Check out our newbie’s guide to BMW Motorrad Days, as our writer heads to the world’s biggest bimmer party
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN — Eat. Sleep. Ride. Repeat. So goes the old saying, but substitute “ride” with “drink lots of beer” and “ogle bikes”, and you have BMW Motorrad Days.
If you’ve never heard of the event, imagine a three-day lovefest for BMW motorcycles, occasionally interrupted by German-style partying. Think Oktoberfest meets BMW biker meet, where you’re just as likely to encounter someone in lederhosen as racing leathers.
Every year since 2000, the brand’s faithful followers have converged on the ski resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the first weekend of July.
Presumably the town was chosen for its name, which provides a handy guide as to whether you’ve had enough Bavarian brew: if you’re German and you can no longer pronounce it, you’ll know you’re properly sloshed.
If you’re not and you can finally wrap your tongue around it, it’s time to put that litre mug down before your liver fails.
This year 35,000 people descended on Garmisch for Motorrad Days. Not all of them rode BMWs. You can’t show up at World Ducati Week unless you roll up with something from Bologna between your legs, but here, all bikes are welcome.
Meanwhile, someone seems to have thought it was a good idea to make the journey by sea.
Indeed, sidecars were a popular way to get there this year.
But what to do once you actually arrive at Motorrad Days? This newbie spent two days there and still didn’t manage to take everything in, but if you’re going to make the journey to Garmisch for next year’s party, you could…
Marvel at stunt shows
This year, cunning stunter Mattie Griffin hopped aboard the new G 310 R to pull off his signature array of tricks, including tail-scraping wheelies and, head-scratchingly, riding the bike backwards in circles while perched on the front pegs.
Watching Griffin’s smooth precision is pretty breath-taking on the one hand, and depressing on the other, because he’s able to hoick the front wheel off the ground with seeming effortlessness on a humble single-cylinder, when most of us can’t do it with much more powerful machinery.
Still, it’s hard to be completely envious; Griffin once sliced the tops off the fingers of his left hand when they got caught in the chain and sprockets of a bike.
Ogle custom bikes
BMW is getting into the custom scene in a big way, and plans to announce a Harley-style accessories programme in a couple of months. We’ll have more on that soon. Till then, the huge Custom Village at Motorrad Days allowed third-party builders to strut their stuff.
Some had some wild stuff to strut, too. You would never have guessed at a quick glance that the custom dragster above (built by Studio 1328 Engineering) is based on a BMW K75, a three-cylinder bike that was last manufactured 21 years ago.
Or, conversely, check out this 80s-style retro racer (by Praem, a French customiser)…
… built from a cutting-edge S 1000 RR.
Incidentally, one of the builders there, Temple Choppers, also happens to brew its own beer.
Did I mention there was booze at Motorrad Days?
Watch classic and concept bikes in action
One thing about Motorrad Days, they don’t baby the machinery there. The BMW R 90 S that was ridden to victory in the 1976 Isle of Man TT by Helmut Dahne was being demonstrated at Garmisch. By Helmut Dahne.
He didn’t mind revving the dickens off the 40 year-old racing machine, either.
And while concept cars tend to be babied and kept indoors (many because they have no engines), Motorrad Days provided plenty of chance for bikers to watch a few concept machines in action, in spite of the rain.
BMW trotted out Concept Lac Rose, for instance, basically an R nineT customised to evoke the Paris-Dakar Rally winning machines in BMW’s racing stables, specifically the 1985 R 80 G/S.
Here’s the Concept Lac Rose on the move…
… while the inspiration for it stayed under shelter, as part of a heritage bikes display.
Shop, shop, shop
Accessories, parts, apparel… Everything a BMW fan could want was pretty much on sale at Motorrad Days.
Ladies, the way you feel when you enter a shoe shop is how a biker feels when he sees tents like these.
Eat, eat and eat… and drink
What’s a biker party without food, and what’s a German festival without pork? Accordingly, there was no reason to leave Motorrad Days empty-stomached.
Apart from outdoor food stalls the event also had a central Party Tent, essentially an Oktoberfest beer tent by another name.
The enormous tent contained thousands of revellers, drawn there by large servings of meat, a music stage, a dance area, and of course, a bar.
For the record, BMW calculated that over three days the party-goers ended up consuming 17,000 litres of beer, 14,000 litres of soft drinks, 3,500 portions of chicken, 2,000 portions of curry sausage and 1,800 burgers.
That’s less than 2 litres of beer per head on average, over three days. By Bavarian standards that’s saintly.
Cut your hair
For some reason, there’s a hairdresser’s tent at Motorrad Days. I went to see if they shaved “BMW” into your scalp or something, but no.
You could have a regular haircut for 15 Euros, a small price to pay for the novelty of having your scalp ruffled by a German lady.
Test ride some bikes
This being a BMW event, there’s a chance to test ride the brand’s latest machines on site.
That’ll scratch an itch for you or, worse, plant one.
Ride somewhere, pitch a tent, stay a few days. Apparently that’s a thing with adventure riders.
While many riders found nearby hotels to crash in (not into), hundreds of people turned up on the campgrounds at Motorrad Days where they could pay just 7.50 Euros for a spot and enjoy toilet and shower facilities on-site. Wimps.
Plan your next adventure
The Travel/Training/Test Rides tent brought together reps from riding schools, test ride companies and tour guide outfits. From knee-down training on the track to a guided, supported round-the-world ride, you could find it here, with an approved BMW partner.
One tip we found: touring in South Africa tends to be cheaper than in Europe. A seven-day guided journey that includes a “big 5” safari, a ride to Kruger National Park and a blast through Swaziland costs S$2,550 on the back of a F 700 GS.
The traffic in South Africa is much lighter than in Europe, according to Sama Motorcycle Tour’s Nicole Berman, and summer temperatures usually hover around 25 degrees in the day.
For many riders, there was a certain symmetry to spending time in the touring tent at Motorrad Days, however. Many of them made their way to Garmisch with the help of a BMW-approved tour company to begin with.
See you next year!