November 05, 2005

Bike Report: GS and Dakar bikes at the NEC Motorcycle Show

On Friday I visited the Motorcycle Show at the NEC. The number of off-road tourers and Dakar racers on show demonstrated just how significant the shift has been from sports racers to long distance trail bikes.

Firstly, a photo of what may be my next bike. This is the R1200 HP, a 105bhp lightweight desert racer based upon the R1200GS:

This photo was taken by Dave Halsall, Sales Manager of SBW Motorrad in Hertford. My meeting with Dave turned out to be yet another small world experience. Dave spent many years living in Gaborone in the Eighties, and knew our friend Blix. Dave also set up the first off-road track in Botswana. We talked about what it was like there before tarred roads and traffic lights.

The BMW display also included a BMW R1200GS Adventure although it wasn't available for sitting on. For the first time I got to see this beast for real. The bike is as wide as it looks in the press photos. Long range tanks are bolted onto the side of the standard tank, almost as wide as the cylinders. Near to this was an F650GS Dakar, just like the one I will be riding in SA in January. Of all of the big-trailees on show, I still consider the F650 to have the best geometry and riding position. On a long dirt ride, that's the most important requirement.

BMW were also proud to display a rather battered 1150GS Adventure:

…as ridden (and dragged) by Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor across Europe, Asia and North America in The Long Way Round expedition. Next to the bike is one of the BMW suits worn by the riders.

A little less battered, but threatened with a good thrashing soon, is the F650GS Dakar due to be ridden by Charley Boorman in the 2006 Dakar rally:

And finally, despite their sad attitude towards Ewan and Charley, I had to pay some respect to KTM, who displayed the bike on which Cyril Despres won the 2005 Dakar:

…and actually allowed me to sit on it:

…next stop, Timbouctou.

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