On a super windy, cool Saskatchewan day I took home a shiny new red 2013 BMW K1600 GTL. The bike of my dreams….or so I thought.
First I will review the bikes I already own, or owned….
The 2009 Kawasaki Concours.
I just started riding again in the spring of 2012 after an 18 year layoff. The last motorcycle I owned was a Honda CB750F all customized and decked out with a fairing and it was FAST! But having kids and a mortgage (or rather a payment on a trailer) meant I had to sell her, and I never replaced it until I got divorced from the next wife who wasn’t a fan of motorcycles….shouldn’t have waited so long!
So I started out with a 2011 BMW G650GS…I will review this later. But to put it short – I was soon comfortable enough riding and wanting more power that I went right into the dealership and picked up a used sport touring bike.
The “Connie” is an amazing, fun bike! As soon as I test drove the bike, I decided to take it home. About $12,000 painful dollars later…the broken in horsey was underneath my wings and flying home!
I took my girlfriend for a ride shortly after and we learned very quickly about the power this beast packed when merging onto the highway for the first time. I reached back and signalled for her to “hold tight” and I hit the gas at a running ramp speed of about 50km an hour. About 2 seconds later I was on the highway hitting the brakes going about 140kmph!!
It kind of freaked me out actually, as well as my girlfriend who shortly after we stopped told me that was fun but maybe not to hit the gas so hard any longer….all I could do was nod and smile and step away so she wouldn’t notice the smell coming from my shorts…
Ya. It’s that much fun! And without a passenger I have heard this sucker can do a 0-60 in under 3 seconds. When I tried it myself counting to 3 seemed like I was going about 200KMPH – the Connie just flies and you can’t focus on counting when you are focusing on what you might run into!
In the hopes of keeping my babe securely fastened behind me, I ordered a top case for about $350 – and she says it made her feel much more secure. But I also stopped flicking my wrist with abandon when she was riding. We are still together and very much in love, I do know how to keep her happy!
I had a great summer learning how to ride again. Going between my ‘starter’ BMW G650 and the Kawasaki and riding around at slow paces through parking lots and taking the Beemer off road on gravel and sandy, bumpy hills has taught me to ride all over again. After a couple of close calls on the road again, I also remember why I can’t worry about looking like a geek with my BRIGHT YELLOW jacket and wearing all my gear!
Here is a summary of the Concours. I would highly recommend this bike – giving it an 8 out of 10.
The good. Why it gets 8.
-Comfortable to drive
-Cool retractable windshield
-Hot looking – although the top box gave it a bit of a blemish, I would add it for sure if you have a passenger regularly
-It blows a lot of heat on cool days…but then again
-It blows too much heat on hot days. This is an issue that people who ride in shorts and flip flops probably complain about more than I would. I would never ride bare legged so it wasn’t that horrible, but it was noticeable.
-Until I figured out where to position the windshield my head whipped around pretty good at highway speeds when turning to look left or right. A bit of whiplash – but that was probably more my own inexperienced riding ways that anything to do with the bike.
-No cruise – so I ought a little accessory a “cramp buster” which uses friction and you can rest your hand on it to help. Pretty good but still on a long drive I can see where cruise would be much nicer!
So now on to the…
2011 Harley Electraglide.
Feeling a lot more comfortable driving and several months later we found ourselves down in the heat of Arizona summer. Before we left, I booked a sport touring bike – a 2010 Honda ST1200.
Karen and I took off the first morning in 30 degree heat and headed the long way North to Sedona out of Scottsdale. Our first day trip was about 4 hours+ of riding and another longer day the next day back home (whole separate blog on a different subject). The bottom line – this cost me about $400 to rent for just a couple of days!! Since the weather in Arizona is always favorable for riding, I decided to sell my sports car and buy a motorcycle. It was much cheaper to rent a car for $20 a day than a motorcycle for $150++ per day!
