Tripple Black GS in summmer 20-40 degrees C
      Love both bikes as does my Wife who incidentally managed to sleep on the GTL exec (with armrests)
      Great article 👍

  11. Great article – was a Harley rider until riding through central London forced me to give up the chrome for the german marvel that is the K1600 GTLE. Had it over a year now and love it. Its like a sports bike through town, and I feel confident cutting up traffic and weaving in and out between double decker buses. Its had its fair share of highways (motorways as we call them) and I agree that it can get twitchy. Unlike my old Harley which I took coast to coast in the US, where at times in NM or AZ I forgot I was on a bike – the BMW does need you to think and control and also doesn’t like wind too much. But I went last week to see the Goldwing at a local Honda dealer – and I took out the wired DCT/automatic version. It feels a lot clunkier and bigger than the BMW – roundabouts were a nightmare (I know you don’t have these in the US!) and its turning circle needs a football field. It wins the bluetooth/tech toys over the BMW though – which still forces me to plug an old iPod into the AUX cable. I didn’t get to take it on the highway – but after jumping back on the BMW, it felt exhilarating to rev up and jump and glide through traffic. Great idea on changing up the tires to get better highway stability – but I am also looking at the Grand America – any other thoughts on this one?

    • Agreed, good article. Maybe I’ve missed out on something with my K1600GT but I find it really stable on the highway, on Michelin Pilot 4s anyhow. For London riding, mainly because of the clunky gearchange, width and lack of manoeuvrability compared to the thousands of pizza and commuter scooters: that, and always parking it to never, ever face downhill. You’re bolder than me, Miles, or probably I’m just older! The BMW top box of my treasured 1200RT is even compatible. I really like the electronic headlamp change from left to right dip – even at the expense of the adaptive function not working away from the domestic setting. I’m also a big fan of Hondas – and the (no longer produced) VFR1200F is nothing short of a masterpiece – if like me you’ve ever had an injured left hand stopping you riding, the paddle shift is great. US bikers – if you want a great experience come to rural France, and rent, beg, borrow or buy a bike – open roads, friendly riders, mostly aware and respectful car drivers, and even with the speed limit decreasing to 80km/h this summer the roads are still open. The autoroutes remain at 130, and there’s always Germany…

    • Just be aware, because a lot of people don’t realize, that the BMW Grand America, is limited to 101 mile per hour.

      • Where do you require to go more than 100 mile per hour. Perhaps BMW is trying to keep you alive to enjoy the ride.

        • I guess when I’m riding, I’d like to think all decisions about the bike are mine and possibly the Law. Last thing I’m looking for in a bike is Nanny State Engineering.
          Will I surpass that speed otherwise? Normally no, but I prefer to be the one who makes that decision.
          Some have speculated that this speed restriction is based on aerodynamics of the top case.
          Either way, I’d prefer an advisory in the manual. Or, better yet, correct whatever brought about this restriction.

  12. I have a 2013 K1600GTL, I have 32,000 miles on and it is a great bike. I have owned a dozen bikes over my life and have ridden since I was 7 years old. My last bike was a Honda ST1300. It was also a great bike I owned it 8 years and sold it with a bit over 60,000 miles. I debated for a couple of years on getting the BMW. It would be my first BMW and the cost and reliability were my biggest concerns. It has actually turned out to be very reliable. I would take off and head across the country today on it. I would definitely buy another one and probably will. It’s not perfect, but I don’t believe any bike is. You always find something about every bike that could be better. I think this is a good article and I agree with what they have to say. If you are doing more short trips and want a better everyday bike, I would say the BMW is a much better bike. If you are looking at a 1,000 mile a day touring bike, buy the Honda, but I don’t believe either would be a bad choice.

  13. Great Article , Thanks. As a 60 year old rider for more than 40 years I can say the my BMWk1600 GTL is the best bike I’ve ever owned when it comes to my touring bikes. I went from an Ultra-Classic to a Yamaha FJR1300, I loved the handling and rocketship performance of the FJR, but wasn’t as comfortable on long hauls. The GTL will run circles around the V twin is a joy to ride, has the power performance, loves to turn and all the plush comforts for rider and passenger. Love to ride the back road twisties here in California.

  14. Test road 2018 1600gtl today…..I noticed the highway twitch. This bike had just 800 miles on it…..demo bike. Other than that…..i like the bike. Currently have 2015 kawsaki voyager.

  15. I’ve not ridden a bike since pre Air Force days 1985. I’ve fallen in love with the GTL Exclusive, any suggestions how I return to riding and develop the skills to command a gtl 1800? This article was well written, thank you.

