As September and the start of the fourth BMW International GS Trophy draws ever closer, teams around the world are making their final preparations for this ultimate off-road challenge that unites the BMW Motorrad GS community worldwide. Among them are a trio of British riders who have just completed a weekend of training at the BMW Off-Road Skills facility in South Wales with Chief Instructor and Dakar veteran Simon Pavey.
Marcus Arrowsmith, Jon Crockett and John Small recently returned to the same location where they had been victorious at the national GS Trophy qualifier last May, having fought off many other competitors to win the right to represent Team UK at the forthcoming international finals in Canada. This time though, their focus was working together as a team and practising the riding skills and the kind of situations they may encounter in the Canadian Rockies early next month.
John Small, a plumbing and heating engineer and the youngest of the group at 44, was delighted to meet up with his team-mates again in Wales. In fact, he rode his BMW R 1200 GS Adventure all the way back to the UK from a family holiday in Austria for the two days of training in the Brecon Beacons, before journeying back down to southern Europe to continue his vacation.
“We really feel lucky to be going to Canada soon and meeting the rest of the teams,” he said. “The three of us get on really well and we’ve already got a great team spirit between us, with no egos – just a shared love of GS Adventure bikes. In fact, the GS ‘spirit’ is why we’re all doing this. I’m telling everyone about the Trophy – including all my customers – so there will be a lot of people following online. I’ve also connected with one of the other teams, who were kind enough to invite me to meet them when I was holidaying in their part of Europe. It’s such a brilliant community!”
In fact, it’s the GS community and the Trophy that reconnected John with fellow team-mate Jon Crocket, who knew each other years ago but had lost contact. “I bought a GS Adventure in March and bumped into Jon, who I hadn’t seen for a long time. When he told me he also rode a GS Adventure I sent him the details of the Trophy qualifier and we thought we’d have some fun and meet some great people by taking part. We never expected to win it but it was a cracking weekend and here we are!”
For 50-year-old Jon, who runs a coach company with his father, he has been training hard back at his home in Herefordshire, but coming to South Wales and getting the benefit of extra tuition from Simon Pavey and his team has been invaluable.
“I’ve been spending lots of time in the gym, and doing a bit of running and cycling too – basically as much as I can do in my spare time,” he said. “It’s been a massive benefit coming here and riding with Simon though. The training and drills we’ve done have really helped, especially if we get similar exercises in the Trophy, like manhandling a GS uphill over rocks several times! This really makes you think and work as a team, communicating with each other and using your individual and group skills to the maximum.”
The third member of Team UK, 47-year-old Marcus Arrowsmith, feels especially lucky to be joining the International GS Trophy in Canada, after tasting success in the national qualifier at the third attempt, having entered twice before and narrowly missing out. With his own business selling office chairs, he is delighted to have the chance to spend a week on the saddle of a BMW R 1200 GS, with the prospect of a unique motorcycling adventure ahead of him.
“I’ve been to Canada before and know that the terrain we’re going to be exploring will be breathtaking,” he said. “Just to go there and ride a GS around this part of the country will be fantastic, let alone taking part in this amazing event. I think it’s going to be physically tough but I’ve been doing lots of mountain biking, swimming and weight training to strengthen the upper body. I’ve also been running to improve my endurance capabilities. I think it’s already made a difference because I’m feeling much fitter on the bike, even after some of the exercises we’ve been doing here in Wales!”
Overseeing this final training for Team UK was Simon Pavey, who knows more than a thing or two about preparing for international sporting competitions. The UK-based Australian is a veteran of nine Dakar Rallies and has just had the entry approved for his tenth, alongside his son Llewellyn, who will be riding his first Dakar. This is the 15th season that Simon has been running the BMW Off Road Skills school in Wales, and around 1000 riders will experience the official BMW Motorrad Partner’s amazing 4,000 acre facility in the Brecon Beacons throughout 2014. There are a variety of courses for all levels, including skills development, adventure maintenance, adventure travel, women-only groups and sport enduro courses, in addition to three separate levels of the main Off Road Skills courses.
Having trained literally thousands of motorcyclists to discover the joys of riding a GS off-road, Simon believes that whatever the final result of the forthcoming International Trophy finals, the three Brits – and all of the other competitors – are going to have the time of their lives in Canada next month.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that competing in a GS Trophy will be the experience of a lifetime for all involved. All of my staff – myself included – would love the opportunity to do something like that! The three guys representing Team UK are great, solid blokes who are friendly and supportive of each other. I hope for all competitors that they go there and ride in such a way that they fight to do well, but get to really enjoy the whole event. Ride hard and have fun but make sure that you see the whole thing through because it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that money can’t buy.”
Watch Brake Magazine’s coverage of the UK GS Trophy national qualifier at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAghwZONpt4