Motorcycles differ from any other mainstream form of motorized transportation. Because they must be balanced, they require a great deal of skill to operate well, especially off pavement. By comparison, four-wheeled vehicles are incredibly easy to operate over difficult terrain. The very characteristic of a motorcycle that makes it challenging also makes it fascinating. Riding with a highly skilled buddy brings a whole new level of fun to the experience.
“How’d you guys get those bikes up here?” asks Ryan Dull, of the San Isabel National Forest service, as he surveys our machines for damage. Tom Thompson and I have just arrived at the top of Tincup Pass in Gunnison County, Colorado.
“We rode them,” I answer, trying to maintain some semblance of humility, as I suspect the ranger is not accustomed to seeing 600-pound loaded adventure bikes in these parts. Tom and I have just ridden our BMW R 1200 GSs from Taylor Park, CO, to the top of Tincup via the infamous Old Tincup Road. We camped the night before at 10,000 feet, on the shore of Mirror Lake. That route is rocky and rough, to say the least. It’s certainly not the usual easy dirt path on which you’d normally take these Bavarian behemoths for a Sunday jaunt, and there isn’t a Starbucks for miles.
“Last week I towed two riders on Super Ténérés up that trail with my RZR. The guys were done and their bikes were trashed. I’m impressed,” Dull says.
Tom, my traveling companion, is one of three men who represented the United States in BMW’s 2018 International BMW GS Trophy competition in Mongolia. He is one of the best technical off-road big-bike riders in the world. It is an honor and a privilege to join him for a few days in the Rocky Mountain backcountry.