The ‘B’ is for “Bagger”

For those not familiar with motorcycles in general and/or cruisers in particular, a bagger is sub-genre of the omnipresent custom segment. Essentially, it’s the result of owners of customized low-riders wanting a little touring practicality. Said practically comes in the form of saddlebags and a front, wind-deflecting fairing, albeit with a cut-down windshield so it didn’t interfere with the all-important styling consideration.

Very important in this genre is that said saddlebags are not accompanied by a rear topcase. For some reason — and as a lifelong motorcyclist, I still can’t fathom why — that addition crosses some indecipherable boundary between customized “wild thing” and minivan-like Grand Tourer. Yes, such differences are picayune. And yes, big, bad bikers would seem to be as big prima donnas as fashionistas.

Said restriction does come with advantages. First, not being blessed with said topcase, it’s not as lardy as its fully-loaded counterparts. That might be not immediately apparent considering that the big K1600 B tops the scales at a hardly Weight-Watched 344 kilograms, but believe you me, that’s a whole Honda CRF150 less than the equivalent Harley or Indian. More importantly—

The BMW’s touring additions really do work well

For one thing the B’s new suitcases are amongst the best BMW sells. The traditional side-loaders — as opposed to some R1250 GS bags that open from the top — are remarkably spacious, as well as convenient. Unlike many side bags — including some from BMW — the B‘s will hold a full-sized full-face helmet. Bravo! Such a seemingly obvious attribute so often ignored. Each bag will also fit two full bags of groceries and, as I found out, two sets of 16-ounce boxing gloves. This last payload may not be common, but the first two are exercised frequently.

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B  Photo by David Booth

Their lids are also a doddle to operate. Push a button, lift a single latch and presto, they’re open. The lids slide back closed easily, an attribute you’d think should common, but sadly, is not. Again, not even in BMW’s own lineup. The bags can also be locked with the key fob, another positive convenience, something not offered in competitive brand’s saddlebags (but, in  this case, are offered on other BMWs).

Lastly, there’s the K1600 B’s electrically-adjustable windshield, again a feature not common to all baggers, no matter their price. In its lowest position, it fairly disappears in the fairing, rendering the “cut-down” look so necessary to the bagger aesthetic. Toggle a button on the left handlebar, however, and it rises like the Phoenix to provide (almost) touring-bike-like wind protection. Style and practicality is the hallmark of the modern bagger, and no one does it better than BMW.

The K1600 B is ideal for those short of inseam looking for a big bike

The B’s seat is but 750 millimetres off the ground. For someone of my 5-foot-11 stature – 32-inch inseam — that means both feet planted flatly on terra firma at stoplights, and much bend of knee left in reserve. For those shorter — and I’m guessing all the way down to 5-foot-six and 29-inch leg length — that means the lowest K1600 will be manageable at low speeds. Harley-Davidsons have always benefited from low seats for their large-displacement cruiser. With the B, BMW can match them millimetre for millimetre.

Nor has the B’s perch been robbed of padding to achieve this low seat height. My tester was equipped with the optional “719” quilted seat and it was quite comfortable.Wide, mostly flat, and imbued with lots of dense foam, it’s a lovely place to park your buttocks for hours on end.

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B Photo by David Booth

That said, the low seat height and relatively high footpeg placement (BMW doesn’t like the grounding of footpeg, even on their cruisers) means the seat-to-peg relationship is a little tight. My 65-year-old knees really didn’t appreciate the tight bend they had to make to work the gearshift and rear brake. Yes, there are floorboards, but not everyone likes the foot-forward riding position. And while my wonky knees are indeed a personal consideration, I suspect it is an affliction shared with at least some of BMW’s intended demographic for the B. Achieving that accommodating — should I have said “inclusive”? — low seat height also leads to another compromise.

