2018 BMW K 1600 B: The Bagger with Sportbike Soul


Experienced by Leon L. Brittain

Cruisers, Tourers or more, commonly known as “baggers” on the streets have been a vital part of the motorcycle world’s DNA for years now. However, this segment is experiencing a renewed interest and level of popularity unlike before. For one, the sportbike crowd is maturing and looking to enjoy a different style of riding. Secondly, the typical bagger audience has become more diverse to reflect the various traits of these riders from age to race to gender.

New to the scene is BMW Motorrad ‘s big and bold K 1600 B for 2018. Yes, the folks that brought us the groundbreaking S 1000 RR superbike as well as globally heralded adventure touring bikes have increased their brand presence tremendously in the bagger segment. Upon first glance you’ll instantly notice that this Bimmer sets itself apart from other baggers with flashy, chiseled and sporty views from its aerodynamic front fairing, sculpted bags, beefy and attention-grabbing exhausts and the single-sided rear swingarm. Now tell me, when was the last time you saw a bagger with a single-sided rear arm?

After several days of torrential rain in the Washington, DC metro area it was finally time to put some miles in the seat. The mix of a rare humidity combined with the showers provided the perfect opportunity for both dry and wet road conditions to test the bike’s variable driving modes consisting of Rain, Road and Dynamic modes which are quickly available at the touch of a button.

The seating and foot peg positions are a bit more aggressive than your typical cruiser, hinting to your inner sportbike spirit. But the relaxed “kick your feet up vibe” of secondary feet-forward floorboards will have you riding on a cloud of Bavarian bliss powered by a 6-cyclinder in-line 160-horsepower engine. Although the K 1600 B is a muscular and brawny bike, it’s refined and smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy. It also releases silky power and acceleration along with all the conveniences you’d expect from BMW such as the intuitive and instantaneous cruise control, heated seats, heated handwarmers and clutchless shifting by way of the Shift Assistant Pro which allows you to up- or down-shift quickly and seamlessly without engaging the clutch in the majority of riding situations.

There is also the integrated rotary dial mounted on the left handlebar allowing access and control of the radio with AM, FM and satellite bands, USB, navigation controls and access to the onboard computer with trip, mileage and a host of other conveniences which are all viewable on the 5.7″ TFT color screen. I did run into a few problems though. In more instances than I care to remember I unintentionally changed stations while simply operating the turn signals due to dial proximity. Additionally, getting lost in an abundance of menu items while riding is certainly not ideal when trying to navigate your way through the options. Sure, a learning curve with acquainting yourself to any new system is expected but there’s also a lot to be said for simplicity without losing functionality as other manufacturers have successfully demonstrated. Several riders I had the opportunity to connect with during my seat-time mirrored the same concern. The saddlebags of course fit a full-size DOT helmet inside but positioning a17” laptop was challenging.

The road experience is where this big boy shines and rocks. Those sportbike characteristics harkened to my Yamaha R1 as I effortlessly saw triple digits drawing nearer while the convenience of the electronically controlled windshield dramatically improved the ride quality at higher speeds. Braking is handled from dual floating disc brakes for the front and a single disc brake for the rear combined with the BMW Motorrad Integral ABS.

We all know the dangers associated with being out on 2s with distracted drivers and uncontrollable environs for riders. Why bike manufacturers continue to outfit dinky sounding horns on their products is a mystery to me. But that is not the case with the K 1600 B which incorporates one of the loudest attention-grabbing horns I’ve ever heard!

MSRP is $19,995 but our Black Storm Metallic test unit included the optional Premium and Touring packages bringing the total to $24,885. Nevertheless, this pricing is certainly competitive with other brands in the category. If you’re looking for a bagger and ready for some serious and smooth ground-pounding while trying to appeal to that sportbike rider within then the BMW K 1600 B just may be the bike for you.


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