Improving my off-road skills with BMW and Grondpadman

Adventure bikes are everywhere, however only a few go off-road. The manufacturers for their part, would of course like to see more adventure bike riders exploring the off-road capabilities of their motorcycle (“unbelievable what my bike can do!”). So more and more manufacturers are starting collaborations with local off-road instructors.

Since this year BMW has two off-road training partners in Belgium: Grondpadman and Backtrail. When BMW invited me to an introductory day to discover their off-road training facilities and the off-road qualities of their motorbikes, I immediately said yes.

Because riding off-road with a big GS isn’t something I’m allowed to do every day. I decided to go to the event at Grondpadman, since I already knew Backtrail (and approved their course, after having followed an advanced training in the Ardennes last year). I’m the guy wearing the green jacket and white helmet by the way.

The Grondpadman team consists of Piet Lievens (who’s authorised to put a BMW Certified Offroad Instructor badge on his jacket for quite some years now), instructor Bart and sidekick Annelise. On their training grounds, Enduropark Mandes in Ingelmunster (Belgium), they offer a basic and an advanced off-road training and training for women only. You can participate with your own GS, but you can also rent one (from the 310 to the 1250). You’re not allowed to ride Continue reading

Review: BMW R 1250 R

Can you imagine a BMW line-up without boxer engines? The emblematic image of the two bulging cylinders is inextricably linked to the brand. So probably BMW won’t bury their flat-twin any time soon. In any case, they continue developing it. Because the competition doesn’t stand still either of course.

One hundred years after the birth of the very first BMW boxer engine, the M2B15, BMW adds another chapter to its boxer book with the introduction of the brand-new 1250 two-cylinder. The new engine is available in four flavors: GS, RT, RS and R. With the latter you experience the flat-twin in its purest form.

All aboard the VVT train

The last 1200 boxer engine dated from 2013. With the development of the new 1250, BMW focused first and foremost on more muscle in low rpms. The engine displacement increased from 1,170 to 1,254 cc, the horse stable was expanded from 125 to 136 stallions, and the peak torque climbed from 125 Nm (at 6,500 rpm) to 143 Nm (at 6,250 rpm).

Next to those boosted figures, BMW makes its debut with the ShiftCam technology, also referred to as variable valve timing. While some brands have already been using this technique for years, the Bayern Boys are only now boarding the VVT train. The Euro5 standard seems to Continue reading

BMW Motorrad Dealer Clash 2019

After the first Dealer Clash last year, the Belgian en Luxembourg dealerships again had a chance to show their custom building skills during the BMW Motorrad Dealer Clash 2019.

The contest’s concept changed a bit: next to the BMW R nineT Pure, also the R nineT Urban G/S, Racer and Scrambler were allowed as donor bikes for a custom creation. Moreover – and in contrast to the 2018 edition – the result had to be street legal.

The 18 participating dealerships are presenting their custom bikes in the BMW Brand Store in Brussels this week. Earlier today a professional jury picked their top 3:

1. R90 Shades Of Grey by Motorsport Mabbe:

2. Back To Basics by Louyet Motor:

3. Two In One by Ginion Motorbikes:

If you’d like to check out the 18 bikes in the flesh in the BMW Brand Store, you have until March 18th (Waterloolaan 23, 1000 Brussels, open from Monday till Saturday, 10.00-18.30, free admission).

After the expo the bikes will go back to the dealerships where they’ll be exhibited during the opening weekend of March 23rd and 24th.

For more pics and a look at the realization of the bikes, check the Dealer Clash site.

Review: BMW F 850 GS versus Triumph Tiger 800 XCa

This is Team Throttle’s very first comparison test and we couldn’t have picked a more appropriate duo than the Triumph Tiger 800 XCa and the BMW F 850 GS. Because both Jean and Jan F have a past with the predecessors of these two newcomers.

In 2015 Jan F bought a Tiger 800 XCa, which now has 37,000 km. The bike did an all-road trip to the Alps, a muddy weekend in the Ardennes and a week in the Sierra Nevada.

