Mongolia, Thailand, Canada - and now here's BMW's big Aotearoa motorcycling adventure
By Mathieu Day-Gillett • 21/02/2020
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New Zealand is often regarded as a motorcyclist’s paradise, offering twisting tarmac and beautiful scenery through to challenging backcountry trails for the more adventurous. Aotearoa has it all.
Last week we shared our adventure playground with foreign riders competing in the seventh edition of the eight-day BMW International GS Trophy.
Founded in 2008, the invitation-only competition groups riders into national teams that are pitted against each other and the elements to navigate challenging adventure riding on BMW’s Gelande-Strasse (GS) badged machines.
Previous years have seen the GS Trophy contested in the steppes of Mongolia, Thailand’s jungles and the trails of Canada’s Rocky Mountains.
“I think New Zealand’s a dream destination for riders, and therefore the decision was taken that NZ as one of the most exotic locations would be the host of the seventh International GS Trophy,” said BMW Motorrad’s head of communications, Tim Diehl-Thiele. “I think all our guests and riders are super excited, including the internal team to come to visit this country.”
“All of [the trophy races] have been super-spectacular in terms of routes and types of scenic landscape, but the decision was made to go to NZ because this is maybe one of the most exciting countries worldwide in terms of landscape and looking at all these climate zone changes to the mountains to the sea, there’s no other place like that.”
BMW Motorrad points out that the International GS Trophy is “not a race or a rally”; it’s a team-focused event aimed at pushing riders and bikes in challenging new terrain. This year’s event hosted 140 riders making up 22 teams from Australia, Argentina, China, the US, the UK with an all-female team and regional teams representing the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia.
Though the exact route is still closely guarded, we know the trophy started in Rotorua and finished at Queenstown’s Coronet Peak.
BMW Motorrad says 60 per cent of the road was off-road, while the remainder, though sealed, allowed riders to take in remote, twisty roads.
For the New Zealand event, BMW has moved away from the R series of GS Adventure motorcycles that have been the basis for the most recent International GS Trophy events. Instead, BMW Motorrad’s 140 bespoke F 850 GS bikes were specially built for the trophy in Germany, an increase of 26 bikes over the last event in 2018, with each bike in an exclusive specification just for the International GS Trophy.
All 140 bikes are adorned in black and yellow with GS Trophy graphics — including an NZ Flag — for the 2020 edition. In contrast with the black/yellow is gold anodizing on the forks and cross-spoked tubeless-spec wheel rims.
For the GS Trophy, BMW also delved deep into the options list for the F 850 GS and selected a long list of equipment to help riders make the most of the middleweight GS during the competition.
Inclusions included electronic aids, with BMW’s dynamic suspension adjustment and DTC traction control systems, Gear Shift Assist Pro quickshifter, and 6.5in TFT screen with BMW Motorrad Connectivity and the Riding Modes Pro (Dynamic/Enduro/Enduro Pro).
BMW also outfitted all the bikes with an aggressive set of off-road rubber and bike protection.
“It’s a wonderful ride and so much fun, but what I like most is seeing the people connect,” says Ralf Rodepeter, BMW’s head of brand and product and the director of the International GS Trophy.
“Every day the teams are mixed so they ride every time with new nationalities and they’ll have an adventurous experience together, which creates this bond and understanding.
“Bringing in teams from North Africa and the Middle East this year is especially exciting, so we can honestly say we have riders from all over the world and all walks of life.
“And this is the spirit of the GS, bringing diverse people and cultures together, learning about each other and discovering and enjoying nature, playing and adventuring.”
The 2500km route was spread across the North and South Islands.
Taking the GS Trophy crown for the third time was team South Africa with a narrow points lead ahead of Teams France and Italy.
This makes it a hat-trick for South Africa in the GS Trophy, having won in Thailand in 2016 and Mongolia in 2018.