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 Luxury Touring Comparison Review:
Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra vs. Indian Roadmaster vs. Yamaha Star Venture TC
Helmet: Nolan N87
Jacket: Tourmaster Transition Series 5
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?
Helmet: Vemar Zephir
Jacket: Spidi Globe Tracker
Pants: Fly Racing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 competitiveness 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With 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.
In 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.
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
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, in-line six
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
Ignition: BMS-X Computer Controlled
Charging Output: 700 watts max.
Battery: 12V 19AH
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
Wet Weight: 787 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 448 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,235 lbs.
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
2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour Specs
Base Price: $23,500
Price as Tested: $26,700 (Tour model)
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles, transferable
Type: Liquid-cooled, longitudinal, opposed flat six
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
Ignition: Fully transistorized
Charging Output: 1,560 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 20AH
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
Wet Weight: 831 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 428 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,259 lbs.
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
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.
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!!
Wish I could get that “cheap” a cost on my Ducati
My CVO Limited Harley was only $400 for the first major service. You guys are getting ripped off!
Golly gee Scott, and what did you pay for your CVO? Who got ripped off? Idiot
Scott, ride your lawn mower. It handles better than your Harley and cost WAY less to maintain.
I ride a K1600 GTL with 52,000 miles on it. I had it to the dealer one time at 34K for the valve adjustment,….$520.00,….that’s it
The fact any touring bike needs valve adjustments at all in 2019 is absolutely ridiculous. What is this, 1960?!
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.
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.
TJ that is absurd. So you heard of a BMW that someone owed and the odometer reads over 500,000? I think I read that in Guinness. It’s certainly not relevant in a discussion on reliability.
The fact that the BMW owner is expected to shell out almost grand in maintenance 6000 miles before the Honda owner is pretty solid proof you’re wrong.
Hmmm I have two BMW’s R1100s and R1100Rt. My RT had 154,000 km on it. I can do all the work on it myself. The work is few and far between. The biggest time suck is taking all the tupperware off. Honda is the same way. Today I bought my first K1600GTL. There’s more tupperware to take off and the radiator needs to be removed but the valve clearance check looks like a breeze. With reliability, let’s not rely on brand names, pretty much everything is built well these days. Sorry but I grew up in the 70’s when we all did our own maintenance, and a bike that lasted 100,000 miles made the cover of Cycle Magazine because it was special. Today it is expected. 500,000 on a BMW? Today it’s not unusual, it’s expected. Go have a Harp.
I had many bmws since 2012..2012 r1200rt was nice. Then I moved to 2014 water cooled RT.. one of the worst… Sitting posture was horrible didn’t liked it. After that moved to 2015 gsa was nice came with few electronic glitches… 2018 was the worst… So many issues that dealers couldn’t figure it out as well. 2020 gsa was best till 12000 miles when engine fault error popped up… So far except 1 or 2 all bmw bikes gave me problem.. They are unreliable… Search it as well you will find that it is not reliable. And I have experienced it already.
That’s unfortunate…I am 54 and thoroughly enjoy my 2016 Goldwing F6B…. There are always options…
It’s not unfortunate at all. We all pick the bikes we want that meet our own values. I feed my hobby with a 2002 VFR800 Interceptor. I’ve toured most of the states in the US midsection and look forward to another riding season with this bike at age 60.
I own a 2013 BMW K1600GTL no issues at all !!
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?
I find the same thing, riding one handed at 110 mph, even on a bumpy road was effortless (it was easier than riding the same road at 75 mph) (I have a 2018 K1600 GTL) The only thing it needs is a more supportive seat. On the OEM seat after a few hundred miles and my butt is getting sore!! (Rode from Williston ND to Sacramento CA from a Friday morning to a Saturday evening a few weeks ago and from Sacramento CA to Williston ND the next Saturday morning and arriving in Williston ND just at sunset on Sunday)
I have the BMW K1600 and love it. Changed the tires to Michelin and handling improved greatly on highway .
I thought the same thing these are touring bikes
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.
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…
I have a GTL k1600 never had any twitching my previous ride was a Pan European that did dance around so I know what I was looking for the BMW is on rails well over the 100 mark
I’ve owned K1600 GTL for 8 yrs and it is twitchy especially when it’s windy
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.
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.
…BMW R1200RT, GT, and GTL owner….if sporty was what you wanted, you made a huge mistake!!