In 2016 Jean traded his BMW F 650 GS for a second-hand 800 GS. He added about 60,000 km to the odometer, during – amongst others, of course – that same dirty Ardennes weekend and more recently during Endurofun’s Midsummer Ride.

It’s safe to say that Jan and Jean are hands-on experts. So below you can not only read a comparison between the British and the German bike, we also looked at the progress that this duo makes on their predecessors.

Pain points

Jean: “BMW could certainly make progress. Don’t get me wrong. I like my 800 GS – I find it an excellent all-rounder – but it has some points that can be improved:

– Brakes: On uneven surfaces such as cobblestones they often don’t know whether they should bite or let the ABS do its thing.
– Suspension: Too soft overall. Especially hard braking leads to dramatic front-diving.
– Sound: Not exciting at all.
– Power: Okay-ish but you feel that it’s not a recently developed engine.
– Throttle response: Slight on-off effect. Combined with the suspension it results in a rather jumpy character.”

Jan: “The splendid engine, perfect gearbox and great WP suspension make my Tiger a wonderful bike. Only the wind protection has been annoying me for three years. Turbulence galore! An aftermarket solution helped a bit, but there’s still room for improvement. The brakes can also be enhanced, they are rather spongy. Some complained that in first gear the Tiger dares to stall, especially offroad. Isn’t it, Jean?

To discover if these pain points were gone, we took both new models on a trip to Luxembourg. There we were treated to a wide range of road and weather conditions. Sun and rain, boring highway and great curves. No offroad unfortunately, because one of the manufacturers said “nein”.

BMW gave us an almost full-option 850 GS, while from Triumph we got an XCa in standard fit.

Jan: “For those who are not familiar with the Tiger 800 range: it’s divided into two lines, the street-oriented XR models and the offroad oriented XC models. Each line has a number of equipment levels, of which the XCa has the highest (and the most expensive) level. In other words: with the XCa, the option list becomes pointless.”

Traffic light sprints

Jean: “While at first sight the Tiger barely changed, BMW clearly unveiled a completely new model. The design leaves no doubt about that.”

Jan: “But let’s focus on the engine first. The 850 GS has a brand new 853 cc two-cylinder engine. With 95 hp it has ten ponies more than the 800 GS. There’s also more torque: 92 Nm at 6.250 rpm. An increase of nine compared to its predecessor, but more importantly: the Tiger 800 peaks later and less high: 79 Nm at 8.050 rpm.”

Jean: “That difference doesn’t go unnoticed. The 850 GS is a lot snappier than the 800 GS. More vivid in low revs, stronger in the middle zone and more power in the higher rev range. As a result, it feels al lot less small GS than the 800. The Tiger too seems less energetic in comparison.”

Jan: “You probably need thorough Tiger knowledge to notice it, but the Tiger 800 has a new windshield, new lights, a new dashboard and control buttons, new mirrors and a new sound. As a result, to me the new Tiger seemed like a totally different bike than my own Tiger: if you ride it, everything you see and hear is different.”

Jean: “The engine also got an update. Triumph claims that it has a more responsive power delivery. Are they telling the truth, Jan?” Continue reading

Review: BMW R 1200 GS Rallye

Since many years the BMW R 1200 GS is a best-seller in a lot of a markets. But you’ll have to admit it doesn’t score much eye candy points. So what did the Germans do to make the 1200 GS such a success? Time to find out, because – to the surprise of the peeps at BMW HQ – I had never ridden this chart-buster.

The GS story started in 1980 with the R 80 G/S. More than 35 years of development and improvement later I have a date with the 2017 BMW R 1200 GS. Compared to the 2016 model, there are no huge changes. A minor Euro4 update of the boxer engine, minimal stylistic modifications, some new electronics. The biggest news: there are two versions of the GS. The Exclusive version for those who fancy a classy appearance, the Rallye version for those with off-road dreams. I rode the Rallye for a week.

