A ‘bagger’ is an American style of cruiser bike with saddlebags on its tail which are ideal for touring. In this BMW’s case the ‘bags’ are fully integrated into the bike; they’re non-removable hard luggage cases with tail lights built into them in the American style.
It’s based on BMW’s K1600 GTL touring bike and powered by the same silky smooth inline six-cylinder engine with burly outputs of 118kW and 175Nm, but with a lowered seat, giving it a more stretched, streamlined profile that looks less bulky than the standard tourer. The lower seat also makes it easier to manoeuvre, particularly for shorter riders, and there’s also a reverse gear so that you don’t get stuck trying to push this heavy beast out of a parking spot.
Electronically controlled dampers come standard, allowing the rider to select between “Road” and “Cruise” modes. In the standard “Road” setting, damping adaptation is fully automated for the best mix of comfort and traction, but the rider can select “Cruise” mode for an even cushier ride.
BMW’s bagger feels like a couch to ride, with a comfy and well-padded seat that’s matched by a wafting ride quality. The big Beemer very effectively ironed out the bumps in biker’s paradise, the twisty roads winding through the hills and forests of Mpumalanga when I rode it at the media launch earlier this week. Sadly some of these roads are deteriorating and the bumps of filled-in potholes (and sometimes not filled-in) are now more suited to softly-sprung cruisers than the sports bikes of yore.
But it was here, on those meandering and not-always-smooth roads around Sabie, Nelspruit and Hazyview, that the big Beemer found its sweet spot. Not only did it waft comfortably over scarred tar, but for a heavy cruiser it didn’t handle half-badly. Once you’re moving, the bike lightens up nicely and allows you to tackle corners at a fair speed without getting wallowy, more like a sports tourer than a big burly cruiser. And if you do want to test the limits, it has traction control and ABS brakes to help keep it all planted to the tar.
That sweet-six lays on vibration-free power with plenty of gusto, and combined with the cushy ride the K1600 B is a bike that hankers for the long open road. The low seating position places your arms a little higher than the average cruiser however, and after my 35km ride I was left wondering how comfortable this will prove to be on longer journeys. That particular test will have to wait for another day.
But a great nod to comfort is the Shift Assistant Pro which allows you to shift up and down through gears without using the clutch; it’s a great fatigue-reducing system for your left hand particularly in urban riding. There’s also cruise control for tackling those long open roads without setting off the one-eyed bandits.
Heated grips and seats ensure you’re not confined to riding only in the summer months, as does an electrically adjustable screen that, in its most upright position puts you into a quiet and almost wind-free bubble.
The bagger’s long list of toys includes an adaptive headlight that allows you to see further into corners at night, keyless ride (the key stays in your pocket and connects wirelessly to the bike), Bluetooth, an audio system and GPS preparation. The large TFT display has easy-to-read graphics and is customisable to show different information.
By combining American style with BMW-like handling and technology, this soft-riding touring bike could well ‘bag’ a new audience for this ever-innovating German brand.
FACTS: BMW K1600B Bagger
|Engine:||1649cc liquid-cooled transverse six|
|Bore and Stroke:||72 x 67.5mm|
|Valvegear:||DOHC with four valves per cylinder|
|Power:||118kW at 7750rpm|
|Torque:||129Nm at 5250rpm|
|Induction:||Electronic fuel-injection, ride by wire|
|Clutch:||Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulic|
|Transmission:||Six-speed gearbox, shaft|
|Front Suspension:||Duolever with central spring strut|
|Rear Suspension:||Adjustable Paralever|
|Front Brakes:||2x320mm, 4-pot opposed piston calliper|
|Rear Brake:||320mm, 2-piston calliper|
|Front Tyre:||120/17 ZR 17|
|Rear Tyre:||190/55 ZR 17|
|Kerb Weight:||336 kilograms|
|Fuel Tank:||26.5 litres|