Not necessarily. The Goldwing is very sporty in its’ own right, especially compared to anything with two cylinders. Out GTL’s are MORE sporty but don’t sell the Goldwing short.
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 .
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 👍
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.
Follow up: Bought the 2018 GTL. At highway speeds it sometimes feels like there is an unstable cross/headwind assailing me.
That being said, while at first it seemed a bit ‘unnerving, as I continue gaining experience with this machine, I find it inconsequential.
Having gone up to about 112 mph, it seemed dead stable.
Rode home in the rain the other day (about 120 mi. interstate) feeling very stable ans secure. Maybe a ‘learning curve’ kind of thing or the bike settling in. Dunno, but as I go on, the bike fee;s better and better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for this comment – I also have the height/inseam issue, which has been a problem with pretty much all bikes I have owned. I just can’t do a Honda based on the review, quite frankly, because it’s too ‘automotively stable’ – I don’t want to be isolated from the ride. My current solution has been to order specialty aftermarket seats with added height built in to add additional leg room (be it Suzuki, Triumph, BMW) – I haven’t found a manufacturer yet that builds a bike that is adjustable from the factory to fit a 6’3″+ person.
At 6′ 5″ tall, with a 36″ inseam, I’m painfully aware that most bikes (and cars for that matter) are designed for people that are not as tall as I am. So many bikes I fall in love with only to look like a circus bear riding a tricycle once I hop on.
I currently ride a 2016 Harley Road King, my first American bike. Previously I was a Concours guy, but they aren’t made for long haul touring which is what I do.
This past fall I test rode the K1600 Grand America, and the 2018 Goldwing.
I’ve got a decision to make this spring. Thought I’d share my experiences and thoughts on both bikes.
I didn’t fit on the Grand America. The dealer did have a K1600 GT with the taller seat on it and as soon as I threw a leg over it I smiled. It’s a rare thing to feel like I fit a bike, and that thing fit like a glove. Unfortunately, the GT isn’t really a long distance cruiser.
My wife reported a TON of wind hitting her helmet on the Grand America, to the point where it was pushing her head back. She’s not tall at 5’6″, so that one was a no, even with the windshield all the way up.
Another thing I found slightly annoying was how high I had to rev the K1600 to take off. With a Harley you can practically let the clutch out at idle and it will just go. I stalled the BMW in the dealer lot – embarrassing.
I haven’t tried the K1600GTL yet, but I suppose it is worth a try. Maybe the wind problem isn’t there for the GTL. The foot position is a concern on every BMW – I don’t like riding with my feet slightly behind my knees. It’s fine for maybe an hour or so, but I do 8 hour days in the saddle.
One thing that I count as a negative is the dated electronics on the BMW, particularly with the dashboard. Their dashboard looks like it is 15 years old. The also don’t have decent storage options for the rider for small things like charging your phone in a place accessible while riding.
The front wheel seems small on the BMW, but that’s just me nitpicking the aesthetics of the bike.
I rode the 2018 Goldwing DCT, and I was NOT expecting to like it as much as I did.
It is very comfortable, with tons of power and handled very well. My wife said it was very comfortable with zero wind on her.
I don’t like the smaller bags, nor the smaller gas tank. What in the actual hell, Honda? And I SO wish the bags were removable.
But I DO like the electronics, the ride by wire modes, Apple Car Play so i can use Waze, and the stability on highways.
At 53 years old I’m not likely to be scraping pegs, nor am I going to be pushing a bike to its limit in twisties. I do ride the Dragon every year, but I’m not one of those guys that looks like he is trying to commit suicide on the ride.
I looked into how I can modify the Wing to better suit my needs, and found the following things that can be added quite easily. (Actually saw a 2018 in the dealer repair bay that the owner had tricked out – he got rear-ended when he pulled off the dragon to wait for a buddy to catch up).
-trunk rack with integrated LED brake light (extra storage AND passive safety)
-highway pegs (super important. There are removable covers on the engine that hide small engine guards where the pegs can be attached)
-rider back rest (also super important for long days in the saddle)
-side wind deflectors (those actually looked a bit hokey)
-arm rests for the passenger (the stock seat has these abbreviated stumps that don’t provide the wife with that wrap-around stability feeling she gets on my Harley)
I’m leaning about 80-90% towards the Honda at this point, considering my riding style and preferences, but as others have said here, I don’t think you can go wrong with either bike.
My BMW Dealer was able to remove the lower fairing pockets on the GTL for forward highway boards. So you can move your feet forward on long trips.
