BMW GS Experience
Sometimes getting dirty is way cooler than dragging your knee to the tarmac
After the TVS off-road training I was quite confident in riding off-road. Although the bikes were small it was quite easy but real adventure bikes come with a lot of mass to be thrown around. Lucky for me, BMW had their GS experience planned out for the media and I got a chance to be a part of it. Here, BMW has their smallest bike which is the G 310 GS while they even had the BMW R 1250 GSA! The show stopper, however, was the latest BMW F 850 GSA. But out of all the options, I picked the F 750 GS as I knew how the bike behaves.
To start off, we got some classroom sessions with Shahnawaz and Ajit while they explained to us what to do when you fall off a motorcycle. As these were big bikes and the setup around was pure off-road, the risk of falling and hurting ourselves was high. We were shown the techniques on how to stand and ride on the motorcycle while the first training was all about control of the motorcycle from the lower half of our bodies. Lock the legs and hold the tank with the knees while the upper body stays loose. This, I knew from the training but it mattered a lot more with the big bikes.
We got riding and as I had picked the F 750 GS, the seat height and dynamics were very likeable and comfortable. Also, it had off-road spec tyres which made it a little easier for me to get around the rough patches. The first drill was to keep riding and understand the area while we put one leg on the seat and eventually have both legs up. This was to make us realise that if we try to control the bike with the upper body, it is very difficult and tiring as well. The second drill was braking and it continued as we got along with the motorcycle. This time we had to keep a good pace, keep a check on the brakes while using only the front and have good throttle control too.
A lot of people fell as one of the sections was very bad and getting through it was not easy but by the end of it, there was a turn which made it even more challenging. I had a fall too, post which I did use the technique of taking a breather first and then going for the lift. The technique was to keep the back facing the motorcycle and then pick it up. Here, as the back stays straight, lifting over 200 kgs doesn't feel too bad, pun intended! After this drill, we took some rest as the day got hot and everyone was sweating with the big bikes. During the rest period, we had another classroom session on how to turn the bike around by weighing-in the foot pegs.
The next training was like a Slalom test where all the cones were put in a line and we had to ride from one end to another, standing up. Although everyone got along pretty well with the bikes, taking a U-turn was still a task. A slalom drill has a set of cones and we have to move through it like a snake. A few of us got through without falling but weighing the body from one foot peg to another and turning the handle in the opposite direction at the same time became quite challenging. The only way to get through safely was by shifting the vision from one cone to another right before we reach the first one.
Riding off-road? Your vision matters a lot - you go where you look and that takes practise
Completing the Slalom became easy as we got to know how to keep the vision right and then we kept switching the body according to the turn. But by the end of it got worse as we had to take a U-turn without putting our legs down. This brought us to our next drill, taking circles within the set of cones. The same technique of vision and body position would be applied but this time we had to lock the handlebar completely left as we did those circles. I was still riding the F 750 GS while people switched between the 1250 and the 850. A few smart ones hopped onto the 310 to have some fun.
After this drill happened, we had a lunch break and I noticed that the 1250 has such good weight distribution and that along with the boxer engine you get some space to lock your knees. People riding the 1250 did the circles like a cake walk but as you are continuously riding in circles you do feel some dizziness. It was my turn on the 750 and I nailed it in the first go but as I completed 4 rounds I had to stop. As soon as I put my foot down I just tipped off a little to the right, almost had a fall but managed to save it. While everyone was completing this drill, I got a chance to experience the F 850 GSA and I just rode it around for some time. It just felt like the 750 but with a very huge tank and a heavier front end.
We had last two drills after this, a small hill climb with stalling the bike and how to get out of it. Everyone got in a line and started riding on a small slope one by one. As soon as we reached the top of the slope ends we had to kill the engine, get the bike down backwards and start again. This is a situation which occurs when we don't throttle much and the clutch isn't engaged properly. In this drill, we had to walk the bike back with the help of gravity and give it momentum just by using the clutch. For sure these big bikes have a brilliant engine and this showed how strong the clutch is. Alongside that, we now knew what to do if we stalled a big bike going up the slope.
The last drill was rut riding, in which the only thing that mattered was the vision. This time I hopped onto the mighty BMW R 1250 GSA. Fully loaded mammoth of a machine to be ridden in a not so deep but an unsettling rut. Few guys from the other media did fall riding through and when it was my turn I was quite scared. As soon as I started, Shahnawaz kept saying - "constant throttle", while straight ahead of the finish point a cone was placed to lock our vision. Right next to the cone was Ajit our second trainer for the day who kept saying - "focus on the cone". I had my eyes locked to that cone and got through the rut without any issues at all.
I knew my front was tilted left all throughout but the bike made it through. I did this drill again on the BMW G 310 GS and it was quite easy once you knew what to do. In the end, we had a bonus drill of emergency braking and as I was riding the G 310 GS, I had to first turn off the ABS and then get riding. In off-road too, the front handles all the braking and the turns while the rear keeps things in motion. We got the emergency braking drill done and by managing the weight on the foot pegs and pushing the body front and back, braking can be achieved without a fall. All in all, I could say that the big bikes speaking of adventure are very capable of doing so. But it is the rider that can take such a bike to places where it is difficult to even walk.