BMW K1600 Grande Tonnage

The successor to the very able K1300GT, the 1600 ups the specs with a 6 cylinder engine and more of everything else, but is it the right way to go? OK, so we're not proper touring types, but our ideal is a bike which will get you down to the best roads in effortless comfort rain or shine and then be sporty enough to enjoy what they have to offer. Tightening radius bends, heavy braking into downhill hairpins, piling on the throttle exiting those open valley curves ... all stuff the 1300GT is well capable of, even if it does eat front tyres.

For the 1600 it seems BMW have decided we all want more of a motorhome feel. OK, the 6 cylinder engine reads well in the specs, but do we really want such a big lump in a motorcycle? I mean, it weighs over half a Fireblade! This is all very well for cars, each year they get heavier and fatter but BMW can just chuck bigger tyres on, add a load more electronics and keep the performance rising despite the lardiness. Not so with bikes - there's a limit to the size and weight that allows spirited riding.

Talking about electronics, the Beemer has pretty much everything loaded onto it you can get, including the handy satnav unit built into the dash. Easy to read on the move and protected from the elements, it is pretty much essential wear on a touring bike. The satnav is Garmin based rather than Tomtom.

There is copious knobistry evident on the bike, allowing you to adjust pretty much anything as you waft along. BMW have been rather clever in arranging all the buttons logically.

Unfortunately there is no knob for Less Weight.

But you do get adjustable suspension, from soggy Comfort through useful Normal to the slightly less comfy Sport. On the battered roads of England Normal felt a bit vague at the back end at times so we left it on Sport, which seemed to work fine but doesn't impart much actual feel as to what is going on underneath you. This seems to be a feature of the swinging arm front end and the shaft drive as all the K bikes feel the same ... or rather don't feel, if you get my drift.

More adjustment for the throttle response, Rain, Road and Dynamic. The first two felt a bit soft and woolly so we left it on Dynamic, which gives a much more direct link between hand and throttles and makes the fly by wire feel about as much like a cable one as you're gonna get. There was a complicated radio setup on the bike but we didn't try it, seems a bit antisocial really. And how loud must it have to be the penetrate earplugs and a decent helmet? We did twiddle the electronic windscreen up and down, which varied the amount of buffeting but didn't actually stop it.

Most of the electronic adjustments are displayed on the dashboard, a spacey confection of digi 21st century readouts and friendly old analogue clocks. Shame the friendly old analogue speedo is so hard to read for ageing eyes, digital would be much more useful.

And that's enough about all the electronics, there's a danger of forgetting the actual bike whilst wittering on about computers.

So what about the engine? Well, I'm sure it's very good and all that, but it's having to haul along 350 kilos of plastic and esoteric alloys and it shows. Performance is best described as 'adequate'. If you rev the nuts off it you can get some reasonable forward motion but then you should go and buy a Gixer. This machine is for stately progress across continents, the fuelling is glitch-free and the vibrations are minimal for a shaftie. One does sometimes wish for a little more low down grunt, you do need to drop a couple of gears for quick overtakes, non of that rolling on in top nonsense. But this bike is all about Stately so you'll just have to bide your time pondering your tyre pressures, suspension bouncyness and throttle elasticity while the power slowly chimes in and the overtake can commence. To be fair, it's partly down to the smoothness of the engine lulling you down to very low revs from which no bike engine can really find any go.

One odd quirk, it's really easy to stall when pulling gently away - there doesn't seem to be much flywheel mass going on in there.

Getting the bike working on some decent twisty B roads shows the steering to be pretty good, a little ponderous but it holds its line well. The swingarm Duolever front suspension robs you of feel but does inspire a fair degree of confidence, which will doubtless grow as you get to learn the limits of the front tyre.

There is apparently some form of traction control to prevent rear wheel spin, but you'd have to be giving it a lot of torment to unstick the back end bearing in mind the weight.

Looks-wise the new Beemer is an improvement on the boxy 1300GT and on first acquaintance the rider's saddle is a lot more comfortable

350 kilos is a lot for something with only 2 wheels, and probably two spindly old legs to hold it upright. At a standstill, once it's gone a few degrees off vertical just step away, the elephant is in the room. OK once you start rolling along, but that unwieldy tankful-of-water quality when manoeuvring is a concern.

Fully loaded this bike is knocking out around the £18,000 mark, which is a lot of wonga for any motorbike.

Verdict? They should have updated the 1300 and lost some weight - by going this route they've just added more of everything and the bike is in danger of emulating their cars: kind of missing the point ...

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