Fly fishing and off-road motorcycles seem like the perfect fit so for The Mission Issue 24 we teamed up with BMW Motorrad for a mission into the Tankwa Karoo. It involved two riders on the GS Urban and the F 850 GS bikes, two target species in Clanwilliam yellowfish and smallmouth bass and one giant storm. Check out the video of the mission belowA Fell+Co Production in conjunction with AB Studio and The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine. Photos by Simon Pocock, Sean Gibson, Caroline Brouckaert.

Cinematographer: Caroline Brouckaert Director & Editor: Simon Pocock Colour Grade: Dumi Sibanda

The riders. The bikes.

THE WOLF: Kyle Scott

Kyle’s the man behind Wolf Moto ( a Cape Town motorbike rental company based out of The House of Machines where we started our trip. Want to ride any of BMW Motorrad’s Heritage collection bikes or take a day tour around the Western Cape? He’s your man. Kyle’s also BMW Motorrad’s pro rider, meaning he gets to ride bikes for a living and he’s got the tattoos to prove it. He’s even got a tattoo of a tooth that went septic when he was touring around the Himalayas. Who has a tattoo of a septic tooth? A road wolf, that’s who.

THE BIKE: R nineT Urban G/S

Part of BMW Motorrad’s Heritage range, the Urban G/S is a looker with vintage stylistic chops reminiscent of the original R80 G/S from 1980. It looked as cool parked in the inner city as it did pimped with off-road tires rounding mountain passes or navigating rocky terrain deep in the Karoo. With an air/oil-cooled, four-stroke twin-cylinder boxer engine, it fucks off appropriately (especially with a pro like Kyle gunning it into the bends). Compared to the go-anywhere eagle vibes of the F 850 GS, the Urban G/S is more of a Zoolander-esque ‘ambi-turner’, a domesticated wolf if you will, as at home in the wild as it is in the city. 

THE EAGLE: Gareth Tate

It’s actually Dr. Gareth Tate to you, peasant, but he’s not the kind of guy to insist on honorifics. Plus, Gareth’s not the kind of doctor you’d get to check your prostate or swab your shnoz for the rona. He’s got a PhD from the Fitzpatrick Institute of Ornithology and he works for the Endangered Wildlife Trust ( managing the Birds of Prey Programme. He can also fish like a fish eagle armed with dynamite. As we drove deeper into the desert of the Tankwa Karoo, we actually entered one corner of Gareth’s vast office – the southern tip of the Martial eagle range. These birds, Africa’s largest eagle, nest in the power line supports that traverse South Africa. Part of Gareth’s job is to criss-cross dirt tracks in the middle of nowhere checking on the nests.

The Bike: F 850 GS Adventure

BMW Motorrad’s tag line for the F 850 GS is ‘the world becomes the adventure,’ which makes complete sense when you see what this bike, with its 4-stroke twin-cylinder inline engine (70 kW / 95 hp) can do and where its 23-litre fuel tank with its surprisingly moderate consumption of 4.2 l per 100 km can take you (hint: far). The more we got nailed on this trip by wind, rain, dust, sand, mud, climbs, corrugations, potholes and what seemed like impossibly rocky terrain, the more the F 850 GS came into its own (and the more stoked Gareth became). It’s as if this bike was made for bluelining untouched waters and checking on eagles’ nests.

I did not sleep well. Never do before a fishing trip.

I did not sleep well. I never do before a fishing trip. The wind woke me up first. A proper Cape Town howling gale, accompanied by the occasional squall of sideways rain, then a weird five or so minutes of calm leading you to think it was over before it would start up again. It’s the kind of unhinged Western Cape weather that, unless you’re driving away from it, suggests a rethink of your outdoor plans. So, when the first WhatsApp group messages started coming through at around 5am, I wasn’t that surprised that a few people were suggesting that ‘maybe’ the timing and conditions for this weekend away were not ideal.

