first year review, plus could the GTL be a daily rider? - BMW K1600 Forum : BMW K1600 GT and GTL Forums
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post #1 of 22 Old 10-17-2019, 11:49 PM Thread Starter
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first year review, plus could the GTL be a daily rider?

Please bear with me as I qualify my argument before getting to the question on point. Grab your choice of beverage and put your feet up, take a sip and follow along...
I bought my 13 GTL last May, as a comfortable second bike to ride 2 up with SWMBO. Many evening and weekend rides, and 3 long trips later (the main one being all the way to Jackson WY), we added over 6,000 miles to the odometer.
I do a fair amount of miles on my own, riding to work everyday during the season unless it is raining. For that I have my 2015 Triumph Bonneville, last year of the air cooled engines. I have put a fair amount of money into a full upgraded suspension, compression and rebound adjustments, makes it a very fun, comfortable and easy bike to ride in city traffic. I could take the highway but instead take different routes through the streets and boulevards for my commute, where with little traffic I ride most of the time around 40-50 mph, some nice curvy roads included - usually 35 to 40 minutes each way, and I am grinning in my helmet everyday and think: another great day to be alive and riding!
For context, I have done many long days riding the Bonnie solo before buying the GTL. Last year I have done two large trips, both around 2,500 miles each. One to WY and MT, the other all the way to KY, NC,GA, which included riding the Tail of the Dragon. On a naked bike, loaded with luggage...
Back to the GTL, and my impressions of this first season. As I mentioned, I mainly rode the bike with the boss on the back, city and short trips and in the case of the road trips, had the side cases and top case loaded probably beyond the specified capacity... With the preload set to two up (bike has Wilbers, by the way), the bike is very top heavy and stops and starts need to be very much planned for, I have to watch where I am to plant my boots because only a few degrees of lean at stop require a lot of muscle for keeping the rubber side down.
Beyond that, once rolling the bike is amazing, the engine has ridiculous amount of power (I probably only use 20% of throttle most times - SWMBO will make life miserable if I don't ride like a grandpa...), the brakes feel like from a race bike, the suspension is planted and very comfortable; and has very good wind protection. Of all bikes we test ridden, the GTL gave the best wind protection to the passenger. Even with that, she still has her chest, shoulders and head into some wind and turbulence (bike has the large aeroflow screen all the way up and the side wings).She gets some rain from the chest up, and requires more layers than me and even a heated jacket in cool weather. On the other hand, I don't get any wind and haven't even bothered to suit up for rain, because the fairing and aeroflows create an amazing bubble for the rider.
So after some crappy rainy, almost snowy fall weather here in the Twin Cities, this morning was very nice and the forecast was for sunny and calm winds. I wanted to ride to work, but the mercury read 36 F. I knew that even after all the extra layers under my riding jacket and pants I would be cold riding the Bonneville. So I decided to strip the GTL of the 3 cases and rode her to work. I was impressed how much wind protection I had today. Now I know why it is basically unbearable to ride the GTL in stop an go city traffic when it is above 90F... The fairing does a good job, we just need to tuck our ankles in and crank the heated seat and grips in cold weather...
Without the 130 lb wife and the cases, and the preload down to only rider, the bike does not feel as porky at stops, and riding in the city was pretty good! Which brings me to my question: despite the compulsory sauna session if the temperature is 90 or above, could the GTL be a daily commuter, city rider?
Does anyone here do it?
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post #2 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 12:24 AM
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If you're going to commute in the TC Metro, the only advice I can offer is to avoid 494.
Other than that....go for it!

