FROM THE ENVIRONMENT TO ZIANO PIACENTINO (PIACENZA). “I went to the GS Academy and learned to shake.” Ride Luciano and his fellow adventurers with him in the two days of lessons organized under the “Blu Bike Camp” banner on behalf of Bmw Motorrad. Everyone smiles because that definition summarizes the technique for shifting weight and changing direction without losing control of the bike. Serious stuff. But joking is always good for morale and eases the tension. For two-wheel enthusiasts, the school needs no introduction. For everyone else, it is the tool offered by the Munich house to learn the basics of off-roading. Having fun. The motto: “Learn to walk anywhere, with the utmost safety and serenity”, in the words of Daniele Madrigali, 62, enduro rider at heart: as an amateur rider in his youth, then moved on to be an inspector for Kawasaki, before becoming team manager for Honda and Yamaha, taking home four world titles, 25 Italian and four in the “Six days international” of enduro. With him are Loris Milza, 31, the “young man from the workshop”, and his long-time friend, Giuseppe Grazioli, known as “Cicci”, 64 years old, half spent racing as an amateur, before moving on to prepare motorcycles for Aprilia and Honda. Among all, almost a century of experience off the asphalt.
But is a two-day course good for anything? The answer cannot be universal. It helped me (and half a dozen schoolmates). All lacking in knowledge of off-road vehicles, we finished the lessons with the awareness of being able to take a trip “beyond the asphalt” without the hassle of the terrain. Including the “differently young”, with their minds encrusted with decades of habits and conditioned reflexes that are difficult to dissolve. The best of the group was a girl, five foot six and a mere 50 kilos, who in the end handled a GS 1250 (with a lowered saddle, for the occasion) as if it were a bicycle.
Off-road school with the GS Academy
Everything takes place in the Ziano Piacentino area, on the hills of Val Tidone combed by rows alternating with pastures, half an hour’s drive from Piacenza. A course day for the «Camp», another for the «Track», which can also be attended separately. The GS Academy recipe is a mix of lawn, earth, gravel, mud (a little), loose stones and a pinch of asphalt. But before tasting them, you need to do some school. A couple of hours, just long enough to explain how to “feel” the ground touched by the wheels with your hands on the knobs, but also the riding position and how to “shake”, pardon, shift your weight on the bike. And before all of this, keep your head up to look ahead, “read” the terrain, assess obstacles and decide how to deal with them. Come to think of it, it is also a useful lesson in everyday life. With or without two wheels.
Daniele clearly explains the principles. Understanding is easy, application is another story. Thus, the moment of the “field” arrives, with yellow pegs and white ribbons placed to design the paths to be tackled. The bottom is grass and clay, faced with various BMW models, from the G310, to the F850, to the R1250. All in GS declination, of course. And this is also an added value of this course, compared to others: the bike is made available by the organization, avoiding putting one’s own at risk, with the worry of falling and possible damage. At the time of registration, it is possible to indicate the model. Among the classmates, there was also the owner of a Honda Africa Twin, who chose an F850GS Adventure, two-cylinder front gear more similar in characteristics to the Japanese two-wheeler left in the garage for the weekend.
After reviewing the «instructions for use», it’s time to drive: standing on the platforms, straight and curved, slope and counter-slope, overcoming the rungs of a wooden ladder or a series of logs placed horizontally in the ground. Nothing dangerous, but the tension is there “regardless”, as Totò would say. A couple of hours of exercise, then it’s time for lunch. “No wine, you drive”, Cinzia Nicolini, 56, soul of logistics for the GS Academy, is mandatory.
In the afternoon, still «pitch» for an hour and then an off road trip, to put into practice the teachings received. Daniele Madrigali leads the group, “Cicci” or Loris close. At each change of terrain or difficulty, the forerunner makes a stop and instructs the schoolchildren. And away, towards a new (mini) adventure.
Upon returning, there is the chat, the comparison on the experience just lived. Then, shower and dinner. This time, with the opportunity to taste a bit of Gutturnio dei Colli Piacentini. In moderation, because the next day at 9 there is class again. A little theory, a little review and then we get on the saddle to go to the “pitch”. This time, there are pins along the way. The exercise is an uphill and downhill slalom. Time flies and it’s time for lunch. Light meal, because in the afternoon there is a three-hour bucking in the hills of Val Tidone. And this time, there is absolutely everything: gravel, loose stones, grass, a few puddles of mud and three fords of streams. Let me be clear, to me it seemed an epic undertaking, but they were passages on fairly solid grounds and with a maximum of thirty centimeters of water. Not exactly an Amazonian scenario, but already an adventure for those who had plowed through the puddles in a dirt parking lot after a storm.
In the end, there is the satisfaction of having exceeded one’s limits, easy to read in the smiles of the participants. Everyone. Mission accomplished. For us and for the GS Academy.
GS Academy Camp: 450 euros (including room and board)
GS Academy Track: 490 euros (including room and board)