Last Sunday and Monday, I was on BMW’s off-road skills course. It was wet.
Which was nice.
Wet meant slippery and there was a lot of crashing, from low-speed muppetry, to a proper 50mph off when practising acrobatics. I picked up my XChallenge often: only BMW would think that a 650 was a good starter bike.
Now, I had a great time overall, but I loathe that bike. When standing, the handlebars were too close for comfort, and as a novice, it has just the wrong power and weight. I tried an R1200GS around a circuit I had ridden on the XChallenge and it was much, much more pleasant. Comfortable and controllable while standing, planted and easy. I suppose it’s easier because it moves around less for those of us who are used to the road. Suddenly, I got the point. It wasn’t quite so much fun when it went wrong: that’s a big bike to pick up or drag out of the hedge uphill.
The course covered balance and turns, braking, descents with engine braking and brakes, hill recovery, momentum and plenty of trail riding. It was great fun riding with the front wheel locked to prove the point, but it didn’t stop me dumping it time and again with front wheel skids.
The most amusing bit was probably after following the instructor down a very steep, rutted and muddy track, engine off and using the clutch to control the bike against engine braking. I looked back from the bottom: the R1200GS was deep in the hedge and all the XChallenges were on their sides.
No video sadly: I would have wrecked the camera in those falls.
So I have ached all week, with sore hands. It was the best off-road course I can imagine, but I’d rather do it on a TT-R 250 or an R1200GS, preferably with a little more grip.