I guess the Iron Butt Association (or IBA) doesn’t need a big introduction? Their most talked-about long-distance rally is the Iron Butt Rally in the States (11 days long!) but also elsewhere rallies are being organized regularly since you can find IBA’s in South Africa, India, Brazil and Australia and Germany. And it’s the latter who organized the Magic 12 Belgium Rally on a Saturday this September.
The format of a Magic 12 Rally: collect as many points as possible in a maximum of 12 hours by visiting predefined locations. The Germans wanted to do something exotic and decided to do a rally in Belgium. Even as an IBA rookie I thought: home match! On top of that BMW lent me a 1250 RT (my opinion about it at the bottom of this article), so 12 hours of riding shouldn’t be a big issue.
Five days before the start, each participant received a file with all locations (77 in total) and the rallybook. In addition to some explanation about the rally, the rallybook contained more information about the locations.
It was impossible to visit all 77 locations in 12 hours, so you had to plan a route. A route that got you a high score preferably.
Every location had a certain amount of points (from 190 to 3,450 points) and a photo assignment. Because of course you had to prove that you had actually been on the claimed locations.
Usually the photo assignment was something like: take a picture of this building or that view, but there were also some special assignments. For example, to claim the 3,450 points location, you had to walk to a statue and take a photo. A 3.4 km walk to be precise!
Also an obligatory element in every picture: the rally flag (which you could print at home) with your starting number (which you only got the evening before the start).
In addition to the points per location, you could score extra points by collecting combos. A number of locations where grouped thematically, for example Statues, Beer and Borders. The more locations of a combo you visited, the higher your extra score.
Feeling a bit stressed when you hear you should plot a route with all that info? Grab a stress ball, ‘cause there’s more! Three days before departure we received the “minimum requirements” in our mailbox: six groups of 24 locations in total. Per group you had to visit at least one location of your choice. Again there was a theme: Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels, Dutch-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking. Skipping one group would result in 5,000 penalty points. If you missed two, you were disqualified, or DNF (did not finish) in IBA jargon.
With all that info, I could start setting up a route. The Street Art combo drew my attention: this combo had the most locations but also the highest score. If I did all ten locations, I’d receive a bonus of 12,000 points.
So I loaded the locations into MyRouteApp: visiting all ten street art locations in 12 hours wouldn’t be a problem. Disadvantage: the locations of the German-speaking minimum requirements group seemed too far away. Was I going to take 5,000 penalty points and not visit a German-speaking location, or would I skip a few street art locations? The latter didn’t seem too smart: visiting eight street art locations would result in a bonus of 6,000 points. That’s a big difference with the 12,000 points for the ten locations. So I decided to go all out for the Street Art combo, and combine it with a series of other locations that were close to my route.
It wasn’t easy to make a good estimation on how many places I could visit in 12 hours. Because I would probably bump into a traffic jam or roadworks along the way. Plus the photo assignment also would consume some time.
Eventually I created a 710 km long route consisting of 30 locations. According to MyRouteApp, I would need 11,5 hours to ride it. So I knew it would be impossible to visit all locations in 12 hours, but I had made a route with “non-skippable locations” and added some “skippables” too. That way I could decide on the road where and when I needed to catch up to my plan. For those interested: this was the sheet I created to help me navigating.
And then it was time to start the engines. All participants could leave wherever and whenever they wanted, it just had to be between 5 and 7 o’clock in the morning. You had to finish within 12 hours after your departure, and the finish location was the same for everyone, somewhere in Mol.
To start the rally you first had to fuel up. The fuel receipt served as your proof of start, and the time mentioned on it was your starting time. Mine: 5:09 am. So I had to make sure I finished before 5:09 pm. By the way, you should also know that for every minute you arrived too late, you got 200 penalty points. And one hour late = DNF. Stress!
I chose Waterschei as my starting location, close to home and also near a street art location. I had two GPS devices: the Navigator 6 on the RT and my own TomTom. Just to be sure, since I’m familiar with the TomTom, but hardly with the Navigator (a Garmin in BMW disguise).
