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Old 06-17-2014, 01:35 PM   #1
TarTripper OP
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2014 K1600 vs 2014 R1200RT Back to Back

K1600 vs R1200RT

My first experience with a K16 was when I had one as a loaner during my RT's first service. When I sat on it for the first time and fired up the engine my first thought was "damn I bought the wrong bike".

Because of the RT recall I've now had the opportunity to ride both bikes back to back over an extended period. I rode my RT for 800 miles before the stop ride. Now I've ridden 400 miles on the K16. The experience has really helped me to feel the differences between the two bikes. As a result my initial thought after that first K16 experience has changed.

The running-in period on the two bikes provided noticeably different experiences. The RT's brakes were fierce and effective from the start. The K16's took a lot of effort to begin with and needed a couple of hundred miles to get into their stride. The RT's engine never felt tight. It went through a vibey period around 250 miles but that's all I noticed. The K16's engine became noticeably freer and better after about 200 miles.

The first thing you notice coming from the RT to the K16 (after the smoothness of the engine and the comfier seat) is the K16's clackety-clack gearbox and noisy drivetrain backlash. It really doesn't affect power delivery to the back wheel but it is noisy and detracts from the ride experience.

The differences in power delivery were also unexpected. It's great fun rolling-on the power in the K16 but difficult to tell a real improvement in initial acceleration over the RT. However on the K16 the power just keeps on coming. It's also very noticeable that everything happens at much lower revs on the K16. In fact my overriding impression so far has been that I am continually surprised when I look down after a burst of acceleration to see how little of the rev range I've used. Just as I'm starting to chicken out the K16 is just getting into its stride.

But this, of course, leaves me wondering what you do with all this power. The K16 will certainly get you up to a 100 + mph cruise quicker than the RT but at real world speeds in real world situations a hard acceleration up to 70-80 isn't that much different between the big K and the RT. (I didn't even notice that the K16 had been set to Dynamic until I had done my first 100 miles).

The K16 is very heavy and the weight is still noticeable at speed in the twisties. It turns-in fine but there's definitely a sense of more inertia and just that bit more effort to follow a series of bends. So, despite all its power, it doesn't provide the effortless sporting experience of the RT. Whereas i just seem to think 'bend' and the RT obliges, the K requires a bit more thought, planning and care and attention.

Yes, the K16 is 'turbine smooth' but the engine on the 14 RT can't remotely be described as vibey. What little vibes there are seem characterful and pleasant. Ultimately the preference for engines will probably come down to personal subjective perceptions. At high revs the K16 howls like a pack of wolves, the RT roars like a bear on heat. Take your pick!

The other big difference is that there is comparatively little retardation from engine braking on the K16 which means that you need to use the brakes more. Stopping requires more effort than the RT. Quite a firm squeeze is required to slow it quickly from high speed. The front brake on the RT is razor sharp requiring two fingers at most. Furthermore, The RT's engine braking is so good that you can control speed into most turns with no brake at all. All in all I feel more in precise control of speed on the RT.

The K16's seat is more comfortable but the cockpit doesn't feel as involving as the RT. The RT feels land looks like a 2014 product with more 2014 styling. The K16 looks and feels just a tiny bit more dated. Also the K16 offers little wind protection for the hands. In summer gloves, mine got cold at night despite having the heated grips turned up. Worst of all the K16's screen produces substantial back pressure which I found uncomfortable, cold and disconcerting. Wind protection is much better on the RT. However, the K16 is noticeably smoother than the RT with Soft suspension set.

At night there are other differences of note. The main instruments are much better lit on the RT. The K16s adaptive headlight is great but not such a wow feature that I'd have to buy the bike for that reason alone. Both bikes could do with backlighting the array of bar mounted switches.

Accessorising. The GPS mounting in the K16 is far better than the RT's. I love not having to remove the unit every time I leave the bike.

There are things on the RT that I really miss, starting with the quick shifter. This is a massive help during hard accelerations, giving incredibly smooth slickness to gear changes. The kind of slickness that really ought to be present on the more expensive K16. Same with downshifting. The down shifter combined with powerful engine braking makes for superb speed control on the RT. It feels so much better than having to use big squeezes of brake.

I also really miss the RT's hill start control. You quickly get used to using this facility. I found it a real pain to go back to the one foot/hand on the brake mularkey.

At a stop, the sheer weight of the K16 becomes a real burden. No doubt it's much easier for tall guys but at a measly 5' 6" with a 29" inseam I'm struggling with this bike on anything other than level surfaces. If you are short and don't have easy, large tarmac access to a big garage at home then this could become a deal breaker.

So, did I buy the wrong bike, as I first thought?

The two bikes are designed to do different things. The K16 is a sport tourer with the emphasis more on tour. But it does have the potential to get really crazy. The RT is a sport tourer with the emphasis more on sport but probably runs out of performance at 120 mph.
But having fun at road legal speeds is easier on the RT.

Overall the RT is a better executed implementation of the bike it is trying to be. I'm happy with my purchase decision.

