Road Trip: Taking on a Mountainous Route to Askari.
Road Trip: Taking on a Mountainous Route to Askari.
Sunday morning came, surprisingly we woke up to full cloud cover and some rain drizzle. By the look of things the weather Gods were against us, however, we were not dithered by this, the ride was much more important than the weather.
My love for adventure riding started off as a bike crush on one of my colleague’s bike. This bike infatuation persisted for a period of about two years straight, during that time I would see the said bike mostly twice per day in our office basement parking! I guess things could have been better, at that point in time I was still ripping around on a superbike, needless to say, characteristics of superbikes are contrary to those of adventure bikes. For me riding superbikes is fun, but only in small doses, that could be attributed to the sitting position and cramped up ergonomics, these days long road trips on a sportbike are a big no no for me. By the way meet my colleague, Joe, and the bike crush in question was his 2018 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L manual. This is not just any Africa Twin but its a bike that was ridden by a 2018 Honda Quest Competition champion, Joe was lucky enough to be able to lay his hands on this bike as used Demo from Honda Menlyn. From what I could hear from Joe, his weekend adventures always sounded like good fun, even though on some occasions he would come back home with a bruised ego from dropping his bike while ripping off-road trails!
Fast forward to the second weekend of October 2020, in the late Saturday afternoon, I received an unexpected Sunday morning ride invitation from Joe, which I enthusiastically accepted on the spot! This invite came at a good time, there was a new member in my man cave in a form of 2019 BMW F850 GS Adventure. I guess it was high time for me to take it out for a proper adventure rip. For a change of scenery from Pretoria, Joe and I were keen on a ride to Magaliesburg and surrounding areas. It didn’t take us too long to agree on Askari Lodge and Spa as a ride destination of choice, their mouth-watering breakfast buffets do speak for themselves.
Sunday morning came, surprisingly we woke up to full cloud cover and some rain drizzle. By the look of things the weather Gods were against us, however, we were not dithered by this, the ride was much more important than the weather. We clutched out around 7:15 am from our Pretoria East meeting point, making our way to the nearest fuelling station for some fuel. After refueling our bikes, we proceeded to join the N1 Freeway in a Southerly direction, we then nonchalantly continued riding in a Westerly direction along the N14 freeway towards Krugersdorp. On the open road, I realized to keep things in check via cruise control on the BMW F850 GS Adventure was a nice to have, and the ability to keep my hands warm via 3 levels of heated grips is like a cherry on top, especially on cold mornings.
We rode along the N14 Highway West until the Lanseria Airport Off-ramp, turned right onto R512, but instead of riding straight as if we were going to Lanseria Airport, we took a short-left turn into R552 in a South Westerly direction as if we were going to the Cradle of Humankind. The BMW F850 GS Adventure TFT dashboard kept me abreast with a whole host of bike information, from what I could read out from the screen, with the odometer locked at 130km/h, the BMW F850 GS Adventure was able to achieve an average fuel consumption of about 4.8lt per 100km. By now the weather Gods were beginning to smile at us, for the first time we were beginning to see clear skies and some sun. Now we could even enjoy beautiful views of Magaliesburg and surroundings areas!
Besides a positive spin-off as far as the weather is conserned, frustrations were growing strong in other departments. After spending about 1 hour and 30 minutes on the tarred road, there were still no signs of gravel roads. Luckily our frustrations didn’t have to last for that too long, we found a left turn into a gravel road R763, this was like finding an oasis in a desert! R763 is a gravel loop road that traverses through farms, a few meters in we had to stop our bikes so that we could engage suitable off-road riding modes and turn ABS off on our machines. It was all fun and games on the gravel loop road before we reluctantly re-joined the black stuff on the R24.
We continued with our ride on the black stuff, and after Buffelspoort road things took a slightly different turn of events, an exciting one to be more specific. Now we were at a rocky gravel section of road that traverses over Breedtsnek Pass, about 3km in we came across a steep rough rocky section, Joe misread his lines and was forced to bring his bike to a complete halt. To rescue his bike from this sticky situation proved to be awkward, at some point we lost our footing and the bike unceremoniously fell on its side. Luckily his bike was safe from any harm, thanks to the aftermarket scaffolding fitted around it. Sadly the same cannot be said about Joe’s sunglasses, as they took a bit of a knock from the resulting fall.
Surprisingly for me, the BMW F850 GS Adventure’s off-road manners proved to be exceptional, the bike goes anywhere you point it, and it can tackle any obstacle you throw at it. The bike handled the mountain pass ascent and descent like a pro, this could be attributed to the Enduro riding mode, standard knobby tires, long suspension travel, and electronic adaptive rear suspension to name a few.
On the other side of the mountain pass, we landed in the vicinity of Askari Lodge gates, on making our way in, to our dismay we discovered because of Covid-19 the restaurant was still closed to the public. It looks like gone are those days of having buffet breakfasts and lunches at Askari. As a consolation, we made our way to a nearby Blackhorse Breweries & Distillery restaurant, where we had a scrumptious breakfast and got to enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Riding Back Home in the Rain
The ride back home was an all wet road affair, this meant we had to ride extra carefully. I used this as an opportunity to explore the capabilities of the BMW F850GS Adventure in the wet, I must say there was no noticeable power difference when I engaged Rain mode, in fact there was enough usable power even at a lower rev range. While riding in the rain, as a test I intentionally gave the BMW F850GS Adventure’s throttle a generous hand, traction control deployed just in time to keep the bike safely railed in. Our travel route home initially traversed along R563 towards Krugersdorp, N14 North to Centurion, and then it proceeded onto N1 North. A couple of kilometers away from my house I had to make an emergency stop at a busy traffic light in the wet, the ABS-Pro brakes fitted to the BMW F850 GS Adventure brought the bike to a complete standstill from an ugly two-wheel slide.
The 2019 BMW F850 GS Adventure has good built quality, and the electronics package fitted to it is class-leading. In the middle-weight adventure bike segment, in my opinion the BMW F850 GS Adventure is competitively priced at R243 000.00, with most optional extras selected. On the road, it does almost everything seamlessly, performs even better off-road. I think it is a befitting bearer of the ‘Touring Enduro’ bike tag given to it by its Bavarian manufacturer. Without a doubt in my mind, the BMW F850 GS Adventure is an awesome proposition in the middle-weight adventure motorcycle segment, one you cannot ignore if you are on the market for a new adventure.
For more about the 2020 BMW F850 GS Adventure, click https://www.bmw-motorrad.co.za/en/models/adventure/f850gs-adventure.html
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More about the Author…
God first, village boy originally from KwaZulu Natal, he is a senior road designer/engineer by trade, chairman of South Africa Road Federation Northern Region (SARF), director at Bikers Social Responsibility Foundation NPO, a biker for over 25 years, motorcycle enthusiast, and contributor at Bike Talk SA.