2012 BMW Motorrad GS Eco What a Ride!

Words & Photos: Juan Levis

Performance Driving
Vehicle Reviews

It was on a Friday evening when I received a phone call from the Founder of DO IT NOW magazine, offering me the opportunity to attend BMW's 2012 GS Eco event that would be held from 18 to 21 October 2012, at Clocolan, in the Free State. The event was a celebration of the unique German off-road/road motorcycles and their owners, and offered riders the opportunity to experience our country at its very best.


It sounded like a great idea and after shuffling around a number of commitments, I happily found myself at the BMW Motorrad dealership in Midrand on a Thursday morning, with 15 other excited BMW riders. We roared out of Johannesburg and made our way to Clocolan, arriving around 4 p.m. There was a fantastic buzz amongst the riders who were registering for the event, and we were all looking forward to what our hosts had in store for us.


After registration I eagerly went in search of the different routes on offer over the next two days. A choice of tar and dirt routes that allowed both the hobby and trained professional riders to demonstrate their riding capabilities. What was interesting to see was that most of the routes were through the local farms. From a riding perspective, this is what made the event so memorable for me. I believe that the organisers' good relationships with the local people were the reason why so many of the farmers allowed us to experience the beautiful landscapes and special places the routes took us on to their farms, while trusting us to do it in a responsible way.


It was amazing to be welcomed by a couple of hundred sheep or cattle as you came over a hill, or take a moment out on the banks of the river to share a story that had just happened.


As we all gathered for dinner that evening, it struck me that this event was predominantly attended by small groups of good friends who shared a similar interest. What I also discovered was that if you were on your own, like I was, it would not take long before you received an invitation to join a group for dinner or a ride the following day. So no matter who you were or where you came from, the common denominators that bound us together were our passion for riding BMW motorbikes and sharing our experiences. Very often the same stories were repeated, and everyone listened to them with as much attention and interest as they had when they first heard it. I guess we all just like a good Beemer story!


Day one

A group of riders and I decided to ride the Orange 2 route, even though we weren't too sure how technical it would get. The route was a combination of easy off-road riding and a difficult technical section. This technical section also formed part of the Red route and was really steep and narrow, with little room for error. This resulted in a bit of a bottleneck building up due to a great deal of scouting and debating on what line to take, and whether one should walk or ride your bike down. I attempted it and except for a little mishap at the start, I managed to ride down without any incident. This left me feeling really exhilarated and on an absolute high, though quite exhausted.


What I really enjoyed about the technical or challenging sections was when everyone in the group stopped, took off their helmets, and started talking and sharing their experience. "What line did you take?" "How was that boulder right in the middle of the line?" These comments would then be followed by compliments, much laughter and jokes. There was just this fantastic sense of excitement and energy in the air.


Some of the rides also took part in the GS Skills Challenge, where they showcased their riding skills by overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles in a limited area. For example, riding on a slope, opening a gate with one hand while moving the bike with another hand, bike weight balancing movements, pushing a big rim into a goal post setting, and riding onto a seesaw, amongst others.


Later that evening everyone got together over a beer or cold drink, to debrief the entire day's experience. A fantastic dinner was prepared by the friendly locals, after which I retired to my tent tired, but satisfied.



Day two

After a fair bit of lobbying, we managed to get a group of seven riders together to ride the Orange 3 route. With the technical section from the Orange 2 route still fresh in our minds, we were both excited and a bit anxious to see how much more challenging route 3 would be. The route was, on average, more challenging than the previous day's route, but I found it much more enjoyable. It was as if you were constantly in a zone, as you needed to concentrate hard for longer periods. I had to remind myself about good riding principles and this made the ride so much more enjoyable due to the fact that you had to apply those lessons and learnings. Returning to Clocolan, I felt a sense of disappointment as I didn't want this fantastic day to end.


The finals of the Skills Challenge took place on Saturday afternoon, with Western Cape rider, Ruan De Lange, taking the 2012 BMW GS Eco Skills Challenge Champion title. Other finalists included Roger Kane-Berman (KwaZulu-Natal), Duncan de Klerk (Gauteng), Gunther Kritzinger (Gauteng), Shane Levy (Mpumalanga), Stephan Joubert (Gauteng) and Geoff Goetsch (Gauteng). Although the event was dominated by male riders, a few ladies showcased their riding skills. Another Western Cape rider, Mandie Engelbrecht, was named the best female rider while Gauteng rider, Elmarie Bierman, was named the best pillion.


I am still amazed at the skill levels of the riders who participated. You sit there and think, there is no way that the guys on their Adventures will be able to do a particular section, and then they take your breath away with a display of skill that mere words would not do justice to. It made me realise that as a rider I don't spend enough time training or improving the technical riding skills that are required for off-road riding. And I do believe honing those skills will make all my rides so much more enjoyable.


Saturday evening closed with a big party, two Currie Cup semi final rugby games, prize-giving, and the announcement that the 2013 event will be taking place in the Eastern Cape. I headed to my tent at around midnight to make sure that I got a couple of hours sleep before departing for Gauteng at 6 a.m.


We had a lot of fun! And so did everyone I talked to. Special mention should be made of the local community of Clocolan. Everywhere we went, from the petrol station, to the local shops, schools and farms, we were met with friendly faces and helpful hands.


Everything was done with a smile or a friendly wave, and we thank the people of Clocolan for making us feel so welcome in their town.


Giving Back

During the 2012 BMW GS Eco event, BMW Motorrad and participating riders donated 600 trees to the community of Kanana in the Grasmere area of the Vaal region in partnership with Food & Trees For Africa. Of this, 300 trees were distributed in that area at the start of the event while another distribution for the remaining 300 trees will be done at a later stage. To date more than 1,200 trees have been planted in various communities where the event has been held.


In addition, two schools and an old age home in Clocolan also benefited from the funds raised for the 2012 event entries. The Hatane Pre Primary School received new blackboards, tables and stationery while the Clocolan Primary School’s boarding house was given new linen. The frail care facilities of the Clocolan Old Age Home will also be upgraded.



The next BMW GS Eco event is scheduled to take place in the Eastern Cape from 17 to
20 October 2013. More details will follow closer to the time on www.bmwmotorrad.co.za