The life of Byron.
Riding glaciers from the South East Asian jungle to Iceland – for Byron Coetsee, the winner of the international GS Trophy, driving the GS opens up a world of opportunities. The destination of his latest mission lies 11,500 kilometres north of his native Cape Town.
Whoever is planning to shoot a commercial for the new R 1200 GS needs to carefully select the venue – especially these days where paparazzi can suddenly turn up at every step. For the film crew, who travelled to Iceland for their latest assignment, it was advantageous that most adventure bikers didn't yet have the least densely populated country in Europe on their radar. This makes the island the perfect place for shooting a product.
My House is your house.
The most prominent driver in the campaign is the 24-year-old Cape Town resident Byron Coetsee, who received friendly greetings after a particularly long journey by Inga Birna Erlingsdóttir, the GS driver from Iceland, who raced in the women's knock-out and is also involved in the latest GS product shooting.
Although they live on opposite ends of the globe, Inga and Byron quickly became friends thanks to their common GS Trophy experiences. Before filming began, Byron took several days to help Inga expand her off-road skills.
"I like experiencing how someone perfects their driving skills", the long-haired South African admits. He himself won the BMW Motorrad international GS Trophy in South East Asia in March 2016 alongside his team mates Charl Moolman and John Harris. "I chose to arrive a bit earlier so that I can coach Inga a little. She has made enormous progress. It's fun to see that." This is precisely what distinguishes the BMW Motorrad community: We need to support and to promote each other. Since he won the trophy, Byron is constantly amazed at how stable and helpful the worldwide network of drivers who are united in their love of the GS is.
"I was lucky with the trophy to be able to ride with some of the world's best bikers, but I never would have imagined that the appreciation for this bike could give rise to a community that spans the whole world. In the meanwhile I have friends in all parts of the world – I can go virtually anywhere and usually find someone with whom I can set up for the night." Byron, Charl and John have also done the same following their visit to the BMW Motorrad Days 2016 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The trio travelled through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and the Czech Republic and met their fellow competitors for the GS Trophy along the way. This illustrates one of the principles of the BMW Motorrad world: You never ride alone.
How everything began
Byron's love of two-wheeled vehicles began at the local motocross track. When he was 7 years old, his father took him there. When Byron discovered an 80 CC kids motorcycle, which was being offered for sale, he implored his father to buy it for him. His father promised: If he succeeded in riding a route through the deep sand and could control the vehicle without keeping it up with his feet, then the motorcycle was his. As single-minded back then as he is today, Byron somehow mastered this task – and 2 days later his father came home with the small bike on top of the trailer. A life-long passion was born.
"I begged my daddy every weekend to let me ride and I got on my bike every chance that I got – even in our garden. As our house was being renovated, I used the sand pile as a jump hill. " The first Motocross race followed, where he was quite successful. Having said that, he then, following his father's advice, became more and more interested in adventure bikes.
"When I was about 14, he sat me on his GS and let me ride once around the block in first gear. He sat on the seat right behind me. He had tremendous confidence in my driving skills. It strengthened my self-confidence. Today we both have our own GS and we undertake joint tours."
First tours, then trophies
Countless tours have led Byron criss-crossing through South Africa and Namibia. He became an extremely experienced biker and finally, after he had won regional and national qualifying races, competed for the South Africa team at the international GS Trophy. Byron, Charl and John were highly motivated and each wanted to be the first South African to bring the GS Trophy home.
"We were all aware that this wasn't about us as individuals. We would win only if we pulled together. Before the Trophy race started, we took a lot of time to get to know each other. We went to train in Lesotho and worked closely with the journalist Stefan Boshoff. In Thailand we entered the competition all together and would emerge victorious from it."
Like most of the Trophy participants before him, Byron would love to remain a "part of the family" and also take part in the next GS Trophy. Among the highlights of this year's Trophy for him was that, for the first time, a women's team was part of the game. That was, in his view, an extremely positive step for BMW Motorrad. "I think it's cool that there are women who just as crazy about GS motorcycles as we are. It's fantastic that BMW offers them the platform for developing themselves further and has hit on exactly the right way. By allowing a women's team to enter the GS Trophy, it has made it clear in a credible way that there are many women who are entitled to a place in the 'family'. In a heavily male-dominated area, that's extremely cool."
In the here and now
The last 12 months have been a very eventful time for the software engineer from Cape Town: Hardly had he completed the regional and national qualifying races with his 2009 model R 1200 GS, then he soon belonged to the winning team in an international race event in South-East Asia – and a short time later, he went driving with the new GS to Iceland. From the moment in which he himself first sat down on the latest version, Byron is convinced that the best motorcycle in the world has become an even better motorcycle.
"The GS has always been a motorcycle legend, but in the past five years it has massively developed – through the introduction of water cooling all the way to this very latest version, where I am right now and that, frankly, feels like a ride on a heavy Motocross bike – simply fabulous. What the BMW developers have done with this new GS is really incredible."
Byron also finds that the scenically stunning Iceland with its lava fields, waterfalls, glaciers and geysers is a terrific destination for GS fans, but also believes that you can't beat South Africa when it comes to adventure tours thanks to its enormous variety. "Gravel, hard Enduro, paved tracks – in South Africa there is simply everything from sand dunes in Atlantis to the Franschhoek mountains, where you can ride 13 passes in one day! And whoever prefers driving on unpaved roads will get their money's worth."
If he's not sitting on his bike, the Byron develops and realises apps. He is a very busy man and, as he himself says, has a bizarre passion for driving licences – for land, water and airborne vehicles. I want to be able to reach any place on this Earth. That's why I have a diving licence, driving licence and a pilot's licence. After I get my sailing licence, the next thing will be to get my licence for lorries.