The K16 has the most wonderful engine. It's so good that the bike ought to provide a Rolls Royce like experience. But it doesn't because of its clackety gearbox and drivetrain. The K16 ought to be the bike of choice for a coast-to-coast ride but I'm not even sure of that now because its wind protection is poor compared to the RT.

If BMW were to sort this out, smooth out the gearbox and add a quickshifter then there would be much more daylight between the two bikes. The K16 would be an unchallenged uber tourer and the RT would be the tourer that you took into the mountains.

I'm left with the impression that the K16 probably felt like an outstanding bike when it was compared with the pre 2014 RTs. But now that the RT has advanced so much the differences are less marked. It's like when you redecorate one room in your house. As soon as it's done all the other rooms look shabby - even though they seemed perfectly OK before! This 2014 RT has certainly been given all the decoration I need.
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Old 06-17-2014, 01:43 PM   #2
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I agree with your assessment 100%

My test ride was for 1/2 a day on each bike unlike your longer duration but it was clear to me the GTL was not for me.

What you didn't mention is the difference is gas mileage and tire wear. folks over on the MOA site are quoting 5k between rear tire changes on the GTL. I suspect we should be able to do close to 10K on the RTs. Mileages seems to run from 35-38 MPG on the GT(L) and I was easily getting 45 MPG on the RT before the stop ride.

I'm sticking with the RT.

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Old 06-17-2014, 02:27 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing your experience and view of the two bikes. BTW I think you bought the right one.
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Old 06-17-2014, 02:59 PM   #4
trapperj
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Bro in law and I test road a GTL & new RT...swapped out between the two bikes. Both had several hundred miles of test rides before us. We both liked the RT better. As smooth and powerful as the GTL was, I'm not sure that it equals covering ground at a quicker pace. While our test ride wasn't scientific p, we did do a 4th gear roll on from around 50 mph, to high cruising interstate like speed...and the RT pulled away....slowly. Not sure how gearing played a roll here & frankly I was surprised. The weight difference is more than a little, but I figured the mighty 6 banger would kill the RT...not so.
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Old 06-17-2014, 11:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trapperj View Post
Bro in law and I test road a GTL & new RT...swapped out between the two bikes. Both had several hundred miles of test rides before us. We both liked the RT better. As smooth and powerful as the GTL was, I'm not sure that it equals covering ground at a quicker pace. While our test ride wasn't scientific p, we did do a 4th gear roll on from around 50 mph, to high cruising interstate like speed...and the RT pulled away....slowly. Not sure how gearing played a roll here & frankly I was surprised. The weight difference is more than a little, but I figured the mighty 6 banger would kill the RT...not so.
Yep, when you look at the power to weight ratios between the K16 and 2014RT there really isn't much difference.
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Old 06-18-2014, 01:54 AM   #6
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TarTipper- Your review has been absolutely spot on. Having myself spent 8-9 days on the K16GTL as well as the new RT LC (touring with full luggage & passenger on both rented bikes), I fully agree to all the points. Ofcourse I guess being taller than you, I did not have much problems at slow speed handling of the GTL. As for the new RT, having extensively ridden all RTs from the 1100 onwards, there is no disputing the fact that the new RT LC is in a league of its own....just brilliant. After the new RT, when I came back to my own Kawi C14, it was like I was missing something on my C14.

My one major gripe on the GTL is the BMW Topcase. Although I was given the Givi topcase on the new RT, I understand that the BMW topcase on the new RT also has a similar arrangement as the GTL. I dont use liner bags and prefer to carry the saddlebags/Topcase to my hotel room every night. But, with this new central-locking cable connection, its a pain (and not exactly practical) to everyday play around with the twist lock inside the topcase and then disconnect the cable and reverse the same next morning.

Just days before the BMW stop-ride notification, I rode the fully loaded RT on some really potholed roads in Bosnia and Montenegro and the rear suspension (thankfully touch wood!!!!) did a brilliant job.

And yes, before I forget- Midway thru our Adriatic ride, the engine kill switch on the brand new 2014 RT got stuck & broke! After that I had to put a lot of pressure on my right thumb to start the bike everytime and finished the trip....dont know if its a one-off case or QC issue!
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Old 06-18-2014, 06:21 AM   #7
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TarTripper - great write-up, thanks (and to Haroon)! I follow the RT wethead thread, as I'm strongly considering one. After reading that you had chosen to take a K16 loaner from the options offered by BMW, I wanted to ask you for a comparision. But I'm glad that I didn't ask in that thread and that you started this separate one. Thanks again for the insight (and possibly saving me a few thousand dollars -lol).
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Old 06-18-2014, 06:26 AM   #8
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I have to disagree on one point - the brakes on my 2014 K1600GT Sport were perfect from mile 9, and they are awesome (my other bikes are a Duc Multi and I just came off a Pani so I know what great brakes are). I have not had the chance to ride a RT.
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Old 06-18-2014, 06:35 AM   #9
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Thanks for the write up. It really means a great deal more coming from a fellow rider who offers a non-paid-for opinion.

