30 Sept 2014

The ‘water boxer’ family grows with new R1200R and R1200RS models

BMW today announced the new R1200R and R1200RS models which use the same 125hp boxer engine as the GS and RT models. The R version is a rather tasty naked bike and the RS a quite attractive, faired sport-touring version.

Unlike the GS and RT models, the R and RS skip the telelever front suspension, using a conventional fork set-up related to the S1000RR. Also of note is the use of a single radiator where the GS and RT use two tiny individual radiators (presumably to accommodate the telelever mount).

The R version borrows heavily from the design of the Concept Roadster shown last May, incorporating much of the detailing, but in a more toned down, mass production sort of way. Sadly, in doing so, it loses some of the litheness (and visual lightness) of the concept, but still (to my eyes) ends up a good looking bike.

Both bikes get the usual assortment of electronics familiar to the GS and RT, such as riding modes, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, semi-active electronic suspension adjustment, keyless ride etc. The instrument panel consists of an analogue speedometer with a customisable TFT panel.

I have to say, I’m tempted to take a test ride once these appear at the dealership...

I won't regurgitate the press releases, so straight to the photos (from BMW Group PressClub Global website).

Concept Roadster
New R1200R
‘Basic’ R1200R
‘Style 1’ R1200R

‘Style 2’ R1200R
‘Basic’ R1200RS
‘Style 2’ R1200RS
Instruments (day mode)—standard configuration
Instruments (night mode)—standard configuration
Instruments—sport configuration
Instruments—minimalist configuration
R1200R with LED parking/daytime running light
R1200RS with panniers
Read the official press kit articles here:

Thoughts on these new bikes? Why not leave a comment?

24 Sept 2014

Review: Icon Patrol Raiden gear

I've written a few favourable words about the Icon Patrol Raiden gear in the past but have never done a proper review. However, I am now in a position to do so, having tested it in all extremes over the past year-and-a-half, including one test which no rider ever hopes to experience—how the gear stands up in a crash.

Yes, I was particularly pleased at that moment.

I purchased the Patrol Raiden suit in spring 2013 in preparation for my Alpine journey. I was coming from the BMW Rallye 3 jacket and City 2 trousers which are high quality items, but the jacket is only waterproof with the liner in place (uncomfortably warm on rainy summer days), and the trousers are not waterproof at all. The Patrol Raiden gear has waterproof shells—with a removable liner in the jacket if added warmth is required—which is optimal for keeping dry and cool(er) when riding on warm, wet days.

The Patrol Raiden jacket retails for £370 and the trousers £285 (including our 20% VAT) which puts it in line with mid-range gear in this country. Initial impressions are that the gear is constructed to a high standard with consistent stitching throughout and no loose threads or imprecise seams. Fabrics are substantial and the gear feels weighty and strong. In this respect it is on par with the much more expensive BMW gear.

The Patrol Raiden gear (along with the standard Patrol gear) appears to be inspired by the snowboarding industry both in style and in fit which is no bad thing in my opinion. It is all about unrestrictive, comfortable and casual style. For this reason it stands out as much from the ultra-conservative and functional crowd in tailored dark-coloured adventure touring gear as with the look-at-me crowd in squeak-when-you-walk, quasi futurist, cyberdog-style catsuit racing gear (unless you are a model specimen of human body shape perfection, this type of gear is a big, resounding no, regardless of your delusions of body self-image, thank you very much—just no).

Some bad news, however—where the Patrol Raiden gear falls short is in the protectors. Elbow, shoulder, knee and hip protectors are included but they are cheap and nasty at best—and just an empty pocket exists where the back protector should go (although I understand from late 2013 a non-accredited high density foam back protector has been included). To bring the gear up to a level of safety with which I was comfortable, I had to spend another £100 on CE Level 2 D3O protectors all round (including back protector). Shame on Icon for not including these as standard in the first place on their flagship 'adventure' gear.

