Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us
Country name: United States of America
Capital: Washington DC
Area: 9.834 million km²
Population: 32.82 crores
Currency: United States dollar
Road Length: ~6.6 million kilometres
Road Details: The United States of America or the US boasts of the world’s largest road network. The road network consists of around 4.3 million km of paved and 2.3 million km of unpaved roads for a total of around 6.6 million km. Out of these, around 76,000 km are expressways and so, the US also possesses some of the longest highways in the world.
Roadtrip name: LA 2 NY
Distance: 6,700 km
Route: Los Angeles | Route 66 | Williams | Grand Canyon Village | Del Norte | Denver | Salina | Saint Louis | Nashville | Cherokee | Little Switzerland | Summersville | Pittsburgh | New York
Ride on: Right side
Imperial System: Speed is in m/h and temperature in Degrees Fahrenheit. Fuel or gasoline is measured in gallons.
Best Weather: April to July.
Motorcycle: BMW K1600 GTL: 1,649 cc | 160 bhp | 175 Nm | 350 kg
BMW Motorrad has been known for some fantastic motorcycles over the years. From the ballistic S1000RR to the ‘as rugged as they come‘ R1200GS (R1250GS now). But when we took a look at the K1600GTL, we were baffled. We know all about Bavaria’s expertise and German engineering but damn… the K1600 GTL was a lot of bike… a whole lot of good bike.
It was launched in 2012 and is powered by a massive 1,649cc inline-6 engine. Just to get it out of the way, it is one of the most refined and smooth engines that we have ever seen. There is barely any vibration anywhere on the bike. The numbers are even more baffling… 160 bhp of power and 175 Nm of torque.
Now, an inline-6 configuration is big for motorcycles. Put it across the bike and it’ll protrude enough on either side to mimic wings. It may not fly but it can take out some innocent bystanders. Along the length of the bike, the wheelbase becomes too long. But hey, it’s a luxury tourer and it is meant to be big. “NOT AT THE COST OF HANDLING!”, exclaimed the Germans.
The K1600GTL’s inline-6 mill has the distinction of being the most compact inline-6 engine in the world. And that means dimensional savings which in turn result in better handling characteristics. And the K1600GTL sure possesses those. It behaved very well in the corners and that is despite the heft… 350 kilos!
It had some more nifty tricks up its sleeves in addition to cruise control and the electronic windshield. The K1600GTL features adaptive headlight technology i.e. despite the headlight assembly being fixed with the fairing, it turns left if the bike is turning left and hence lights up the entire corner. Not just that, when the bike is at lean, the headlight beam remains flat so that the lighting on the road ahead remains consistent.
It goes without saying that the motorcycle is supremely comfortable. The suspension is already brilliant and an adaptive suspension system is also available as an option. The frame is made up of cast aluminium, the front suspension is BMW’s famous Duolever and the rear is Paralever. All this together ensures that the handling remains closer to a sportbike and nothing remotely like a cruiser.
Overall, it won’t be a long shot to say that it is perhaps one of the best luxury tourers around. And with the capable engine at work, it is the sportiest of the lot with ferocious acceleration possible. And yet, with the Cruise Control… it is the cruiser that everyone would want on a roadtrip like this.
Sponsors: Jack & Jones, BMW Motorrad United States
Roadtrip description: “Supreme, impressive and equally distinctive appearance creates a desire to travel at first sight!” This is how the company from Deutschland, the land of procedures and gut-wrenching engineering precision, likes to describe the first impression experience of its newest offering to the most serious tourers of the world – the mighty K1600 GTL.
And if someone’s idea of testing this stupendous machine is to take it to some water streams and a couple of bends and click holiday pictures, effectively wasting the landscapes of an Alpine country, well then sorry to say, but he really needs to be true to himself and start looking for another job! This machine truly deserved the xBhp treatment – pacing it through thousands of kilometres across four time zones and iconic landscapes. And yes… we did just that.
We approached the nice guys at the BMW HQ in Germany and the US to give us one of their flagship bikes to go across USA, from Hollywood in Los Angeles to the melting pot of the world, Times Square in New York. And boy O boy! What did they give us? They were so impressed with our work and passion that they gave us a brand new dark blue K1600 GTL! We could not believe that the bike was standing in front of us when we went to pick it up in LA.
