The BMV MOA International Rally

Text: Michael Nemlich • Photography: Michael Nemlich

The weather was terrific, remaining clear and not too warm throughout. Over 5,600 people attended from all four corners of the continental US, including participants from Anchorage and Vancouver. And unlike some other rallies, the only trailers in attendance belonged to the vendors and those being pulled by BMW bikes.

National rallies of this type are enticing for many reasons. You get to ride new roads and visit new parts of a country, see old friends and make new ones, add to your knowledge of motorcycles and touring, and discover the latest in accessories.

Motel, camping facilities, and eating establishments easily handled the influx, although a wait of two hours in some restaurants was common. And everything seemed to be on sale due to the favorable conversion rate of US to Canadian dollars.

The crowded calendar of events ran all three days from 7a.m. until 9 p.m., with the beer garden and entertainment venues going strong much longer. The local service clubs provided plenty of food on site and one of my favorites of the regional delights were the vinegar-drenched fries, what the Brits call "fish and chips" without the fish.

The seminar schedule was extensive, with many events attended by an SRO crowd. Topics of interest covered the history of Trenton, a legal perspective on riding in Ontario, and the BMW MOA Foundation. Other colloquiums included: basic tech, battery tech, bike detailing, motorcycle mechanics for dummies, emergency tubeless tire repair, and the always-popular "How to Pick Up Your Bike" demo. Bike specific tutorials dug into airhead transmission and final drive tech, a chain gang extravaganza, and K-bike troubleshooting.

The seminars on touring were varied and generally very well attended. Notch Miyake, author of Purple Mountains, talked about his three-month-long, 14,000-mile trip across the country to Alaska. Grant and Susan Johnson, the creators of Horizons Unlimited waxed nostalgic about their 13-year trip around the world, two-up on a R80 G/S. Lawrence Hacking gave a fascinating presentation called "A Privateer's Account of the Paris-Dakar Rally." Also presenting were the principals of Beech, Edelweiss, Lotus, New Zealand, and Pancho Villa.

Other popular venues: the flea market and oil change areas, the vintage motorcycle display, and the motorcycle judging event showcasing the Team Touratech USA Rally Bike that Ramey "Coach" Stroud will ride in the first around-the-world motorcycle race.

BMW NA and BMW Canada supplied support in a big way. Demo fleets offering test rides were totally booked. One trailer displayed the BMW line of Rider Wear. The new BMW G/S police bike, a very neat machine, turned heads, and BMW sponsored a Track Day at Shannonville, a nearby racetrack. The riders taking part had a real treat in store. After signing in and filling out all those liability waivers, they were off to prepare their bikes for tech inspection - good tires, no leaks, and all glass, mirrors, and lenses covered. Not only was it free, BMW gave everyone a gift package and lunch. In addition to this chance to ride on a racetrack, albeit under controlled conditions, organizers put on a Slow Riding School. I was impressed, watching instructors from the Miami-Dade Police Department and the California Highway Patrol turn figure eights on an LT with the cones only 18 feet apart. Once you mastered that you could try the offset cones and then the 90-degree and U-turn track. The secret is turning your head, holding the throttle constant, and slipping the clutch. Much easier said than done.

Friday morning featured a G/S ride complete with water crossings that lasted into the afternoon. Everyone returned, some with parts hanging off their bikes, covered in dirt and mud, all dead tired but smiling.

The Rally ended Saturday with the evening Awards Ceremony. The grand prizes went to a 1972 restored R75/5, furnished by the BMW MOA, and a 2002 F650CS from BMW NA. Other prizes included trips contributed by Beech, Edelweiss, Lotus, and Pancho Villa. Some of the other honorees: the youngest and oldest riders, the oldest bike (1939 R51), and the farthest distance covered getting to the rally. Lady Hillary, a white fur-balled dog, received a special award for surviving 100,000 kilometers on the back of Linda Blaise's R1100 RS.

Laurence Kuykendall, the marketing manager for BMW NA and a big time rider, may have summarized the rally best: "It's not about noise, flashy colors, the big tires or doing doughnuts. It's the simple act of riding in the real world."

Next year the BMW MOA rally will drop in on Charleston, West Virginia, an area thoroughly webbed with great roads. Look in the Spring '02 issue of RoadRUNNER for a preview. I hope to see you there.