Four years ago, I bought my first touring motorcycle – a 2012 BMW K1600GTL. I love the bike for its smooth, powerful engine, superb agility, and host of electronic features. However, I sometimes feel that my long legs (34" inseam) need more room and that my wife could be more comfortable.
Would a few forum members mind answering these questions about the GL1800?
1. Is there plenty of leg space?
2. Is the passenger space comfortable for long rides?
3. Does the stock windshield provide good wind protection for both rider and passenger? If not, what is a good after-market windshield? (Excellent wind protection important for both me and my wife.)
4. I understand that the suspension can be weak. If so, what have you done to improve it?
5. The Gold Wing weighs about 150 pounds more than a GTL. What is the maneuverability like at low/parking lot speeds?
6. What is the braking like on a GL1800?
7. Every few years, manufacturers make improvements their motorcycles. What are better model years? And what are model years to avoid?
Naturally, my wife and I will try to arrange for a long demo ride before we make a decision.
Thank you for taking time to respond. Any other tidbits of information that you would care to share would be appreciated.
Randy, as the owner of both a 2016 Goldwing GL1800 (GL) with audio comfort and a 2014 BMW K1600GTL (K), I feel I can give you some insight on these questions.
1. I find there is plenty of leg space, particularly from my wife's pillion point of view. Additionally, I installed Rivco flip out pegs and I find the riding position more comfortable using the pegs on the GL versus the K. On the K, I have Ilium pegs installed on their crash bars. My legs feel unnaturally spread on those pegs. I am a 32 inseam and I find the GL to be extremely comfortable, particularly over long distance (500-700 miles a day).
2. My wife will NO LONGER ride on the back of the K. She is comfortable, although I did exchange the heated stock seat for an Ultimate heated seat. On the stock seat, I was never comfortable but others are fine with it. That is subjective to the padding on one's rump to figure out.
3. I run the stock shield with the vent and like it. There is some side buffeting for me and two up, I find my wife 5'4" is within the air pocket without raising the shield. That being said, I can't say much for any of the after market shields. On the K, I have a tinted Clearview and love it. I just can't say I've had enough issues with the stock shield to make the change personally. YMMV.
4. I have not improved the suspension. I set it at 15 for self and max 2 up. I personally find it about as good as setting the K to one person and one bag on their suspension settings. I do more long distance and don't tend to overload the bike with gear for travel. I am 195LB and she is, well, smaller. (135ish).
5. With practice, I find the GL very maneuverable at slow speeds. That being said, it isn't a K. Also, I find that the low speed maneuvers are more fluid and stable in second gear opposed to first on the GL. Just my preference as it seems too "ramped up" in first to be smooth. Could be my issue, but I always do my u-turns or other slow speed parking lot stuff in 2nd gear and it feels nimble as an 850+ bike should.
6. Braking is smooth, provided you brake as you should. I don't miss ABS much, but I wish I had it for my own peace of mind. The bike will stop effectively if you jam it, but remember to be especially on those front brakes as this weight. I feel very safe on this bike. The K bike will stop on the proverbial dime and has overall better braking, but the GL is no slouch.
7. Can't answer this one directly. Again, I have a 16 and already have 9K on her. The oil has been changed twice and it is clean. Easy to get to maintenance with exception of high beam bulbs which take some maneuverability . I personally feel that she has gotten better with the mileage and I do feel that this bike will have little issues down the road. Mother Honda offers one **** of any extended warranty should you want that level of protection. I have pulled a camper trailer with this bike, rode 3-4K trips and multiple smaller jaunts in the Florida heat and it has been amazingly reliable and stable.
In short, I don't ride the K much. You will miss the 6th gear for that speed and punch and the technology on the K with the wonder wheel is superior, but the sound system on the GL is clearer and despite those big, dorky buttons all over her, you'll be happy you have them because it is easy to maneuver the buttons while moving if needed. I have no regrets about purchasing my GL and I truly enjoy the ride every time. The more I ride the GL, the less I miss the K. I do take the K out every once in a while and get some on it. She hugs the curves better and is spirited to ride, but the GL is amazingly fun to ride, curves well for the size and is a very comfortable bike for the size, especially if you plan to pull a trailer or do some long distance riding. Finally, I find the GL forum much more friendly with concern to information flow and users willing to help or advise. The BMW forums seem to be more about branding being better and people tend to be somewhat rude to newbies and questions that they deem to be underneath them. Here, you will find good people that can talk you through any issue you might have with your GL.
Best of luck. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out. I hope this helps you decide. You won't regret a GL purchase, provided you buy it for the right reasons.