More than two months after leaving the Eiffel Tower in France, a big group of BMW GS riders from all over Europe recently arrived in Beijing after 16,000 kilometres of life-changing travel through 15 countries. Tour leader Eric Massiet du Biest has already started his return journey but found time to reflect on this unforgettable voyage of discovery…
Twenty five BMW GS and GS Adventure riders started the Paris-Beijing trip – 16 of who were riding two-up – and all arrived safely in Beijing after a harsh, intense, but marvellous journey where they discovered places that they would never have imagined they would ever ride to on a motorcycle. This first group was called the ‘Marcos’.
A second group of 10 GS riders joined them in Tashkent. These riders were called the ‘Polos’, and they would follow the same itinerary to Beijing, but one day behind. Now there were French, Swiss, Swedish, Italian, Belgian and American riders heading east and sharing the same dream and experience. For all riders, among the many highlights of this journey was the passage through Iran and Central Asia (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) – so much so that Eric is planning a GS tour specifically to this region in 2015.
As tough as the journey was – especially crossing the Pamir Mountains and negotiating the dangerous national roads in China – the experience of sharing the struggles and the rewards with a group of like-minded riders is what makes this kind of travel experience so special. This was, of course, helped by the excellent performance and reliability of the GS bikes that took their riders across some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain without missing a beat, as Eric confirms.
“Ever since 2008, as a conscientious and professional tour organiser I’ve always brought a serious list of BMW spare parts on all our travels. But once again on this journey, I invested a lot of energy to carry these parts for nothing! When we add together all the mileages ridden by all participants in this Paris-Beijing tour, we rode a combined total of 550,000 km with 35 different R 1200 GS. Apart from a rear wheel bearing on a 90,000 km GS, three flat tyres and some minor damages due to falls, we had no work to do on these amazing R 1200 GS! We changed oil and filters at the halfway point and that was it!”
Upon arrival in Beijing, the ‘Marcos’ and the ‘Polos’ celebrated with dinner and dancing, sharing the happiness, pride and relief of a successful tour end. Everyone flew back home from the Capital, apart from three French couples, who wanted to pursue their wanderlust a bit more. They took the legendary Orient Express train northwest to Ulan Bator, then Irkutsk and then all the way to Moscow. For Eric and his staff, it was time to fix all the GS bikes into their special transport frames and load them into the two containers that are now safely stowed in the hold of a ship and sailing back home to Europe.
On August 15, Eric and a new group of riders received an official send-off for their ‘Long Way Home’ expedition, thanks to partner Beijing Youth Daily press group. Officers from the Beijing Police, the Mayor’s Office, executives from BMW Motorrad China and many Chinese riders came along to wave off the group of six French riders who are following Eric home on this latest 25,000 kilometre, three-month adventure journey west across Asia. They have prepared for two years with winter camps and off-road training to make sure they are able to cope with the demands of this adventure. Aside of the essential visas and paperwork, there will be no road-books and comfortable hotels booked – everything they need for sleeping, eating and riding will be taken with them. The plan is to go through some wild places, although Eric insists he has prepared them well and will definitely look after them on this new route home.
“This route has nothing to do with the way we came in,” confirms Eric. “This time we will go through Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, through the Taklimakan Desert, Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh and I hope the Zanskar Valley. I still have a problem to overcome to travel in Pakistan as it is currently a bit dangerous to cross this country. We wanted to go through Lahore, Meltan and Quetta but the Taliban is active there – and I don't think anybody would pay a ransom for us! So, I’m working on a Plan B to reach Iran safely, avoiding Pakistan after Ladakh. I might be a little crazy, but I’m not totally stupid!”
Having christened his R 1200 GS ‘Cirrus’, ridden her around the world and already completed more than 35,000 kilometres to date, Eric knows he will be reluctant to return the well-travelled liquid-cooled Boxer back to BMW when this latest trip is complete.
“I believe it will be a big problem for BMW to get it back,” he said. “I might keep riding down to Africa after this Long Way Home trip, just so they can't catch me! By the time I will come back in November, I will have put 60,000 km on Cirrus in less than a year and we have already a real love story. I talk to her, she looks after me and together we help our clients realise their dreams. After the ‘One World One R 1200 GS’ world tour, and this Paris to Beijing journey, I now have the pleasure to ride her back home.”
To follow the GS riders during their two-month adventure from Beijing back to Europe, please visit http://gs-paris-pekin.T3.fr where a regular blog is continually updated with news, videos and pictures from this journey.