I looked online and found a 2011 Harley Electraglide for $13,500 in November of 2012 on a boys trip. On a last minute whim I decided to buy it without even trying it – and ended up buying an extended warranty, and taxes, and paperwork, etc. By the time it was done the bike cost me about $16,000…but now has another 3 years of warranty.
The review starts on my next trip to Arizona with Karen in December of 2012. We stopped at the dealer and picked it up. It was a little cool, and we had to go buy some gear! I ended up with a half helmet (which I like the look of, but is not good enough protection), gloves, pants, boots…and after a day of riding around on the highways we also stopped and picked up some balaclavas and warmer gear.
Karen is my illuminated pillion! She has a nice bright yellow jacket – so when we are riding you can’t miss us!
The review is limited – as I have only ridden the bike about 500 miles so far. But in a summary this is a Cadillac on wheels. The bike reminds me of a big cushy Cadillac ride…but with the muffler taken off. It sounds throaty and tough. Makes you WANT to go out and buy leather and get a new tattoo! I really dig the sound! I feel like people don’t turn their heads just to look at the bike out of admiration, but also out of fear that they may be running into some mean old tough SOB that will kick their ass if they cut them off…all I care about it they are looking out for me one way or another. Don’t really care why – as long as they are noticing and don’t run me over!
Karen said right away that the comfort level for the passenger is excellent. She is very comfortable as a passenger, and can even hear the radio/stereo! We can have a conversation at high speeds (although I can’t really turn my head and talk while trying to watch where I am going.)
I admit, this was a little intimidating to drive. When I picked it up, I challenged myself right away = but not on purpose. With a big heavy bike the challenge isn’t going straight once you get moving, it’s learning to control the bike at low speeds. When I went to take the bike out of the parking lot, I turned into a dead end where there was a limited turning radius. Using brake, gas and clutch I was able to slowly maneuver the bike in a tight circle right from the start without my feet ever touching the ground.
A good start, and tells you a little about the balance and strengths of this bike. I will write a little longer blog after a nice tour this summer, but for now a summary of a bike I give a 9 to so far…
-Great passenger comfort
-You can actually hear the stereo
-Lots of room for helmets, and gear when you stop
-Tons of accessories available
-Very maneuverable and well balanced for such a big bike
-Blows quite a bit of heat
-Underpowered for my liking – but that’s fixable and more related to what you want to invest
-Makes me want another one but a Screaming Eagle with some power and more options…ugh, $40,000++
-Can almost always smell oil. Don’t know why – but it seems like you just should anyways. Maybe it’s a good thing?
The 2013 BMW K1600 GTL.
So now it’s spring of 2013 and I have spring fever. The second time I take out the Connie, I decide to take her to the local motorcycle dealer to see what is new on the floor. There was good intentions of just kicking tires. But my impulsive ways ended up driving home a new Beemer and trading my bike for way too little! $8500 for my used bike and paying full Canadian retail for the new Beemer $29,900 plus taxes.
This bike has a lot of cool options! Starting with a lot of space for goodies. Up front each side of the fairing offers a little cubby to store small items – wallets, cell phones, change, condoms…whatever you need. The goodie boxes are also lockable, so no worries about leaving grandmas jewellery either. The really cool thing is you can either lock all the boxes on the bike right from a button on the handle, or using the remote key fob. Nice.
My hour long tour of the bike with the salesman – he showed me a ton of features that I do like. The wheel to control the Audio is slick and easy enough to figure out. There is an input for a USB – or an iPod adaptor I guess you can buy. Out of the box, the iPod or iPhone doesn’t work – you have to spend extra bucks to get this option. Stupid and bad on BMW to not include this…I mean how much is a cord or adaptor even? So I just plugged in a 4GB USB that was actually a freebie giveaway and I have a ton of music that I can control from the wheel.
You also have adjustable traction control. There seems to be 3 variances – I usually leave it on Dynamic which seems the sportiest, but tried the “road” once I hit the highway and when turning onto my gravel road I tried the “rain” control. Seems that the difference is how sensitive the throttle response is. On “Rain” I feel like I am not going to overtwist the throttle and throw the back end into a heated frenzy. Good feature!
