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BMW Driving Academy Maisach

Posted By Frank Campbell #43430, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Bavarian factory has built a solid tradition in performance vehicles. True to the proverb "power is nothing without control," the company has vigorously promoted training for both the car and motorcycle enthusiast. This trend now gone global, is very evident within Germany and of course, the company’s home in Bavaria. The venue in Maisach, some 20 miles due West of Munich is now officially called the BMW Driver Academy.

Training was until recently at the Munich Airport, and presumably for lack of space was moved to the old Fürstenfeldbruck air base just south of Maisach.

The former Fliegerhorst Fürstenfeldbruck air base (Fursty for short) was once an important field for both the Luftwaffe and the US Air force. It has been decommissioned for over a decade, and the closest thing to flying machines you will see here are BMW cars and motorcycles used by the BMW Driving Academy. The runway is now inactive, but the base reportedly hosts training for ground personnel. Instead of the roar of jet engines, all you will hear now are screeching tires of BMW sedans on the skid pads and the golf cart whine of eco-friendly i3 coupes unobtrusively whizzing by.

The training facility occupies some 320 acres on the east side of the former air base. The website in German and English can be accessed at The site contains ample details regarding the facility and scope of training. The cost on a BMW-supplied motorcycle is 240 Euro, and 200 Euro on your own bike. This is a no-brainer for me. A simple tip-over can cost well in excess of the 40 Euro difference (replacing a broken clutch or brake lever may cost around 200 Euro).

The motorcycles are fully insured for damage, so in the event of a mishap you will not be held liable unless you engage in reckless behavior. Personal medical coverage is the responsibility of the rider, which for EU residents is generally provided by the state. Risk-averse American riders should consult with their insurance plans in the US. At the moment, training is only offered in German (the English option box is greyed out on the application). Presumably at a later time this will change to accommodate non-German-speaking riders. However, if you have a reasonable command of German, you should definitely consider attending a training session. The instructors are very helpful and for the most part speak better English than most of us will ever speak German.

An R 1200 GS similar to the one the author used for his session in Maisach, though obviously this photo was not taken at the air base. Photo courtesy of BMW Motorrad.

My letter of acceptance reiterated that the training would be conducted "ausschließlich auf Deutsch" (exclusively in German). Considering the increasing trend by corporate BMW to use English lingo, I reckoned some latitude would be allowed.

On my appointed date I showed up half an hour late for class, as I could not find the entrance to the tightly padlocked air base anywhere. As I was about to give up, I spotted a rather subdued sign pointing to the BMW Driver Academy. The first session of the day was spent in general orientation, basic motorcycle control and emergency maneuvers. The class included some 20 students divided into two groups presumably on the basis of experience. By virtue of age rather than skills, I was put in the "experienced" group.

Following the classroom session, we walked out onto the parking area where our assigned mounts awaited us. My R 1200 GS with some 1000 kilometers on the odometer was otherwise showroom-new. The bike was equipped with mag wheels and shod with dual sport Anakee tires. Other equipment included full electronic regalia as well as cruise control. The driver seat was placed in the lowest position, which allowed my 29-inch inseam-challenged legs to reach the ground comfortably.

The motor fired up readily and settled into the familiar flat twin rumble, although more muted than its predecessors. The hydraulic clutch is feather light, which made it easy to follow the instructor’s commands to use two fingers for control. The bike seemed narrower than the previous oil-cooled models, and with a more centralized mass, felt quite light. The oil-bath clutch revealed its nature by the typical clunk and lurch felt when shifting from neutral into first, similar to the F-series. Pulling the clutch in and waiting a minute or so reduced this tendency only slightly. After riding it a while, I opted for shutting down and starting the engine in first gear, which eliminated the problem.

The exercises during our first session were based on the notion that if you cannot control the bike at slow speeds, you certainly will not be able to do so at higher speeds. The instructor had us weaving around cones, doing ever-tighter circles and figure-eight turns in first gear with the engine at idle (about 1050 RPM), controlling the speed with the clutch. The exercises felt easy due to the motorcycle's superb handling characteristics. There was no noticeable driveline lash, which certainly helped in this respect. I would have been hard put to do duplicate these maneuvers on my old R 1100 GS, which sat forlornly in the parking lot.

As the morning proceeded, the instructors increased the complexity of the exercises and had us add speed. The motorcycle maintained its unflappable composure throughout it all. I witnessed no tip-overs during the training, but I cannot guarantee there weren’t any.

During the noon break, we enjoyed the full buffet lunch included in the cost of the course. In the afternoon session the instructors added more complex exercises at greater speeds. The motorcycle had plenty of power, yet proved docile, which made it a joy to ride. For the more spirited rider, it might become a willing wheelie-machine.

I found the training the Riding Academy very worthwhile. It gave me an unequalled opportunity to put the motorcycle through its paces, all in a controlled and safe environment. For the potential buyer of a new GS, the time spent at the Academy will provide him/her a solid basis to decide whether or not to invest in such a machine.


Frank Campbell is a retired physician residing in FL. He has ridden almost every BMW model dating back to the R 26. He has done solo and group adventure tours throughout the Americas, Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and Asia. Although his preferred motorcycles have always been of the GS type, presently he favors more sedate "cappuccino style" tours on mostly well surfaced roads.

Tags:  R1200GS  Skills  Training 

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