Serendipity in SoCal: BMW Test Rides and a Campout in the Mountains Near L.A.

dual-sport motorcycle ride
Group rides were headed up by locals who found great routes for both the roadies and the dual-sport contingents.

Sometimes, things just come together and make folks happy. In this case, the international motorcycle tour company, MotoQuest, and the Southern California BMW Motorcycle Dealers advertising group formed an unexpected alliance that left those attending their inaugural event in Big Bear beaming with huge smiles.

It had all started a few months earlier when the BMW dealers decided to have a test ride extravaganza, bringing together all the SoCal dealers and their varied demo bikes, to a destination where folks could have a weekend getaway with great roads for real world, hour-plus long test rides. The logistics for the event were parceled out to MotoQuest, who organizes groups of riders around the world and whose Los Angeles facility is conveniently adjacent to the Long Beach BMW dealership. The event dates were pinned down and a block of rooms at a Big Bear resort were set aside for the roadies. The adventure riders were accommodated with sites at the adjacent San Bernardino National Forrest campgrounds. Although early advertising and Facebook details for the event were sparse and did not relate all that would be happening, the event did pique enough interest from the BMW faithful to insure that the event would be noticed.

Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead
The cut in the side of the mountain defines the path of the road between Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, a scenic, pine-scented route seemingly designed for motorcycles.

The location chosen is a well known lake area just a couple of hours from Los Angeles and San Bernardino, nestled in the midst of the San Bernardino National Forest being surrounded by endless pine trees and meandering mountain roads. Although well developed, there are plenty of routes that are light on traffic and, for the dual-sport group, the forest abounds with challenging fire roads. The resort provided an ideal base with a hotel facility providing rooms for various seminars and a full, well-run commercial kitchen that dished out surprisingly delicious meals.

Chris "Teach" McNeil motorcycle stunt riding
Chris “Teach” McNeil wowed all present with his stunting skills. He makes dancing with a 193 HP motorcycle seem like demonstrating how to waltz.

One of the main draws for event were the stunt riding shows by legendary Chris “Teach” McNeil. (His YouTube video on a BMW F 800 GS is approaching 1,000,000 views.) We learned that the “Teach” nickname is not for his amazing feats on the bike or his class on teaching folks how to wheelie, but because his day job is teaching Latin at a private school in New Hampshire. At each of his shows, folks were left wide-eyed in amazement as he wheelied, stoppied, and spun his bike around in clouds of blue tire smoke. His average stature gave us mere mortals hope that we might have some potential as these skills did not require superhuman strength from a linebacker-sized physique. In fact, Chris proved to be most approachable and happy to share his tips on stunting.

Chris volunteered that when he first got started, he was helped along with a sponsorship by a nearby motorcycle salvage yard, Argocycles, which was needed for the endless parts required for his constant trashing of bikes. “You can never worry about parts.” He performed on two different BMW’s. The first was a F 800 GS and second was an S 1000 RR. Both bikes were essentially stock. Aside from replacing the clutch on the ’09 F 800 GS, it has required no other repairs. Skeptical, we looked him in the eye and asked if he was kidding. He unflinchingly confirmed what he said. Over the course of the show, the engine kept bouncing off the rev limiter. That part must have an infinite life. The bikes looked like they had been polished with a disc sander and smelled of burnt rubber. No matter, they still spoke volumes for the endurance quality of the machines.

Jeremy LeBreton of Altrider
Jeremy LeBreton, of Altrider, was one of the presenters, seen here discussing the need to keep loads as light as possible on your adventure bike.

A couple of the managing partners from MotoQuest, Kevin Haggerty and Brenden Anders, were on hand to help organize and run this inaugural event. Kevin led several of the group road rides around the lake like a pied piper on his K 1600 GT. Local riders, familiar with the fire roads, took dual-sport riders into their fantasyland backyard. During the day, there were educational presentations from aftermarket manufacturers, including AltRider and Twisted Throttle. Display booths were set up and included Schuberth, Klim, Motoskivees, Gary LaPlante’s off-road school, MotoVentures, and the California Superbike School.

Friday evening, after the BBQ buffet, we were treated to a special showing of the movie Why We Ride, along with commentary from the movie’s producers. Saturday evening’s Oktoberfest gorge-athon and beer guzzling feast was first followed by a short chat with Kris Ordwarka, who is the new head guy for BMW motorcycles in North America. Kris is an affable enthusiast who is passionate about performance. As one rider commented, “He’s one of us!” The final evening presenter was Glen Heggstad, an imposing figure of a man who has documented his motorcycle adventures in film and books, including his capture by terrorists and subsequent self-induced release. His book, One More Day Everywhere, was titled in response to a question of what he would have done differently on his trip around the world.

San Bernardino Mountains
Several times over the weekend, dual-sport riders met up to ride the fire roads of the San Bernardino Mountains.

On Sunday, as the event began to wind down, riders continued to enjoy demo rides on bikes ranging from an S 1000 RR to a big R 1200 GS Adventure. As the manufacturer booths came down, Kevin Haggerty surveyed the grounds of the Big Bear parking lot and stated that with or without BMW’s attendance, MotoQuest was committed to continue and make the event an annual happening. Thanks, Kevin! We’ll be back.

Sharing stories about motorcycle rides
Sharing stories about rides and machines were, like any motorcycle gathering, a major part of the experience. The group here includes a manufacturer, a stunt rider and a couple of riding instructors; no matter, they’re all enthusiasts.
Pre-ride meetings, motorcycle
Pre-ride meetings were brief and to the point, just enough to make sure everyone was familiar with group riding dynamics. Riders on the test bikes invariably returned with big smiles.


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