Baggers are a pretty big deal in the US of A, but are hardly known over here.
Essentially, Bagger means a bike with bags, or panniers, if you’re British.
They usually have a custom stance and style, but combine all the practicality of a touring bike with a bit more style and cruiser cool.
I ended up following a mate of mine some 3500 miles across America a few years ago on a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide – a full dress tourer – while he was on a Street Glide (bagger), and he seemed to be having way more fun most of the time, but with almost as much comfort as me. He also looked cooler, both in temperature in the desert and when rolling in to town.
They are as comfortable as a tourer, have a cruiser style, but are practical enough to ride across America, or Northamptonshire.
Which is why we now have the BMW K1600B, or K1600 Bagger, the latest six-cylinder monster from our German friends. It probably should be called the K1600 Bonkers, ‘cause it is.
The bike we have here uses the extraordinary warp drive six-cylinder 160bhp motor and chassis from the K1600GT tourer. It uses the same basic frame, but the riding position is a bit more feet forward, the rear sub frame is lower, and you sit much lower in the bike, and closer to the floor with some kicked-back cruiser style long reach handlebars. The seat height is 30mm lower than on the GT tourer. The geometry, front end and rear end are all the same, as is the absolute astonishment every time you twist the lightweight spring-loaded throttle. It even goes backwards with a reverse setting to get you out of tricky situations, or just freak people out as you roll off in reverse.
We rode the Bagger in pretty slippery conditions in Northamptonshire. It’s much more at home in California, I would imagine, but it makes for an epically comfortable, fast, and stylish road bike. It oozes quality and sophistication. And riding it makes you feel cool, even if it’s winter and we’re wearing full adventure man Alpinestars winter kit, not a stylish leather jacket with a Victoria’s Secret model on the back.
That epic motor makes 70 per cent of its maximum torque at 1500rpm. Beyond that it just keeps on piling on the power until it all gets a bit uncomfortable.
The motor feels like nothing else fitted to a motorcycle. It delivers its 160bhp in a crisp, clean way with such fierce acceleration it’s like somebody bolted a turbo on the side, but with zero turbo lag. A Honda GoldWing also has a six cylinder motor, but it doesn’t accelerate like this, or make as much power.
The electronically adjustable screen keeps the worst of the winter off you, there’s a multimedia system fitted to our LE spec bike, to keep you in the latest Taylor Swift album, or radio station, and the footrests are forward, cruiser style. We also had footboards fitted to our test bike, which also comes with an auto blipper, quickshifter, crash bars, keyless ignition, heated grips, and fog lights, all of which were most welcome the day we rode it.
The lower footrests and slightly under sprung rear end means you can’t hustle it as fast as the big tourer, but it gets a move on and man, does it hustle up one of Northamptonshire’s best, most demanding back roads, including a road that just happens to run past the door of our Potski Media office, almost like we planned it. The suspension features BMW’s ESA so can be adjusted to suit, and it has traction control too. It needs it in the winter when trying to extract 159 of its 160 raging horses out of it.
In the wet, the front end feels a long way away from you and you need to treat it with caution, but in the dry no Bagger is faster.
It will do fast, it will cruise, it would take you to Spain in absolute comfort and style, and look like a rock star when you pull up to a beachside hotel. And the heated grips are so good in the winter that you can ride in summer gloves with them on full. What’s not to like? We may not ‘get’ baggers much here in the UK, but give it time and we all should be riding them, especially if they have 160bhp and 129ft-lb of torque like the BMW K 1600 Bonkers.
(£16,750 standard, £19,405 as tested)