Ride Lake Superior on the BMW K1600GTL
Article by: Mike Jacobs
There are few pleasures in life more profound than a long motorcycle trip done completely by yourself in the wilderness of Ontario, Canada.
But if there is a greater pleasure, it is doing it on BMW’s top-of-the-line touring machine, the inline-six K1600GTL.
The K’s lineage is pure touring – known as the flying bring when it first came out in its three cylinder configuration, it was quirky looking, but it performed magnificently, and there are many of them still on the road today to confirm their reliability.
However, this 6 cylinder touring machine is a completely different beast – and there might be no more complete way to evaluate a motorcycle than by taking it on a 28 day tour where you ride around Lake Superior, hit up Kenora in Sunset Country, and then explore every backroad in Northeastern Ontario.
First off, before I even left the house, the storage impresses me wildly. I packed too much camera gear and a full sized laptop so I could blog the whole way along, so I feel confident in saying that for a couple touring for a week (or potentially more) there is enough storage space to bring more than just a change of underwear and a credit card.
Living downtown, I had some reservations about leaving this sleek looking machine parked on the street overnight, but it had its own alarm system – so I cracked my living room window to make sure I heard it loud and clear if anyone dared touch Priscilla.
I mean, if you’re going to spend 28 days with someone, they might as well have a name, right?
The first few hundred miles out of Ontario on my way to Michigan were nice – but nothing special. The 400 series highways can make an Aston Martin feel like a Honda Civic, and I suspect that's what was at work as I trekked across the slab on a hot July day.
The power locks came in handy as I was in and out of the side and top cases to swap gear, get hydrated and take pictures. And the satellite radio made things bearable as I inched across the Blue Water bridge at Sarnia/Port Huron.
But as soon as I got across, the dearth of traffic that had dogged me until then let up, and didn’t reappear until 27 days later when I started rolling back into Toronto from North bay. And this is when I got to stretch the K’s legs – on the coastal roads of Michigan two peninsulas.
It’s difficult to describe something as effortlessly powerful as this motorcycle. The throttle response is likely more akin to driving a spaceship in a complete vacuum. Nothing seems to slow it down – not weight, not poor choices in when to shift, not road conditions, and believe me they varied all the way along the trip.
I could go on with more hyperbole, but you get the picture. If you want to go faster, no matter what gear you’re in, you can.
But somewhere around the time when I was getting ready to re-enter Canada near Thunder Bay I realized that I hadn’t gotten tired or achy or had to stretch my legs repeatedly on this bike. The seat was extremely comfortable, the handlebars well suited for my reach, and the lip of the back rest giving good support without being a pain in the…you know what.
After spending a week in Kenora and a night in Thunder Bay I began to head back towards my side of the province, and that’s when the weather turned on me. Deeper cold, biting rain and days of grey clouds. But again, the K had me covered with not just heated grips, but a heated seat as well, with 9 different settings, all easily set in the dash display.
For the next two weeks on the road in Northeastern Ontario, the bike kept me warm and dry – especially with the electric windshield, which, when fully raised, created a near complete bubble against the rain. I didn’t pull out the dreaded yellow gear even in a downpour. The only bike that outperformed in this regard was the 2012 R1200RT I had a few years prior – I think it’s wider engine might have done a better job at shielding my legs from the rain.
When I finally pulled back into the lot at BMW Canada to drop off the bike and hop back on my F650GS for the short ride home, I was left with a striking impression of a bike far beyond my own expectations, and a true challenger for the throne of best touring bike I’ve ever ridden.