Upon reaching the first street art location – a mural by Smates in Waterschei – both GPS devices informed that I would arrive after 5:09 pm. Not an ideal start. So I immediately skipped the two next locations.
Via the Vlooyberg Tower in Tielt-Winge (assignment: take a photo and count the number of stairs) I headed for Brussels for two locations (empty streets at 6:30 am!), then to the Strépy-Thieu boat lift, and via Arne Quinze’s Passenger in Mons to David Walker’s sleeping woman in Roeselare.
By the time I was in Roeselare, I had skipped four more locations because I needed to gain time. Brussels was still asleep, but in Mons there were road works on the motorway while in Roeselare a car rally was the cause of an unclear detour.
But the worst was yet to come. Roa’s stacked rodents in Ostend were an easy catch but the second street art location in Ostend was a different story. A crucial roundabout on the ring was closed-off, so I couldn’t quickly get to the other side of the harbor. On top of that: total chaos in the surrounding streets. For a second I thought about skipping the location, but that would cost me 4,280 points (because one street art location and a lot of combo points less). So I took a moment to study the GPS. By taking a wider detour, I should get there without wasting time in the city’s traffic jams.
That turned out to be a good plan, I lost almost no time. So I eventually came across Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who created this work in 2017 under the moniker Buck.Zenith:
After that, everything went surprisingly smooth, and I was able to visit all planned locations. Ghent’s graffiti street, ghost village Doel, four locations in Antwerp, De Klot in Wuustwezel, via Baarle-Hertog to the Museum of the Playing Card in Gymnasticswood (aka Turnhout) and then towards the finish which I reached at exactly 5 pm. Well timed. I visited 23 of the 30 planned locations. Here you can view the route that I rode (in red) and the route that I had planned (in blue).
So how did I do?
Upon finishing, my time of arrival was noted. I was the third to finish. Three IBA guys were responsible for counting everyone’s score. It turned out that I made two mistakes: I had submitted one location under the wrong code, and of a second I had no photographic evidence (“buy a trappist beer for the rally master and bring the receipt”). 1,670 points down the drain.
14,160 points for the visited locations
12,000 points for the Street Art Combo (all 10 locations!)
500 points for the Museum Combo (3 locations)
500 points for the Borders Combo (3 locations)
-5.000 penalty points (no German-speaking minimum requirement locations)
= 22.160 points
I had no idea if that was a decent score. We should see about that later that evening. In the meantime the other rally riders arrived one by one. Many German participants of course, but also a few Belgian and Dutch guys (including Paul, whom I knew from the Dutch 1000 last year), two Norwegians and a Swede.
After the joint dinner it was finally time for the award ceremony. In total there were 40 registrations, of whom 26 made it to the finish. Some had not even started, others came in too late, engine trouble forced one guy to give up.
The 26th place was for one of the Norwegians, who collected 4,760 points. To my own surprise, my 22,160 points were enough for the sixth place and I also finished as best rookie. The top 3 was a close call: a Dutchman on 3 with 24,380 points, a Swede on 2 with 24,680 points and in the end the Germans win: Herr Weber on 1 with 24,870 points.
So even for me the victory didn’t seem too far off. Although you might have to plan your route a little more careful than I did, for example by checking the impact of route adjustments on your score. Stuff I didn’t do.
Also very interesting: Herr Weber posted his winning route on Facebook the day after the rally. It turned out he only visited 15 locations. He had based his route on the complete Street Art combo, made sure to do the minimum requirements locations and added a few places with big scores. Very tactical. Well done sir.
See you next time?
Did I like this type of ride? Yes! The game element is cool, the organization was perfect, and the atmosphere among the participants afterwards was convivial. There are also multi-day IBA rallies, but I’m not sure that’s my cup of tea. But I’ll surely show up at one-day rallies if they’re in my area.
The BMW R 1250 RT in 8 points
Riding this rally with my own 800 GS wouldn’t be as comfy as with the R 1250 RT, so I’m very happy I could borrow one from BMW. Here’s what I thought about the bike:
Only after a few hundred meters with the 1250 RT I realized that I had completely forgotten what a wonderful motorcycle the RT is. In 2015 I tested the 1200 RT and I liked its comfort a lot. Since the new engine is (more or less) the only novelty of the 1250, my opinion about its comfort remains unchanged: this is an excellent tour bike. Incredibly comfortable, with a good sitting position, topping it off with a good fairing and an efficient, electrically adjustable windshield.