The gear uses fabrics of varying textures from a coarse weave on impact areas to a finer weave on other panels. The white panels have a dye sublimated topographic pattern which works remarkably well at masking light staining from dust and road grime—some clever attention to detail. The colour scheme is bright and gets noticed—this may put off some buyers but I prefer to be as conspicuous as possible when I'm on the road.

I've had a chance to use the gear in sub-freezing temperatures with snow falling to near desert temperatures in the high 30s (°C, that is), as well as in some extreme rainstorms. It performs as advertised which means I have remained dry and as comfortable as possible throughout, with some minor exceptions as noted below.

Icon Patrol Raiden jacket

The jacket fits on the larger side, particularly with the liner removed. There are 12 rubber-sealed, zippered vents which enable a high level of airflow on warmer days—it goes without saying that all 12 need to be zipped closed when it rains or water will come in. At temperatures above 13°C I'm perfectly comfortable without the liner wearing just a t-shirt underneath. Below this, the liner is effective to -10°C from firsthand experience, although I suspect any colder would require some type of heated gear to maintain comfort.

In the wet, the sealed vent zips work effectively to keep out water, and the main zip is doubly secured with a magnetic flap running the length of the jacket. This flap is notable as I would never want to go back to poppers after the convenience of these magnets.

The jacket is equipped with a removable hood (handy for keeping dry after parking the bike on a rainy day) and pouch on the back which can take a third party 1.5-litre hydration pack. Neither of these items interfere or flap about at speeds tested up to 120mph on the German autobahn.

The arms have hook-and-loop straps to adjust the fit and help to keep the elbow pads in the correct positions. There are countless pockets throughout, including a specially sealed mobile phone pouch on the inside left breast. One of the pockets has a cloth attached to an elasticated cord for cleaning your visor, and another, peculiarly, has a St Christopher charm sewn in. A good omen is a good omen, after all.

As with any waterproofed gear, the fabric does require re-treatment from time to time to maintain water repellency. I found myself slightly damp on the arms after a particularly wet ride when the jacket was about a year old, but this was resolved using a commercial spray-on fabric waterproofer.

The jacket has a tail to keep your lower back well-covered when seated on the bike—I've not had any need to connect the jacket and trousers thanks to this feature.

Icon Patrol Raiden trousers

The trousers are not as form-fitting as most other motorcycle trousers—let's just say gents will not go sterile wearing them. They are considered over-trousers, but I have always worn them on their own. Hook-and-loop straps enable easy adjustments the waist, accompanied by standard belt loops. The trousers come with braces (aka suspenders) which attach at the back via a zipper—I prefer using a regular belt and leaving the braces at home.

A double-ended zip runs the length of each leg up to the waistband making it easy to air out your legs on hot days when stopped. The zips are doubly secured with magnetic flaps in the same way as the jacket. The bottoms of each leg have poppers to shorten the length to one of two levels, if necessary. The trousers come with two sets of removable stirrups to prevent them riding up your boots but I have had no need for these.

The knee protectors can be adjusted to one of three heights to ensure they are positioned correctly. There are two zip pockets at the front, two button-up cargo pockets on the knees and two on the back. I would recommend not putting anything pointed or oddly shaped items in the cargo pockets as these could cause injury in a crash.

The trousers do not restrict movement due to their relaxed fit which is helpful when riding off road. They have proven to be waterproof in all intensities of rain, apart from one torrential motorway journey in France, where they eventually allowed some dampness to come through to the undersides of my thighs due to persistent spray from the bike's tyres.


I had the misfortune of putting my Patrol Raiden gear through the ultimate test in the Czech Republic when I came off the bike at 45–50mph and slid to a stop on the tarmac. I won't go into detail about all the damage (you can read about it here) but will simply say I walked away from that crash with not so much as a cut or bruise despite bashing my knee quite hard on the tarmac. A bit of luck notwithstanding, the gear is up to task with one caveat... upgrading the rubbish stock protectors with some quality D3O protectors (available directly from Icon)—and once again, Icon, these should be standard!


