BMW K 1600 B Testing begins.

An assortment of slack-jawed yokels and cap-askew ‘yoofs’ gawped in bewilderment as the BMW K 1600 B purred past them along the waterfront. 

On-board, I smiled inwardly, knowing that even the baggy jean and skateboard brigade acknowledged the sheer presence of this machine, and I imagined what their expression would be like if I really made it growl.

Like most of the motorcycles with six-cylinder engines that I have ridden, when you do give it a handful, it growls – and this 1600cc gem has just enough exhaust aperture to make it impressive. 

After picking the test bike up from Morgan & Wacker BMW in Brisbane I had a quick blast down the M1 before looping back around the Bayside to home and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Switching the bike to ‘Dynamic’ mode is a thing. A very real thing. (Morris, Russell. - 1969.)

I then spent a few hours drilling down into the technology and coming to grips with the myriad of settings available, particularly for the on-board infotainment and navigation – and have it fully sussed. 

It was all very intuitive. It does need the ‘BMW Connect’ app installed on your phone for the nav to work – but that was seamless too. 

There is a phone caddy with USB-C charger above the 1920 x 720 HD instrument screen and said screen now displays my playlists and gives navigation guidance with phone and media controls available via the left hand switchgear – all outputted to my in-helmet earphones. 

I’ll be vlogging this one hard on my You Tube channel too - once I build some collateral.

It’s a meaning thing, a really meaning thing.

Video: Gas Alley's Race Ya Mates Day

Here's some sights and sounds from Gasoline Alley H-D's "Race Ya Mates“ Track Experience at Willowbank Raceway west of Brisbane.

Road King Special - Part 4: Almost Epic

Still not epic … but heading that way.

I like riding with my pals. It’s good to be able to stop and socialise and go to the pub for Sunday lunch - and do all those things that make motorcycling the social activity it is.

I also really like riding on my own and being a bit selfish, setting, or changing the agenda, plan, destination or route, stopping for photos or to mess around with cameras on a whim. 

Particularly on a test bike. 

The more time I spend with the Road King, the more I’m inclined to just pick a general direction and make it up as I go. 

So far, the bike has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb. Planned or otherwise.

It did it again today, through numerous changes of plan made ‘on the fly’.

Mid-Saturday morning I set off from base with a ride through the Gold Coast Hinterland sort-of in mind … again. 

The Tyalgum loop from Murwillumbah has some of my favourite photo locations, but for the second time in succession the volume of traffic on the M1 heading south scuppered the plan. 

It was doable, but when it’s a ride for its own sake, and it’s just me and Pat Malone … change of plan, thanks. 

So I took the Yatala exit and started heading for Plan B, which also happens to be one of my favourite stretches of road in this part of the world, the ‘highway’ over Mount Lindesay. 

But first I had to traverse some of my un-favourite stretches of road to get there. 

I’ve said more than once if I never have to ride the roads to Beaudesert again it wouldn’t bother me. But to get to a lot of good riding spots, there’s no option but to go through the western hub.

From Yatala via Tambourine the road is unremarkable, apart from how uncomfortably rough it is. My reluctance is probably due to riding it too many times on older Softails and the big spinal hits they could generate, but today actually wasn’t too bad.

That’s partly due to the Road King’s suspension. The road is so rough in spots it still bordered on uncomfortable, but never quite got there. 

The other contributing factor is that unlike many other times I’ve taken routes 90 and 92, this time I didn’t get stuck behind a long line of traffic following a horse float or similar, at 55kph in a 90 zone, with the double yellows that go most of the way. 

Today I had a clear run, pretty much all the way across the plains to Rathdowney and on to the Mt Lindesay ascent. 

It was a case of dial in cruise control and roll it away in good comfort. 

Apart from a heap of roadworks just beyond Beaudesert, it’s mostly flat, open and fast. 

I put ‘highway’ in quotation marks because even at the best of times it’s a rough old track on the Queensland side. 

But its succession of tight hairpins and side to sides as it climbs make it really good fun. And a little challenging.

As does the fact that it’s one of the few twisty roads in the region that isn’t governed by a blanket 60kph speed limit. You can hook in a bit. The scenery is quite nice too.

Today it needed a bit more than the usual circumspection at times, because like a lot of SEQ roads, the recent rains and flooding haven’t been kind to the integrity of the road surface. Most of the washouts have been adequately repaired by now, but there are still occasional ... irregularities.

To that end I wasn’t pushing the Road King hard, nor was I nursing it either, but what did surprise me yet again, was the cornering clearance. 

I *could* have scraped the footboards in some of the 35kph signposted corners if I tried, but it was plenty rewarding not to. 

Also impressive was the way it handled and steered around potholes and loose stuff that occasionally collected on the best motorcycle line. I really did appreciate how manoeuvrable and solid on the road it is for a big bagger. 

I also really like the way you can spool up the 114cube and leave it in 3rd or 4th gear in the twisties. 

There’s no need to row it up and down the gearbox. On the middle cogs it makes the best of its torque curve, pulls out of corners beautifully, powers on to the next bend with long-enough legs, then has excellent engine braking as you set up for the next one.