The GTL was substantially bigger than the C14, that we rode in New Zealand, with its sofa cum top case, bigger dimensions and more expensive to drop! 6,500 kms in 12 days is not a small number by any stretch of the imagination, especially when you are on a mission to capture the whole experience in words and pictures and not just blast your way through interstates.
It took around 15 minutes for Patrick (BMW Motorrad representative) to explain to us all the features of the bike; from the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) to the integrated operating concept with the fantastic multi-controller jog dial. And the satellite radio which you can use to listen to crystal clear and loud music of your choice while blasting on highways to nowhere… it can’t be missed.
One push of the electric starter and all the 6 cylinders came to life. They sounded like an orchestra of six mellow voiced expert singers humming away. The rumble was so smooth and the refinement was out of this world. Almost no vibrations on the handlebar! This was the magic of the inline-six configuration which is one of the most harmonious in nature. The next would have to be 12 cylinders to achieve a similar kind of balance! We were sure, with the clinical and mad genius men at BMW, they can achieve that in the future!
After pondering over the supreme tech-s-pertise of the K1600, it was time to go. Everything in the US is really about how BIG it can be. Big distances, big cars, big buildings, big hamburgers, big problems and big bikes. The big bike, we had; big distances, we had to cover. Rest would be taken care of.
We did have a plan that was no longer a plan after the first day. The plan was to do the legendary Route 66. A couple of people discounted the hype that was surrounding it coupled with the difficulty in actually traversing the read ‘R66’ due to over development of the major Interstates crisscrossing it. The R66, also known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was established in 1926 and officially removed from the US highway system in 1985.
The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, covering a total of 3,940 km. Now parts of the original R66 have started to return to the maps as ‘Historic Route 66’, a designated scenic byway.
The first day from LA saw us cover a little bit of Route 66, a hundred kilometres or so. In that distance, we figured that the road conditions were not really conducive to riding a big bike like K1600 at a lot of places. However, we did encounter a few typical R66 diners. We also had to get on to the main Interstate a few times and then rejoin the Historic Route 66 at times. Overall, we decided to alter our route, if not direction entirely. So it was Bye-bye to Route 66 – for now.
After a few hours of research on the Internet, we found a route. It was cutting across four time zones, from west to east. With each time zone, we were losing one hour in the day. We would be crossing 12 states in doing so.
The first major spectacle on the trip, after the bike itself, was the Grand Canyon. So many years after repeatedly hearing about it and seeing it in pictures or movies, we finally rode into the Grand Canyon National Park. The first major limitation… the size of the bike. A lot many places were rendered inaccessible because of that. It would require superhuman strength to ensure that the bike does not fall due to slipping while off the road.
The Grand Canyon was grand alright. A lot of it could not be soaked in because of two reasons. First, the harsh afternoon light. And second, the sea of tourists. And that is why for most of our roadtrips we prefer the season right after the prescribed best season. The real Grand Canyon would need to be seen by descending into it or with some equally crazy adventure befitting such a place.
If you happen to visit the Grand Canyon on a driving holiday, try and stay at the North Rim which is much less populated with tourists and a lot cooler too. The drive from South Rim to North Rim is a few hundred kilometres and there is only one lodge near it.
Coming back to the roads, the K1600 behaved very well on corners. The difference in the selected modes – Road and Dynamic coupled with Sport was noticeable. The bike felt lighter on the curves and it could be propelled out of the corners with a feeling of more traction around the curves.
Next on the list was the Monument Valley in Utah, which has the iconic natural towers shown in movies like Forrest Gump. This is the exact sort of place that evoked Wild West imagery replete with orange mountains, harsh sun dust, long straights, and strange tall lanky structures popping out from flatlands.
This place became almost our favourite till now. Almost… if it hadn’t been for some Native American family (which is what we think they were) hurling abuses at us to get off the road while we were clicking some pictures. Clearly they were not happy about the tourists coming in the Monument Valley (which is a part of the Navajo Nation Reservation that is a semi-autonomous Native American governed territory). The hostility left a bitter taste in the mouth but then… putting ourselves in their shoes, it wasn’t that bad if history is anything to go by.