  16. I whet to my local BMW and Honda dealers to perform a test ride of the following 2018 models: BMW K1600GTL, K1600GT, K1600B, R1200RT, Honda’s Goldwing Touring, and the Honda Goldwing. All are excellent bikes, but one important point that was briefly mentioned in the article is the seating position and leg room! I am 6’4″ tall with a 34″ inseam, and the BMW’s have the foot pegs further back and under you, which causes my legs to feel too cramped event in the higher seating position that BMW offers. The BMW K1600B (Bagger) has footboards, but they are intended for someone with shorter legs than me. The 2018 Honda Goldwing is my bike of choice because it has the foot pegs moved further forward, and provided me with a more comfortable ride. Also, you can purchase the rear luggage for the Goldwing to provide a backrest for the passenger, which can be removed in 30 to 45 minutes. The Goldwing Touring’s rear luggage is not removable. Finally, my opinion was that the K1600 is more of a sports bike trying to become a touring bike, the R1200RT is the true touring bike for BMW, I actually preferred the lightweight and agile feeling of the R1200RT, but the lack of leg-room was too much of an issue for me to spend $23K . All of these bikes are great, and there are small issues the individual will find based on your specific size and needs.

  17. Went from a 1998 VFR 800 to a 2014 GTL in 2014. Always been a Honda guy and thought the ST was my going to be my next bike, but Honda discontinued the model. My father in law has an ’06 and ’12 Wing and after riding both, the GTL was the clear choice in every way. He recently sold the ’06 and got the new 2018 Wing. He already ordered a new custom seat, as he and my mother in law hate the stock one…the luggage room is way too small and the you must be stopped when using the navigation or want to change the radio station! That alone would disqualify the Wing for me. Just turned 26,000 on my GTL and a more compitent touring motorcycle there is not!

    • I own a 2018 GW, you are correct on having to stop to change suspension and nav but that’s it. Radio et al are fine. Yeah not being able to change the nav while in motion is a pain but the radio isn’t an issue. Have you ridden a new GW?

    • Good point about the seat. I think this is common to many brands to buy a $30K. bike and get a $30 seat. If you are going to make big miles in relative comfort and not get up sore the next day, a custom seat is almost a necessity. I have owned three GL1800’s and I have put a Corbin on all of them. No more sore, numb, butt and squirming around all day! Other good seats out there, just personal preference. Just a bit of information I found…Honda makes a “premium” seat for the ’18 Wing as an option. Haven’t seen it or ridden on it and don’t know the cost.

  18. …BTW….the K1600 has 160 hp and 129 lb. ft. of torque…quite different than what your article states…if you were quoting rear wheel figures you should say so, but I don’t believe that you were and you just stated your information incorrectly….

  19. Just read your article and like the post above, you have grossly under stated the horsepower

    Horsepower (bhp/kW) 160 / 118
    Horsepower RPM 7750
    Torque (Ft Lbs/Nm) 129 / 175
    Torque RPM 5250
    right from their spec sheet

  20. I am on my third GTL and you are correct, the tires from the factory on the 2018 are the cause of the handling. BMW always used Metzler tires before and though not the smoothest tire around they tracked well and handled well. The 2018 came with Dunlop tires and they were horrible. At 10000 miles I switched to the Michelins I have been buying and problem solved. No wandering or twitching and a lot better in rain.

  21. I have a 2014 Wing and I won’t be buying a new one for a while. I did notice the Wing has twice the alternator output over the BMW. Very nice when using heated gear and two up. Also noted the article said both bikes have the lean angle technology for the ABS. May be wrong but I don’t think this is so for the Wing.

  22. I purchased the new 2018 DCT Gold Wing in April of this year. I’d owed a 2002 Wing since it was new. (16 years) after riding the now Automatic version, I was sold so fast. It does and has-as far as features and handling-just what I wanted. Bought it on the spot. It now has 5,200 miles on it and seriously? It the best motorcycle I’ve ever owned.

    To my fellow BMW riders, I just don’t like the way the 6 cylinder BMWs look. I’m sure it’s a great bike. I’m thrilled with the handling, power, comfort and amenities that the Honda DCT has…….

  23. Ditto experience with tires as suggested by Rick. Changed to Michelins at 8000+ miles and the thing is as stable as it gets. Highways / groves in concrete pavements / tar snakes – does not matter anymore. Maintaining Correct tire pressure is critical. Even though recommended at 42psi I like to keep it at 43. Moved from 2012 Ultra Classic to 2016 GTL and Love it. Would like to try a more comfy seating option though. Any suggestions ?