Quality gear at a fair price—the whole suit coming in at around £750 including the D3O pads. The Patrol Raiden gear compares favourably in materials, workmanship and features to the BMW Rallye 3 suit which totals £1,000.

Care is straightforward—after removing the pads they can be chucked into the washing machine on the handwash cycle with some mild handwashing detergent. And once a year a waterproofing treatment is necessary.

For riders who are not bothered about the lairy colour schemes and who can appreciate the extra conspicuity this offers, this gear works as advertised from touring to off roading. It is something a little bit different from the usual sea of black in the gear isle of your favourite motorcycle shop.

A year-and-a-half on, with the exception of the recent crash damage, nothing is wearing unduly and all seams look as new as they did on day one—as expected from a quality product. Putting my money where my mouth is, I have been so pleased with this gear that I am replacing it like-for-like following the Czech incident.

The jacket is available in red, orange and grey, and the trousers are available in matching grey. Find out more at www.rideicon.com.

Do you have Patrol or Patrol Raiden gear? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

14 Sept 2014

Riding in an average-sized world

At 175cm (5’9”) I am about average height for Europe, Canada and USA. This means I rarely have issues with things fitting—I can find a comfortable driving position in nearly any car, fit in average-sized plane and train seats, and, most importantly, reach the ground on my bikes.

I can flat-foot my R1200GS—both feet flat on the ground—but on my F800GS with the optional taller ‘comfort’ seat, I can just get my toes to the ground, something to which I’ve become accustomed during my time with this bike. Both of these bikes offer seating choices which include low, normal and tall seats, as well as factory lowered suspension which, unsurprisingly, compromises off road ground clearance.

Not everyone can reach the ground (photo: Touratech)

I have been asked by strangers on a number of occasions if I feel comfortable riding such tall machines, mainly by people who don’t ride bikes at all, or those who ride lower bikes like cruisers. My standard response is that as long as I can get my toes down, there’s no problem. I think new riders who have not yet found their confidence would find a tall bike intimidating (and indeed I would never recommend a tall bike to a new rider), but after a few year’s experience it becomes a trivial issue.

Nevertheless I think a lot of riders pass up having a go on an adventure bike if they believe they are too ‘vertically challenged’. The previous generation oil-head R1200GS was an especially tall beast, particularly in Adventure specification, but BMW has reduced the seat height on the current liquid-cooled generation—most likely in an effort to appeal to a wider range of riders.

During the One World launch in 2013, five people were chosen to ride five legs around the world. Their heights ranged from tall, with Herbert Unger at 190cm, to small, with Stephanie Rowe at 159cm. A year later, BMW released the following video:

I believe this is quite a clever marketing tactic because it demonstrates the range of riders who can be comfortable on this bike—and shows that the bike can be ridden with confidence regardless of the rider’s height. By extension, advertising like this benefits the entire adventure bike category as it encourages people to try bikes which they may not have considered previously.

I was quite surprised during my recent test ride on the KTM 1190 Adventure—a bike that looks physically very tall—just how good the riding position was and how easily I could reach the ground. I didn’t have a chance on the taller 1190 Adventure R, but doubt I would have had any trouble as it is roughly the same height as my F800GS.

Leslie (www.advgrrl.com) went through a lot of contemplation when considering an F800GS as a replacement for her trusty F650GS and ultimately went for the standard height model with the low seat—and hasn’t looked back.

Lynne’s blog (www.curvyroads.info) is mainly focussed on her experiences on an oil-head R1200GS, one of the tallest dual sport bikes over 1,000cc.

Sylvia who writes a Dutch motorcycling blog under her own name (www.sylviastuurman.eu) rides one of the tallest adventure bikes on the market—the Yamaha XT660Z.

Are you put off trying out a bike which seems too tall for you? Let me now in the comments. I’ll leave you with this video to ponder:

7 Sept 2014

One year on with the R1200GS

You may have read my recent article Two (and a half) years on with the F800GS—however, yesterday marked exactly one year since I was handed over the keys to my 2014 R1200GS, so I thought it would be appropriate to share my thoughts.