Once on the NSW side of the Mountain the road improves somewhat, partly because it’s on the plateau, and there are a number of really nice sets of corners through which the bike was joyous. I’m tall enough to be able to climb over the front wheel a bit – even with the mini apes, and I had a ball. 

Another hazard was that in the shadows of the gullies on the Southern slopes the road was wet. In winter it never really dries out. I didn’t feel the ABS kick in at all, but I did notice the traction control in operation (slightly) on one exit.

I’ve read posts from some old-schoolers that think that these advanced technologies in some way compromise the ride or required skill sets, but I’m all for ‘em. They operate in a realm beyond human capability or reaction times. 

At the top of the Mountain I turned on to Summerland Way, thinking I’d head to Kyogle, Uki and wheel north towards home from Murwillumbah. 

It’s a really nice, relaxed descent though some lovely countryside to the valley floor at Grevillia and on to Rukenvale. 

Around 20ks out from Kyogle I passed Gradys Creek Road. 

Another kilometre up the road I had a light globe moment. Lions Road!! And chucked a change of plan U-turn to double back. 

The last time I rode the Lions Road I was on a Dual Sport bike. 

‘What better way to test the Road King?’ I thought to myself. A narrow, twisty, rough in parts, snake of a road that climbs the Border ranges, then sweeps though the Running Creek valley on to the plains before Innisplain - and back out to the Mt Lindesay Highway. 

This tarmac was rain damaged in parts too, occasionally strewn and I had an absolute gas. 

The first part of the route crosses Gradys Creek half a dozen times and twists and winds under numerous rail bridges to the start of the ascent. 

It’s another road where some caution is in order. It’s narrow, tight and the chances of meeting some goober taking up most of the road in a 4x4 ute are reasonably good, but I didn’t exactly pussy along either. 

The bike was great. Again, nothing touched down, bottomed out or behaved in any other way than completely predictably. The brakes were rock solid, as was the overall handling, even on some quite dodgy tarmac in parts. The bike nailed it (again) surprisingly well.

The temps were in the high teens by the time I got back on the main road and the return leg to Beaudesert. 

Having been lucky on the Yatala-Beaudesert Road once, the odds against twice were too high, so I took the rather boring ‘up the guts’ route back to Brizzy on the northern part of Mt Lindesay Highway, to the M2, then the M1 Freeways home. 

The bike rolled away the super slab exactly as it’s been designed to do. Smoothly, effortlessly and with great comfort. 

What I’ve gleaned from the last few rides is that the Road King Special is a bagger that is quite at home on a twisty mountain way or valley road as well. 

It won’t be the fastest bike on the run, but it’s proving surprisingly capable and very comfortable with everything I’ve put it through so far. 

One thing I really do like is the bike’s fuel range. I filled up not far from home and set the trip meter. In the garage now it’s reading 320km travelled and the range to empty is showing as 152km – the gauge in the dummy cap is still a notch short of the red. 

I’ll run it down a bit more before refilling, but I suspect the economy figure will be reasonably good. 

Another advantage is carrying capacity of the big, stretched bags. 

When I got back close to home, I stopped at the Florist by the side the Road and bought the Co-pilot some flowers. They fitted nicely in the LH pannier.

“Lovely! What are they for?” she asked when I got home.

“For putting up with me being selfish.” 

Next run I better go with my pals. Could be epic!

Road King Special - Part 3: Not Quite Epic, But Not Mundane.

I’m a simple man. 

It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. Somebody else’s near-forty-thousand-dollar Harley-Davidson and an excuse to ride it and I’m all good. 

Tuesday in Brisbane was mostly sunny, so I got my work backlog (almost) sorted by lunchtime and invented a reason to go for skids on the Road King Special Press Bike. 

“I have to shoot some video, an introduction to the bike and some interesting roads for fillers,” I told the dog. 

That took care of the excuses … err, reason, not that anybody really would need one to ride this bike. 

Being aboard it is reason enough, but it was a good day to make the most of Brisbane’s best motorcycle route. 

The dog gave me 'that' look and went back to sleep. I leathered up and packed some cameras. 

Southeast Queensland is blessed with plenty of good riding roads, but they are mostly in the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast hinterlands. Which means an hour or more of Freeway from my place before it gets interesting. 

Luckily, Brizzy has Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious nearby, just to the west of the metropolis. 

Otherwise, with a few exceptions, it’s urban sprawl to the North and South, Moreton Bay lies east, and it's mostly flatlands further west.

So, Mt Glorious it was … again.

Even so, from my place it’s still 45 minutes of cross city ride to get to The Gap and the start of the ascent. 

Not that that’s an issue on the Road King. Even with the stretched panniers it’s still a reasonably narrow bike due to the bars being not that wide at car mirror height, so lane splitting at the traffic lights is viable. 

It deals with stop-start traffic quite well too. Long-gone are some of the things you used to have to allow for (or put down to ‘character’) on a Big Twin. 

