May 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #58856
I was in my workshop in West Broke Chain, when that noise sounded from my grease-stained laptop. What? I’m invited to the 2010 R1200GS Press Launch in Yosemite! I threw a blanket over the old R69S project, and considered the implications of this momentous news: riding the new 4 cam machine with knobbies in the mountains, on the GS’s 30th birthday. I could wheelie at will, and nobody would stop me. I could slide the beast around! It wasn’t my bike! I threw my gear together and looked at topo maps while emptying two dark German long necks. The mood improved by the minute.
Cut to the chase, the trek down to Yosemite is 6 hours. Arriving in cold rain and fog, I knew I didn’t have enough warm gear. Wet GS’s were strewn around the hotel grounds. There was that moist bone-deep chill that’s like when you split your wetsuit down the back in 40º water, trying to catch the last set of the day, and you’re a half mile out. Time for anti-freeze.
I check in, dump my gear, and the bar’s open! Mill about with L.A.-based moto guys with fat paychecks and colorful bylines. Chat with Dirt Bike editor Jimmy Lewis, a Paris-Dakar finisher, David Edwards and Tim Carrithers; the room swam with stories of wadding bikes I’ve never seen in person. I was sipping slowly, nursing a buzz that wouldn’t put me to sleep at the tech meeting, and snatching moving hors d’oeuvres as trays floated around the room. Not bad so far; not by a thousand-yard long shot. Into the tech meeting, where engineers fill our heads with all the new GS specs. Namely an additional cam in each head, making twin cams per cylinder (borrowed directly from the carbon fiber-bristling HP2 Sport), ESA push button suspension adjustments, sodium-filled exhaust valves, and the many small upgrades that appear on new models.
Dinner call! Plank-roasted salmon and non-stop wine in your choice of color. Or cocktails. Or both. All the BMW staff ride, and ride hard! Even the corporate honchos Pieter De Waal, Todd Andersen and Roy Oliemuller can lay down tire marks worthy of envy. At BMW, if you can’t walk the walk, you have to work in the car side! Long day, so back to the Snowflake Suite because dawn comes dark and fast in the mountains. Riders mention they didn’t expect this weather in May. Mea culpa..
Dawn-thirty we’re on the beasts, flipping on the heated grips. Jumping ahead here to midway in the ride: we’d been riding for hours already, street and dirt, were wet like beached seaweed, and the conditions were perfect for a heated SUV. 5,000 feet, and the ride was unfolding like frozen pie crust. At 35º, the dashboard flashes a warning, and a snowflake icon appears, as if to remind you why you can no longer feel your iced arse on the otherwise plush seat. It was snowing hard; I couldn’t see unless I raised my opaquely iced face shield, taking pellet gun ice pricks full in the face. The road’s covered with thick wet slush, but the street knobs bite hard. You couldn’t feel the heated grips unless you turned them off, and within a minute your paws went numb. A famous rider is on his side at the summit, doing an about face when the cops stopped traffic; a tourist went over the brink in his rental car. We’re made to go back, all the way, and take another route. I’m not fond of the authorities.
Now it’s 31º and darker. Stopping in Yosemite Village, 30 of us are shoulder-to-shoulder under a pop-up canopy. A half pint of ice water pours down my stiff-as-a-pencil neck from the canvas roof. I wanted to scream Druid expletives, but this was a BMW affair, so one girds his limping loins and carries on, like Lawrence of Arabia in a Turkish prison. Some riders were taking off, so in a frozen flash I was off and running too, wanting only a hot shower. There were about 7 of us on this waste-no-time errand to get back to body temperature. Poppies are popping all over Cal, but not at these elevations. The only thing popping here is the snow beneath the knobs.
The tires were moving around obscenely on the freezing snot and my heart banged into my Adam’s apple every time the rear stepped out a scosh. Good thing this isn’t MY twenty K bike! Down the valley we slid. I longed for a rusted Yugo with a heater. You keep riding, trying to stay loose when your neck feels like fresh stew meat. We lose elevation like comatose geese, and it warms up quickly, gaining ten degrees in as many miles. The glaciers are melting! The snowflake icon is gone, replaced by hard rain reality.
A few miles of this and the lead bike touches tire to paint in a sweeper and is down, GS doing rapid pirouettes on its side. A few more miles, then more dirt on a rutted, muddy, hole-infested road. The rider in front was standing shin deep in terra cotta water, fighting his bike back upright as his tires slipped sideways. I rode past, honking in encouragement. A serious uphill turn suddenly looms with menace, presenting thick bare roots and rocks galore and brick red muck at an off-camber. Down goes the big guy in front of me. I waited until he was dragged away by the BMW spotters, and picked a line so far uphill my bar end scraped the pine bark. Arse over the rear wheel, sliding sideways a bit, on the 550# machine, and with a single dab I’m past and accelerating. Here comes a stream crossing; can’t see the bottom. No sweat. Many more miles of this and we hit pavement again. This is a brutally well-planted machine!
We took a steeply descending single-wide sheer terror trail that dropped via countless hairpin switchbacks to the Merced River, 1,000 feet below. Looked like an electrocuted snake on the map. If you went over, you wouldn’t stop till you hit bottom, but since you’d be dead anyway, you wouldn’t know it. Bet this bike would still be running, though. Nice thought form, standing on the pegs, as Mr. Paris/Dakar blasts past on the outside. That guy just completely shat on my ego. Here comes a beat-up 4X4, around a blind turn, stopped by the bikes in his (our) lane. Nowhere to go, so Jimmy Lewis slips past with inches to spare skirting the precipice. And so do we. Another frigid, attention-robbing 45 minutes of deluge and we’re almost back. What’s this? The road to the hotel is closed by the CHP because it’s snowing! So what? We’ve been to freaking Hudson’s Bay! What were we to do but find a bar, make a pile of wet gear and order Hot Toddies? An image I will carry to the grave is the BMW exec, wet boots and sox in hand, walking barefoot in the snow to the SUV they sent to collect us later. We were three more beers into the evening by the time the bus arrived with the ones who bailed way back in Yosemite. The only thing that stopped these big GS’s all day was the cops, because the all-terrain day had nothing for the mighty GS!May 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61949
Great bit of writing Adam, I will be getting my new 30th Anniversary GS soon. Sounds like it is going to be a great bike.
Your write up makes me long for a hot summer even more.
Just to make everyone crazy a pic of the 30th GS.
[IMG]http://www.bmwgs.cz/forum/attachments/r1200gs30letweb.jpg[/IMG]May 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61950
Fantastic! Thanks for sharing! Reading it made me dread the cold, even though it’s 90 degrees here. That is the first photo I’ve seen of the 30th anniversary bike. Oh my. :bowMay 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61951
Great read. That 30th edition is sure sharp.May 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61957
Doesn’t make me crazy. The white is nice, but I could do without the red saddle. Also, I’m still not used to the metal boomerang side panel fronts, preferring the earlier design. If that design is still part of the bike design when it comes time to replace my ’05 I understand the metal holds paint quite well. :winkMay 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61983
I have my new bike home and it is without a doubt the best motorcycle that I haver owned, that includes over 50 bikes in over 50 years of riding.
A few pictures.
Much better looking in person than in pictures, the bike that is…..
[IMG]http://deansbmw.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/2010-R1200-GS-30th-Anniversary/2010-30th-Anniversary-R1200-GS/873725147_fKTXy-L.jpg[/IMG]May 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm #61984
San Francisco Bay in the background, up on Skyline on its first ride.
950 miles home to the [B]MC B&B[/B] at last.
Tucked in safely at home.
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