iDrive comes to motorcycles

Dailies -


BMW-Dash-1.jpgIn addition to an analog tachometer and speedometer, the 2011 BMW
K1600GT and K1600GTL
will feature a 5.7-inch color Thin Film Transistor
LCD screen to display secondary information. Functions on this screen
will be controlled by an iDrive-like multi-controller that rotates,
clicks and toggles. Wait, isn’t iDrive the most notoriously asinine user
interface ever conceived? Uh oh. >

BMW-Dash-2.jpgFirst debuted on the 2001 BMW 7-series, iDrive was originally designed to allow drivers to control the huge number of secondary functions that had crept into luxury cars without changing their plane of visual focus from the road to tiny buttons on the dash. It was supposed to be intuitive, but was anything but, attracting the ire of elderly curmudgeon car journalists and spoiled New Jersey housewives (BMW’s target demographic) alike.

The problem wasn’t necessarily with the controller (although BMW did eventually cut out some of its more esoteric movements) but with the menu system, which required users to go several levels deep within often obscurely-named submenus to access simple vehicle functions, like turning off BMW’s retarded triple-flash indicators or entering a new destination in the address system.

BMW-Dash-3.jpgNine years later, the system just about works, but only after several revisions and after repositioning a lot of the functions back to simple dash-mounted buttons. Technology for technology’s sake? You bet, and now it’s coming to motorcycles.

While it’s not being referred to as iDrive, the K1600′s “multi-controller” sounds eerily similar. A knob positioned on the left handlebar can rotate, slide into 3 or 9 o’clock and click like a mouse button.

A similar knob is used in the 2010 BMW R1200RT, but there it only controls the audio functions.

BMW-Dash-4.jpgBMW says, “Flat hierarchies completely do away with the need for complex clicking through sub-menus during travel.”

BMW-Dash-5.jpgFunctions operated via the Multi-Controller include the trip computer; ESA II adjustable suspension; grip and seat heating; audio; navigation; secondary vehicle functions such as adaptive headlight orientation, languages and whatnot. It appears that the navigation system will also feature voice control. Additionally, there’ll be a “Bookmark” tab for easy retrieval of the most common functions.

Reassuring technophobes, BMW says, “The menu structure was specially developed for the specific demands of motorcycling and optimized by means of user tests.”

BMW-Dash-6.jpgThis will be the first time a TFT display has ever been employed on a production motorcycle and, to the best of our knowledge, the first time such a complicated user interface will be employed on two-wheels too.

  • the_doctor

    I always thought that motorbikes needed more gadgets. I would just fasten an iPad to my speedometer. Thats like iDrive, right?

  • Zirq


    I wonder what happens if you hold the iDrive by the bottom left corner?

  • Turf

    Still much prefer a mechanical solution to problems

    electronics be powered by witchcraft

  • Scott

    Hi Wes,

    It uses exactly the same system as the RT. You cycle through the menus, then click your choice. I’ve ridden the RT and seen the 1600 system at work. The system is very simple, easy to use and very cool!

    • Wes Siler

      I’ve ridden the RT too and couldn’t figure out how to change radio stations :’(

      According to the press material, the knob moves in the same way as on the RT, but this is a big full-color screen more like the one in BMW’s cars. That knob only controls audio on the RT, and a bunch of stuff here, including things that have previously had switches, like the heated grips.

  • Grive

    Nothing good can come out of this.

    I certainly hope no real functions are on that thing. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust a TFT (no matter how well backlit) while moving, with a helmet on, under the bright desert sunglight.

    Then again, I still like me some carburettors in me machines. I’ve stopped churning my own butter, though.

    • pauljones

      I wouldn’t mind a little EFI action (my Intruder is carbed), but, otherwise, I completely agree with you. This is just not a good idea.

      • Grive

        Oh, I’m not against EFI. My traumatic first bike experiences made me endeared to carbs.