There are also ride and comfort settings. You can select single passenger all the way up to 2 passengers with loaded luggage. From there you can on the fly select “sport” “normal” or “comfort” settings for the ride. I can’t tell a huge difference, but again I haven’t ridden many miles yet. So far I like the “sport” and the “comfort” version – they are a little different. Will have to find some twisty roads and really give this a go!
The Bluetooth helmets I have are HJC “Chatterbox” bluetooth version. I installed Chatterbox on my girlfriends helmet as well – and it is always too noisy to talk. I do, however enjoy using it to listen to my iPhone while driving around and was able to hook up the bluetooth to the BMW quite easily. So now I can listen to the USB music or the radio either on the bike itself or through the helmet. It’s so-so. I have a complaint actually. The Harley stereo is MUCH better and you can always hear it. The BMW stereo lacks. Again, for the bucks involved they could improve this. And I don’t know if it’s just user error or not – but hooking up the bluetooth to my helmet every time can be a pain in the arse. This is probably my own doing though – so don’t judge based on just this blog.
And now I am ready to drive!
So out of the parking lot, my first impression was that it was really heavy. Awkward. The windshield is about the right height for my 5’9″ frame when in the lowest position. Although still higher than what I was used to with the Kawasaki – and the Harley is no comparison. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even say that the BMW and the Harley are in the same category – they are quite different bikes in almost all aspects.
I drove the BMW K1600 GTL home and then it sat for a few busy days of work. Then finally my GF was able to go for a ride. It was a relatively windy day – about 30 – 40KM gusting side winds when we hit the road. I noticed right away the stereo couldn’t go loud enough, and Karen didn’t seem comfortable in the back. We couldn’t converse on the first 20KM drive until we hit a stop light in the city limits. She didn’t look to happy. Right off the bat she said it felt like she got whiplash! Not Good! I honestly didn’t enjoy my first ride with a passenger either – finding it difficult to drive with the side wind. May not be a good way to judge a bike though – but honestly we have driven several times on similarly windy days and didn’t have that type of ‘backdraft’ experience. I blame it on the windshield. And after exploring several forums, it seems to be a common problem.
In the meantime, we finally got back home and she said she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings – but she doesn’t really like the bike. The Harley is way more comfortable for her. I wish I would have taken the time to bring her with me when exploring the bikes. I called my dealer when the bike had just 200KM on it (FFun motorsports in Saskatoon) and they told me there is nothing they can do except trade it in with a 20 – 30% blue book value.
That sucks. I mean really sucks.
These guys also own the local Harley Dealer and I am willing to bring this bike back and take a modest hit to trade up to a Harley – but $6000 for basically a days ride? Come on! Let’s meet in the middle boys!
So now I am ‘stuck’ with this bike. Although I don’t feel ‘stuck’ – it is quite a performer! On my own it’s quite fun to blast around on, and I have found some sweet spots for the windshield. I just may not ever talk by babe into getting onto the back of this machine again, and it really was the purpose of getting this new toy.
Would I recommend a BMW K1600 GTL? So far, I would give it a 7 out of 10 – with most of the bad marks just coming from passenger comments. It is fun to drive, and performance wise doesn’t even compare to the Harley Ultra.
The Harley is a better and more comfortable touring bike. The big, soft, cushioned seats and seating position as well as the position for the passenger are just more accommodating for touring and keeping the wife happy. But maybe if the windshield was better, and the back seat had a lower option it could be a different experience for her and I would give this a better review.
On my own – I would keep it as a really fun and sporty touring bike. Too bad for the passenger – and I am sure this varies from person to person.
At the end of the day – don’t shy away from buying a BMW K1600 GTL. Go and ASK to TEST DRIVE it first! Actually the people selling these should insist as well so that you don’t end up with a bike you aren’t happy with….to each their own.
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