Last June I found myself in an optimal position. I no longer had any debt—at all—for the first time in my life since my teens. Following my Alpine adventure I found the weak point of the F800GS was its seat which caused a rather numb bottom after only a couple hours of riding.

I booked in for a test ride of the new R1200GS and found it to be in a different league compared to the previous version—and, most importantly, extraordinarily comfortable. I wasn’t ready to exchange my F800GS so I negotiated with the dealership until we arrived at a mutually agreeable leasing rate and monthly payment, and put in my order for a red 2014 TE (touring edition) version with a few extras. The bike arrived at the beginning of September 2013 and I took delivery a few days later on 6 September.

R1200GS in Surrey UK

Since then I have put more than 6,000 miles on this bike, alternating between it and my F800GS for my daily commute, and including my European trip a couple months ago. Earlier this year I had the novel Gear Shift Assist Pro device fitted which added a new dimension to this bike’s capabilities by enabling upshift and downshifts without the use of the clutch—great for both city and country roads!

Reliability has been spot-on with no unplanned visits to the dealership. A characteristic of the engine is an intermitted tick from the right cylinder at idle—this is common to all these bikes and relates to the cylinder decompression device which activates below a specific rpm, but does not affect the function of the engine. Following my trip in June I experience some slight surging at constant speeds in the 3–4,000 rpm range, but after the 6,000 mile service was carried out a week later, this resolved completely.

Builds of the current generation R1200GS from launch until early August 2013 occasionally suffered from a batch of dodgy handlebar switches which failed following water ingress (due to rain, hosepipes etc). Nokia (the phone company) who manufactures the switches for BMW made a change to the design of the membranes which has resolved the issue—failed switches are covered by warranty, of course.

Oh, and it crashes well.

I enjoy both my bikes immensely for different reasons, and I can say with certainty that the gloss has definitely not worn off the mad R1200GS!


Most of the reviews of the R1200GS sound like they’re written by BMW’s PR team and, until you’ve owned one, it’s easy to be skeptical. The bike is an oxymoron in a sense—it goes, stops and handles both on and off road far better than one machine should.

Compared to other bikes in its class it is on the lighter side—but make no mistake, this is still a 240kg beast. However, all the weight is down at your feet which means it feels like a bike half its weight once underway. It is extraordinarily easy to position on the road and follows your intended path almost telepathically—whether riding alone, or 2-up with loaded panniers. The available torque is so strong and immediate that virtually nothing else can out-accelerate this bike up to about 100mph.

All features are directly accessible through physical switches—no digging through menus to switch off traction control or ABS. Suspension damping and throttle sensitivity can be changed on the go and make a tangible difference to the rider. Preload adjustment is carried out by a button when stopped.

The R1200GS is suited to long distance riding and days end without fatigue.

Off road on gravel or packed dirt, the bike is easy to control and the electronics rein in lairy behaviour beautifully. On mud or sand, knobblies are definitely required, however.

BMW have done well with the compromises inherent to dual sport machines—there are better specific touring or dirt machines, but no other bike combines these classes so effectively.


  • Characterful boxer engine gives this heavy adventure bike near-sportbike performance. 
  • Enduro mode makes best use of road tyres on gravel or hard packed trails. 
  • Excellent full LED lighting makes riding at night a pleasure. 
  • Gear Shift Assist Pro option adds another dimension to riding with clutchless up/downshifts. 
  • Excellent wind/weather protection and cruise control make short work of motorway journeys. 
  • Spoked wheels take tubeless tyres. 
  • Suspension design and electronic damping provide smooth, stable ride/handling and provide true anti-dive braking. 
  • Effortless, light handling even when fully loaded.


  • Some drag in the clutch when disengaged, and sharp clutch engagement takes getting used to.
  • Insurance premium quite pricy in London.
Do you own a liquid cooled R1200GS? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

6 Sept 2014

GS Trophy 2014 sets off tomorrow in the Canadian Rockies!

