By: Dave Abrahams
Los Angeles, California - BMW's new K1600 Bagger, the production version of the Concept 101 shown at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in 2015, comes to us with the catch-phrase 'Grand American Touring'.
And that's just about right - it's Grand, with six cylinders, 1649cc, 118kW at 7750rpm and 175Nm at 6500 rpm, 125Nm of which is available from just off idle at 1500rpm.
It's American - the bagger look, with low rear end, usually soft saddlebags rather than panniers (hence the name), and no top box, is a peculiarly American way of making a long-hauler out of a boulevard cruiser.
And just looking at the big, bluff fairing and relaxed seating position tells you it's intended to take you Touring over the hills and far away - not very fast but with great presence and authority.
The Bagger is based on the K1600 GT, but with a completely new back end (including a significantly lower pillion seat) and wide rear mudguard, which hinges upwards out of the way, 1940s style, so you can get at the rear wheel for servicing and repairs without having to strip all the furniture.
The fixed panniers are built into rather than bolted on to the bodywork, with slimmer lids and deeper bodies than those of conventional Eurotourers, and incorporate American-style dual tail lights and indicators for a cleaner rear-end design, underscored by two big, almost cylindrical tailpipes running parallel to the road.
Since Bagger riders will be sitting more upright than GT pilots, the side sections of the fairing and power-adjustabe screen have been extended further back and the mirrors have been modified with aspherical glass elements to give a wider field view without the rider having to lean forward. Be aware however, that objects in the mirrors really will be closer than they look.
The standard adaptive electronic suspension works in exactly the opposite way to that of a sports bike. The default 'Road' setting is the stiffer of the two, its damping continually adjusting itself to give you the optimum compromise between traction and comfort, while 'Cruise' mode is pillowy-soft for ultimate comfort at low speeds.
Big cruisers are notoriously difficult to paddle backwards, particularly if you have the front wheel facing downhill, so pressing an (optional) button on the left-hand switchgear (with the gearbox in neutral, of course) reverses the starter-motor connection, so that pushing the Start button will gently propel the bike backwards out of trouble.
There's even an optional quickshifter available for seamless gearshifts at highway speeds - but because this is a tourer, you can't call it that. If you want one on your Bagger you have to tick the Shift Assistant Pro box on the order form. Also available as options are footboards for rider and pillion, as well as special forged-alloy wheels with eleven double spokes each.
Since the Bagger is aimed primarily at the North American market, no decision has yet been made as to whether or when it will be released in South Africa.