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I have now toured on both the Honda Goldwing and the BMW K1600GT and have a few comparison notes.

You would already know they are both similar size large motorcycles and both are similar weight. At a standstill the BMW feels the heavier of the two. The Honda carries its fuel low under seat the BMW higher up with a traditional fuel tank. The BMW also feels the bigger of the two at standstill however I only rode the bagger version of the Honda.

Once moving the BMW feels the lighter of the two and turns in faster. The BMW has more cornering clearance and can be ridden in a more sporting way. The Honda still has quite reasonable clearance and handles very well within that clearance. Riding at my usual touring pace I never touched pegs down cornering on the Honda, but I did not try to ride it faster.

The BMW can be ridden much faster and in a real sports touring fashion especially in it’s dynamic mode which sets the suspension firm. However I must say the dynamic suspension setting was too hard for me to use for very long. If cornering fairly fast is important to you then the BMW is the winner. However if that is the case perhaps the Sport Touring bike category might be a better match than the luxury tourer category.

Ride quality on the Honda is better than the BMW. Even in tour mode the BMW suspension does not ride over manhole covers or bumps as good as the Honda which delivers a magic carpet ride. And that is not wallowing or spongy on the Honda, just good engineering.

Now lets talk 6 cylinder engines which is one of the main reasons to consider these bikes.

The BMW 1600cc inline 6 has 160hp which on paper seems like a win however the engine needs to be wound up to its higher rpm range for you to feel that and you will reach or exceed the speed limit just in first gear. So unless you leave the bike in 1st gear which is going to be exhausting you more likely are going to be riding around in it’s low to mid rpms as happens with most high powered bikes.

The BMW has a vibration through the bars in its low and mid range that combined with a slightly firmer than needed throttle return spring numbed my right hand. The inline 6 is not as smooth as youtubers claim until you get to it’s upper rpm range where it is remarkably smooth compared to other engines at high rpms.

The Honda delivers almost max power just off idle. Twist the throttle from walking pace and the engine thrusts you forward like an airliner starting its take off. You can access and enjoy that all the time at legal road speeds. For me that is a win to the Honda since I think it can be enjoyed more on highly policed Australian roads.

Both sound very good while riding with standard mufflers. The Honda boxer 6 to me has the better sound track however that is my personal preference, you might prefer the inline 6 sound, neither will disappoint.

Brakes are powerful on both bikes. The Honda required less pressure applied to the lever and felt almost like it had power assisted brakes which I liked a lot.

Suspension adjustment on the BMW can be done electronically but not on the Honda (bagger version).

The aerodynamics of the BMW are lousy. Unless the screen was fully upright where I am looking through it there was wind hitting my helmet and around back of my neck trying to get down my jacket. Similarly the lower fairing does next to nothing and there is considerable air being directed at my legs and trying to get up my pants. Aftermarket screen might help but the design of the screen mechanism lifting at the rear is limiting compared to screens that slide up.

Luggage is central locking on both and I could fit my helmet in the BMW side cases but not in it’s top box. The Honda side cases are smaller and will not fit my helmet. I rode the bagger so cannot compare top boxes.

My K1600GT had the older analogue dash not the LCD now fitted. I generally prefer analogue gauges and the Honda also has analogue. I found the BMW gauges much easier to read than the Hondas despite being smaller. I’ve ridden BMW’s with their colour LCD and it is fine but I actually found this older dash better in direct sunlight.

I prefer the switchgear on the BMW to the Honda. Especially the cruise control switches which I disliked being on the right hand with the Honda.

The BMW branded navigation is a Garmin underneath and worked well with very bright screen that looked about 5″. The Honda comes with a larger screen but asks you pair a phone and use carplay for navigation in most markets (built in navigation in North America). You could add Carplay easy to the BMW but adding a Garmin to the Honda is awkward due to the center console.

If seeking maximum room for larger body shapes then a friend told me he tried both of these then went with a Harley tourer instead. But he is what I call “a big unit” and I don’t think too many other people would find these lacking in room.

Looks are a personal thing. I like the Honda more than the BMW looks wise but in this luxury touring category the bikes from Harley Davidson to many people might be the ones with the most style.

The Honda suffers from negative preconceptions which might be difficult for some people to deal with. Riders just hearing the name Gold Wing are likely to have a negative opinion despite having never ridden one. The BMW escapes this.

As far as being a luxury tourer, the category these bikes are in, the Honda to me fits that role more. Motorbike writers bang on about riding being about speed and excitement and thus don’t get the Honda however you can equally enjoy just cruising at your own pace without all the macho bullshit. I do.

Here are a couple of onboard videos from the excellent Schaaf channel to give an idea of engine sound and cornering.

It’s hard for older people like me to see the numbers on the Honda but it’s 120+ at times on a road I’d be doing far less so corner clearance is fine as I found when riding the bike in USA. If wanting to ride faster then look next at the BMW below.

The BMW has had a small update since the model I rode while the Honda has not been updated since it’s release 6 years ago. They both retail in the mid $40K price range in Australia although like new barely ridden Gold Wings are commonly being sold for 10K below that.

The BMW K1600 was a model I had been considering but no longer am. The K is a good bike but I really wanted the engine to be better than BMW’s boxer twin yet I found it not as good as the silky smooth 1300 I had in my FJR. Without the inline 6 being special I cannot see any reason to buy the K over a R1250RT.

The Gold Wing on the other hand has the most beautiful engine but it is a big bike and requires an easier pace. For my own touring around Australia that probably isn’t an issue. Most of my time will be on our heavily policed country roads with cruise control engaged and the handful of nice motorcycle roads scattered around the country all have had their speed limits slashed. But I’m not buying until next year and have more bikes to evaluate before then.

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