New Zealand is often regarded as a motorcyclist’s paradise, offering everything from twisting tarmac and beautiful scenery to challenging off-road trails on backcountry routes for the more adventurous. We’ve got it all.
While our relative isolation normally keeps the influx of foreign riders at bay, that all changed this week with NZ setting the stage for the seventh edition of BMW’s International GS Trophy competition.
Founded in 2008, the invitation-only competition sees riders grouped into nationalised teams which are pitted against each other and the elements to successfully navigate some of the most challenging adventure riding imaginable. All these challenges are, of course, taken on aboard BMW’s highly capable Gelande-Strasse (GS) badged machines.
Previous years have seen the GS Trophy take to the steps of Mongolia, the jungles of Thailand, the trails of Canada’s Rocky Mountains and even further afield.
New Zealand was selected to host the seventh edition of the Trophy, in part, due to our diverse riding conditions.
“I think it's a dream destination for riders, and therefore the decision was taken that New Zealand as one of the most exotic locations would be the host of the seventh International GS Trophy, says BMW Motorrad’s Head of Communications, Tim Deihl-Thiele. “I think all our guests and riders are super excited, including the internal team to come to visit this country.”
“All of [the Trophies] have been super spectacular in terms of routes and types of scenic landscape, but the decision was made to go to New Zealand because this is maybe one of the most exciting countries worldwide in terms of landscape and looking at all these climate zone changes to the mountains to the sea, there's no other place like that.”
BMW Motorrad is at pains to point out that the International GS Trophy “not a race or a rally” but instead is a team focussed event aimed at pushing riders and bike alike in challenging new terrain on a once in a lifetime adventure. The 140 riders embarking on the 2020 event will surely find that here.
A big change for the 2020 event is the move away from the legendary R series of GS Adventure motorcycles which have been the basis for the most recent International GS Trophy events. Instead, BMW Motorrad’s newly launched F 850 GS is the bike which the international teams of riders tackled the best adventure riding challenges New Zealand has to offer.
While the exact route is still a closely guarded secret, we know the Trophy started in Rotorua while Coronet Peak bear Queenstown provided the finish line. Some 60% of the route was be off-road with the remaining 40% sealed, which allowed the riders to take in some of the remote and brilliantly twisty roads NZ is famous for.
In total, 22 teams from around the globe landed in Rotorua for the start of the International GS Trophy including riders from Australia, Argentina, China, the USA and United Kingdom with an all-female team and regional teams representing the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia included as well.
In addition to shipping the teams here, BMW Motorrad also provided 140 bespoke F 850 GS’ which were specially built for the Trophy in Germany, an increase of 26 bikes over the last event in 2018, with each bike in an exclusive specification just for the International GS Trophy.
All 140 bikes are identical in keeping with the competition aspect of the GS Trophy, with each adorned in its own one-off black and yellow colour scheme with special GS Trophy graphics – including a New Zealand Flag – for the 2020 edition. In contrast with the black/yellow is gold anodizing on the forks and cross-spoked tubeless-spec wheel rims.
For the GS Trophy, BMW has also delved deep into the options list for the F 850 GS and selected a long list of equipment to help riders make the most of the middleweight GS during the competition.
Sure to make the most difference for riders are the inclusions of a host of electronic aids, with BMW's dynamic suspension adjustment and DTC traction control systems, Gear Shift Assist Pro quickshifter, and 6.5” TFT screen with BMW Motorrad Connectivity and the Riding Modes Pro (Dynamic/Enduro/Enduro Pro) all part of the built-in tech on offer on these exclusive bikes.
BMW is also, and quite naturally, outfitting all the bikes with an aggressive set of off-road rubber and bike protection to ensure the bikes make it to the end of the eight-day competition.
“It’s a wonderful ride and so much fun, but what I like most is seeing the people connect, says Ralf Rodepeter, BMW’s head of brand and product and the director of the International GS Trophy.
“Every day the teams are mixed so they ride every time with new nationalities and they’ll have an adventurous experience together, which creates this bond and understanding. Bringing in teams from North Africa and the Middle East this year is especially exciting, so we can honestly say we have riders from all over the world and all walks of life. And this is the spirit of the GS, bringing diverse peoples and cultures together, learning about each other and discovering and enjoying nature, playing and adventuring.”
After eight days exploring some of the country’s best adventure routes, the 2020 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy came to an end near Queenstown after starting in Rotorua.
In the age old tradition of leaving the best until last, day eight offered some of the most technical riding of this year’s International GS Trophy, featuring a testing ride over the famous Nevis Road – New Zealand’s highest public ‘road’ – with the offroad tour de force featuring a reputed 24 river crossings and countless difficult rocky sections along its near 70km length.
After a total of 2500km spread across both the North and South Islands
, the 2020 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy reached its ultimate conclusion at Coronet Peak near Queenstown.
Taking the GS Trophy crown for the third time was team South Africa who narrowly beat back the close attentions of Teams France and Italy. This marks South Africa's third International GS Trophy win on the bounce, having won previously in Thailand in 2016 and Mongolia in 2018.
BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy 2020 Final Points Standings
1 South Africa 394
2 France 382
3 Italy 380
4 Netherlands 375
5 South Korea 361
6 Latin America 355
7 Brazil 335
8 Russia 316
9 Mexico 295
10 Argentina 278
11 Middle East 268
12 Australia 264
13 USA 254
14 Nordic 246
15 UK 238
16 Thailand 222 17 Japan 218 18 Malaysia 208 19 India 200 20 Int. Female Team I 169 21 North Africa 146 22 Int. Female Team II 118