Live From Thailand: 2016 BMW GS Trophy Update 4

Day 3 Review: Dust, Cattle, and Eight Hours in the Saddle

BMW GS Trophy competition, farm animals in Thailand
With farmland comes farm animals. Two of these Thai cattle started a tussle right after I snapped this photo and smacked into the side of the GS as I passed by. Close call!©Motorcyclist

The nerves are gone now. Day three of seven and the teams are settling in, eyes on the 2016 GS Trophy prize. It's an odd thing, though, concentrating on a competition that's supposed to be friendly and remembering, as the stickers on each bike remind us, #itsnotarace. (Except for that time yesterday when there was a race under a bridge). Team USA has been balancing well, focusing and trying hard without losing sight of the ultimate goal: have fun.

Speaking of fun, the 168 miles we faced today are reportedly the most in one day that we’ll see in this week-long trek, and the terrain was much less strenuous. But still excellent fun. The paved road leaving camp quickly turned to dirt, which began a pattern of steep climbs and sharp descents. After a couple of hours the team stopped in a thick grove of bamboo and were given the first test of the day. “Guess how many stalks of bamboo are in that thicket,” was the question, as the marshall pointed. We’re still not sure, but what we do know is that our guess of 60 was wrong, and only worth 5 points of a possible 20.

BMW GS Trophy competition, Sena onboard
A trail every adventure rider dreams of; good scenery and just wide enough for an R1200GS.©Motorcyclist

On to the next, then! Clawing our way up and over ridge after ridge, we saw some spectacular sights. Lush valleys and tiny little villages clinging to hillsides gave way to more open terrain with agriculture everywhere. Perhaps the most excellent stretch was a string of single track trail—a proper, narrow track—leading along a hillside overlooking farms and pastures. The only sadness was that it didn’t last longer. Soon it was back to dusty dirt roads, and the second and final challenge of the day.

A simple braking test: Accelerate ahead from a stop about 50 feet and then slam on the brakes and stop in the marked box. Quickest overall combined time of the three team members wins, but overshooting the box meant a penalty. Charles and Tom all performed well, but Dennis was the standout, nailing his braking point just right and skidding to a stop just inside the box. We watched a couple of other teams execute pure disaster, overshooting the box and/or tipping over, but even still Team USA only netted 8 points.

BMW GS Trophy competition, day 3 stopping test
Dennis skids to a stop during one of today’s special tests. He scored the best time for Team USA, but it wasn’t enough for a top-5 finish.©Motorcyclist

After carving down an absolutely stellar set of paved curves to our landing place for the night in Mae Sariang, we set up camp and waited for the results of yesterday’s photo competition to flow in. Team USA’s “GS kaleidoscope” image scooped up 830 votes across the globe, enough for 12 points but paling in comparison to Team Latin America getting nearly 3,000 votes. Their moms must be really active on Facebook. The real loser was Team Russia, who clearly had the best photo but didn’t get the respect it deserved. Since when is the internet not a meritocracy? Oh, right...

Tomorrow the team does a loop, shorter in distance but we’re told the riding will be much more technical. More dust is on the schedule, as well as a fair amount of riding up creek beds and fording rivers. Aside from looking forward to riding, Team USA might start employing more aggressive tactics. Strong/silent Tom suggested going for it. “Taking it easy is okay if you’re winning, or if you’ve given up.” Sounds like the boys are going to wick it up!

BMW GS Trophy competition, Team USA scores
The 2016 GS Trophy standings after the third day. Team USA scored 25 points today for a total of 84, and are in a tight battle with Argentina, France, and Mexico. Germany and Latin America are in to triple digits, and trying to keep pace with South Africa’s 124 total points.©Motorcyclist