Bayerische Motoren Werke sells a lot of Gelände Sports. Just last year, BMW sold 51,000 units of the R 1200 GS and R 1250 GS models alone. In the United Kingdom, the two GS models were the biggest contributors to the two-wheeler sales chart, even beating a Honda PCX 125 scooter to the top! These are monumental numbers for a motorcycle that is as powerful as a car, weighs as much as a little boat and costs as much as a down payment on a house. You see, the big GSes are great motorcycles, but a huge chunk of the popularity they enjoy come from buyers who want in on the ADV lifestyle that comes with the GS. Dual-sport helmets, Bluetooth intercoms and tall riding boots are all the rage.
However, these big bikes can be intimidating to ride, which is where BMW’s training programme comes in. Called the GS Experience, it offers owners and enthusiasts an opportunity to experience the real capabilities of its bikes. The training session is divided into two levels – Level 1, which includes understanding of the correct rider position, steering off-road, emergency braking and riding on inclines; and Level 2, which consists of a more intensive off-road training, sharp downhill braking and riding across wide slopes. We were invited by BMW to the outskirts of Pune for Level 1 and I was thrilled, as this was the first time that I was going to be riding a big ADV in its habitat.
The R 1250 GS is a giant, but very easy to ride.
Time for adventure
Just as I’d hoped, the first thing I saw as I walked into the venue were the line-up of motorcycles ready for the taking. BMW had its entire GS range, including the BMW G 310 GS, BMW F 750 GS, BMW F 850 GS, BMW R 1250 GS present there and I couldn’t help but stop and stare. Riding an entire range of motorcycles back-to-back is a rare occurrence, even in a motorcycle journalist’s life, and I was taking it all in. We quickly got changed and headed to learn a rather interesting first lesson from our instructor Shahnawaz Karim. “You are going to fall off your bike today, which is why I must first teach you the correct way to do it”. Yes, he then deliberately fell off the R 1250 GS while showing us how we must let go of the bike. Shahnawaz then proceeded to show us the correct way to lift a motorcycle, and what better bike than the heaviest one there! This quickly got everyone’s enthusiasm up because walking the talk is one of the most motivating things an instructor can do.
Only Enduro Pro
“Today, we will be riding only in Enduro Pro or Enduro mode” announced Shahnawaz as we walked towards the motorcycles. These are the GS’ most hardcore riding modes, where the intervention from the computers would be at the lowest. We were going to be taming the beasts. Our first objective was to ride over loose soil as slowly as we could, and while it may sound easy, let me tell you that there was a point where four motorcycles were on their sides at the same time. Not being the wisest, I chose to start off on a middleweight – the F 850 GS – instead of the 310 GS. Unfamiliar loose soil, unfamiliar motorcycle and unfamiliar riding style threw me to my side three times in the first 25min!
Feeling a little dispirited, I shifted to the 310 GS for the next couple of exercises, where we learnt the correct riding position and taking on the slalom. However, mid-way through the slalom, I began to reconsider chickening out, and thought I may as well give it my all and get back on the bigger models. I went straight for the gargantuan R 1250 GS and it blew me away with how shockingly well balanced and easy to ride it was. On the 1250, I mastered the slalom, figure of eight and full steering lock circle courses and even began enjoying them.
The G 310 GS was a great motorcycle to warm-up on.
We then broke for lunch and, with time to collect my thoughts, I realised that the GS Experience was more than just riding expensive ADV bikes in the dirt. The setup had a small display of the brand’s riding gear, a foosball table and even a dart board. Oh and lets not even talk about the food and drinks, they were delicious! After lunch, we spent an hour comfortably lazing around in an air-conditioned room in the middle of nowhere. Clearly, the riding is only part of the show, and the luxury very much part of the experience as well.
Plenty of entertainment at the GS Experience.
Shahnawaz though, was on a mission and he wanted us to take back as much as we could. So, we got back on the motorcycles for one of our final lessons –riding on inclines. Because I’m a nice guy, I decided to selflessly let go of one of the R 1250 GSes and hop onto the only model I hadn’t ridden, the F 750 GS. This was a good decision because the 750 proved to be the GS that fit me the best, not only in terms of size but also capability. Taking on inclines was a lot of fun, especially in loose soil. And just like we learnt at the start by dropping and picking up a bike, we were taught how to undo a failed incline attempt as well. Where Shahnawaz asked us to stop mid-way and slowly bring down the motorcycle without losing control!
To conclude, the GS Experience is a great way to learn ADV riding and get a taste of the budding lifestyle around it. But you don’t have to take my word for it, as you can experience this too. BMW is conducting the GS Experience across multiple cities in India, free of cost! Even better news is that this isn’t just for existing BMW owners and anyone who owns a ‘superbike’ can sign up. The company’s website has all the information, and if you qualify to give this school a try, I suggest you head there in a hurry to sign up.