The Tour de France captivated the world for three weeks in July. The stunning HD television images were beamed to more than 150 countries via a fleet of BMW R1200RT and R1200GS Adventure motorcycles. Millions across the globe were enchanted by magnificent scenery, picturesque villages and the day-to-day drama of the Lycra-clad riders racing for the greatest prize in cycling.
The BMW bikes were used by riders and cameramen with their panniers packed with the latest technological recording equipment. The motorcycle teams followed the race as it wound its way through France: the cameraman can be seen standing on the pegs as the competitors plunge down alpine passes, or ascend 6,000-foot (2,000-m) climbs. They know how to get in position to capture the fast sprinters as they hit the finish line at the end of a long stage. It is teamwork at its best with the R1200RT and R1200GS Adventure providing the perfect platform to get right in the thick of the action.
BMW motorcycles also provide the mobile platforms for the many photographers and radio networks, and could often be seen zipping in and out the peloton. These riders are not only skilled at riding but also need to be able to interact with the riders while getting up close to the action – without interfering with the race in any way. Without them the papers, magazines and various websites would not be able to publish the images that we are fortunate enough to see.
Things normally go very smoothly and accidents are rare for the traveling TV crews, but they do happen occasionally. This year an R1200RT-riding crew working for RTL (Europe’s second largest radio and television network) found themselves down, but not out, during a stage. Fortunately, it was only a slow speed incident and the only damage done was to their own pride! Suffice to say that they were soon up and back into the action.
As the twilight settled over Paris, the peloton of the surviving riders burst on to the Champs-Elysees. At the end of 21 days the riders were into the final 45 miles (70 km). The City of Light was at its best as Chris Froome and his Sky Team led the riders onto one of the great boulevards of the world. The camera crew on the R1200GS Adventure was right next to them capturing the sheer delight in the faces of the victorious Froome and his teammates.
The road surface of the Champs-Elysees is far from smooth. The cobbles and the broken bitumen make it tough on the riders as they fly along at 40-45 mph (60-70 km/h). The GS Adventure was ideal for guiding the riders in the final stage. The compliant, long-travel suspension, smooth power delivery and dynamic stability enabled all the action to the beamed to the world without camera shake.
The Arc de Triomphe was bathed in light to celebrate the 100th edition of Le Tour as the riders and spectators took time to reflect on three weeks of this amazing French tradition, known the world over as the greatest bike race on the earth. For the BMW camera crews it was time to pack-up and prepare for the next sports event that they needed to beam to the world.
Of course, supporting the Tour de France is nothing new for BMW Motorrad, as this wonderful picture from over half a century ago shows. Here you can see a BMW R50 taking part as one of the official support vehicles from the 1959 Tour. This smooth running 26HP Touring Sports model came with a sprung solo saddle or optional dual seat pad. Famous for its thoroughly modern chassis and smooth running, the benefits are clear to see – especially for the journalist mounted on the rear who is able to take notes, even while riding pillion.