Dust. Deep sand. And some of the most scenic and challenging off-road trails in North America. No, it’s not Baja. It’s the Pine Barrens of New Jersey - site of the inaugural XPLOR event that occurred this April 20th-22nd. Carrying on a tradition that began several years ago in Death Valley and Ocala, BMW Motorrad once again hosted a dual sport ride for BMW owners, only this time as the "XPLOR the Pines" GS ride. Attractions included not only the area’s amazing scenery and trails, but also the chance to win prizes and get some off-road riding tips from Paris-Dakar rallyist and Dirt Rider editor-in-chief Jimmy Lewis and his wife Heather.
The event began with registration and a rider’s meeting on Friday evening, where every XPLOR member received a goodie bag containing a hat, commemorative tee shirt, water bottle as well as several XPLOR patches and stickers. After that Jack O’Connor, president of the Pine Barons Enduro Riders, briefed everyone about what they’d expect on the trail and provided downloadable GPS coordinates. Riders were then grouped into three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and had the opportunity to discuss pre-ride topics like correct tire pressure and riding techniques with Jimmy.
As blue skies and picture perfect weather greeted everyone the next morning, ride leaders aboard the new G 650 Xchallenge led the three groups out to the trailhead and the off-road madness began. A week earlier, the area had received over eight inches of rain in 24 hours from a nor’easter, so the terrain was riddled with puddles and water crossings, some of which were several feet deep. The various routes the rider leaders took their groups on ranged from graded gravel roads to loose sand, and wound through the Brendan Behan national forest and Pinelands recreation areas. After a few hours of riding past cranberry bogs and srub pine, everyone then convened at the Hedger House restaurant for lunch, where Jimmy gave off-road riding lessons, stressing the importance of body position, throttle and clutch control, and most importantly, balance.
After lunch, the groups tore into the trails again, kicking up clouds of dust and racking up the miles. Towards the end of the day, those in the advanced group and others were treated to further pointers by Jimmy and Heather at a large open sand pit. Riders had the opportunity to ask Jimmy questions about sand-riding techniques, which Jimmy demonstrated on an HP2 Enduro. As he railed around the pit, doing short hill climbs, figure eights and motocross turns, everyone marveled at the amazingly fluid, deceptively fast, almost effortless riding style that earned him third place in the 2000 Paris-Dakar and first place in the Baja 1000 in 1998.
Later that night every XPLOR member was treated to a catered dinner, as well as few rounds of "Motojeopardy," which featured trivia questions about riding off-road and BMW racing history. After dinner several prizes were raffled off including copies of "The Long Way Round" book and DVD. Mike Sheehan from Garmin also gave away a BMW Navigator III and also announced that GPS-navigated routes will soon be a feature on www.bmwxplor.com. Pirelli/Metzeler gave away a set of tires, and BMW Motorrad raffled off their grand prize: a BMW Rally enduro suit.
Sunday featured a half-day of riding where XPLOR members got to practice all the tips they received over the weekend and discover more of the Pine Barrens unique scenery. All in all it was a fantastic weekend of riding, and one which would not have been possible without the generous support of Jack O’Connor and the rest of the Pine Barrens Enduro Riders.
If you’d like to take part in the next XPLOR event, the first step is to join XPLOR at www.bmwxplor.com
For information about riding in the Pine Barrens, including the Pine Barrens 500, visit www.pinebarons.org