Okay, to preface this, I got back into road motorcycle touring 3 years ago when my buddy and I decided to do the ultimate guy trip (to try and supplant our epic post college trip of thirty years ago) and spent a week on rented BMW’s exploring Scotland. Between that country and my home state of Washington, I thought that I had covered some of the best biking roads on the planet. Then I found GSM Motorent and the Smokies of Tennessee and North Carolina! Further preface: since getting back into motorcycling after 30 years, things have changed! A 1000 cc is medium-sized?? And there is this new class called: “Adventure bikes”, which are huge touring enduros which you can take almost anywhere?? It just so happened that the bike that I rented in Scotland, and became very familiar with was the famed: BMW GS 1200. Fell in love with that bike, despite not being a huge Beemer fan, but in Scotland, like most rental bikes places, you aren’t allowed to take them off road like they are meant to be.
Well, not only does Dan and Deb at GSM Motorent let you go off-road, but they specialize in it, encourage it, and they know the Smokies like the back of their hand and will tell you places to go that you would have a hard time finding yourself. Their hospitality and advice is the best and they planned some of the finest riding that we have ever done. Not only that, but – being a Yamaha fan – I was ecstatic when the inventor of adventure bikes with the smaller bore Dakar winning Ténéré, came out with their bigger-bore Beemer competitor a couple of years ago – and Dan has one in his fleet (fully customized by “Twisted Throttle”). That gave my buddy and I a chance to swap back and forth between the Super Ténéré and the GS 1200 through our 500 mile weekend of twisties and forest service roads and got a great chance to really compare these two top-rated machines. The verdict: the Ténéré feels taller and narrower, smoother and more stable both on the asphalt and off. The Beemer is noticeably a little squatter and lighter, but seems to be more squirrelly on the gravel. Certainly more character, but my personal preference is for a bike to be so functional that you forget that it isn’t a part of you. I like them both and they are both excellent and fun rides, but my Yamaha bias has me dreaming of owning an ST someday (trying to get that one by the “Fun-Police”). Where else could you really take these bikes out and do such a “magazine-style” comparison on and off -road?
GSM Motorent also has a great cabin on the river to come back to each night. Sipping on some Tennessee bourbon (“George Dickel’s”) on the deck to the sound of the river babbling by below and recounting the day’s adventure, and tomorrow’s ride plans was special. Ride tip: if you think the famous “Rte 129: Tail of the Dragon” is the ultimate ride (11 miles and 318 curves), go try R.#32 at the Northwest corner of the park for a great stretch of “twisties”.
Thanks, Dan and Deb, you guys were fantastic.
We will be back.
H. Mitchell Kirkland, WA April 2012