  24. We own a 2010 GW(his), and a 2003 GW(hers). My husband test rode a new gen GW and HATED it. He’s 6’1″. The new GW is taller, thinner, and offers less protection. We sold my 2003 GW and he found a smokin’ deal on a 2018 Yamaha Venture Transcontinental and bought it. That model was briefly mentioned in the intro. It handles like a sport bike in the twisties, and has POWER and all electronics (nav, b/t, infotainment, satellite radio, heated driver and passenger seats, 37.3 GALLONS of storage space, etc, etc)
    He kept his 2010 GW (for me) and he LOVES his new Yami SVTC. Especially because its a v-twin (113 cubic inch 1854cc)

  25. I owned four Wings, adding but 320,000+ miles with zero problems to my 2001. I had three other Wings and was convinced there wasn’t a better bike……until I rode a GTL.

    The shark vs a whale is true. How agile is a GTL? There’s a certain BMW mag who placed my GTL’s full page photo as I was in the process of passing three sport bikes at a Hallett Raceway in OK.

    I added 203 miles of track day fun that day. Difficult to do on a Wing and laughable if attempted on a Harley. I live in Eastern NM with lots of amazing open spaces. I hop atop my GTL and once away from civilization, I often set the cruise at 135 mph and go. Service? Never used it on any bike. I change my on oil and filters.

    Dependability? I’m about to hit 80,000 miles and no problems. I also ride a R1200R and a GSA. BTW….I ride with artificial knees, replumbed heart and I’ve had Parkinson’s for 21 years. I’m 74 and also race downhill mountain bikes. Want proof? Go to FACEBOOK and check the pics on Keith Ingram Clovis NM

  26. My experience was somewhat different. I test rode the Yamaha TC on a cool fall day. I thought that maybe it would be a alternative for the 1800 GW.
    I like the looks of the bike, drivers seating position, and the electronics. Low speed handling was better than a GW. Past that, I must say I was disappointed. I found that anything beyond a relaxed pace, hard parts started dragging. It just had no power (compared to a GL1800) especially in fifth or sixth gear. I think the test dynoed it at about 77 h.p. I constantly hit the rev limiter (4600 I think) just trying to ride normally. I think this bike would be under powered two up, loaded and maybe pulling a trailer. The engine heat would be unbearable on a warm or hot day. It was bad on the overcast 55 degree day I rode it. I do think it is a better choice than a Harley.

  27. I’ll take my Suzuki Burgman Executive 650. It has an electric windshield, electric mirrors, heated seats and handle grips. It will also storage for two helmets under the seat. It also has cvt and power shift, fuel injection and will do well over a hundred miles per hour, gets good mileage. It weighs less than 600 pounds.

    • I agree with you about the Burgman. Prior to the Burgman, my prior 4 bikes were BMW and the dozen or so before it wee UJMs. In over 31,000 miles, I have only changed the fluids, filters and tires. It handles like a sport bike (someone said it was a sportbike in disguise) and gets 50 +- fuel mileage. I would buy another with no qualms.

  28. I’ve been a 30+ year Harley devotee. From my original 1100 Sportster (only made those for 2 years) to my Softails to the other 8 full dressers I owned, I never thought I would ride anything but good ol’ HD. I’ve touched every state on those bikes and had minimal mechanical issues throughout all that time. Loved them all. Then one day a bug climbed up you know where and I decided to go test ride a 2018 Goldwing DCT. Actually did that about 45 days ago and traded my HD Road Glide Ultra on the spot without hesitation. Now 5,000 miles later I’m wondering if I made the right choice. Not that I’m second guessing my decision to leave my Harley’s, I’m good with that, it’s time for a new chapter for me. I’m second guessing because I didn’t give any other bikes a chance before making my decision. My buddy who is a long time Harley owner as well rode my GW and loved it and was seriously considering doing the same thing I did, switch teams. But first he wanted to check out one other bike and just see how it compared. That bike was the K1600B. Like me with my Wing, he made a deal right on the spot. He loves that bike. Much more than the Wing. I do like my Wing but It’s not giving me the WOW factor when I ride it like I thought it would. Not like he described with the BMW. Is the GW Reliable? Yes. Smooth? Yes. Great machine? Yes. Exciting to drive? At times…. maybe. Gonna ride a GTL this weekend. Let’s see if that gives me the WOW. Will let ya know.

    Bottom line for anyone reading, ride what excites you and don’t criticize others if it’s not the same for them. The important thing is we’re all riding!

  29. I’ve had both, a 2012 BMW K 1600 GTL which I bought after having a 2008 K1200. Of course I loved the GTL, it’s only drawback for me was it’s height. My 73 year old wife had a difficult time climbing up on the saddle. It was also very top heavy when she was getting on. The 2018 Goldwing has a really lower center of gravity and it is much easier for her to get on. The Goldwing has a smoother ride than the BMW. While it doesn’t have the top end power the BMW has, it has plenty enough power for any type riding. After having my 2018 Goldwing for about 5 months I find myself leaving the Beemer in the garage and taking the Honda and most likely will sell the Beemer. I’d say the Honda is the better mount for older riders (over 70) due to it’s much lower center of gravity. The Honda’s transmission and drivetrain are vastly superior to the BMW also.

