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ADV NewsThe GS Trophy Takes Over New Zealand, Here’s Why & How to Follow

The GS Trophy Takes Over New Zealand, Here’s Why & How to Follow

 GS riders from around the world battle it out on the trails of Middle Earth.

Published on 01.31.2020

Every year, hundreds of Adventure Riders take part in tests of skill all around the world. Men and women competing — people just like you and me — many of whom have never raced a motorcycle in their lifetime. Often these competitions are not widely publicized and in many cases, adventure riders first learn about them by word of mouth. Even then, the rules of competition aren’t widely understood. The International GS Trophy is such an event. But it’s more than just a competition, it’s an adventure of a lifetime. And here’s everything you ever wanted to know about it.

More Than Riding Skills

The International GS Trophy is a Motorcycle Riding Challenge organized by BMW Motorrad. Participating countries select three riders after a series of qualifiers, and together with a journalist, they travel to an exotic riding destination for eight days. 

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by BMW Motorrad

The organizers put the teams under a set of challenges that demonstrate real trail situations. None of the obstacles require high speed; they are, however, incredibly technical and often demand thinking outside the box. They may also require navigation as well as survival skills, such as lighting a fire or making a shelter. 


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While some of the best GS riders in the world participate in the GS Trophy, the pure riding abilities of the individuals aren’t always the deciding factor for the winning team.

How It Got Started?

The first GS Trophy took place in Tunisia in 2008. The same year that was supposed to be the 30th Dakar anniversary, which got canceled due to security concerns. Many still believe that BMW wanted to have a mini-Dakar only with BMW motorcycles. 

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by Dimitrios Tournas

Five teams participated in the inaugural event. Team USA claimed the first place, followed by Spain and Germany who tied in second place. Italy came 3rd while Team Japan finished in the 4th position.

Many perceive the GS Trophy as a marketing event, but it’s much more than that. Since only BMW owners can participate in the qualifiers, one can say it is a celebration of the Brand. But the GS Trophy represents the Spirit of GS, bringing the riding community together. Riders train for months and even years to compete at a qualifier. Even the ones who don’t make their country’s team walk away with new lifelong friendships. And this is what the GS Trophy represents.

National Pride

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by Dimitrios Tournas

Twenty-three teams from all over the world have gathered for the 7th International GS Trophy. Riders from across the globe are selected to represent their country or region. Once again, BMW has selected six women to be part of the two International Female Teams, which will participate side by side with the men.

Several first-time teams are participating in 2020 like the Netherlands, North Africa, the Middle East, and Thailand. Returning teams, including among others, the US, Japan, the UK, France, and the 2018 winner, Team South Africa. Noticeable absent this year are the countries of Germany and Canada after their National BMW Groups decided not to participate.

Can I Participate?

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by BMW Motorrad

The GS Trophy is open for every rider who owns a BMW GS motorcycle and is not a current professional racer or instructor. Every participating country or region organizes qualifiers from which three riders will make the region’s team. 

The qualifiers take place every other year, between the GS Trophy. In the past, the US qualifiers were in three separate locations across the country, with a 2-3 day event. On day one, a navigation type challenge allows the competitors to get to know each other while earning points. The second day, a series of individual and team challenges determine the 15 riders who qualify for the finals. The last day, the competitors use the same motorcycle, eliminating the advantage of weight, modifications, or personalization of the bike.

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by BMW Motorrad

During every qualifier, women are also competing side by side with the men for a spot in the group. While a coed team is not something we have seen yet, a female rider has gotten close to finished in the top three numerous times. Until then, BMW will choose several female riders for a second qualifier from where one or two teams will travel and compete at the actual GS Trophy.

Finally, BMW offers the opportunity for those who want to relive the excitement of the riding, but without the competition, to visit the same places as the GS Trophy participants. The “Follow The Trails” program allows everyone to visit the country after the event is over and ride over the tracks of the Trophy, accompanied by certified BMW Tour Guides.

New Zealand!

