Review: BMW GS Trophy Qualifier

Riding, food and fun for £99

I CAN'T think of many bike models - if any in fact - that have their own manufacturer-backed event. So, welcome to the BMW GS Trophy Qualifier, a fun but competitive day out hosted by BMW Motorrad UK that lets you fly the GS flag to your heart’s content.

The event is biennial and gives any GS-toting entrant a chance to represent Britain in the GS Trophy final. The three winners from this year will be flown to Canada for an all-expenses paid trip where they’ll be riding the new R1200GS for over 600 miles through the wilderness of Alberta, British Columbia, and crossing the Rocky Mountains, battling rider teams chosen by 15 other countries. Lucky buggers.

This year’s Qualifier took place on the May bank holiday and was held in the Brecon Beacons, Wales, and Walter’s Arena, a 4,000-acre wilderness area home to the BMW Off Road Skills (ORS).

The journey from London to South Wales was typically British - extremely wet, though it provided a perfect opportunity to test out the heated grips on my F800GS Adventure test bike. They worked wonders - the warmth of the grip contrasting nicely against the small patch of non-waterproof fabric around my crotch area. Interesting design Tucano Urbano.

As one of the last riders to arrive, most of the tents were already pitched up upon arrival. A good night’s sleep later and we all met rally-racing veteran and ORS Chief Instructor Simon Pavey for the GS Trophy morning brief. It’s a relaxed affair and suited both skilled offroaders returning for their umpteenth Trophy and first-timers like myself.

The Qualifier was held in two parts: a long road section consisting of various challenges en route, and an off road skills course held on the second day. Setting off with a Dakar-style sheet of pace notes in heavy rain, I wished that I’d remembered to bring my plastic paper sleeve. It was here that I realised the charging dock cap on the GS tank had clearly been designed in light of moments like this, it was all so clear now. I clamped down the paper beneath the cap and set off from the Ancient Briton pub where we had set up camp.

The route was around 100 miles long and required some adept map reading skills and multitasking. I kept my eyes peeled making sure I wouldn’t miss any of the challenges. Want a shot at winning? Then don’t forget to look at how many arches are under the aqueduct in Afan Forest Park. Or what’s written on the rocks at Treorci for that matter.

There are loads of challenges to complete making for a jam-packed weekend which included tackling a mountain biking course in full off road gear, and delving underground into a warren of caves. It’s all meticulously organised by BMW, just turn up with your bike and enjoy the weekend; it’s bound to be more fun than taking your kids to Legoland, paying £7 for a can of Fanta and then getting stuck in traffic on your way home.

Those who made it to day two of the event were treated to sunshine and warm weather. The remaining eight riders went up against two punishing trials courses put together by former trials champion and BMW ORS instructor JP. The finalists were then sent around each course twice on BMW Motorrad’s own bikes. Three winners were eventually selected who will go on to receive team training with Simon Pavey ahead of the International Final in September.

Weather aside, the Qualifier was a really well organised and enjoyable day, and I think it represents a lot of what biking is all about - getting out there, meeting people, and having a bit of a laugh at the same time.

I was really surprised to see less than 100 riders turn up to take part in the event. It only costs £99 for entry and whilst you have to use your own bike for the road part of the event, new GS’ are supplied by BMW for the off road section. No deposit is taken, nor payment needed if the bikes are damaged either.

If you’re a busy person and a weekend of riding bikes appeals, grab your diary and pencil in the 2016 Trophy Qualifier. If it’s anything like this year’s and costs the same, it’s not one to miss.