There are a few words that come to your mind when someone says “BMW:” style, performance, cachet, and camping in the woods. That last one would be for motorcycles only.
Most BMW automotive owners would rather not spend nighttime out in the woods in a tent. After all, why sleep outside when you have heated seats? Indeed, the clientele for BMW motorcycles are of a much different sort than those who buy the cars. For one thing, the price of entry is significantly lower.
While 17 thousand bucks might seem expensive for a bike (and it is), that price wouldn’t get you a nicely-optioned Honda Civic in most places. Still, $17,000 seems like a lot. Most bikes I had the pleasure of seeing were older models, lovingly restored or kept up by their owners. A used bike would probably cost significantly less than a brand-new slab of German composite, still reeking of glowing reviews. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s actually a huge crowd for touring motorcycles and clubs alike, and it shows.
When I first arrived on the campgrounds, not much was going on. A few bikes lazily rolled in, puttering and whirring. A few middle-aged men in shirts espousing the virtues of one late-seventies band or another sat in folding chairs, discussing things that I had no clue about. Distilled into something eloquent, it would be “Motorcycles, vrrrm.”
That isn’t meant to be an insult. My friends and I could possibly boil down our discussions about vehicles to “Cars, vrrrm.”
Well, they’re more on the truck side of things, but I’m not here to tell off my friends for their obviously inferior brand choices.
I stared around helplessly, because that is what I’m good at, until a man named Eric walked up to me and introduced himself. Eric Elshof is, according to the website, a “director at large.”
Congratulations to him for evading the cops so far.
He led me to John Robertson, the current rally president, who (politely) told me to come back in an hour when Michael Mcpeak, one of the past presidents, would be back from his lunch break.
After the hour was up, I strolled back to the campground to find it much more busy than before.
The number of bikers had pretty much doubled, and more were pouring in by the minute.
This time, Michael was there, and was poised to answer my questions. At least until a situation arose with signatures on the entry forms for the rally.
Once that was dealt with, he and Rally President for the first seven years, Derrick Ward sat down and talked to me about the rally.
“In the 90s, members came to Nakusp for labour day weekend,” Derrick said. “They raved about the country, the roads, they said it was great. So in 2002, when we needed a new venue, we decided on Nakusp. It went for two days and attracted 115 people.
It’s grown a little bit every time since. This time we expect over three hundred people in attendance.” A number that may seem unimpressive, until you realize the population of Nakusp is rumored to be somewhere around five people.
“One of the greatest draws for the BC Beemers has been the food,” he added. “We have world-class caterer Debbie Guest, she’s really great.”
I would have liked to test his statement, but I had to take some pictures of the awesome bikes that were filling the campground. Luckily, I had a perfect opportunity a few short steps ahead of me. Marjie and Brian Radford, owners of a 1978 BMW R80-7 with 606,000 kilometres on it were a few paces away, in almost a perfect position for a photograph. I got them to pose, and the results can be seen above this article.
They’ve taken care of their bike with religious dedication. In fact, it doesn’t even have the original engine; they swapped it for… another engine. I don’t know much about motorbikes.
But what is it about motorcycles that makes them so engaging to ride? Lacking personal experience, I asked Derrick: “Well, it’s very hard to explain coherently…” he said.
“That can be fixed.”
“Never mind, go on,” I prodded him.
“It’s…” he paused for a moment, thinking; “it’s much more engaging than driving a car. You’re involving all of your senses when you’re following a twisting road, calculating your cornering lines, it’s just a really engaging experience. You have to completely concentrate on, as we say, ‘keeping the rubber side down.’”
I think I know what he’s talking about, if only a little bit. When I get into a video game, when everything goes right, it’s a great feeling. You have to concentrate 100 per cent, but it rewards you for doing so.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter why or how everyone finds motorcycles fun, or engaging, because in the end, you have a huge group of people who enjoy the things you do.
When you’re in that kind of crowd, it’s easy to make friends. The Bee Cee Beemers operate on that principle, attracting bike lovers of every kind. Some of them don’t even have BMWs.