Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

Motorcycle news and opinion

BMW breaks with the past

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A while back I mused about the future of BMW motorcycles. At the time, it looked like the motorcycle division was headed for a downward spiral as graying yuppies snapped up BMW’s 4-wheeled offerings to keep up their cred at the office but opted for air-cooled v-twins when it was time to put on a black t-shirt and forego shaving for a few days in order to get in touch with their inner Fonzie. BMW’s K-bikes were looking decidedly old and the engine in the top of the line K1200LT tourer had “only” 1200cc.

When BMW started churning out chain drive singles and transverse in-line fours, I truly thought that they had lost their way and were grasping at straws. When I heard rumours about the new six cylinder touring bike I was convinced that hopeless excess had won out.

After seeing images of the new K1600 and reading the reviews, I realize that I had it all wrong. Gone are the last remnants of dorkiness from all those black air-cooled twins with the white pinstripes. BMW cars have always seemed sportier than a Mercedes but their bikes were the opposite – quirky and under-powered (or all the power the chassis could handle, depending on your point of view). BMW had tried an image makeover in the past with their flying brick K-bikes: a revolutionary design that just never caught on with the flat-twin diehards. I tried out a K100LT and found it loose and buzzy. The re-designed twins were much nicer so BMW soldiered on with them while honing the handling.

Porsche had tried a similar image makeover with its 924 and 928 but, like BMW did with its new boxer twins, eventually went back to the drawing board for a clean-sheet re-design of its traditional flat six after a tepid response from the faithful.

BMW’s K1600 changes all that. Gone is the dorkiness and lack of power. These things make the Gold Wing look its age and are so far beyond the air-cooled v-twin touring bike competition as to make them look steam-powered.

I hope for two things: a demo-ride program somewhere so I don’t have to live vicariously through press-launch impressions, and to live long enough to afford one of these things when used ones are within my price range.

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June 4th, 2011 at 7:07 am

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