On the rally day I did a total of 750 km in 13 hours (including the rides to the starting place and from the finish back home). Did that distance hurt? Actually, no. Wind and rain didn’t bother me on the RT, while my back and butt had nothing to complain about. Of course, 13 hours on a bike is always a lot, but it really wasn’t that tiring.
So I remain a fan of the RT’s comfort, but its looks still don’t do it for me. Okay, this type of touring bike is always more about comfort rather than aesthetics, so maybe I should cut the RT a little slack. Luckily the red paint made it look sportier and younger than the midlife crisis bike for which it’s usually seen. And you can’t bitch about the finish either: very well taken care of.
Comfort and looks didn’t change, but the engine did. The new 1250 twin is equipped with ShiftCam technology, which I already explained in my R 1250 R review, so I’m not going to redo that here.
In short, the boxer became stronger and smoother, especially in low revs. I found the 1200 RT (125 Nm at 6,500 rpm and 125 hp) a bit tame in the bottom range, but with the 1250 that feeling is a thing of the past (143 Nm at 6,250 rpm and 136 hp). Go go go!
That go go go gets even better with the optional quickshifter. As I already wrote in the 1250 R review, the gearbox has improved slightly compared to the 1200 generation (but it’s still a bit rough) and the quickshifter has become more widely applicable. I found the quickshifter on this RT even better than on the 1250 R. Perhaps because the R only had a few km’s on the counter while this RT was well over 15,000 km.
Thanks to its comfort, the RT seems an ideal commuter bike, but keep its size in mind. This broad beaked Beemer is 98.5 cm wide at the mirrors’ height. With the side cases attached the RT grows to 99 cm.
A 1250 GS for example isn’t that much narrower (less than 5 cm), but the location of the RT’s mirrors makes lane-splitting quite a challenge. They are approximately at the height of car mirrors, while on a GS the handlebars are the widest point and they’re placed higher than most car mirrors.
Speaking of mirrors, next to their placement there’s another reason why I’m not a fan of the RT’s mirrors: they don’t offer a very good view. Hopefully the next RT generation does better.
The display could also use a big make-over. We still have to do with the same analogue meters that have been around for so many years, with the digital display that looks like a piece of antique if you put the display of the new GS next to it.
8. Riding behaviour
This RT was equipped with Dynamic ESA which automatically adjusts the suspension to the road conditions and loading. You can choose between the Road and Dynamic setting, and you can also set the spring preload to automatic, minimum or maximum. All that technology makes it very easy to switch from a very comfy ride to a hard and rigid cornering machine.
I personally preferred the Dynamic setting (I found the Road setting too wiggly), but the maximum spring preload was just too much: rock hard. Automatic did the job for me.
With a curb weight of 279 kg, pushing the RT out of the garage isn’t child’s play. Once you’re riding it however, it feels a lot lighter than you’d expect. In slow maneuvers of course you’ll notice you’re balancing a lot of weight but faster cornering happens very smoothly. Once you reach your lean angle, it’s striking how tight and stable the RT behaves in no matter what corner. Quite a surprise for such a big chunk of bike.
If I would use a bit of common sense, I would get rid of my 800 G and do all the commuting that I do with a 1250 RT. Not that I have the money to buy one. And it’s also a bit too wide to squeeze easily through busy city traffic. Although I’d be more than happy to have to tolerate that, because a little later you can rush through a downpour with no F’s given. The new RT has plenty of comfort, a clearly stronger engine than its predecessor, and it rides surprisingly fun despite its size and weight. Too bad that the display and the mirrors didn’t get an update, luckily the gearbox and the quickshifter did. The biggest flaws of the 1200 RT were tackled first, on to the rest. In the meantime: is there someone reading this who’d like to sponsor a Team Throttle RT?
I really must do another rally this one looked really interesting.
I thought about hiring a RT on my recent trip but they’ve never really interested me, instead I hired the K1600GT which I loved.