BMW International GS Trophy New Zealand
Photo by BMW Motorrad

This year, BMW is taking the winners of the national qualifiers to beautiful New Zealand for eight days of mythical adventures. And while it is not known if riders will follow the trails of Middle Earth, they are in for some stunning views.  

Located southeast of Australia, this Polynesian country’s main islands, North and South, cover an area just shy over 100,000 square miles. In comparison to the US, it stretches from the northwest corner of Pennsylvania to Florida’s panhandle. The country’s highest point is Mount Cook (Aoraki) at 12,218 ft. One-third of the country’s 60,000 miles of roads are unpaved, promising an unforgettable experience for the riders.

What’s New This Year?

WATCH: Close-up look at the BMW F850GS participants will use at the International GS Trophy.

The last time BMW used the F-series bike for the GS Trophy was back in 2012 when the competition traveled to South America. With the updated version of the twin-cylinder presented to the market in late 2016, and after three editions with the BMW R1200GS, for 2020, the chosen motorcycle for this year’s event is the latest BMW F850GS. 

Also, for the first time, the route is not a loop on account that it will take in both New Zealand’s North and South Island. The competitors will start in Auckland and ride to the Southwest part of the country, in Queenstown.

Why Should I Check It Out?

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by Dimitrios Tournas

For the 2020 GS Trophy, we expect the clash of the titans. The winner of the last two GS Trophies, South Africa, is back together with a team more powerful than ever and determined to go for the triple. The United States is following an utterly different path in their training, and everyone is excited to see the results. Team France demonstrated an excellent technique in 2018, and we are eager to see what they have for us this time. And with the return of three veteran teams, Nordic, Brazil, and of course, Italy, you can expect an incredibly competitive event

When Does It Occur?                     

Traditionally, the GS Trophy happens every other year with the qualifying rounds taking place in between. This year, the 7th GS Trophy will begin on the 9th of February from Auckland and will continue until the 16th of the same month when the groups will reach Queenstown. 

Each morning, the competitors leave the bivouac in groups of 10-12 motorcycles. Groups consist of two teams (three riders and their journalist) accompanied by the Marshals, who are the guides of the group. On their way to the next bivouac, they will be facing two or three special stages, unknown to them until they reach the designated area. The following day, the groups will shuffle, allowing every country to ride with each other. 

How Do I Follow The Action?

BMW International GS Trophy
Photo by Dimitrios Tournas

New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of Central Time in the US. Therefore the Live Facebook coverage, when it is possible, will most likely take place between 1 and 10 pm Central. Team USA, like most teams, has a dedicated Facebook and Instagram account (@GSTrophyTeamUSA) with a group of volunteers coordinating the coverage from back home. 

Daily updates, the teams’ reports, and the scoreboard will be available on the official website, gstrophy.com, and, of course, here on ADV Pulse. Additional coverage will be provided by BMW Motorrad USA as well. 

BMW Motorrad released the following preliminary program (times and dates converted to Central Time)

  • Feb 4 – All Day: Arrival of Journalists
  • Feb 5 – 5:00 pm: Forenoon GS Trophy Briefing session, practical riding training starting after lunch
  • Feb 6 – 1:00 pm: Practical riding training
  • Feb 7 – 1:00 pm: Overall Briefing for all participants and welcome event
  • Feb 8 – 1:00 pm: First stage of the int. GS Trophy
  • Feb 9 – 14 – All Day: Stage 2 – Stage 7
  • Feb 15 – 1:00 pm: Final stage
  • Feb 16 – All Day: Day of departure

Author: Dimitrios Tournas

Dimitrios is originally from Greece but now lives in Southern California. While he is still relatively new to off-road riding, he has competed in six GS Trophy qualifiers. Dimitrios has an extensive background as a professional Photojournalist, and has worked, lived, and traveled in over 30 countries. He is currently the President of the GS Giants, an International motorcycle community focused on promoting safe adventure riding.

Author: Dimitrios Tournas
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