Joe

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The warrior whispers back, 'I am the storm.'
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post #3 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 01:29 AM
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If my commute did not include any city riding or heavy traffic, my K16 GT would be a very capable comfortable and enjoyable daily choice. It might prove to be an expensive one given the cost of new tires every 5-6,000 miles or so, to say nothing of service costs when I get too busy to do my own and repair or replacement costs should I have an inevitable drop or an unfortunate crash. However, my commute does include a segment through the heart of NY, NY., which makes it a poor choice for my daily commuter. Even when the weather is ideal for riding, the K is not a joy to ride in heavy stop and go traffic or over congested city streets and highways, full of potholes, ruts, debris, pedestrians, bicycle, skateboarders and scooters who ride as if traffic laws and rules of the road don’t exist, animals leashed and unleashed, and other obstacles. Rims dent easily, overheating is an issue in the warmer months and fitting in tight places is a challenge at best. Safe, legal places to park other than at my office or home could be hard to find. A bit of unexpected fresh snow on the road poses a different set of challenges.
For these reasons, I opt to leave my K1600 at home when commuting. Instead, for several years, until it was wrecked in a rear end crash at just shy of 100,000 miles on the OD, my choice of commuter was a 2012 R1200R, a naked bike slightly bigger with a bit more HP, torque and comfort than a Bonnie. It was capable and fun to ride on all but the most gnarly of surfaces, on multi lane interstate highways, smaller thoroughfares, twisty back roads, single track and city streets. Heated gear solved the problem of cold in winter (my record for my 50 mile each way commute stands at -4F). Two Aerostitch one piece suits, a light and a regular with lining, that I wear depending on the season keeps me dry in rain and otherwise well protected and comfy in all but the hottest weathers so the lack of fairings that the K1600 has was not a significant factor in choosing to commute with the R12R over the K16. The R12R fit in the tightest of places and was easy to maneuver through any kind of traffic. Stop and go traffic is never fun, but the R12R could make the best of a bad situation, stopped or lickety-split when it was time to go (if you catch my drift). For all it’s HP, torque and smoothness, the K cannot move lickety-split in traffic anywhere near as well as my R12R did.
Since the crash last December, I have been commuting on a 2019 R1250 GS. They don’t make a more versatile, overall capable, comfortable, rugged, fun to ride, durable two wheeled motorized vehicle than this fine motorcycle. Yet, for my kind of commute, the GS, while a far better choice than my K16 GT, plays second fiddle to an R12R and, I would expect other similar bikes like the Bonnie or the Ducati Monster.
So, the answer to your question is: it depends on what your commute entails. If all of the roads on your commute are well maintained pavement, free of traffic and pedestrians and you can afford the costs, ride the K1600. If your commute is like mine, leave your K at home and get your kicks on your Bonnie.
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Last edited by GTLen; 10-18-2019 at 11:48 AM.
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post #4 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 08:16 AM
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Many of us have or do commute on the K bike. My commute was 105 miles round-trip from northern Virginia into DC. I did this commute on the K16 for about 4 years before I retired. I rode rain/shine/cold/hot. I road the train ONLY when the temp was <35 with a chance of precipitation. Absolutely no issues. I commuted into DC for 14 years on BMW motorcycles, never drove a cage into the city.

BTW, in case you haven't heard, retirement is VERY underrated!

Duane
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post #5 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 12:10 PM
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Duane, by way of full disclosure, your career included years of disarming explosives, including deep diving to disarm nuclear weapons. Compared to that, riding a K16 into DC traffic would be a joy ride. You also have a garage stocked with every motorcycle fixing tool ever invented since man first learned to add a second wheel to that invention, coupled with the knowledge and skill in the repair and maintenance of K1600s that most BMW motorcycle techs can only hope someday to know.
So, yes, I would add to my short list of riders who would be happy commuting into heavy city environs on a K1600 rather than, say, a Bonnie or a Monster or an R1200R, you, Duane, and anyone else with the skill and means to make their own repairs and do their own maintenance, including frequent tire changes, and who has nerve and patience enough to dive deep into the open ocean to disarm a nuclear bomb. For the rest of us mortals on this earth, I recommend passing up the K1600 as a commuter into a big city with congested traffic and rutted streets in favor of something lighter, smaller, less expensive to own and more agile.
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Last edited by GTLen; 10-18-2019 at 02:19 PM.
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post #6 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 01:43 PM
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I see no reason that the K bike can't be used as a daily commuter. For 5 years I commuted a round trip of 180 miles on my R1200RT. The distance and the Los Angeles freeway traffic made driving a car a non-starter.

A K16 bike would have been a little more cumbersome than an RT, but based with my experience on my GTL, I would have done it. As has been referenced, there are bikes with cheaper on-going maintenance costs, but it's definitely doable.
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Last edited by JohnS1955; 10-18-2019 at 02:31 PM.
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post #7 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 02:43 PM
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If “doable” is the measure to be considered here rather than practical, enjoyable, better than other alternatives, less expensive, I agree with you. It is doable. It is even more doable if the commute is principally on LA freeways, which are relatively well paved and on which lane splitting over wide lanes is legal. None of the above is applicable to NYC highways and streets. Putting aside the condition of the pavement in NYC, lanes and spaces here are too narrow for a K1600 to fit for lane splitting when traffic is stopped. And, in any case, lane splitting is illegal.
To put things in perspective, a 50 mile commute half on suburban roads and half in NYC on an R1200R during rush hour (which starts at 6:00am and ends at 9:00pm) with lane splitting albeit illegal lane splitting takes somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, while the same trip Ridden by the same rider takes no less than 1hour, 30 minutes on a K1600 GT. The seat and electronics on the K certainly make for a more comfortable ride, provided that you enjoy sitting for long periods over long stretches of road in barely moving traffic, with fumes from the cars and trucks surrounding you wafting through your helmet and time is not a consideration
I don’t and, I expect, most riders don’t either. So, like I said, whether commuting on a K1600 is a good idea depends on the circumstances of one’s commute.
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post #8 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTLen View Post
If “doable” is the measure to be considered here rather than practical, enjoyable, better than other alternatives, less expensive, I agree with you. It is doable. It is even more doable if the commute is principally on LA freeways, which are relatively well paved and on which lane splitting over wide lanes is legal. None of the above is applicable to NYC highways and streets. Putting aside the condition of the pavement in NYC, lanes and spaces here are too narrow for a K1600 to fit for lane splitting when traffic is stopped. And, in any case, lane splitting is illegal.
To put things in perspective, a 50 mile commute half on suburban roads and half in NYC on an R1200R during rush hour (which starts at 6:00am and ends at 9:00pm) with lane splitting albeit illegal lane splitting takes somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, while the same trip Ridden by the same rider takes no less than 1hour, 30 minutes on a K1600 GT. The seat and electronics on the K certainly make for a more comfortable ride, provided that you enjoy sitting for long periods over long stretches of road in barely moving traffic, with fumes from the cars and trucks surrounding you wafting through your helmet and time is not a consideration
I don’t and, I expect, most riders don’t either. So, like I said, whether commuting on a K1600 is a good idea depends on the circumstances of one’s commute.
THIS^^^^^ is it.