        See, my first “real” street bike was a POS that was older than me by half a decade, weighted three times what I did, had been mistreated by very many people, and had a steering response that had more to do with the orbit of Venus than my actions.

        I still rode the hell out of it, even to places where it wasn’t a good idea to take an engine that ran more on karma and goodwill than the fuel the carbs were sending it.

        More than once it decided to crap out in bad places. However, I knew I could usually make it at least hobble pitifully to somewhere. So I’m usually more comfortable with stuff I know I can do something about even if that means I also know it will crap out a hundred times more often than feeling really, really helpless once something goes wrong.

        That, and I really, really like working with mechanical thingies.

        It’s absolutely stupid, I know. Absolutely, positively stupid. Yet the little rabid monkey I call my consciousness so dictates. Meh, I’m guessing I won’t have much choice by the time I get a new bike in a year or two.

  • JR

    I am currently having turn signal issues on my 80 XS850 and this causes me to have to mess with the turn signal switch and look down a bit on occasion, almost causing some “distracted from the road” incidents in more than one instance.

    My vote is, looking down at a screen to control functions rather than being able to blindly reach for a switch that you’ve kinectly memorized the location of might cause some unnecessary risks.

    Soon it’s going to be able to send text messages too I bet.

    I’m not a techno-phobe at all, but menus and scrolling seem like a recipe for crashes.

    • Wes Siler

      The thinking with iDrive is that you can memorize the motions necessary to do the common stuff. So say you want to turn heated grips on, it might go like: click, left, right, up, down, click. Memorize that and you can turn them on and off without looking.

      • Grive

        Does up up down down left right left right clutch click increase your insurance coverage?

        ‘Cause if they do, I renounce my previous beliefs.

        • Mark D.

          No, but it does give your tires extra life!

        • Liquidogged


  • The Grudz

    Great. Vishnu is going to be the only one capable of adjusting the temperature of his heated vest, removing his latte from the cup holder, fucking around with his GPS, fucking around with his second GPS, acquiring the satellites for his XM Radio, scrolling through his I-Drive by memory, oh yeah, and operating functions necessary to ride a motorcycle. This crazy gizmo is better left to the gods. I just want a motorcycle.

    • Grive

      Well, you could always load the latte into a camelback. Not only does it free up one hand, you no longer need your heating vest in the winter!

      Now it’s only incredibly unwidely unstead of simply ungodly.

      You’re welcome. Just remember, I will accept no liability for a stella-award winning lawsuit when you burn your back. Heck, you should also thank me for it, since you no longer will need to worry about the pain of road rash in your back!

  • Stephen

    Personally, I don’t see the reason for most of that crap. Navigation? Look at a damn map before you get going.

    • Grive

      Don’t we have clear, cheap and flimsy transparent plastic bags in our tankbags for that?

  • John

    HTF are you going to see a TFT LCD in bright day light?!?

    They haven’t heard of Mirasol?

  • telekom

    Sadly if the system gets borked you then MUST repair it or else you can’t access essential controls like grip and seat heaters and most importantly the suspension adjustment – and I bet that isn’t cheap. Unless there are manual controls for those things you might find yourself unable to adjust the searing heaters and the supersoft suspension, as you bump over potholes the size of a bathtub while it’s 120 degrees in the shade. While also being forced to listen to Radio Suicide at full volume.

    • The Grudz

      Ha! Borked. I like that word.

  • generic1776

    Sounds better than the current Goldwing handlebar mounted control panel, or the control panel on that Kawasaki 1300 Police Bike.

    The question is: how does it compare to the Ducati system on the Multistrada 1200?

    • Michael

      That’s easy, I can tell you right now. What BMW is proposing is levels above what is on my Multistrada 1200 S. Of course, does not sound quite like a good thing to me. Going through the riding modes on the Ducati is very easy, quick, and rather intuitave. I can access those settings, as well as basic trip computer functions (range to empty, ambient temp., time traveled, etc.) on the go. Getting to into the sub-menus, such as tailoring the exact amount of compression and rebound for each riding modes I prefer, requires the bike to be stationary.

