Ask any owner of a BMW touring motorcycle why they chose their particular
machine and the responses will vary significantly, from engine configuration
to wind and weather protection, ergonomics, comfort and special equipment.
Owners are dedicated and knowledgeable, and ride their machines serious distances,
usually with a pillion and often as part of their annual holidays.
The introduction of a new model series such as the K1600GT and K1600GTL
into such an established market is always exciting, especially one that promises
so many new innovations in the class. In a series of articles, we profile some
of the innovative technical features – starting with adaptive headlight technology
– that will help keep the K1600 Series machines ahead of their rivals.
Riding in the hours of darkness has its advantages, such as lower traffic
levels and cooler temperatures (in warmer climates) but many riders choose
not to do it because they just don't feel safe enough. This has a lot to do
with the simple fact that basic motorcycle headlights are not good enough to
illuminate the road ahead to match the speed the rider wants to travel at.
Furthermore, a lack of adjustment often means that the headlight cannot compensate
for changes to riding and load conditions, and ends up shining straight towards
oncoming traffic rather than assisting the rider's vision.
Another key drawback for many motorcyclists is that, quite simply, they cannot
see far enough into corners, as conventional fixed headlights cast their beam
straight ahead only. As well as blinding other road users in bends, this also
leaves the rider's area of the road in darkness, which can compromise safety.
Imagine if you could use new adaptive headlight technology to 'see' around
corners and ensure that you have the best possible view of the road ahead?
The concept is simple: as you enter a bend, the headlight beam turns to follow
the direction of the road, so you always know what's in front. The BMW K1600GT and K1600GTL are the first motorcycle models in the world to offer an
adaptive xenon headlight for even greater safety at night, and here's how it
BMW's car division has been using adaptive headlight technology in various
models for some time, with a dynamic headlamp control system using sensors
to measure speed, steering angle and yaw (degree of rotation around the vertical
axis), with small electric motors turning the cars headlights and guiding the
driver into bends. However, motorcycles are not 'steered' in the same way,
as riders lean their machines when cornering, so a new system has been developed
as a supplement to the standard xenon headlamp, not only increasing safety,
but solving one of the age-old problems of riding at night.
K1600 models already feature ride height sensors in the front and rear axles
that provide data for permanent headlamp levelling, regardless of riding and
load conditions, but the optional adaptive headlight actually tilts the headlight
according to your lean angle, allowing you to see around a corner as you turn,
instead of having to ride into darkness.
It's a simple idea with a clever solution that features a servomotor which
turns the standard static reflector mirror into a swivel mirror. When the lean
angle of the motorcycle changes, the mirror turns on an axis to compensate
for this, and the low beam light is balanced in relation to the actual angle
of lean. These two movements are superimposed, resulting in significantly improved
illumination being directed into the bend and a subsequent increase in active
The calculation of the motorcycle's lean angle is made by means of a sensor
box, as used in the S1000RR, which also distributes information used by the
Dynamic Traction Control and ABS, via the Can bus system. The result is a significant
safety benefit – especially when taking bends at night or whenever visibility
is poor, quite simply because the road ahead is better illuminated and obstacles
become visible sooner.
With the high-beam circular headlamps positioned to the right and left of the
standard xenon lights with fibre optic rings, there's no doubt that the striking
'face' of the K1600GT and GTL will be immediately recognisable as it briefly
fills the rear view mirrors of motorists, before disappearing off into the
distance and lighting the way for others to follow.
To see some video footage of how the BMW Adaptive Headlight technology works,