Riding the London gauntlet on a BMW GS Adventure

THE handy thing about having the GSA tucked away in the garage is it’s always ready for an impromptu trip to London. I used to get the coach, but now the Beemer gets used so infrequently it’d be rude not to take it.

If you’ve never riden in our capital before then be prepared for a challenge as technical as any track day. In fact, I’d go as far as saying riding in town is more dangerous and in some cases more fun than a few laps of a circuit.

The rules of the road just don’t seem to apply here. The key is to keep moving, a continual flow from one traffic light GP to another. Threading your way through the maze of moribund motorists is an art form, a skill that can only be honed after many near misses and near-death experiences.

I used to commute into London on a motorbike every day for two years and could guarantee that at least three drivers would try to kill me.

Berks in Mercs that look one way at junctions but not the other, taxi driver tools who are more intent on picking up a fare on the other side of the road than spot you about to slot past. It’s dangerous out there – but you soon take it all in your stride.

Near misses come so frequently and range so widely on the Chance of Death Scale that they strangely become the norm. You expect them, a sixth sense spotting the driver who hasn’t spotted you before you even realise you have.

The GSA is a perfect accompaniment for capital crossing. Many riders prefer small, nimble and lithe machinery, but I find the tall riding position and width of the BMW helps part the traffic and gives you an added sense of safety.

Garmin Zumo sat nav is OK, but not flawless

The 1150cc boxer twin’s cylinder heads also act as decent leg protectors too. On one journey through Tooting back in my commuting days I was riding a BMW Rockster, a sister bike to my current steed, when a Fiesta failed to spot me as he edged out through the traffic.

I didn’t have time to break, clipping the rear of the car as it slipped out, narrowly missing an arse-over-tit trip over the handlebars.

The cylinder head almost certainly saved my leg. As I sat on the kerb recovering I stared at the pierced head spluttering out oil and knew that could just have easily been my leg and a compound fracture weeping claret.

The memory of that is buried deep in my subconscious whenever I ride in London and I’ve found I’m a little more cautious compared to some of the scooter jockeys who’ll dip and dive for any gap no matter how low the chances of survival may seem.

I prefer the simple flow, slipping in where I can, slotting by when there’s space, always edging forwards, never stopping, aiming to keep feet on pegs in trials bike fashion all the way to the destination.

Riding in town is a martial art, a survival technique and one that when honed will serve you well. And the best bit? There’s no congestion charge, free parking and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll get to where you’re going when you planned to.

I might be a car journalist, but deep down, I’m a motorbike enthusiast.

One Response to “Riding the London gauntlet on a BMW GS Adventure”

  1. Very helpful post man, thanks for the info.

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