It is a convoluted road that leads to this bike. Start with BMW’s ultra luxurious and expensive K1600GTL, a fully loaded, fully dressed and sportier than most touring machine. So far so good. Call Roland Sands and collaborate on a bagger based on the K1600 platform. Roland is cool, the end product is cool, a lot of people decide they would love to have a production version of the Concept 101. BMW complies with said wish and the K1600B is born. Meanwhile on the other side of the world Honda is wondering what to do to extend the Gold Wing platform so they also create a bagger from the Gold Wing and call it the F6B. Let’s stop there and assume that everyone is happy for a moment. BMW and Honda both have baggers that offer a comfortable relaxed riding position, the smoothness of a 6 cylinder engine and are awash in black paint. Yet there is always a BUT in these scenarios. In this case the BUT is Honda’s development of an all new Gold Wing – one that is lighter, faster and sportier and comes base as a bagger while the “Tour” version of the Gold Wing is the bagger with a top case. Some pundits have asked if the Gold Wing demographic really wants is a sportier, faster and lighter Gold Wing. The proving ground and profit margin for the Gold Wing and similar dressed touring bikes are the long, empty roads of North America where comfort plays a big part in the equation. Better is always good but should it come at the expense of comfort? But the Gold Wing demographic may be changing. This is where BMW introduces the K1600 Grand America – a bike which in the name and profile states it is intended for the North American market with a focus on comfort and an “American” riding style. The result is the K1600B with a top case. The bike gets several features found on the other K platforms including electronic suspension with a setting for “Cruise” which results in a “very soft damper set-up and pronounced comfort”, reverse assist, led lights, and the silky smooth 160hp engine. There is an interesting footnote to this as this quote from the press release states:
Based on the principle of “The American Way of Riding”, the top speed is limited to 162 km/h or 101 mph. This takes into account the fact that customisation with additional fittings in the rear section – as is popular in this vehicle segment – can impact significantly on wheel load distribution, so in terms of riding dynamics, stability and safety are guaranteed in all situations.
It will be interesting to see how the story of these two machine shakes out as they are two apples in the barrel of apples and oranges that constitute the fully dressed segment. Honda has obviously upped the technical ante with the new Gold Wing but the K1600 Grand America is an interesting addition.