Live From Thailand: 2016 GS Trophy Enduro Motorcycle Challenge Update 2

Day 1 Review: A Rocky 147 Miles from Chiang Dao to Pai

BMW GS Trophy, lifting a big ADV bike
The highlight of Day 1 at the 2016 GS Trophy, the Broken Bridge exercise. Local young’uns watch on, surely wondering why anyone would want such a large motorcycle if you have to lift it up.©Motorcyclist

Things BMW Team USA learned on Day 1: Knobbies and pavement don't always mix, the mobile showers are cold, and GS Trophy special tests are no joke. Last thing's first, and the most exciting piece of the day was the first team test of the week, a race over the ruins of a concrete bridge with the bike running but nobody allowed to ride it. If only that were the most challenging piece of the day...

BMW GS Trophy, Broken Bridge
Skidplate needed. Tom shows the struggle of hoisting our GS over the lip of the Broken Bridge, where Team USA scored 13 points.©Motorcyclist

Special Test 1: The Broken Bridge
After quick stops and photo opps at a local temple and elephant sanctuary, Team USA bombed up a choppy paved road that eventually turned to dirt and led to very, very broken bridge. One particular slab of concrete (about 30 feet long and the width of a road) lay buried in sand and shallow water at one end, with the other ramped up slightly and leaving a four or five foot drop at the far end, followed by another of a few feet. The objective: Get two bikes through the shallow water, up the slab, down the drops, and another few yards up a hill, with four people and without anyone sitting on the bike.

Plans were made, schemes were hatched. In the end, Team USA (along with yours truly) decided it was experience over youth that would win the task. Tom looked at the course for a long time before muttering suggestions, all of which we took. We aimed for smooth and steady, avoided mistakes, and finished with a time of 1:38 and high praise from competitors. As it happened, ze Germans cruised through a full 20 seconds faster and took the win. With 20 points to the winner of each test, 19 for second, 18 for third (and so on), the Team USA’s 13 points was a solid finish. All things considered we came away proud of our effort and with confidence boosted.

BMW GS Trophy, recent motorcycle crash site
The unmistakable sight of a recent crash. Fortunately, Charles rode away unharmed, as did the GS.©Motorcyclist

Surprise #1: Slippery Thai Pavement and Knobbies
Poor Charles. We were enjoying an epic ride up the impossibly twisty mountain road that leads over a ridge toward Pai, and one particular left-handed hairpin snuck up on him. I'm not sure I can say it happens to the best, but it's happened to me so I know how he feels. Thai traffic runs opposite American (they drive on the left), meaning he slid and tumbled into the oncoming lane, only to pop up, retrieve the bike, and eventually realize that neither he nor the machine took on serious damage. Onward then, slightly embarrassed but unscathed. Just don't tell his wife (or show her this article).

Special Test 2: The Slow Race
Who hasn't had a slow race with their buddies, whether on dual sports or touring bikes? Drop it in first, slip the clutch, and last one to the other side of the parking lot wins. In this case, each team took off together with one stopwatch per bike and about 50 yards of smooth(ish) dirt ahead. Reach the finish line or dab a foot and the clock stops, the more time the better. Dennis made it about 15 feet before his front wheel sunk into a soft patch of dirt and he had to catch the bike. One down. Charles and Tom fared much better, each taking more than a minute to complete the course. Dennis was disgusted with himself, and Team USA came away with only four points. In part thanks to a two-wheeled talent from Britain bearing the adorable name of Oliver Twigg, who delivered phenomenal slowness, as did one of the winning Mexican contingent.

BMW GS Trophy, Team USA planning
The standings at the end of Day 1. Team USA has work to do to get back in the running, but it’ll be a long week and anything’s possible!©Motorcyclist

Surprise #2: The Cold Shower
It's really no surprise that the mobile showers (picture a port-o-potty but with a showerhead) have only cold water. It's somewhat rural, and BMW wants us to take short showers. The surprise in this case is how someone found such cold water in Thailand considering we've been sweating our hardware off during the day. Based on the sound the locals were making when everyone turned the water on for the first time, I suspect sabotage. If that's the case, good for them. What's the use in having a guest in your country if you can't have a little fun with them?

What’s Next: As action packed as Day 1 turned out to be, the truth is we had to skip most of the really technical trail riding due to recent rain making the planned route impassable. Tom was openly disappointed and Dennis agreed, saying, “I came here to get my ass handed to me!” Team USA is ready for the tough stuff, and luckily the lead BMW scout reports that Day 2 brings on much trickier routes.

The Standings: Team USA finished the day with 17 points (13 for the Broken Bridge, 4 for the Slow Race), and are mid-pack at best. Argentina, Britain, Italy, Germany, and South Africa each have 30 or more points, and look strong. Dennis is not his usual, chatty self, clearly blaming himself. Tom and Charles are laughing about it, and looking forward to Day 2.