Everyone's circumstances and priorities are different. Just speaking for myself, if commuting meant just in-city, stoplight traffic, no way I'd do it regularly on a K16. But if you have a long commute, the in-city tradeoff might very well be worth it, with the increased luggage capacity to stop by the grocery store for something more than ham and bread, and relax on the freeway.

As others mention, are you gonna lane split or not? Narrow profile is an absolute must there.

How heavy is heavy to me? Can I relaxed flat-foot at every redlight, or will I be up, standing on the balls of my feet? Usually, that should make no difference, other than subjective preference, in deciding on a bike to buy, but if the bike is especially heavy, AND you have to just LIVE amongst congested traffic with stoplights, the ability to sit there like you're on a Barkalounger won't tire you out as quickly.

Do I have a second, lighter-weight bike that could pull commuting duty easily, if I don't have a long commute and can do the backpack thing? @badaim already has one, the Bonnie, so I'll ask this question, since this seems obvious: Why can you not commute on the Bonnie in the summer and the K16 in the winter? That's what I'd do where you are, and seems like a perfect solution.

Lots of folks can give you things to think about, or examples, but as a friend of mine says, "You gotta do you."
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post #9 of 22 Old 10-18-2019, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTLen View Post
If “doable” is the measure to be considered here rather than practical, enjoyable, better than other alternatives, less expensive, I agree with you. It is doable. It is even more doable if the commute is principally on LA freeways, which are relatively well paved and on which lane splitting over wide lanes is legal. None of the above is applicable to NYC highways and streets. Putting aside the condition of the pavement in NYC, lanes and spaces here are too narrow for a K1600 to fit for lane splitting when traffic is stopped. And, in any case, lane splitting is illegal.
To put things in perspective, a 50 mile commute half on suburban roads and half in NYC on an R1200R during rush hour (which starts at 6:00am and ends at 9:00pm) with lane splitting albeit illegal lane splitting takes somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, while the same trip Ridden by the same rider takes no less than 1hour, 30 minutes on a K1600 GT. The seat and electronics on the K certainly make for a more comfortable ride, provided that you enjoy sitting for long periods over long stretches of road in barely moving traffic, with fumes from the cars and trucks surrounding you wafting through your helmet and time is not a consideration
I don’t and, I expect, most riders don’t either. So, like I said, whether commuting on a K1600 is a good idea depends on the circumstances of one’s commute.
I agree that my situation was a little different than described by the OP. Yes, the majority of the drive was LA Freeways (mostly the I-405) which are well paved, and lots of lane splitting was a required part of the experience. Leaving for work at 5:00am, I had little traffic and could get to work in as little as 1 hour, 15 minutes. But coming home, I dealt with at least 45 miles of stop-and-go traffic. That meant cars that would drift and choke off my lane splitting, requiring me to make quick stops. Sometimes the I-405 traffic got so bad that I was forced onto PCH, which frankly is as bad (or worse) than anything you described. Time on the bike ranged from 2 hours to 2 hours, 30 minutes.

It's up to each individual to determine the distinction between "doable", and what you describe as practical, enjoyable and less expensive. At the time, I also had a Harley Sportster as a backup for when the RT was in the shop for maintenance, which was more often than I wanted with all the miles that piled up. The Harley was OK (narrow profile, light weight), but the enjoyment factor of the RT made the cost more than worth it (for me).

Aside from cost, the only issue I can see for using the GTL instead of the RT would have been the additional weight/size. I think it would have been OK in most situations, but the RT is a more nimble bike, and made tight and/or emergency evasion situations more doable. Retirement has made all that a "what if". Now I ride just because I can.
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Last edited by JohnS1955; 10-18-2019 at 04:24 PM.
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post #10 of 22 Old 10-21-2019, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the comments and the discussion. I fully agree that city streets/stop and go traffic is not the best environment for a K bike. Those in big metro areas that commute on highways might do it in the comfort, but in my case I only see me taking the K to work in a very cold day as I mentioned in the OP. Other than that, I feel the Bonneville is just the perfect commuter for the route I take. As would do a 9RT, a Ducati Scrambler or any of the many bikes in the 650 to 900 cc displacement category out there.
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