The K1600 B’s centre of gravity may be too low

Unlike cars, the centre of gravity of a motorcycle can be too low, especially for easy low-speed handling when it takes more steering input to place that c-of-g over the tires. Combined with the fat sport-bike-sized tires — 120/70ZR17 front and an enormous 190/55ZR17 rear — and lengthy 1,618-mm wheelbase, the K1600B can be a little hard to balance at low speeds and needs more than its fair share of counter-steering to keep on line through slower corners. Said unwieldiness pretty much disappears by the time you reach 30 kilometres an hour and, truth be told, you do — kinda — get used to it. Nonetheless, Harley’s Road King, for instance, is much more manageable when pulling U-ies in a parking lot.

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B Photo by David Booth

That said, like all BMWs, it handles a treat — at least compared with others of the bagger genre — in the twisties. Set the new Dynamic ESA adjustable suspension on its Dynamic setting and the thing fairly sheds 100 of those almost 750 pounds. That something so big should handle nearly so well. There’s even a fair bit of ground clearance — see the aforementioned seat-to-peg relationship — which means you can keep up with a few of the fast boys on their GSX-Rs. Said pace is also helped by the fact—

The K1600 B has some truly powerful brakes

Said front stoppers consist of four-pot calipers working on 320-mm discs. Nothing uncommon there. Nor is the front master cylinder one of those radial-pistoned jobbies that’s all the rage on superbikes. The four-pot calipers aren’t even the most modern “monoblock” jobbies that bless so many sportbikes. Nonetheless, the K1600 B’s braking performance is impressive, especially, again, for something on the obese side of three hundred kilos. They’re plenty of powerful, offer copious amounts of feedback and the lever, even when you’re really squeezing for all your worth, remains admirably firm. And, of course, ABS has your back when said squeeze gets too enthusiastic. This exemplary braking performance is actually necessary because—

The K1600 has the mother of all cruiser engines

Unlike other baggers — or cruisers in general — the K1600 B is not powered by some thumpy big-bore V-twin. No siree Bob, the big BMW shucks convention by strapping six cylinders to its aluminum spaceframe. And not one of those odd opposed-sixes a la Honda Gold Wing. Nope, this 1,649-cc monster has all its cylinders in a row, just how God and perfect primary balance dictate.

It makes for one of the two most impressive engines in motorcycling right now — the other being that in the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 — with copious amounts of power (160 hp), a silky smoothness unrivalled (even by Honda’s Gold Wing) in motorcycling, and the most thrilling exhaust note this side of a ’79 Honda CBX with a D&D six-into-one pipe. It truly is a tribute to the wonder that is internal combustion.

It’s also as torquey as an electric at low speeds, and the rush through the mid-range is no less scintillating. Throttle response throughout the rev range is oh-so-crisp and, despite being choked down to legal sound-decibel limits, damned if it doesn’t sound like a MotoGP bike — or, more accurately, a Formula 1 car — when you wind it on. Traditional V-twin riders always wax lyrical about their engine’s “character.” BMW’s six matches them even in that regard.

5 things i like — and 2 i don’t — about the 2022 bmw k1600 b 

2022 BMW K1600 B Photo by David Booth

We can always dream, can’t we?

The thing is that the big 1,649-cc inline engine is but at the (very) bottom end of its development. Tuned for the cruiser rider’s need for prodigious torque, its 160 peak horsepower are produced at an incredibly low 6,750 rpm. Hell, those huge-pistoned V-twins spin up that high. Besides, as everyone knows, the benefit of multiple cylinders is high revs and the incredible horsepower that engenders.

In other words, if BMW ever decided to build a sporty naked bike based on the big six, it’d be a powerhouse. Tell your BMW dealer that there’s a market for such a beast. Write an email to BMW Canada directly if you feel strongly enough. Maybe even send word back to Munich. There’s just gotta be a market for the K1600 unleashed. Heck, the K1600 B already has one of the industry’s best quickshifters, a performance addition all but useless on a cruiser but completely ‘necessary’ on a sport bike.

Wonky low-speed handling aside, the BMW’s big Bagger is a delight. Yes, it will cost you nigh on $33,000 if you tick off the Option 719 Midnight edition like my tester. And no, it’s not quite as good a tourer as a Wing or even BMW’s own K1600 GT. But it looks a treat — especially in that “Midnight” livery — is as comfortable as anything this stylish and, most of all, boasts one of the most beastly engines in motorcycling.

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