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Tested
2018 BMW K 1600 B
The New Bagger Impresses with
Comfort, Style, and Performance
by Ray Peabody


“What exactly is a bagger?” you might ask. A bagger is simply a motorcycle with bags. It’s usually both a touring motorcycle and a cruiser. The name was originally attributed to Harley-Davidson models like the Street Glide but bagger has become a more generic term in recent years. BMW, despite offering many models with factory bags for years, decided to offer a model that would compete more directly with the Street Glide, Road Glide, Indian Cheiftain, and Honda’s F6B as well as other similarly-styled motorcycles. The result is the K 1600 B.
BMW’s Bagger is based on the K 1600 GT and GTL touring models introduced in 2011. The GT was named Best Sport Touring Motorcycle and the GTL was named Best Touring Motorcycle by Cycle World magazine in 2011. Both models have enjoyed strong sales since their introduction and seem to be an ideal platform on which to build the new Bagger.
The Bagger has only been in dealerships a few weeks and we felt fortunate when BMW Motorcycles of Southeast Michigan owner, John Horner, offered to let us use their new demo for this test. We jumped at the opportunity.
Despite the similarities to the GT/L, the B has a distinctive style. The short wind screen and swooping saddle bags give the Bagger a long, low look.
Mr. Horner reviewed the operation of the Bagger with me before the beginning of the test. While a rider could hop on and successfully ride the bike without a preview, the available technology can make the riding experience more comfortable and enjoyable. The three traction control modes – rain, road, and dynamic – help prevent rear tire spin and preserve not only the rider’s dignity and health but also the condition of the motorcycle. The Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) offers two riding modes: “Cruise” for a softer, plush ride and “Road” for stiffer, sportier handling. The Shift Assist Pro allows the rider to shift up or down without using the manual hand-activated clutch. The reverse gear helps the rider back the motorcycle up; a feature especially useful when having to back the 741-pound Bagger up hill. Mr. Horner offered a final suggestion before I hit the road: the cruise control would help me preserve my driver’s license.
The route plan would take me on two-lane roads for the first 2/3 of the ride and freeways would provide a quick return to the dealership. Not long into the ride, I realized the value of Mr. Horner’s cruise-control warning.
  The Bagger is powered by the same liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, in-line 6-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 129 foot pounds of torque (at 5,250 rpms) that is mounted in the GT/L. It accelerates quickly to triple-digit felonious speeds but the acceleration is so effortless, the ride so smooth, and the wind protection so complete that the rider doesn’t realize how fast he or she is traveling.
The BMW glides comfortably along two-lane roads. In the stiffer “Road” setting, the Bagger goes where the rider points it. It strafes apexes like a sport bike. Despite weighing in at 741 pounds (wet), the balance is neutral. When running through the twisties a little hot, the Bagger stays balanced instead of weighing towards the outside of the curve. Riders won’t have to muscle it to hold it on track.
The seating is comfortable. The handlebars, which would be similar to ape hangers if they were adjusted upright, reach back toward the rider. The saddle is firm and comfortable even after two hours in the saddle.  The foot pegs are situated just to the front of rider’s seating position. Floorboards, positioned low on either side of the engine, provide the space to stretch out the legs. The short electric windscreen adjusts to a wide range of positions. Since the saddle is low, the air passes over the average-height rider even in lowest position. At the top of its adjustment, the screen provides a pocket of still air for the rider. Awesome wind protection.
The dashboard is similar to that of a car. It’s big and easy to read in even bright sunshine. Changing between different information screens is as simple as a push of a button on the handlebar.
The braking system is excellent. ABS comes standard. The brakes are partially linked in that, if the rider pulls on the front brake lever, the rear brake is also actuated. However, pressing the rear brake pedal doesn’t initiate the front brakes. This system is helpful when trail braking while entering a curve too fast.
After a couple hours cruising the countryside, the time came to return the BMW to the dealership. While the end of the test was near, the freeway ride back to the barn was an important aspect of the test. After accelerating down the ramp and merging with east-bound traffic, I slowed from about 90, set the cruise control at 75, and positioned my feet up on the floorboards. I-94 is a busy road with heavy tractor-trailer traffic. The big rigs push a lot of air that is quite turbulent around the trucks. With the electric windscreen in the up position, the Bagger cut through the turbulence with nary a wobble from wind gusts.
The K 1600 Bagger is an excellent motorcycle. It’s fun and comfortable to ride. The six-cylinder powerplant offers all of the performance you could want whether you’re launching from a dead stop, speeding around slower traffic, or rushed to get to a destination. The only downside is that it doesn’t come standard with a top box or backrest / rack nor is either available as an option. The B looks great without either but when packing a lot of gear or carrying a passenger, it would nice to have the option.
Thanks to John Horner and his crew for making the BMW K 1600 B available for this test. For more information about this or any other BMW motorcycle, visit BMW Motorcycles of Southeast Michigan at 14855 N. Sheldon Road in Plymouth, Michigan, give them a call (734) 453-0500, or check out their website at www.bmwmcsem.com. The BMW K 1600 B is available at all BMW motorcycle dealerships.
2018 MSRP starting at $23,545 (including ABS Pro).