A beast with an image (problem)

The BMW R 1200 GS Rallye stands out with its blue paint job. If you ask me it’s one of the best-looking color schemes in 1200 GS history. Lupin blue metallic it’s called. The Rallye version underlines the off-road character of this GS with cross-spoke wheels, large Adventure footpegs without rubber inserts, a flat Rallye seat, a stainless steel radiator guard, a low windshield and no centerstand. Just add a decent set of allroad tires, a skid plate and engine protection bars and you’re good to go on that all-road adventure.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get BMW’s permission to test the GS off-road. Too bad. On the other hand: only a minority of all GS’s sold will ever leave the paved roads. So chances are that if you read this you’ll never even plan to ride off-road.

My first motorcycle was a BMW F 650 GS and when I just started riding that motorbike, I couldn’t imagine ever riding a 1200 GS. Such a big and heavy looking bike. How can you master such a behemoth? Who would even consider riding that thing off-road?! And then there’s Continue reading

Review: BMW R nineT

The sexiest bike of the entire BMW Motorrad range is the BMW R nineT. That’s my conclusion after testing one for a week. Praising words from (mostly non-motorcycling) colleagues, a big thumbs up from a car driver at a traffic light, a spontaneous chat at the gas station. I got more feedback with the R nineT than with any test bike I ever rode.

The R nineT was launched in 2014 on the occasion of 90th anniversary of BMW Motorrad. So it comes as no surprise the nineT has classic looks. Though not as classic as, say, a Triumph Bonneville T100 Black. The Beemer has a modern twist to it and tries to charm café racer and custom fans with its extensive personalization possibilities.

Back to the basics

The essence of riding is what the R9T is all about. Everything that’s not essential went overboard. No frills. While other BMW models are crammed with traction control, mappings, tire pressure control, electronically adjustable suspension and other techno shizzle, the nineT only got a non-switchable ABS. On the other hand it has a stylish design, finished with sweet details such as the BMW logo in the headlight or the embossed nineT logo on the air intake.

The 1,170 cc boxer comes from the previous R 1200 generation, and is the last of the Beemers with this type of engine. It’s not the newest of the newest but has proven its qualities with a long track record. Air-cooled, in contrast to the liquid-cooled flat twins that BMW currently assembles. The gears are a little shorter than on the previous RT and GS, for a more lively riding behavior.

A flat twin also means you’ll experience Continue reading

Review: BMW R 1200 RT

Of all current BMW motorcycles, the R 1200 RT probably has the most “midlife crisis” reputation. When I see it in the showroom, I soon imagine a settled fifty-year-old in the saddle, ready for a tour with the missus on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But despite that reputation, the 1200 RT does extremely well in sales charts, and if you’re looking for a touring bike, this boxer so often seems the logical go-to answer. Is its stuffy image only a first impression? Could it change my mind in a week?

A trip to Austria, together with colleague Luc on his Triumph Tiger Sport, would be the ideal opportunity for an extensive RT test. 2200 km should be enough to form an opinion.

Personally I find the BMW R 1200 RT’s look quite a turn off. With its gigantic front you’d almost offer it a gym membership. The 17” front wheel even seems disproportionate. Fortunately the two round LED daytime running lights are pretty. A nice (but optional) wink to its four-wheeled family.

The finishing is also excellent. Meticulously and with an eye for detail. The dashboard is clear and informative. Two round analog meters (speed and rpm) with in between a beautiful TFT color display that informs you about autonomy, mileage, temperature and so on. Above the display there’s a bar with warning lights, and above that a mount for an (optional) GPS. Which is not very readable in direct sunlight. Some additional shielding from the sun wouldn’t be a bad idea for the next RT. Also: too bad the GPS can’t be locked so you have to take it with you every time you have to make a sanitary stop or enter a gas station shop.

You can easily control many settings from the handlebar. Most of them with your left thumb: scrolling through the extensive menu is peanuts with the multi-controller ring. Also handy: you can assign menu items as favorites. After selecting these you can go directly to, for example, the settings of heated grips or the GPS, instead of having to dive into the menu.

Broad beaked Beemer

I’ll admit it: I didn’t want to return the BMW R 1200 RT after my week’s test. What a splendid bike for endless days in the saddle. The windshield is Continue reading