Wednesday 2 September 2015

BMW GS and Me - Part 2 of 2

..Continued from Part 1 of 2

Last month I was in Johannesburg on a work trip and got to meet a colleague who was from India and rides a motorcycle to work every day. In a developed country with first-world infrastructure, riding a bike is not a common practice. The motorcycle is considered for commuting only if someone is really passionate about riding or, that's the only available option (e.g. you don't know driving and public transport is not feasible due to some reason). Add to it being an Indian abroad. Let's face it, most of us are risk averse, unlike the majority of westerners. I might be wrong here, but this is just my opinion coming from my own meanderings experience. Having said that I had a chat with him and he turned out to be a very enthusiastic person who is big-time into marathons and also into motorcycling. Before no time we were talking about motorcycles and which ones we like, which ones we don't, etc. When he mentioned that his steed is a BMW GS, my immediate response was, 'Don't tell me it's a 1200 !!?'. This wasn't a question really, it was more of my strong belief coming out in words, that a person of my stature definitely wouldn't consider a 1200GS. Well, I was wrong, he does ride an R1200GS. I had to drop my perceptions of the 1200GS right at that moment. I knew I had to see that bike again, more for my self-belief than anything else. 

After work, we caught up at the basement parking and I had a quick walk around and saddle-up view. It was a 2012 model (if I remember correctly) and in good condition. The immense torque from the lateral twin boxer engines was evident from the twist of the throttle. Though meeting Rupin affirmed the fact that R1200GS is not that bad for an average-built person, still there was no denying the fact that it was a big bike on which I can't flatfoot. Those who ride should already know, not every rider has to be tall enough to flatfoot, especially girls. I know a few of them who have ridden across long distances (across provinces) and still doing such rides and all with their chosen bikes, with tall seating. But honestly, I have never had such a problem with any of the bikes so far, until this German beast showed up. Anyway, had it been a rental motorcycle I would have been interested in riding it, as in a way I would own it for the time I hire it? So it would be just a matter of paying off for any damages if I fall. But this one is a private motorcycle, I wasn't really keen on riding this bike. Instead, I wanted to do a photoshoot of this GS for my blog here. So I proposed to Rupin to pick a spot and let's meet up so that I can take some shots of the bike. He readily agreed, rather he suggested I ride along as a pillion, which was perfect for me too. So this plan was on!

Now it was time for us to pick a route. I love twisties and Joburg got none of that stuff, at least not close to the city. So we consulted another colleague of ours, JP. He is a seasoned GS rider and knew some good riding routes close enough to the city for a breakfast ride. He drew a route map online and passed it to me. And I and Rupin started looking for a suitable date on our calendars. Partly due to Rupin's family commitments and partly due to my work schedule, that day didn't arrive until, my very last day in Joburg. I had to attend work, pick up luggage from the hotel, drive to the airport, drop the car at the rental agency, and catch a flight, all this before lunch. On top of all this, I hadn't got time to pack my luggage the night before due to a dinner invitation we had received at the last minute. But when it's about a ride, I know how to make time. I finished all my packing till morning at 3AM on Friday and set an alarm for 5. Got up at 5 all fresh (trust me, for motorcycling I do such crazy stuff:P ). Took a shower and put the camera gear and riding gear in the boot and drove off to Rupin's place. I was just hoping it works out for him, as being a family man and an architect, he had more commitments to keep, than me. Luckily he was up early and he came to the entrance on his bike to fetch me. Wasting no more time, I just parked my car, at his house, put on the riding gear, and kept the cam and shades in the top box of the bike. The next thing I know, we were cruising on the highway doing around 130-140 on the open stretches. Man, this bike still had some rev range to go. It was refreshing to be out on a motorcycle after months, especially in Joburg after driving to work every single day since my arrival in the city.

Here are some of the photographs we took that day.

The windshield on this one makes perfect sense while ripping on motorways above 120kph

Analogue speedo and tachometer with digital info display for everything else

Rupin with his BMW R1200GS

Stopped for a break and soaked up the morning sun.

