MCN’s Michael Guy is in Thailand for the BMW GS Trophy, which pits teams from 19 countries against each other in a gruelling series of challenges on R1200GS bikes. Michael is resident journalist for the three-man British team
It’s fair to say our training for the BMW GS Trophy was thrown a curve-ball today. Heavy overnight rain is not uncommon during the wet season in Thailand, but the fact that it continued throughout the day is.
Tom Wolf, the man responsible for plotting the route we’ll follow on the GS Trophy, has spent five months out here in Thailand and he said today was the first time he has seen rain in the daytime.
Despite the very un-Thai weather we went ahead with the plan to ride a section of the opening stage of the event, which officially starts on Sunday. What followed could officially be described as carnage. The high levels of dust we had been warned about turned in to a top coating of super-slippery mud and with each bike that tackled the climbs that took us from under 500m to close to 2000m in altitude, it got worse.
The BMW R1200GS exceeds expectations when the grip is good, but like any big adventure bike it quickly turns into a heavy, hard-to-handle machine when you can’t get grip or drive.
What should have taken us three hours, took us five and a half - and we only completed half of the planned route. The video footage of the crashes will no doubt air soon, but let’s just say they won’t be struggling for clips of mud-covered riders and upside-down GSs when they do the final edit.
What started out as a training ride soon became fairly serious. I was in one of the last groups so by the time we reached the climbs they were close to impassable. At one point I was one of six riders manhandling our marshal’s GS up a particularly slippery track. It took over 10 minutes to go 15 metres.
In the end we all made it through and when we finally dropped off the slippery trails and onto tarmac there were whoops of relief from our group – riders who included Thai marshals, a German Dakar finisher and a Mexican who’s competed in the Six-Day Enduro three times.
Getting back late from the ride it was a 20-minute turnaround before getting on a coach back to Chiang Mai. I’m about to meet the British team - Gordon Blackley, James Berrill and Oliver Twig have flown in overnight - but even better than that, I’ve left my tent behind and for one night only we’re staying in the super flash Shangri-La Hotel!
The GS Trophy hasn’t officially started, but for every journalist who rode today the adventure has certainly already begun.