I admit, I bullied them a bit, saying that as anglers we never write off a day entirely; that it’s the very nature of fly fishing to take a “look see” and that, at the very least, we should meet as agreed for a coffee, do a gear check, get the bikes and back-up vehicles packed and make a call from there. I knew that once we were all together, with some caffeine in our systems, our warm beds just a faint memory, there was a very good chance we would hit the road, weather be damned.

Fly fishing in remote areas + bikes that can take you to those areas = a match made in heaven.

The thing is, gale or no gale, hurricane or no hurricane, pandemic or no pandemic, we had to do this trip. Right from the start of the year we had been chatting to BMW Motorrad about the idea of doing something cool to combine what we do with their GS bikes. It was a no-brainer. Fly fishing in remote areas + bikes that can take you to those areas = a match made in heaven.

Then the year went to shit. As we sat at home contemplating the plague, months passed, winter flew by and fishing seasons (both official and hypothetical) closed and opened again. As South Africa’s national lockdown eased to just the right level for us to disappear into the deserts and mountains of the Tankwa Karoo for a long weekend (in time to create something for this our last issue of the year), the bloody storm started to roll in.

Fok voort

If ever there was a time to invoke the Afrikaans idiom of, ‘fok voort,’ this was it. In fact, it’s a saying that the world should adopt. It’s got a literal translation of ‘fuck forward,’ but a working usage of, ‘keep carrying on.’ Internally I was adamant that we could do this thing. If 2020 has taught us anything on an individual or personal level, it’s that you have to keep going no matter what’s dished up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. Plus, the name on this rag is The Mission and like GS riders, we’re ok with a little discomfort and effort to get that outdoor high.

40 years for BMW Motorrad

Pandemic aside, 2020 has been a serious milestone year for BMW Motorrad, because it is the 40th anniversary of their iconic GS range. Four decades of adventure racing, rallying and technical innovation. In case you were wondering, G is for Gelande (terrain) and S is for Strasse (roads) and when BMW Motorrad launched the first model, the GS80 in 1980, the idea of an on-road/off-road motorbike was pretty revolutionary. Here were bikes that could take you to places previously inaccessible to most riders, bikes that could satisfy anyone’s wanderlust and sense of adventure. Want to cross the Mongolian steppe, do the Cape-to-Cairo route, mud-wrestle in the Congo or tackle the mountain passes of Lesotho? There was nothing stopping you from doing so. Outside of adventure biking, the GS range have also proven themselves in off-road racing, winning the Paris-Dakar rally on numerous occasions.

Something I didn’t know was that South Africa has made a pretty special contribution to the GS story in that one of the most unique bikes to ever come out of the stable was, in a way, a South African thing. I shit you not. If your old man or gramps has an old BMW motorbike in the garage with a R80 GS Kalahari decal on it, you or your family might be in possession of a valuable piece of motorbike history. In 1997, 50-odd R80 GS Basic bikes were shipped to South Africa.

Return to sender

The team that worked on converting them from Euro specs to South African specifications, also modified them for South African riders with larger fuel tanks, a wind deflector and a white instrument panel. Because BMW’s RS1100 GS bike were launched around the same time and were selling well, the R80 GS Kalaharis and their retro styling did not initially take off in South Africa.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the GS Basic models were selling well. So the decision was made to crate up all unsold GS Kalaharis and ship them back to Germany. As they got snapped up by European buyers, back in South Africa the penny dropped that these were in fact incredible, iconic bikes. The market for those second-hand ones that remained in South Africa shot through the roof. Today the world over, the R80 GS Kalahari and it’s ‘boer maak ‘n plan’ local modifications for long distance, off-road African adventure are rarer than hen’s teeth and worth a pretty penny. From Elon Musk, to Charlize Theron, the Kreepy Krawly  and Roger Federer’s mum, I love a South African success story so to hear that this the unicorn of GS bikes has South African DNA was brilliant.

Get the rest of this story and more in issue 24 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.

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