Things like the clutch getting heavy at the lights, fuelling getting cantankerous when it got too hot or having to row the gearbox up and down to find neutral – all that is a distant memory. The gearbox is crisp, neutral is easy and the motor didn’t stumble once. 

The Special has a cable actuated clutch. The tourers went away from hydraulic clutches due to an oil migration issue a few years ago. To me, the hydraulic units felt a little nicer, you can feel a slight notch occasionally through this cable’s lever, but it’s only a very minor difference. It showed no sign of getting heavy in slow going.

Once out of the city, and the heavy unexpected rain shower, there are other complications to consider heading up the hill. 

Mostly the Police, who patrol the posted speed limits vigorously. Another is the state of the road after all the rain and flooding that Brisbane experience last month. 

The Road King is one of those bikes where buttoning off doesn’t adversely affect the enjoyment of the ride. 

It’s competent and very enjoyable at the speed limit, as many naked bikes are. 

Sure, fairings and screens make it more comfortable and easier to go further faster, but often make doing so less rewarding or ‘immersive’. It’s the main reason I prefer nekkid bikes generally. 

With 158Nm or torque available at 3250rpm the climb up the mountain was effortless and relaxed. 

Once I reached the plateau the other thing that really came into play is the suspension. The tarmac in places is water damaged and occasionally broken.

There were six single-lane closures with traffic lights due to roadworks on this crossing. But over the rough sections the 49mm dual bending valve forks and ‘premium’ rear shocks soaked it all up quite well. 

If this was my bike, I’d put some longer-travel shocks on it, but since the advent of the M8, the tourers have had far less likelihood of spine jarring hits from the rear end. They are pretty good now. 

At the top of the hill, I detoured onto the Samford Road and went partly down that descent, turned around and climbed back up the mountain again - mostly for the hairpins. 

Going down the steep sections I really enjoyed the electronically linked braking system. It got a real workout too. I just leaned on the lever and let the machine share the load between front and back systems. The brakes are good. 

Also worth noting is the cornering clearance. I thought it was surprisingly good (for a footboards bagger). I only scraped the footboards once on the entire ride. And that was mostly due to a stinky line caused by avoiding debris on the road surface. 

Otherwise, I was hitting the 20kph signposted hairpins at 50 and making no contact. The bike is well balanced and nimble enough that those speeds don’t feel excessive either. It just feels solid and reliable. 

It has cornering enhanced ABS, traction control and a drag torque slip control system as standard. I didn’t employ any of it, but it does add some confidence knowing that those enhancements are there if needed, particularly with the way some sections were strewn with loose stuff from the water damage. 

The only thing amongst the safety enhancements that I think Harley hasn’t got quite right is the hill hold system. Sure, if you’re forking out the coin for a bike like this you *should* have more than enough experience/skill/nous to manage a hill start.

But there are times that I find it is a useful feature. I like it mostly when I am faffing around trying to operate the remote garage door opener on my sloping driveway. 

The problem with the H-D system is it only works when the bike is in gear, meaning you must hold the clutch in for it to work. If you put it in neutral, the system disengages. Which kind-of defeats my application for it. Other’s milage may differ. 

Back up on the plateau the CafĂ© was closed, so I trucked on through to the descent on the Dundas side. The ride through the rainforest is delightful, constant stops for roadworks notwithstanding. By this stage I was so far into my happy place I simply didn’t care. 

Heading down the hill for the final time there are several side-to-side, increasingly tight corners and they were very rewarding too. For such a big girl (366kg wet) it’s surprisingly easy to chuck around. 

The boss says he doesn’t like the look of the low-profile front tyre. After riding it in these conditions and the way it steers, I personally wouldn’t change it. 

At the bottom of the hill, I wheeled south towards Fernvale and the open road on to Ipswich and the Freeways.

After a few hours of putting in, I was now starting to appreciate the bike’s comfort features. I moved feet and leg position about on the footboards, used the lower-than-previous-model’s crash bars as highway pegs, dialled in the cruise control, settled into the plush saddle, locked elbows on the mini-apes and rolled away some klicks. 

Just on 200km in total and 4 hours by the time I messed about with cameras and a work phone call. 

The sun was quite low by the time I got back to base, but boy was I happy … and thanked goodness I’m just a simple man. 

This bike makes it so.


Some on board footage:

Road King Special - Part 2: Making Mundane Memorable

I got a ride in on the Road King Special today – doing errands. Having a bike like this makes even the most mundane of chores a pleasure. 

I went to the sound shop to pick up a microphone doohickie and collected some groceries on the way home. 

The interesting take-away however was how surprisingly nimble the bike is around town. 

On one roundabout enroute, over the crest of a hill, I found myself on the same line as a sunken manhole cover, but with a quick flick of the bars and a little weight transfer I skirted it easily … pleasurably. 

“So chuckable” I thought to myself. Side-to-side manoeuvres entering and exiting roundabouts and intersections are equally enjoyable. It’s just a pleasure to be aboard. The bars work well for (mini) apes too. 

Having the big panniers to carry the proceeds of said commerce are also a big plus.

I’m currently working on tomorrow’s excuse to ride it again.

I may have to go to Noosa to get bread.