Biking Germany on a Beemer
Being an Army physician stationed in the second greatest country (Germany) does have some perks; the biggest is riding motorcycles through some of the most beautiful scenery at somewhat insane speeds.
My ride home from the hospital (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) has a nice stretch of unlimited speed on the A62 Autobahn, which has minimal traffic, and one can easily and safely hit 130-140 mph blasts on a BMW K12RS. So, after spending two years in the land of beer and brats, thanks to all of you American taxpayers, I have been fortunate to have done a fair amount of two-wheel touring throughout Europe. Some of the more memorable trips include a 10-day, 4,000 mile round trip jaunt to Norway from little America (KMC or Kaiserslautern Military Community), the 2004 Intermot Bike Show, several Alpine jaunts to Switzerland and most recently the Fifth annual BMW Biker Meeting in Garmisch, Germany.
The rally was great with well over 30,000 people attending the 3-day event that coincided with the long Fourth of July holiday. So I was able to take Friday off as leave and of course with Monday and Tuesday as a holiday/training day, I had a five-day weekend. One of my fellow BMW GS riders, Matt, made the 300 mile jaunt down to Garmisch with me. This unfortunately was his first and last real ride in the German-Austrian countryside as he is PCSing (going back to the states) mid July. He already shipped his 1150GS to Texas.
When Thursday rolled around Matt and I get an early start because it's "Family Time" at the Hospital on top of Sergeant's time. This happens every Thursday. Basically this means military training for the enlisted in the morning with the clinic being open from 1300-1500hrs instead of the usual 0730-1630hrs. Well, I am no sergeant and I work for a living so we docs end up seeing walk-in downrange patients during the "free time/training time".
As one of three Gastroenterologists in the entire European theatre, I stay fairly busy. It as if everyone seems to have belly dwellies or poops blood from chronic constipation. Yeah, those MRE (meals ready to eat) can really bind you up. Throw in a few 130-degree days with a little volume depletion and you get belly dwellies. A little aside comment: you know people will come to the emergency room in the middle of the night for a few tablespoons of blood in the toilet bowl but will sit at home with crushing substernal chest pain for hours. Sorry for the digression. I made a MWR (morale-welfare) call and decide we needed plenty of daylight to ride to Garmisch. So I call in my afternoon clinic patients early, do a couple of procedures (scopes) and we are able to hit the road by 1300hrs.
Okay so what to wear?
Well to get from one end of Germany and effectively split lanes should a Stau (traffic jam) arise then it's a no brainer. Its time to put on the old 80-euro German Polzei armored Gortex suit picked up on eBAY. Of course it is sans markings. Combine said suit with white BMW system helmet and BMW bike and it's like Moses parting the Red Sea splitting lanes during Staus. Germans are conditioned to pull over and make way for the Polizei even more so than for ordinary bikers. Too bad our fellows Americans do not share the same common courtesy.
With gear selected the next thing is a good map or GPS system. I turn again to eBay and I was able to get a 256MB chip for my Garmin Street pilot. That was plenty to load maps from most of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. So the GPS is fired up and we are off. We headed south on the A62 and ended up getting to Baden Baden, which is where the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (Black Forest high road) or B500 begins. So we ride the B500 down to Freudenstadt and continue southeast to the Bodensee (big ass lake on the German-Austrian border) and stay the night near Fussen. Fussen is where King Ludwig nearly bankrupted Germany in the late 1800's by building extravagant castles. Just think of him as the Michael Jackson of his time.
Now Friday rolls around and it's raining. We scarf down breakfast, put on the rain gear and an hour later we are in Garmisch with well over 10,000 other bikers. BMW really does things right. There was onsite camping with porta-potties and showers brought in for the three-day event. Of course several huge beer tents were up, ala Oktoberfest, with food, beer, wine and of course coffee and cheesecake served almost non-stop.
Day one we see all the vendors and all the new BMW bikes to include the K12R and the new HP2 GS. The highlight of the event was being able to sign up for a guided 90 min run on any of the new BMWs. All you needed was a valid license and riding gear. We were able to take out a couple of R1200GSs on day two and on day three; I got to swing a leg over a K12R while Matt took out an R1100S. Of course the follow all traffic law lecture was mute when traffic backed up and we just rode over the solid white lines passing scores of cagers.
My short take on the GS was limited as the roads were still damp from intermittent German sunshine. It definitely was lighter than my 1150GS and had a little more punch throughout but not enough for me to trade up. Now the K12R was totally unlike my Ô02 K12RS. The K12R is a rocket that is very easy to throw into the twisties. I think most people will put on the GS/Rockster type handlebars for even more leverage as opposed to the clip-ons. The fuel injection glitches on the early K12Ss seemed to have been ironed out. There was still the typical shaft drive driveline snatch when running slowly through the gears. I t hink the new K12R, especially if they offer it in the power cup trim, will be a big hit with both Beemerphiles as well as bikers who previously would have never considered BMW.
