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Hard Core: Witnessing the 2020 BMW GS Trophy Qualification in India

Aditya Chatterjee  | Updated: October 29, 2019, 12:31 PM IST

Close your eyes, sit at a quiet place and then listen to your heart beat. You will primarily hear two different types of sounds, lub, and dub, beating at a normal pace. It's quite refreshing if you can do this for a longer duration. I experienced this recently, only the setting was a tad different. The location was an obstacle course in Goa and I was sitting on a not so quiet BMW F 850 GS Adventure whose twin cylinders were inspiring my heart to beat faster than normal. My brain was performing at its peak with multiple processes of trying to remember all the obstacles on the course, mistakes of the participants who went before me and then also the ride mode in which I am supposed to ride and the one that I am supposed to park in. I then looked at one of the marshals with a stopwatch asking me if I was ready. It was like a movie sequence in slow motion where you can hear the ticking seconds in between your heart beats.

I am not a big fan of working on the weekends unless it involves riding a motorcycle(s). And that's what I did by attending the BMW Motorrad International 2020 Qualifiers in Goa which saw the participation of close to 80 BMW GS motorcycle owners. The International GS Trophy that is held every two years, tests the true potential of the rider as well as the capability of the GS which is considered to be the ultimate adventure motorcycle. In the past years, the International GS Trophy has been conducted in Tunisia, South Africa, Patagonia, Canada, Thailand and Mongolia where participants from different countries participate in groups. The seventh edition of this grand race will be conducted in New Zealand from February 9-16, 2020.

On the day of arrival, GS owners along with us journalists were given a detailed briefing on the different obstacles as well as the criteria for the points system. The obstacles included - rock garden, wherein one had to make way through a series of rocks, parallel logs – wherein the rider had to go through two adjacently placed logs, staggered slalom, elephant turn – a beam, placed between two pillars, had to be lifted and rotated around the pivot while riding the motorcycle, figure of 8, riding on a log and hitting the target where a cone had to be knocked off using the rear tyre.
The next morning, after a quick walk the track session, we were all set to go.

The first rider set off giving us a brief idea of the tricky locations as well as the easier areas on the course. While he did have a good start, he came crashing down in the rock garden region, which made me sceptical as well. The next set of riders displayed a mix of confident riding as well as rookie mistakes. And then it was the turn of participant number 16 – that's me. I was focussing on two things - breathe properly and try and not drop the motorcycle as the latter would have exhausted me, affecting my confidence.

My first challenge was the rock garden. Here the key was to not look at the immediate obstacle but to focus on the final exit and find a way that leads there. After having crossed half of the section, my GS stalled, forcing me to dab my feet, this cost me a point. The next was to ride into a tight section and spin the bike with the left foot as a pivot. This was followed by parallel logs, riding through a trail that had tree branches dangling from the top, doing multiple circles in the manner of drawing an 8 to test balancing skill, ride on the log, encounter a staggered slalom wherein the cones were placed at tight spots forcing the rider to lock the handle and go super light on the throttle before finally coming to a stop, locking the wheels and stopping in a designated area with the side stand placed on a particular marking. Doing all of these was exhausting both mentally as well as physically. Exhausted yet happy (not once did I drop my bike), I enter the tent only to be greeted by a marshal telling me to save some energy for the next day with an evil smirk. Top 20 finalists amongst the GS owners were chosen from the results of day 1.

The next day, challenges were made even more difficult as the final three who would be representing Team India at the GS Trophy had to be chosen. There were two new group challenges that were added, taking the bike over a hill without riding it – a 200kg+ bike is not what you want to pull over a hill alone and then climbing a hill with two tyres and a tow cable, both challenges had to be done with the help of team members. It was then time for the final run wherein the course was made even more challenging by adding new grilling sections. The start was Le Mans-like where the riders start the race by gearing up and then running towards the bike, before riding away.

My turn comes after a couple of riders and I am now at the point where this feature starts. I yank the throttle of the 850 GS Adventure, to start sideways. Heroic much! After dealing with the initial set of challenges, I find myself riding on one of the most challenging parts of the course. While the layout of the course was not that complicated, it is manoeuvring the bike in between the oddly placed cones that made it difficult, stressing my arms to the point of giving up. Though, I didn't. The next challenging bit was the elephant turn wherein I tried to grab the beam and rotate it.

However, had to give up on it mid-way with the drop in momentum. There were other obstacles as well like riding through mud pits as well as tackling loose gravel that had enough potential to affect traction resulting in dropping of the motorcycle. Thankfully, on the second day too I did not drop the 850 GS Adventure. Achievement indeed!

HK Naik from Bangalore, Shakeel Basha from Coimbatore and V Sathyananth from Tirupur who will be representing Team India at the 2020 BMW GS Trophy in New Zealand.

Out of 20 participants, the top three were chosen - HK Naik from Bangalore, Shakeel Basha from Coimbatore and V Sathyananth from Tirupur who will be representing Team India at the 2020 BMW GS Trophy in New Zealand. All the teams will be riding the BMW F 850 GS which will be the official motorcycle for this competition. Team India will compete against teams from Australia, China, France, Italy, Japan, Latin America, Malaysia/Philippines, Mexico, Middle East (UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar), Nordic (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland), North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt), Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, UK and USA.

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