Dave Manning recounts his visit to the BMW Motorrad Days event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and his adventures along the way... Words: Dave Manning
When conversation turns to bikes and the natural one-up-manship of who’s got what bike, even in these enlightened times the fact that someone says they own a BMW gives them an aura of fluorescent bibs, expensive waterproofs and sensible shoes…
But the actual reality is that the modern product of Bavarian Motor Werks’ factory is really rather good, and incredibly diverse too. And, to prove this very fact, the großer käse at the factory put on an event every year in the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, close to the Swiss border in Southern Germany, overshadowed by the impressive Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.
Given the kind of distances between major conurbations in Australia, a quick trip across Central Europe is just that – a mere 1200km or so through England, France, Switzerland and Germany. But it is still effectively a two day trip to get there, with the potential for some amazing scenery, and some stunning roads, en route. So, given a chance to step astride one of BMW’s new R 1250 GS Adventure models for the trip, I didn’t need to be asked twice…
2019 BMW Motorrad Days
As the BMW factory’s prime promotional event, Motorrad Days encompasses absolutely everything that the brand is about. And while, a couple of decades ago when the event started, that may have focussed on pure touring machines for mile-hungry gentlemen, here in the 21st century, there is so much more to add to that, with the fact that Peter Hickman has used an S 1000 RR to not only set a new lap record at the iconic Isle of Man TT, but to make it the world’s fastest race course in the process wasn’t something that the BMW chiefs were going to stay quiet about!
Naturally, it is the Moto Werk’s annual chance to shout about their new products – which includes the prototype version of the colossal new 1800cc flat twin, the R18, taking pride of place in the custom tent. The R18, complete with its cruiser styling and a whole lot of presence, was fired up both in the custom marquee and paraded in the show arena.
The custom tent was a great big circus tent affair, complete with its own bar and stage, and with various trade stands from custom bike builders too. The R18 engine was also shown in the trellis-framed ‘Departed’ built by Custom Works Zon, while other factory builds included ‘Hommage’, built to commemorate the R5 that was built for just one year in the Thirties, styled by the BMW team (which includes the renowned custom bike builder, Ola Stenagard) and built in conjunction with Swedish customisers, Unique Custom Cycles, using an original 500cc R5 engine, supercharged and in a custom-styled softail chassis.
Another marquee showcased the BMW clothing range and various new models in the motorcycle range, as well as the impressive ‘Vision DC’, BMW’s concept electric bike – a Tron-styled techno-feat that, somehow, manages to retain a company stylistic resemblance to the boxer flat twins!
Aside from the bespoke machinery in the custom tent, there were modified machines to be spotted all around the venue – from Paris-Dakar replicas built, not from the expected models, but from RnineT and earlier airhead twins; race replicas that were verging on the edge of being café racers with old endurance style fairings and lights; multiple neatly-assembled café racer RnineTs; and some proper choppers too, including one stunningly crafted twin that retained Telelever front suspension.
And then there was what I can only term as ‘curiosities’ – the airhead with the Harris tweed seat and tank panels; the art deco-influenced Nostalgia R7, built around an RnineT and reminiscent of the beam framed bikes of the Twenties and Thirties; the ‘Spitfire’ with its fully-enclosed aluminium-body that was built for the Sultans of Sprint race series; the minimalist (but very loud) ‘Bauhaus 100’ F 850 by Krautmotors in Heidelberg that was commissioned by the factory; and the RnineT fitted with polished aluminium fuel tank and sidecar, and massive apehanger bars; and just so many more intriguing builds.
And yet, despite the fact that the factory are clearly looking to the future and diversifying the interest that is taken in their products, with the new electric concept bike being a case in point, BMW haven’t forgotten their heritage, with a classic marquee, and parades by classic bikes in the arena. That area, with long bleachers and an overlooking marquee, also had the WSB round showing on the big screen at the end, while Irish stuntman Mattie Griffin had been defying physics (and riding over TV adventurist and ex-special forces rope specialist, Aldo Kane) and Alex Le Marseillais had been destroying tyres in a flamboyant fashion on his S 1000 RR, and when the displays were over, a ‘road’ course was laid out for kiddies on push bikes and electric machines – make no bones about it, BMW want their products to appeal to all ages!
Keeping those folk who already had an interest in the iconic German machines focussed on the brand was undertaken by the arena also playing host to interviews with classic and custom bike owners. While, elsewhere on the expansive hillside site, there were also talks and presentations by various movers and shakers from within the BMW organisation, interviews with Helmut Dähne (winner of, amongst other things, the 1976 1000cc Production TT on an R90S and he partnered with Tony Hatton in many races for BMW), freestyle motocross demos, guided Alpine tours, local test rides on a variety of new production Beemers, a Wall of Death, a repair, breakdown and servicing station, and even a church service on the Sunday morning!
The all-inclusive nature of the event continued with fans of off-road shenanigans catered for by the trials area and the ‘anmeldung’ – the Enduro area for all comers to have a play and disgrace themselves in front of their peers although, to be fair, I only saw one bloke make a total hash of things and plant himself into the water splash, but he was made to look like a total plum by the svelte and diminutive lady BMW riding tutor who, at little more than five feet tall and probably no more than 50kg wet-through, made just about everybody else look cumbersome and inexperienced!
In fact, there was so much to see, I barely got chance to (over) indulge in the massive beer and food marquee and, given that it is a German festival, these fellas really know how to serve beer – in big steins, and plenty of them!
The return home was made in one hit on the Sunday, with the only time off the big Beemer’s saddle being on the train beneath the English Channel for all of forty minutes. I made the trip of 847.6 miles in 16 hours and 18 minutes and, most impressively of all, got up the following morning feeling like I could do it all over again!
BMW Motorrad Days 2019 Gallery