Commuting on an 800-pound motorcycle is insane. Aside from being heavy, all of the features of a huge touring bike feel pretty useless over the course of 15 miles of surface streets and freeway. In the case of BMW’s K1600B Grand America, there are a few reasons to do it. Not least of which are gobs of power and some of the most stunning brakes in motorcycling. But my other favorite aspect of riding a bike like this from my house to the office is that it sets a bar in my own head for certain aspects of motorcycling.
If you spend enough time on a machine, you bond with it in a way that makes objective criticism difficult. Have you ever gotten on someone else’s bike and immediately noticed that the bars were a little crooked or the footpegs are lopsided? That’s because to them, the handlebars or mirrors or pegs are the only baseline they have, and have adapted to that as the norm. This is the same reason your own fingernails look normal and everyone else’s are a little weird.
We are horribly spoiled, as motorcycle journalists, to ride many different bikes during the course of a week or month, but in some ways it’s crucial. Being able to judge how comfortable or fast or feature-laden a motorcycle is means comparing it to everything else. What this K1600 Grand America did for me was the same, practically, over the course of this commute as any other bike. It got me to work. But what it taught me is how smooth an engine can be, how amazingly stable a bike can feel under braking, and how the size of the windscreen doesn’t necessarily equate to the perfection of aerodynamics.
Every bike is trying to be some kind of ultimate (whether it’s power, fuel economy, or comfort) and manufacturers succeed and fail on countless levels of this endeavor. What I do on every ride to work is try to gain more current knowledge on what the best version of every facet has come to be. But it’s the same reason you should try to ride different machines too—because perspective is an important piece of knowing and commanding your surroundings. Whether it’s tweaking your own motorcycle to see if you like it better, logging a few miles on a friend’s machine, or taking a riding school on little dirt bikes, you’ll find that being in a different saddle will help you control your go-to steed. And, yes, there’s some joy in it too. We should all know that. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, after all. With that in mind, I’ll get on my own bike next and see what this K1600 taught me.