Tomorrow (7 September) at 7am MDT the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy North America 2014 event will start near Exshaw AB or Sandon BC and cover a 2,000km route through the Canadian Rockies. The GS Trophy event has taken place every two years since 2008 and includes 48 participants from around the world who passed several qualifying rounds.

Previously the event included several models from the GS range but 2014 marks the first time the event will take place solely on identical R1200GS models, specially equipped by sponsors Touratech (bike protection, lights etc), Metzeler (tyres) and Marmot (camping equipment). The bikes include decals with the names of the riders, their blood types and their countries of origin. The marshals will use R1200GS Adventure models.

Best of luck to the participants—come on team UK!!

I’ve got two years to prepare for the next one in 2016... better get on with it!

BMW press releases follow the photos.

An R1200GS in GS Trophy livery (photo: BMW Press)

A bike is prepared (photo: BMW Press)

More than £1.5m worth of bikes! (photo: BMW Press)

Some of the organising staff including team journalists, mechanics, 
doctors and marshals in Sandon BC (photo: BMW Press)

BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy North America 2014: Ready, set—go!

6 September 2014

Munich/Calgary, Canada. After two years of planning, after qualifying events around the world attended by riders from 19 countries, the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy 2014 is at last established in Exshaw near Calgary—ready to go! Now all that is missing is the riders, all due to arrive within the next 24 hours.

Freed from their five 40-foot shipping containers are the 80 BMW R 1200 GS, and 12 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles, now fully prepared for the start. In total 92 motorcycles and 15 cars will travel over the 2000 kilometer route with over 100 people, including the 48 competitors, 16 team journalists, two doctors, mechanics and organisational staff.

Michael Trammer, chief organiser of the BMW Motorrad GS Trophy: “We are nearing the start for the 2014 BMW Motorrad GS Trophy—on Sunday 7 September, barely more than a day from now, 16 teams will set off on what is the longest GS Trophy ever, the most technical ever, in the most mountainous region we’ve ever visited. The riders will ride into true wilderness areas, riding tough trails through extremes of temperature, over long days. This is definitely a very adventurous GS Trophy, one that truly embraces the GS spirit.

“I need at this time to thank our GS Trophy competition manager Tomm Wolf, who with former GS Trophy participant Patrick Horan, has brought together a fantastic course that will test the riders’ skills and also inspire them as they experience the stunning natural beauty of this region of Canada. Both Tomm and Pat, together with the events’ riding marshals, have now finished the final pre-run of the course setting the last details in place for the event. We are ready to go!”

The BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy North America 2014 will get underway at 07.00 hrs (Canadian local time) on Sunday 7 September 2014.

BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy North America 2014—live and interactive. Media sources and photo contest.

2 September 2014

Munich. The North America 2014 edition of the international BMW Motorrad GS Trophy is now just days away. The 48 finalists, riding in 16 international teams, have been issued their BMW GS-specific rider equipment, including their BMW Rallye 3 suits—customized with their names, national flags and GS Trophy 2014 insignia. Representing nearly every continent, the riders are making their final preparations for a week of adventure riding, special tests and teamwork challenges in the amazing Rocky Mountains regions of western Canada.

For those not lucky enough to be competing, BMW Motorrad has devised a full range of multi-media coverage of the event so that GS fans from all over the world will be able to read about, watch and even participate (through a photographic competition) in the event.

Photo competition.

An interactive photo competition was debuted in the 2010 event and proved so popular, that it has become a permanent fixture of the event.

So, on days two and four of the GS Trophy 2014 the teams themselves will be photographing all aspects of their adventure. The subject matter for the competition is entirely open, it might be an action shot of team-mates, or a spectacular landscape, maybe a unique aspect of local life. Each team will then submit their best photo at the end of both days, to be posted on the GS Trophy website (www.gstrophy.com) where fans will be invited to vote for their favourite. As before, the photos are posted without credit—so the fans will vote for the best photo, not their favourite team – but as in previous years we can expect the teams to reveal their identities one way or another...!

