Live From Thailand: 2016 GS Trophy Enduro Motorcycle Challenge Update 1

A Preview of Team USA at BMW’s R1200GS Olympiad

BMW GS Trophy 2016, Team USA
Team USA flies its colors at the GS Trophy 2016. Dennis, Charles, and Tom (left to right) will ride from February 28th to March 6th, on an approximately 1,300 kilometer loop surrounding Chiang Dao, Thailand.©Motorcyclist

Do not insult the king of Thailand. That was made clear before I left for this year’s BMW GS Trophy. I have to say, I figured it was mostly Germans being German and wanting to play by the rules. A little research, however, and I found out that the penalty for insulting (or defaming or threatening) the king, queen, or heir-apparent in Thailand is three to 15 years in prison. To that point, after being on the ground for a few days here in Thailand, and having seen his monarch-ship on a few billboards, I must say he’s about as handsome as they come.

BMW GS Trophy 2016, rain and mud
Rain and mud making it a true enduro challenge on the 2016 GS Trophy in Thailand.©Motorcyclist

But I’m not in Thailand for politics, and neither are the 57 riders from 25 countries representing 19 teams. They are here to compete in the International GS Trophy competition, riding in and around the jungle landscape north of Chiang Mai, hoping that after a week’s worth of off-road riding and camping, their nation’s flag will fly the highest.

This event happens every two years, with a band of three riders from each country (or group of countries, like Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia) testing their mettle against the best GS riders the globe has to offer. All of the contestants are amateurs; civilian enthusiasts whose skills have been proven by beating out their colleagues in regional qualifying events. And, in a fun twist, no GS Trophy contestant from past years may qualify or compete, so once you’ve flown the flag you have to step aside and let someone else take their turn.

GS Trophy 2016, Team USA
2016 GS Trophy competitors Tom Asher, Dennis Godwin and Charles Lucht.©Motorcyclist

Along with some of the teams will be an embedded journalist, riding and auditing the competition from the trenches. For Team USA, I am that journalist, and since I have also never competed, I’m as in the dark as the contestants. My emotions vary from excitement to heavy fear that I’m in over my head and will be chewed up and spat out by the competition. What you, the reader, can expect is that I will report on the happenings of the GS Trophy as often as possible (the jungle wifi is shaky at best), and how Team USA is doing.

So get to know these guys with the quick bios below, then root for them as they take on the world. These are two-wheeled fanatics like any of us, who feel lucky to have been selected and anxious to make the most of this opportunity.

2016 GS Trophy Team USA:

GS Trophy 2016, Charles Lucht
Charles Lucht, 49, is a 2016 GS Trophy competitor from Richmond, VA.©Motorcyclist

Name: Charles Lucht
Home: Richmond, VA
Age: 49
Day Job: Windows 'n gutters
Nickname: Your Favorite Neighbor

If there’s a nicer person at the GS Trophy this year, they’ll have to be from Canada to out-gun Charles. He also might be more excited than anyone at the event. Case in point? He set up and broke down his campsite—from tent, to contact lenses, to full gear—no fewer than five times in the back room of his house to prepare for Thailand. At the qualifying event that he eventually won, he remained convinced that it would be someone else who got the golden ticket. But his smooth, understated style played perfectly, and now he has left his F800GS at home to represent Team USA at the GS Trophy.

In His Own Words: “Everything I hear about [the GS Trophy], it’s all about fun. Canada is about as exotic as I’ve ever gotten on a motorcycle. I’ve never been outside of North America. First thing I did after I won the qualifier when I got home the next day was get a passport, because I’ve never had a passport in my life. And it’s an honor to be a part of Team USA. I want to make the US GS riding community proud of our team.”

GS Trophy 2016, Dennis Godwin
Dennis Godwin, 56, is a 2016 GS Trophy competitor from Buena Park, CA.©Motorcyclist

Name: Dennis Godwin
Home: Buena Park, CA
Age: 56
Day Job: General contractor
Nickname: The Cowboy

Dennis is a Southern California native, but picture a fast-talking rancher and you’ll get the idea. He’s hugely excited to be taking part in the GS Trophy, and doesn’t care much about what happens as long as it’s fun. Humble, energetic, and always up for a challenge, he entered the West Coast GS Trophy Qualifying event with his son, hoping his offspring would make the team and get to travel to Thailand. But his confident, consistent riding won the event and bought him this plane ticket.

In His Own Words: “Thailand. For me... I’m excited beyond all words. At 56 years old, to go compete with all these young fellas—and girls, now—and have a good time, I’m excited about it. It’s tropical, it’s fun, it’s adventurous, it’s different. It’s the unknown—we have no idea what the special tests are. That’s the real draw for me: I have no idea what it’s going to be and I embrace that. A special test in a new land, a place I’ve never been, I’m really looking forward to it.”

GS Trophy 2016, Tom Asher
Tom Asher, 47, is a 2016 GS Trophy competitor from Columbus, OH.©Motorcyclist

Name: Tom Asher
Home: Columbus, OH
Age: 47
Day Job: Mechanic
Nickname: Strong & Silent

Tom might remind you of another mechanic you know; he's direct, soft-spoken, and doesn't use 10 words when three will do. Mostly he lets his riding do the talking, which is typically impressive. He's spent a lot of time on a Kawasaki KLR650 , often times attempting trails that would make a mountain goat blush—he even competed in a national enduro on the KLR. He owns a '99 R1100GS, and rides that most often now, admitting that his KLR is pretty tired with 155,000 miles on the odometer.

In His Own Words: “The whole trip is going to be exciting. With my teammates, Charles and Dennis, I think it’s going to be a great experience between us three, getting through the whole thing together, and doing as well as we can, and making the best of this adventure.”