2022 BMW K 1600 Is the Super Cruiser that Thinks It’s a Sport Bike

·6 min read
Photo credit: BMW
Photo credit: BMW
  • The BMW K 1600 gets a few nice updates for 2022, making the king of the cruisers even better than before.

  • The surprising thing about this bike is that it handles so well.

  • Pricing is way up there among the most expensive bikes on the market: from $23,340 for the B up to the loaded GTL with top case and chrome for $28,540.

Here was the first conundrum I experienced with the new 2022 BMW K 1600 GT: They handed the bikes over in the Inland Empire city of Riverside, California, home of that great road course you may remember, which was only about an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles. From there, some of my colleagues were heading east, opting to ride their big Beemers across the country in a full test of the bike’s legendary cruising capability (all of those subsequent reports praised the bike’s feel and handling over long interstates, btw). But I lived in LA, in the other direction, and that meant only a quick hour’s ride back home if I took the freeway.

Which I didn’t.

If you look on a map, just north of the vast and sprawling suburbia of the greater LA basin, where the San Andreas fault creeps along between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates and pushes everything upward, you’ll see mountains. This topography stretches from Santa Monica all the way to Palm Springs. Squiggling through the best part of those mountains is Angeles Crest Highway, State Hwy. 2, surely one of the greatest mountain roads anywhere. That was where I headed and that was where the surprises started.

A quick freeway jaunt up the 215 lead me to the alpine hamlet of Wrightwood and the beginning of ACH, a fabulous feat of engineering that is nothing but twists and turns winding through pine trees and over mountain passes. It’s perfect if you have a Ferrari, but how would a 756-pound, six-cylinder, massive cruiser juggernaut of a motorcycle perform in that environment, one more suited to sport bikes and sticky rubber?

Turns out—splendidly.

Photo credit: Mark Vaughn
Photo credit: Mark Vaughn

The single biggest surprise about the revised 2022 BMW K 1600 GT—the model I picked out of the four available—is not that it cruises comfortably over long distances. You’d expect that. The K’s monster 1649-cc transversely mounted inline-six has been retuned to offer the same 160 hp but at a 1000-rpm-lower peak of 6750 revs. Torque has gone up by 4 lb-ft to 133 at 5250. New knock sensors offer “optimized riding capability,” while engine drag torque is now standard to manage rear wheel lockup if you downshift too quickly. And a new full-color 10.25-inch TFT multifunctional instrument screen offers a simpler portal into the big bike’s many functions and adjustments. None of that was a big surprise. The surprise happened at the first curve on that wonderful road: The big beast handled!

I had expected something akin to a big Indian or Harley, or even the Honda Goldwing, vaunted grand poo-bah of ultimate cruiser bikes. Or something like BMW’s own even heavier R 18 twin, wherein cornering was more a question of balancing big bores through biting bends in the pavement.

Instead, the K 1600 leaned into the corners and powered out with a remarkably small amount of drama. Maybe no drama at all. This might have to be reclassified as a sport tourer instead of a cruiser.

Who knew?

Photo credit: BMW
Photo credit: BMW

Well, the thousands of previous owners of BMW K 1600s have known, since that bike first came out in 2011 as a replacement for the K 1300 and K 1200 models. New buyers will certainly know, and be pleasantly surprised as soon as they climb aboard and twist the throttle.

With its shaft drive, electronic suspension adjustment that automatically compensates for load and riding style, and unique Duolever front suspension, the K-model eats up curves like M&Ms. The craft’s Inertial Measuring Unit, or IMU, a big computer that takes data on spring compression, acceleration and braking, uses that data to automatically adjust the shocks within milliseconds. You can further control performance and handling via ride modes: Rain, Road, Cruise, and Dynamic.

Feel free to complain that there is no radar cruise control. Yes, that is a thing on motorcycles now, on brands such as Ducati, KTM, and even BMW’s own R1250RT. But BMW said adding radar to the K 1600 would have meant reconfiguring the front end with all its very cool LED headlights. It might also have meant a cost increase.

Yes, cost—this is surely one of the most expensive motorcycles you can buy. My sporty GT model starts at $24,690, but with the Premium package (central locking, alarm, engine protection bars, etc.) it stickered at $27,790. (I would get that Premium Package if I were to buy one, and get the GT because it’s the sportiest). You can get the fashionable B model, wherein B stands for bagger—the style so popular among some bikers nowadays—for just $23,340. The loaded GTL with top case and chrome is $28,540.

Photo credit: Markus Jahn
Photo credit: Markus Jahn

Should you sell your current K 1600 and buy this? Unless you’re a Bezos biker, perhaps not. The changes are good and I sure enjoyed riding this bike over many hundreds of miles, but the difference between this and the model it replaces might not justify that in your budget.

Should you choose this over the Honda Goldwing? I also love the Goldwing (I love most motorcycles, so take that into consideration), but the Goldwing is of a decidedly different character, better suited for criss-crossing countries on the interstates than leaning into curvy mountain road squiggles. The Goldwing offers similar six-cylinder performance, though with only 125 hp, if internet speculation is to be believed (Honda doesn’t list hp). The Goldwing also offers an automatic transmission, which should open the motorcycling market to an entirely new, or continuing, spectrum of rider/buyers. Goldwing pricing is similar to the K 1600, depending on how you choose options and models.

Photo credit: BMW
Photo credit: BMW

You could also look at the Yamaha FJR1300 or Kawasaki Concours 14, two other sporty touring models. The new Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT is a sport tourer that is also fun to ride. And there are bigger, heavier bikes from Indian and Harley-Davidson that approach movement from the opposite end of the spectrum.

But even with all those great bikes out there on the market, if you have the dough, you might be happiest with the sport touring capabilities of the new BMW K 1600.