Leaving Monument Valley, it was a run for US of A’s highest continuous paved road – the road from Idaho Springs to Mt Evans which included tarmac passing through the highest point. We just love mountains and after those incessant straights, this was a welcome sight. The night before we stayed in a small town called Del Norte. This town had the worst hotel that we stayed in during the entire tour, replete with bathroom doors that refused to open and a very bored receptionist. Part and parcel of an interesting trip, apparently!
Coming back to the mountains. The entry to Idaho Springs was not an easy one. The Interstate 70 was jam-packed with thousands of cars. The reason was unknown but it took us an hour to cover 3 odd miles until that turn to Idaho Springs showed up. It must be mentioned that the traffic situation in and near big cities in the US is really worrisome.
More irritating was that, unlike California, motorcycles are not allowed to weave in between car lanes. We confirmed this with a police patrol car that was also enjoying the traffic moving at a pace slower than that of a snail. The strict looking officer said in a robotic tone, “NO, you cannot cross that line.” Almost Terminator-ish. The road to Mt Evans peaks at 14,240 feet. The views were beautiful, the air chilly and the songs blaring out of the K1600’s speakers apt for the occasion. We also spotted a lot of ibexes on the one-way road.
After a night’s stop in Denver, it was supposed to be a ‘tunnel vision’ straight run across the states Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee to the quaint hill town of Cherokee. This was 2,300 kms in three days. An old xBhp member, Manas also came down to meet us from the nearby town of Franklin. The K1600 made it almost painless to cover that distance.
It was during this run that we also did our personal best of 300 kms, nonstop, meaning without even once putting down a foot. We stopped only when the range-meter on the info-rich console of the bike showed us 15 miles’ fuel remaining. The long-distance capabilities of this bike were just phenomenal as far as large bikes go. One more feature worth mentioning was the combination of cruise control and windscreen. The Cruise Control, predictably, was used generously during the straight empty highways.
This involves pushing a small button at a particular speed and the bike would stick to that speed while we could relax our throttle hand and even at times put both our hands on the tank for a few hundred meters while the bike rolled dead straight in a line. The electronically adjustable windshield was also a delight, standing tall in the line of fire. From here, we went on to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was once voted as America’s Favorite Drive. It is a 750 kms long road that was specially built for recreational purposes. The construction started in 1935 and it took 52 years to finish it.
We were lucky to get to see it in its final form. The road is a narrow single lane one with no divider at most parts. Tarmac quality is generally quite good. And though it is very beautiful, it gets repetitive after a while. All you see are curves (a motorcyclist’s delight), lots of greenery, green mountains and blue skies. Quite incredible, but monotonous. Things get a little irritating if you are on a motorcycle when a tourist car is driving slowly ahead of you and you can’t overtake because of the “yellow lines”.
We did around 300 kms of the parkway after which we just got out onto the main Interstate which runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway at many places. It was quite incredible to know that a bland tarmac exists (the Interstate) so close to a fantastic riding one. A mere turn away. We were very sad to have missed coming to this road in the fall season (mid-October) when it is said to be unbelievably beautiful with all the colours of the leaves making every nook and cranny look picture-postcard perfect.
Perhaps the best place that we stayed in the entire US tour was in Little Switzerland on the Blue Ridge Parkway in a place called The Alpine Inn. It was right on a small curvy road with snug cabins affording a fantastic view of the mountains. The hosts were also very warm and welcoming.
From here we headed to Pittsburgh, another big city (which we generally hate!) After Pittsburgh, it was the last leg of our first tour in the US. 600 kms later, we were standing in New York’s Times Square with its giant digital screens selling dreams and products to thousands of tourists over there. It was indeed one of the most energetic places we had ever visited in our entire lives until now- full of positive energy with lots of people from countries whose names one probably can’t even spell properly.
We took the selfish pleasure of visiting one of the world’s largest toy stores and the world’s largest photography store too. More than a store they seemed like museums of delicious stuff up for sale. A Batmobile and some action figures were bought for our cabin in xBhp HeadQuarters in India. We just love this country for what all you can buy, and that too for cheap!
Manhattan was a revelation. Roads were bad, traffic was horrible, and somehow all the lane discipline seems to have vanished into thin air. We could hear at least one honk every 10 seconds. There was chaos everywhere and we loved it because it seemed so much like India and it proved that the problem with our country is that we just have too many people, something which even the signs all around Manhattan seem to subscribe to – Please Do Not Honk!