1990 BMW K1


A milestone bike for BMW, and a UNIQUE classic; still exciting to ride today -- at Warp 7 speeds


No major problems encountered since I've owned it. I don't ride it a lot though. It's a very special bike and I drive it on special occasions that take advantage of its design/performance strengths... :-)

Current gripes include:

Temperature gauge inoperative.

Fuel gauge goes dead (pegs left) every now and again... probably some minor electrical/connector issue in side panel fairings for both fuel and temp gauge.

General Comments:

Overall, this is an amazing machine, even to this day. It's substantially heavy, comfortable, torquey, fast, reliable, and SMOOTH at higher/hyper cruise speeds. It really is a Teutonic Super Express locomotive on the highway -- a real trip/mile shredder. The K1 really shines at sustained 80MPH and into century territory.

The bodywork styling and graphics were -- and still are -- rather striking, "loud" and trick/futuristic. Mine is the more 'subdued' Blue/Yellow ("Swiss") model. Like that aspect or not, the fairing DOES work in terms of low drag, quieter wind noise and affording some level of protection for its Euro style riding position. But it also does get toasty in the summer and when in slow traffic. Flip side is that it keeps you a bit warm in cold temps. :-)

80MPH is about 4300RPM in 5th and it feels VERY 'relaxed' and competent -- like the mill isn't working hard at all (thanks to gearing and low wind resistance?). Yeah, its wider turning radius is noticeable and annoying at times; it doesn't carry hard bags (only tank bag, really) and it's NOT the bike to take your lady or bud for a nice laidback spin. It's just meant for YOU -- the serious performance sport tourer -- to savor alone while traveling light on some medium distance adventure. Handling? It holds a line and lean surprising well and constant -- as long as you're not asking it to drag pegs or negotiate bumpy, compound curves.

No, this is NOT your son's rice racer replica sports bike, Hayabusa or back road flickable curve carving cafe ride. It was not meant for that -- by design or otherwise. It's a high speed Autobahn cruiser stealth bike -- a nice open road/vista express touring GT bike on smooth straights and high speed sweepers. Besides the bodywork/artwork, however -- it's all about the ENGINE. I also own a 88 K100RS and I can tell you the K1's 4-valve engine DOES have more grunt and response than the early two valve K bikes. But I'd rather service or repair a two valver K bike than their 4 valve successors any day.. Complexity and bigger $$$s to service... :-) If the K1 is too radical for you, then please do consider a two valve K100RS.

In the end, the 4 valve's broader torque curve and nice relaxed/geared top end mean you can REALLY burn miles "comfortably" at sensible RPMs, quickly and confidently. Bear in mind though, I'm only average height/smaller rider... and I'm still crunched up a bit in seating position (mostly legs/thighs). Taller/bigger riders will not like the higher, rear set peg arrangement for 'sorties' more than a hour or so (unless your legs numb and check out).

Bottomline is that 'controversial styling' and 'automotive crossover bike or not', this machine is an amazing/unique brute; an interesting 'period' engineering study and a real neo classic ride -- whether you're into "old" BMWs, Ks, Rs or not. It was and STILL is special, with tons of character and flash. Neither fish nor foul...it's hard to pigeon hole, classify or typecast. It is -- after all -- simply "a K1". And it may just be the father of BMW's contemporary, more aggressive high end sports bike targeted market units they're making today. No doubt, the K1's real value (to BMW at least) was as a 'marketing vehicle' and ground breaker for broadening BMW's appeal/buyer base. Perhaps if BMW had toned down the paint/graphics sooner and priced them a bit lower, they might of sold more than 5000 or 6000 units of these during their 90 to 93 production run. Find a good one... keep it...and watch it grow in value -- and I'm not just talking about $$$s here. [Oh....and DON'T ever drop it or mess with its signature (and increasingly rare/dear) bodywork panels.] :-)

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 9th September, 2009

7th Jun 2011, 13:14

Just brought a K1, bright red. I love the shape, and it's so special!! My temperature gauge is not working; any information on what could be wrong?

Happy riding. I have also a Road King that's 12 years old. My BMW is a 1990 model.