No phone calls while riding on the Honda? Bummer.
The Honda Goldwing Tour is blue toothed.
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.
…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….
He clearly stated those were DYNO numbers which means at the rear tire.
They stated it was on a dyno. So it’s rear wheel numbers.
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
Those are dyno rear wheel numbers…it says via the Jett Dyno
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.
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.
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…….
Have. You had a close look at the orange peel paintwork on your new honda
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 ?
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)
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!!!!
Don’t forget the well documented rest drive failures that BMW refused to admit to or stand behind regardless of the mileage when the failure occured if you had the bike for more than 36 months. Owned three LTs and a GT, but will never buy anything with a roundel ever again.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
My Valkyrie is fast enough, rideability is super & dependability is fantastic. I can work on it myself. Dealers charge MEGA $$$$.
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.
I have been a rider for over 40 years. I still ride a police motorcycle, which initially was a Harley, then BMW. My personal bike has ALWAYS been Yamaha or Honda, but recently bought the 2018 GTL. It was a brutally tough decision to pick between the new Wing or the BMW but the bottom line is they are both fantastic bikes, so its a win win either way. Every rider will buy the bike that checks off more boxes for “that suites me better” category, so I wouldn’t dream of saying one is better than another. That said, I took some offense when some one commented the BMW was ‘twitchy’. Both bikes ride like a dream, period, especially if you know how to truly handle them. Put the beamer on a professional cone course and twitchy is not a word that will be uttered. Every bike will move with the road and terrain so if that is twitchy, then maybe a four wheeler is more suited to your needs. Bottom line both are quality dream bikes with tonnes of coveted qualities. As for the Harley, well if you like noise, heat on your leg, shaking mirrors, quality control issues, antiquated technology, shop down time ……
I have a 2015 GTL K1600 with about 18,000 miles. Also have a 2002 GL1800 Goldwing. My wife and ride 2up and do multiple trips each year. (I also have a 2008 KLR 650 that I ride solo and mostly ride backroads in northern Canada, if she lets me). The BMW has been and is a disappointment. I have notice the highway stability issue that was mentioned during high winds crossing the desert to California, but nothing that was not manageable, but my major complaint is how incredibly unstable the GTL is at low (near zero) speed when riding 2 up and loaded to max payload. Very unsettling. Making a u turn on a gravel road is a challenge. Never experience this on any other bike I’ve owned (many) in 60+ years of riding dirt, sport, and touring machines. For this reason, I am looking to replace the GLT with something a little lighter and more nimble at low speeds. I have seen the K1600 low speed issue mentioned in several blogs and in reviews and am surprised that there are not more complaints by owners.
My take on K1600GTL from a person that actually rides. I bought my K1600GTL 2015 new in mid 2016. I now have 91,400 miles on bike. Bike prior to that was a HD Ultra Classic that I put 117,000 on that bike before trading in for the BMW. Next bike will not be the BMW. Why? I ride a lot of long distance — even my daily ride to work and back is 150 miles. PEGS on a touring bike just does not work, and that is my biggest complaint. My legs are uncomfortable after an hour and I find myself spending too much time shifting my feet around (shuffle to back pegs, back to front, straight out in air.) My HD even with the extra noise and vibration was more comfortable on long hauls. (Boards to move feet around and much better wind resistance) Also, I have had a dozen different tires on this bike and it does not matter which tire – you can not ride this bike hands free without drifting off in a short matter of time. Now of course, even with one finger on bars, this bike handles outstanding. Speed terrific. Smooth. As mentioned. wind resistance poor. Transmission clunky (I would rate same as my HD). Why this letter? BMW – make a real touring bike with boards instead of pegs, get rid of that windscreen! (Oh yea, I can’t wear nice shoes with the BMW pegs as shifting scuffs up the toes of my shoes — remember, I also ride to work, not to local bars only on Sunny Sunday’s). The K1600B looked promising, then BMW took off the tour PAC! WTF? BMW still calling it a long distance touring bike with no storage space? (Same reason I did not buy a Boss Hoss).
