On the few occasions I was able to point the bike in a straight line and open the throttle, the motor’s performance was simply astounding. It didn’t matter what other machinery was around you at the time - 525 KTMs, 650 Bergs, 450 Yamahas, 300 TMs - they all ended up going backwards out of your frame of view. But the problem come when trying to press home the bike’s straight-line advantage - especially when the typical course involved dozens of slow-speed twists and turns.
It’s not just the HP2’s weight which affected the handling, but also the fact that you couldn’t move up the seat and stick an inside leg forward in the turns. That’s because there was a damn great ‘pot’ in the way - exactly where you wanted your leg to be. Instead you’d find yourself heading to the outside of corners in order to find enough space to turn standing up. And with a great deal of body English, a dollop of opposite lock and a big handful of throttle, the brutal Beemer would exit the turn trailing a thirty-foot flurry of roost. You really did’t want to get in the way of this baby when she was on full steam on the way out of a turn otherwise you’d find yourself becoming the equivalent of a fragile little ice-cube, with the full force of the Titanic Beemer bearing down on you.
Maybe it’s for this reason that Simo Kirssi managed an incredible seventh place in the 2006 GCC series, because opponents simply got out of his way. Whatever the reason, it was a remarkable achievement. To be honest I expected a bike like the HP2 to be challenging to ride around a cross-country course, but I’d also expected BMW to have somehow waved their magic wand and turned their race bike into an easy to manage gentle giant. Finding out that in reality it’s nothing of the sort only goes to make Kirssi’s achievements that much more magnificent.
On the suspension front the action of forks and shock felt firmer than standard, although not quite as firm as I’d expected. While the shock felt much more progressive and much better suited to the sort of hammering it was getting (keeping the rear end of the bike high), the forks still felt surprisingly plush for a bike of this size.
And while dealing with short sections of rough and rutted terrain wasn’t a massive problem on the HP2, continually having to deal with braking bumps, rutted turns and acceleration bumps required a whole lot more effort and concentration on the part of the rider. And although the bike can get up all but the most technical climbs, it is again the size and weight of the HP2 that limited what it was capable of. With the factory bike weighing-in around 160kg dry, suddenly I understood why BMW tried to reduce the bike’s weight by as much as possible.
BMW’s factory HP2 racer was - like the standard HP2 - an incredible machine to ride on the dirt. Whether you consider it a powerful symbol of a manufacturer’s prowess or little more than an evolutionary cul-de-sac is really a matter of opinion. But there’s no doubt that the factory HP2 has earned its place in the off-road firmament.
With the imminent arrival of the new 450cc sports enduro bike, the HP2 was no longer considered BMW’s flagship off-roader. Reserved only for ‘big bike’ events and special occasions the imposing flat-twin had reached a state of semi-retirement. But I’ll say this for it… it was one hell of a ride…