      Just looking at the pictures Wes supplied on his write up suggests a good portion of the dynamic features will be similar between the BMW and Ducati, but BMW’s dash will contain all the requisite luxo-barge features as well. It looks like EVERYTHING is integrated into the dash, save for the most basic of vehicle functions.

      Honestly, to the type of man who is going to purchase this motorcycle, all this shit may prove to be less complicated than what he is already running. This bike is for the guy who is getting away from the K1300GT/FJR 1300/Concours 14 ABS, and is moving upmarket. This potential owner has “farkled,” (as Baby Boomers call it) the crap out of their Sport Touring bikes with GPS, communications systems, heated this and that, cruise control, and any manner of alternator/battery taxing expenisve toys one could possibly slap on a bike. Don’t forget the cup holders while you’re at it. BMW knows this. Fuck, they basically created the segment, and NOBODY does it better than they do. So when creating the K1600GT/GTL all they have to do is look at what crap their techs. are taking off customer bikes just to work on them. Then BMW offers it to these guys with a slick GUI and fancy panties controller. Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Bank.

      What we really have here is not a motorcycle in the BMW K1600GT/GTL, but a two wheeled 750i Sport.

      • Billy B.Tso

        agree 100%! …crap you don’t need at a price you can’t afford. To easily solve the problem, don’t buy it, and they’ll stop making it. Simple really.

  • Case

    This is just expensive bullshit that will eventually break. I understand that Duc upped the ante with the multistrada but that doesn’t mean they need to put a damn ipod on the dash.

    Instead of a helmet icon (third photo) they should be dollar signs and starbucks logos.

    Stealing a line from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: Which button do you push to call your mom to come pick you up?

  • DoctorNine

    Greaat! BMW giving me more reasons not to buy their bikes. I think I’ll be buying more tools, a couple more old bikes, and leaving this scheisse to people who want to crash while riding. Morans…

    • FIlip

      Yeah, BMW is like crap and shit. You tell them.

  • Bob

    I thought I was committing a Crime Against Nature when I installed a tiny little clock on my Ducati 748. I commute on it 90 miles a day. Don’t wanna be late for work.

    I feel a whole lot better about myself now. I know exactly what it is that I don’t need.

  • Baumm III

    This iDrive must work at stand still only (0 MPH) and in Neutral,
    Otherwise best device on earth to crash while riding.

  • LADucSP

    “Hmmm, let’s see I want to set the heat grips, radio, suspension….”"”"

    uuuuurttttt…..crash…bang….boom! Ouch.

    oh yeah, you should never take your eyes off the road

  • Erik

    It’s a bike, not a car!
    People who want all those gadgets should buy a convertible and not a bike.
    Real bikers don’t need all that electronic crap that can malfunction and only the dealer can fix.

  • Doug D.

    If motorcyclists ever want to make any headway in the ‘keeping Internet and other fancy technology out of cars for fear of further distracting drivers as they run over motorcyclists’ argument, we need to take a stand: Just say no to shit like BMW’s iDrive that distracts you from driving a motorcycle.

    Don’t be a turd.

  • Paul Elliot

    Another brilliantly STUPID idea! Crap like this is why I will not buy this or any other over-engineered, needlessly complex machine. I will continue to ride my ’95 Concours until it dies and then go find another low mileage example that some doof bought on a whim and then left parked in the garage because riding it was “scary” or “incovenient” or just found another “hobby”. Just give me a good reliable, comfortable bike, not a “Techno Tour de Force”. I loved my 1977 R100RS, but I wouldn’t have one of these new BMWs on a bet.

  • zeke

    you look down when you ride? i glance at my speedo , check my engine heat , and occasionally tach if i am racing the thing but most of that is by feel now. and on stock bikes i don’t check then engine heat.