I came to this (Biker) lifestyle late in life (65, am now 72). With the exception of renting Honda 50’s and 90’s when I was 16, the only bikes I have owned are Harleys. My 1st was a 2007 1200 Sportster, followed by a 2008 Road Glide, and my current ride, a 2014 Ultra Ltd. Although my longest ride to-date has only been 400 – 500 miles, I’m planning on a 3000+ venture this Summer. The one thing I have always noticed, whether short-hopping it in the cities or longer rides in the highway, is foot position vs. comfort. My Sporty had pegs, while the Glide and Ultra both came with foot boards. For comfort and convenience, I would never opt for pegs over foot boards. As has been stated before, you have more space to move your feet and stretch some with foot boards, a luxury, and sometimes a necessity, you miss (unless you have separate Highway Pegs). While both the GTL and the GW seem to be super tourers, I wouldn’t have either without foot boards, especially for those long trips. Just my opinion.
Aftermarket feet-forward highway pegs are available for both bikes… but if you don’t ride with feet positioned for best bike control (i.e. feet under you), then these bikes might not be a good choice. They both have significantly more power and torque and less weight than Harleys, which means they can get away from you much easier. You definitely need a higher skillset compared to riding Harleys.
I just traded in my Harley Road Glide Ulta for an 18 BMW K1600 GTL for the increase in performance, decrease in weight, and the technological advancements the GTL offers. I got the premium and safety plus packages but held off on the Garmin Navigator VI. Anyone have advice as to whether to purchase the Garmin or just use my iPhone X for GPS.
I am also in the market for engine guards, saddle bag guards, and an aftermarket heated seat with a driver backrest option if anyone has any recommendations. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Keith, you will find that the nav unit is much more versatile than just navigation guidance. The unit syncs with the bike, giving valuable info, eg you can have a screen displayed showing 16 different parameters of the bike while riding, including tire pressures, temps, speed, consumptions, lean angles, etc, etc on the fly. You can also store all music files on the sd card and work that through the bikes entertainment system and helmets. Same with the phone and calls. You can also remove the unit, use it in your car and also hook it to the computer and do multiple route planning. Plus much much more. As for the accessories, check out wunderlich. They pretty much got all covered, including the backrest. Happy, safe riding bud.
Illium Works. Floorboards, highway pegs, crash bars, etc. I am a thirty year Harley rider and just bought a 2021 GTL. There is no comparison. Words cannot describe the exhilaration felt in the saddle of the BMW. I only ride two up and my wife can actually enjoy the full touring experience now that she can see over my helmet rather than stare at the back of it. My wife and I spend countless hours and miles in the saddle. We have taken advanced and expert rider courses two-up and revel in the twisty roads! If you are looking for straight lines and freeway stability then buy a Cadillac.
I’ll join the chorus… the K1600 GTL is PHENOMENAL! A sport bike in disguise that you can ride coast to coast in luxury, do power wheelies for fun, and carve corners faster than a 780lb bike has the right to. Mine is a 2018 with 2 years and 15,000 miles of gas -n- go ownership. Easy to do your own maintenance… except for the valve checks, however, most owners haven’t needed valve shims even through 100,000 miles, Ask around for yourself and read the forums about this. Get one and start livin’ your life. Seriously.
I really think you can’t go wrong with any of these bikes, I just wish there were extended test ride programs. Because you really cant tell from a 20-30 min demo how well you like the bike. I have ridden the GT and GTL have not had a chance to try the B or GA. I came off an 09 Ultra Classic after almost 10yrs and chose a Kawasaki C14 also known as the poor mans BMW lol…I figured it would scratch an itch for the next few year while I let the dust settle on the new Wing and see what updates come to the K bikes..
In my life, I had many bikes; I like fast ones, so as ZZR. I bought a BMW K1300GT, no bad, but I would never buy BMW again. Quality of BMW is not good, Honda is TOP. Then motorbike with 160 HP and 300 kg is not good, change of slipping tire in corners, even the 1600GTL is much heavier than the k1300GT. I have now a Goldwing, very comfortable and prefect with two.
The main difference is if you ride long and far you will find some roads that are not paved the gold wing has crash bars the bmw doesn’t big money difference on a drop
I have Ilium engine and side-case crash bars on my K16GT. In other words, the things you can add to ANY bike, such as crash protection, are not really worth discussing. It’s the differences that you CAN’T change that distinguish one bike from another. For example, you can’t easily change the difference in luggage space. The BMW side cases will each hold a modular helmet (large shell size won’t fit in the top box). The Honda DCT option is not available on the BMW. Those are REAL differences, not trivial quibbles.
I’ve somehow managed to 65, have owned many motorcycles. My granddad had a Harley Davidson franchise starting in 1917 and my dad after WW2 raced professionally starting in 1949, 650 Triumphs, HD’s, and Trials.