After escaping from the city, Rupin asked me to ride. Though I really had not planned on riding his bike, mostly due to the fear of the tall seat height. However, due to Rupin's encouragement and riding/handling tips, I decided to saddle up. And so I did. 

Slowly traffic was appearing on this stretch around the countryside, so we had to slow down a bit. 

This beast does obey commands after all. 

South African ride's memorable shot for my office laptop:)

While saddling up, I took the bike off the side stand and there was this wobble (which scared the shit out of me), as I am so used to putting the weight on my right foot while climbing up. Whereas here I could only press against the ball of my (front) foot. I had to ensure that I don't lean too much to either side, or else the weight and high center of gravity of the bike will take me down. Once I got hold of the bike off the stand, I hinted to Rupin to take the seat. Again due to the top box, Rupin had to swing his leg around it to take the pillion seat, which tested my skills in keeping the bike still. Anyway, soon I was over the initial gut feel and once the first gear was engaged and I released the clutch, I was in familiar territory. My experience from riding the behemoth HD Heritage Softail back in the UK helped me a bit. This is because I knew that, keeping the bike in a good torque range and keeping it upright was the key to controlling it at slow speeds. I discussed the emergency braking technique with Rupin, hoping that I don't have to use it that day. In the next few minutes we were doing 100+ and I decided to keep it below 120, both for my comfort on this bike and safety in case of an emergency braking situation.

Wind in the hair would be a bit too much to ask for on this one, so adjusting my buff before putting on the helmet again.

I requested Rupin to take over the ride as I wanted to take some photos.

Off-roading on this GS would need some serious skills for sure. And no it's not much to do with how tall or big you are.

The bike seems to have taller gear ratios because I could keep the bike in 6th gear, even when I had to drop the speed to as low as 80 kph. Neither it stuttered nor gave me any trouble in catching up to speed when I needed to. The turn indicator switches were just like the ones on the Harley, one on each side. And there was a separate button on the right-hand console, to switch off the blinkers. This took me some time to get used to. Leaning on such a big bike needs guts to start with and then comes riding skills. I didn't try too much with leaning, rather leaning the bike just enough to get by at the speeds of 100-110, mostly maintaining my line of the ride. Countryside roads are mostly dual carriage types and could be a bit unpredictable, so had to keep scanning the road far ahead. Initially, I had to be in alert mode, but as I rode longer I was more comfortable and could enjoy the views and be more relaxed than I was when I started riding this mean machine. This I would call phase 2 of testing any new machine and I had a great time after this. We stopped on the way a few times for a couple of shots and then decided to take a U-turn home as we had an office to attend to that day and I had a flight to catch before lunch:)

Here we decided to take the last break before we head towards the city.. just to get into the Friday traffic on the way.

An interesting contrast: Marvel of German engineering on African soil:)

On the way back we visited the BMW Showroom and workshop as the top box needed some minor work. Meanwhile, I walked around and checked out the BMW fleet. What caught my attention here was a used 'F800GS Adventure' on sale with expanded fuel tanks and BMW panniers and all this in a color, which could easily be one of my favorites for an adventure bike.

Outside the BMW Motorrad in Fourways, Joburg

These are the used BMW motorcycles on sale. If you can notice the F800GS on the left-hand side row 4th one from left, towards the end

BMW F800GS Adventure with expanded fuel tank and pannier rack (picture taken from internet)
All in all, riding the BMW R1200GS was a sheer pleasure, mixed with the fear of the heavyweight, added to the tall seating, and not forget the extra horses between the legs. Again these challenges are just the ingredients that made my ride that much more exciting.

A special thanks to Rupin for this awesome ride and also for sharing his experience on this bike. Though this ride was too short to evaluate the ability of the bike or the rider (me), still this experience has taught me a thing or two about riding heavier machines like this one. One thing changed for me now, I won't be looking at the best adventure touring motorcycle in the world (currently!), i.e. R1200GS, the same way I have been doing so far.

Until we meet again :)

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


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