Well done and I have to say, I agree with others - you purchased the correct bike. Now if only BMW will fix the ESA problem ...
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Old 06-18-2014, 09:35 AM   #10
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I own a 2013 K1600GT and read the report with interest since I'm expecting to trade my bike in at the end of the year for either a new K16 or a new RT. I intend to test ride an RT before making a final decision, but I'm expecting that I'll prefer to get another K16, for the following reasons.

Many people have mentioned that the wind protection of the RT is better than the K16, and I expect they are probably right about that, but to me that is more of a disadvantage than an advantage. I personally like some airflow on hot days. I have ridden the previous generation RT in hot weather and found it too hot, wishing I had more airflow even when the windshield was all the way down. I like more air on my hands in hot weather, as provided by the K16 and have no trouble keeping my hands warm in cold weather on the K16 by wearing winter gloves, or heated gloves.

I agree that back pressure with the windshield raised high is unpleasant with the K16GT windshield, but I've replaced the stock unit with a Cee Bailey, with a vent. Back pressure eliminated and more possibilities to get good airflow in hot weather. Incidentally, I love the flip-out air deflectors on the K16. They can really help in hot weather too.

I used to own a few R1200GS bikes, and presently own an R1200R. I like the boxer engine for a few hours, but I find the vibration tiring on day-long (or longer) rides. I hear the water boxer has less vibration. Maybe it will be good enough for me. If not that alone will rule out the RT for me. I admit that I am probably more sensitive than most people when it comes to vibration.

It is true that you can feel the added weight of the K16. It shows up when making slow speed maneuvers, or when cornering, but that seems to disappear as your brain becomes recalibrated to how the bike responds. At this time I have traveled around 56,000 on a K16 and don't really notice the weight any more. In fact, when I get on my 1200R it seems to react too fast, and I feel unsteady for a while until I readjust.

It is true that the transmission of the K16 can sound clunky, but just as with the extra weight of the bike, I have become accustomed with how the bike likes to be shifted. The engine changes speed either up or down faster than the boxer, which effects how much to blip the throttle, when the exact time to push the shift lever occurs etc. Also, the bike much prefers a slight pre-load on the shift lever. Once you get used to it shifting is easy and fast, and usually pretty quiet. I actually find I can shift more smoothly with the K16 than with the R12, again until I recalibrate my reactions.

Having said all that, I do like the idea of a lighter bike, and if the engine vibration is OK for me I may go for the RT. It will be an interesting comparison. Incidentally, I think BMW may add some of the features that are on the RT to the K16 one of these years, such as the quick-shifter and dynamic ESA. I'm hoping they will show up for the '15 model year.
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Old 06-18-2014, 04:15 PM   #11
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Never thought that I'd be looking at a 1200RT. These 2014 models are pushing my buttons.
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Old 06-18-2014, 09:27 PM   #12
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TarTripper, this is a very well written and insightful review.
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Old 06-20-2014, 11:15 AM   #13
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Hi Avocet,

Don't get me wrong I think the K16 is a very, very good bike. The differences between the two are mere shades of colour.

If I were living in the US with those big distance to cover I'd probably opt for the K16. In the UK and France with lots of small winding roads and distances of only 700 miles from top to bottom of a country the balance swings (for me personally) in favour of the RT.
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Old 06-20-2014, 11:59 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TarTripper View Post
If I were living in the US with those big distance to cover I'd probably opt for the K16. In the UK and France with lots of small winding roads and distances of only 700 miles from top to bottom of a country the balance swings (for me personally) in favour of the RT.
You have hit the nail on its head. Thats exactly what I also felt about the K16 since I rode it in the US. Its wonderful to cover long distances in quick time, rarely needing to even downshift while passing (see my video on the Kancamagus-its fully loaded with luggage & passenger).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pST-JxdYrmg

Whereas for the tight & twisty European roads, the RT (with its torque & small vibrations) makes for an enjoyable mount. The vibrations are a tad lesser on the LC while the handling is a notch better than the earlier RT.
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Old 06-21-2014, 01:59 PM   #15
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TarTripper, don't worry, I realized you weren't knocking the K1600, just stating your experiences with the two bikes and what your preferences are. I didn't feel like you were knocking the K16. I just wanted to supply a different point of view.

As you and Haroon say, it may be that the K16 makes more sense here in the USA than in Europe. I live in New York but like to ride in the Rocky Mountains, around 2000 miles away. I've done that trip a few times on a GS (admittedly not one of the new water cooled ones) and found the vibration made long stretches of highway, often 85 or 90 mph for hours on end, quite fatiguing. The K16 is the best thing I've found to get to the mountains quickly and comfortably, and still enjoy the twisty mountain roads when I get there.

I've heard people such as yourself say the RTw vibrates less than the older boxers, which is why I'm interested in trying one out. It certainly is an appealing bike and I don't want to buy anything else without trying one first. For my needs, however, I kind of expect the K16 will still be the better choice. It's certainly possible I'll be surprised and prefer the RT though. I'll know in December, since I'm planning on trading my present bike for a 2015 model year bike.
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