As of late I’m on a 2012 BMW K1600GTL and a 2010 Honda Goldwing Trike. My legs are weaker and my wife prefers the Goldwing and so do I. Our trike has just turned 20,000 miles and the BMW K1600 GTL about 18,500 miles, has more options than the Exclusive. The BMW has been ridden less than an hr in 2 yrs. we did test ride the 2019 Goldwing CSC and Road Smith trikes with the automatic trans and loved 💕both. Both BMW and the Honda
have place if only I could blend these together, what a World Favorite it would be. I guess for now I’ll sell the BMW for around $12,000 and find it a great home. Oh, for just over 18,000 miles it still has over 50% breaks, does that tell ya anything ??? Yep, My Senior yrs has slowed me up a bit !!!
I live in Colorado where we still have a lot of snow, however I was in Dallas TX and had a Friday afternoon to look at motorcycles. I presently have 2016 BMW GT 1600 L and I love it. But I thought I might like a newer bike so I went to HD and that was a quick no, then Honda to look at the Goldwing and even though I am. 61 I don’t feel old enough to get the GW. I then went to BMW and I loved one bike but they said it was a Bagger and I couldn’t get the top case. I don’t like the colors of the 1600s so I will keep my older one that is still a dream to ride
I’m 73 years old with four street bikes, and ever since retiring I ride often, putting 93,000 miles on my 2014 Yamaha FJR1300 (bought new in Mar 2015) in less than 5 years, plus 22,000 combined on the other three (2011 Yamaha FZ6R, 2014 Honda CB1100, and a 2015 Yamaha FZ-07). I put 25,800 miles on a GL1800 a few years back, but that was before I retired.
Don’t take a stranger’s word on things you.can check for yourself. Ask a Honda dealer about service costs, and get quotes on specific jobs like valve checks and valve adjustments. Honda service is not cheap, but it’s a lot (a lot) less than BMW’S. I’ve never owned a BMW, but I certainly ride with them, and I hear the owners complain about denied warranty issues and service costs. A lot will depend on the dealer, of course, so comparing costs should be done in.tne same area when possible.
The stability issue with several BMW’S is real, but it appears to be the tires. Riders wearing Michelin PR4s seem happy, but the new Road 5s are mistakes!
Me, I’m still addicted to performance, so the FJR1300 is the right touring bike for me, despite the so-so seat. Incredible performance coupled with unsurpassed reliability and 300 mile range makes the so-so seat and no self-cancelling turn signals bearable.
I’ve owned 58 motorcycles, most of which were dirt bikes, but my experience has taught me to buy Japanese bikes and cars for quality and engineering.
I now own both. But, the Beemer is a ’12. I added the VI navigator but quickly found out you can NOT use the onboard speaker system. Getting the new Wing, well new to me it’s an ’18, was an interesting experience. I owned a previous gen wing and am glad to say this is nothing like it. Everything is totally under you. You sit on it, not in it. Power is very good but you will want sport mode if you want to get in the power. The Beemer is always light and nimble and loves the curves. The author got it accurate, mentioning the difference in handling so I won’t go on about it, suffice it to say the Wing is just fine when pushed to the limit in tight turns. The K bike wants to twitch a bit at speed and in slow speed manoeuvruing where the Honda is so rock solid stable in comparison. Steering actually feels a tad lighter on it the the previous gen. Well balanced. It doesn’t induce you to toss it around the corners but it does just fine. What I noticed most of all is how stable The Wing is behind semi trucks in wind turbulence at 75 mph. Riding the last two days provided some decent crosswinds and the Wing didn’t even notice it where the BMW is usually a little twitchy. I love both bikes but my deciding factor is the lower owner cost and reliability of the Wing. But don’t think the time with the Beemer hasn’t been fun. It’s been great. Now the Wing will take over and I’m not one bit disappointed in it. But, it is like apples to oranges. Either bike would be a good long termer. BMW if you have the wallet to keep it on the road.
I’ve had 13 big touring bikes: Goldwings, BMW K’s and R’s, Yamaha Venture…and my favorite is….my Toyota Camry! Heater, AC, no special clothing, no helmet hair,the thing holds lots of clothes, 17 gallons, gets 32 mpg! Yes, yes, I know, I know…but as I get older, I adapt and ENJOY the ride. regardless of what I’m on or in!