At this time I am currently looking for a replacement for my K12RS and the new K12R could potentially occupy that slot. We military folks are able to get US spec BMW at discounts through military sales and hopefully that will continue to happen. Unfortunately, as of late BMW Berlin has been offering less discounts to us bullet catchers. The Intermot show was good for meeting all manufactures. That is where I first saw an MZ1000S. Of all the manufactures at the show, the guys from Zschopau were the most informative. I also learned that I possibly could get a US spec MZ1000S from the factory. As you can imagine I have been trying to get a good-will deal on Germany's first motorcycle. Yes, if a deal can be made, I'll procure an MZ 1000S. Sounds like another article to follow and a nice 400-mile jaunt across Germany. If that falls through, well, a US spec Ducati ST4S can be procured through any German Ducati dealer. Why not Aprilia? I have no idea as I have asked this question repeatedly and have come up empty.
Okay, enough about quirky Italian bikes. Back to Beemers. The three-day event included Jimmy Lewis and Christian Pfeiffer taking out the new GS HP2 on a dirt track and basically beating the crap out of it. This may be the ultimate Hooligan bike.
I am sure you will hear more about this version but it's basically a 1200GS on a diet with about 5-7 more HP, standard forks and an air shock in the rear. Now I don't know if it's worth the 16K BMW will be asking for this fairly limited edition bike. Then again, until I swing a leg over it, I can't really pass judgment. Vendors from almost anything motorcycle related were there to include Whites suspension, Touratech, Remus and even Al Jesse was there peddling his wares. Those of you who own GSs, KTMs, Triumph Tigers and V Stroms know of Jesse panniers.
Now it's Monday and the rally is over. Matt and I decide to take a jaunt back home through some of the passes along B198 and B200 in Austria. Our better halves head to Ulm to take the kids to Lego Land. So with beautiful weather we pass through some nice passes. We hit Hahntennjoch, Hochtannbergpass and finally Furkajoch, which puts us on the A14 (Austrian Autobahn) that will eventually take us back to Germany. Riding through the passes with the K12RS really gives me a workout but that all changes once we're pounding pavement on the Bahn. One of the few perks of being stationed in Germany is cheap gas. Well, cheap compared to the 1.20 euro per liter the Germans pay. We are able to buy gas coupons at about .60 cents per liter for super unleaded. So it is always a constant search to find an Esso or Aral station on the Bahn. Fortunately, the old Streetpilot can route to the nearest station by name. Sometimes they change names but for the most part we never had to pony up economy prices the entire trip.
After finishing a great ride on the B roads, we end up taking our chances riding the 20-mile stretch of Austrian Autobahn without the prepaid "permit sticker" to get us back to Deutschland (Germany). The French charge tolls while the Austrians and Swiss make you buy this ridiculous sticker that is good for the year. So if you buy it in Jan all is good but buy it in December and you get hosed. The Germans have yet to do any of this but I am afraid that may change. Luckily we make it to Germany with our wallets intact but the weather changes and it is a real Texas turd floater. So after pulling over somewhere around Fredrickshafen, we put on the rain gear and hit several of the back roads that eventually gets us on the Bahn to Stutgart and eventually to Karlsruhe. After three hours of alternating heavy-light rain we get a reprieve and are able to shuck the rain gear about two hours from home. The K12RS may be a pig in the twisties but 100-110 mph jaunts in less than ideal conditions on the Bahn almost make up for the extra girth. I may just have to keep her and make room for a third bike. Matt faired well on the GS but at about 105mph with the panniers on and you are about tapped out.
All and all it was a great trip and it looks like I will try to make it again next year. We did around 900 miles round trip with only about a third of it in less than ideal weather. The next BMW Biker meeting will be in Garmisch the 7th-9th July of 2006. Looks like Matt needs to get a TDY boondoggle back to Landstuhl with a little bit of leave thrown in for good measure. Hopefully, I'll have another bike to either praise or wish I had never gotten rid of my K12RS.
The following is from BMW's website:
The 5th anniversary was an unforgettable experience.
More than 30,000 fans and friends of BMW Motorrad had followed the call to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Alpine foothills on the first weekend in July. Guests from 45 countries - some as far away as Russia, Australia and the USA - came to the event and turned the 5th anniversary of the BMW Motorrad Biker Meeting into an unforgettable experience. The motto was "Welcome England" and so we were especially pleased to greet our British friends who arrived with 212 motorcycles and for the first time used a complete train for transporting their motorcycles through the Eurotunnel.
Theory Without Practice Is Simply Dull
Which is why there were once more plenty of opportunities at the Biker Meeting to test ride various models both on and off the road. More than 300 riders chose to take part in an off-road trial training unit with an R 1200 GS, under the guidance of the instructors from the BMW Motorrad rider training team. Several people would have preferred to stay on board the motorcycle, even after the training session was over. And more than 700 riders at this year's event took advantage of the opportunity to take out one of the 60 BMW motorcycles on a 90-minute guided test ride. The test riders covered a total of 75,000 scenic kilometers over the course of the three days!