  30. Goldwings are bullet proof…They may not out pace a BMW but at the end of the ride Honda will stand behind there product….BMW NOT so much…Been there done that….BMW would not stand behind bikes they sold that had bad pistons….they let the owners take that hit to repair….BMW has had bad product before and NOT stood behind that product….BUYER BEWARE!!!!!

  31. How can anyone ride a motorcycle for hundreds freeway of miles a day, or any other riding for that matter, and only have one foot position available?

    I would never own any touring bike where you can’t move your feet, and change your leg position.

    I’ve ridden many 600-800 mile days on my Harley Ultra Classic, rain or shine, warm and cold, and couldn’t/wouldn’t have done it with one position foot pegs. I’m a Harley rider, not a Harley owner.

    Maybe none of you have arthritis, or need to change position a bit while riding.

    Am I missing something?

  32. I would thank the author for this superb article. I found it very well balanced. My current Tourer is an 08 Ultra Classic and it is a great bike, although my aging joints and such are less enthused by the vibration each year. I have ridden the 2019 Ultra Classic and while it was quicker and had a better suspension (mine is original) the new HD hydraulic clutch requires Hulk like grip strength and I was in pain for most of the demo ride. I have a hydraulic clutch on my V-Rod and am told that the new HDs have this very heavy clutch across the board on the 114 inch models. So that puts HD out of the game for my next bike. Winter is hitting us as I write so I will have time to shop but have been leaning towards the K1600 GTL for the sportier ride. My other bike is a 2017 Aprilia Tuono and that handling is quite addictive. I find my Ultra to be very vibratory and leaden now with no real get up and go.

    It sounds from the review, and the quality comments from owners that the BMW may better suit my personal use cases, but that the Honda could also be excellent. I will have to ride both to make an informed decision. I ride mostly solo, but when I go two up it’s with my daughter and neither of us are tiny folks. Any feedback on either bike from another larger rider will be appreciated. I have a long torso, and legs shorter than they should be for my torso length and as I have grown older find that feet out front isn’t working for me any more. Some more insight into more foot positioning would be appreciated as well as thoughts on alternative foot position availability as noted above by @Don Sepanski would be appreciated. I understand that the K1600 Grand America offers both pegs and floorboards, but I confess I am struggling to really understand the differences between the GTL and the GA. I want the top box and I believe it is available on both.

    Thank you all

  33. I’ve owned/ridden BMWs since 1975. Current is a 2003 R1150RT. Seriously thinking of going with the Honda for one big reason. The nearest BMW dealership is three hours away. Dealer access has always been an issue with them unless you live I huge metro area. Actually surprised no one else mentioned it. The Honda dealership is less than an hour away. I’m definitely a sport touring guy and sure I will miss that if I go with the Honda.

  34. Ive owned a k1200lt, 2012 Goldwing and now a 2013 K1600GTL. One big difference in the Goldwing and GTL is passenger seat height. On my GTL and on the k1200lt, the passenger can see over the driver, rather than looking at the back of their head. This is a game changer for my wife, who wants to participate in the ride and be able to see the road ahead.

  35. I have an 18 GTL now. It’s fast and smooth and easy to maneuver. The only problem with the bike is the speed. You tend to drive faster since the bike gets into its groove at higher speeds.

  36. I put 126,000 miles on my 2006 Yamaha Venture, to 78,000 miles on my 2013 Yamaha FJR, and now have 29,000 miles on my 2016 BMW K1600GTLE. The Venture was easy to sit on, but scraped the pegs too easily. After all, it was meant to be a cruiser and it did that quite comfortably. The FJR was a gas to ride. Twisties and acceleration were absolutely fun. I’ve ridden it from San Fran to Atlanta in 2-1/2 days. Great fun! I’ve ridden my K1600 from San Fran to Tampa in 2-1/2 days. It’s more refined and comfortable than the FJR, but turns slight slower.

    On both the FJR and the K1600, I’ve had Russell Day-Long custom seats made. The difference is, riding 14-15 hour days for 1,000-1,200 miles and getting off the bike like you weren’t even on it.

  37. My Valkyrie is fast enough, rideability is super & dependability is fantastic. I can work on it myself. Dealers charge MEGA $$$$.

  38. Very good comparison! I’ve ridden both & I agree. One item you did not mention is that the Gold Wing’s GPS needs improvement. At this price point it should be well functioning. It has enough issues that prohibits me from considering it until its improved. The BMW unit is older but its Garmin is a well designed GPS.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here