Adventurous Canadian motorcyclists have known for many years the joys of hurtling through Western Canada mountain ranges on endless ribbons of twisty asphalt. Now, a team of talented amateur riders from around the world will get a taste of life off the beaten path.
The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy, the North America 2014 edition, kicks off eight days of enduro and skills competition on Sept. 6. It's not a race, but an enticing blend of adventure riding, personal skill tests and team challenges.
It's only the fourth time this event has been held, and the first time in the northern hemisphere. The 2008 inaugural event was held in Tunisia, followed by southern Africa in 2010 and Chile and Argentina in 2012.
"It's a very popular event," says Norm Wells, Director of BMW Motorrad Canada, who's clearly tickled to showcase our country. "It's pretty special."
The competitors will ride a fleet of identical 2014 BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles, specially prepared with such goodies as crash bars, because this is no Sunday cruise. More than two-thirds of the 2,000-kilometre route will be off-road on gravel, sand and in mud, and involve a series of "trial" challenges designed to test their riding and navigation skills, their ability to live in nature and their teamwork.
Wells says the riders are all amateurs, enthusiasts who won their spots through regional qualifying events. BMW is upgrading from the 800-cc machines used in previous competitions to the 1200-cc models, which crank out 125 horsepower. The R 1200 GS models come with water- and air-cooled two-cylinder flat twin boxer engines, and were chosen because BMW wants to highlight its off-road capabilities.
There will be a total of 48 riders in 16 teams representing 19 countries. In addition to team Canada, competitors will represent: Mexico, Korea, Germany, United States, Japan, Great Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Brazil, CEEU, Austria/Switzerland, South Africa, Latin America and Argentina. With the addition of 16 embedded journalists, support riders and BMW's own video crew, 92 motorcycles in total will be clawing their way through the Rockies and other western mountain ranges.
Bearing the Maple Leaf are Albertans Matt Wareing, 43, and Cory Hanson, 37, along with Patrice Glaude, 54, from Lery, Que., near Montreal. Canada placed sixth in Chile after one rider went down to an injury; Wells would like to see the Canadians do no worse than third this time.
Six Canadians were also chosen to be tour marshals, trained at the BMW factory in Germany, and Wells says they're "just over the moon" to be part of the fun.
The route is mostly secret, although Nelson/Kootenay region in southern B.C. is one stop. "We're excited these skilled international motorcyclists will be discovering this magical area of B.C.," says Dianna Ducs, of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, who was visited by route scouts last winter.
The punishing tour wraps up on Sept. 13 on a yet-undisclosed ranch about an hour west of
Calgary, says Wells, where riders return with enough tales to
entertain family members for years.
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