The photos will be posted on the GS Trophy website, with voting open on each occasion for just 24 hours, starting on the following days:

  • September 9, 12:00 (CEST) 
  • September 11, 12:00 (CEST)
The teams will then be awarded points toward their overall competition score in accordance with their performance in the votes. 

Journalists and media organizations are invited to follow the GS Trophy 2014 and to find free access to GS Trophy resources—which during the event will be updated daily with news stories, photos and videos—through the dedicated BMW Group Press Club facility which can be found at www.press.bmwgroup.com.

Welcome to the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy North America 2014. Adventure and competition in the Canadian Rockies.

25 July 2014

Munich. With barely a month to the start of the fourth BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy, the North America 2014 edition, the preparations of the organizers and the competitors are nearing completion. Following the tracks and trails of the Rocky Mountains in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, 48 riders in 16 teams representing 19 nations from around the world—together with 16 embedded journalists—will compete in a week of adventure riding, special tests and teamwork challenges. Starting September 6, it’s a week that will also be about experiencing the breathtaking landscapes of this mountainous region, connecting with the natural world and even celebrating international brotherhood while enjoying the ride on this icon of adventure motorcycling, the BMW R 1200 GS.

It is not a race!

While the GS Trophy is a competition, in the oft-quoted words of one of the event’s main organizer, former Dakar racer Tomm Wolf, “It is not a race!”

The GS Trophy competitors instead enjoy a seven-day near-2000km adventure ride, mostly ridden off-road. Along the way they compete in a series of challenges that are consistent with the BMW GS lifestyle and designed to exercise their riding and navigation skills, their knowledge of, and ability to live in, the natural world—and their ability to come together as a team.

“The message is, that it is not a race,” explains Tomm Wolf. “But it is a tough competition all the same. The rider level and the sporting level over the past  GS Trophies has always been growing and improving, so I’m always having to look for tougher exercises—not riskier ones, just more challenging. My message is that it will be a hard sporting event again, and so I’d advise the competitors to train, and then train some more!”

The North America 2014 event follows previous editions that took place in Tunisia in 2008, Southern Africa in 2010 and South America in 2012. 

Who are the riders?

“The GS Trophy holds true to the original concept of the Olympics,” explains BMW’s organizer Michael Trammer. “The riders are all amateurs, just everyday enthusiasts who through regional qualifiers have won their place in an experience that will be so rich and so exciting. In Canada it’ll again be a new experience. What will we find? You know, whether it’s the Andes, the Rocky Mountains or the Alps, every landscape has something unique for itself. But in fact it’s all about the people: All the wonderful people we will meet in Canada and of course the wonderful group of GS Trophy participants from all over the world. So it will be as special as always.” 

For this edition the GS Trophy welcomes for the first time competitors from Korea and Mexico. The full list of the finalists will appear in a further press document.

The bikes.

The competitors will ride a fleet of identical specially-prepared 2014 BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles. This is the first time the GS Trophy has been exclusively powered by the R 1200 GS and with motorcycles for the riders, and journalists there will be 80 ‘water boxers’ following the trails through the Rockies. 12 more for the marshals. But they will ride an R 1200 GS Adventure.

While the BMW R 1200 GS is made for world travel, the rigours and challenges of the extreme competition environment of the GS Trophy calls for special adaptations, using additional parts and accessories from BMW Motorrad and Touratech.

In charge of technical preparation is Touratech’s Executive Director Herbert Schwarz: “With 70 per cent of the route off-road and many challenging special tests it’s important to have the bikes optimised to the conditions. A selection of parts has been taken from the catalogues of BMW and Touratech to ensure the bikes have the protection that they’ll need while also providing the riders with the control and navigational functions that are imperative. Furthermore each bike has been equipped with special edition Metzeler Karoo tyres and crash protection from Touratech. Preparing all 92 bikes has been a huge task!”

5 Sept 2014

Nine hours which changed my life

Sounds like one of those links you see around the internet promising the world to the average lazy person, doesn’t it?

In early August, an advert caught my eye which was requesting applications in West London for a new programme called Project Prime which promised notable improvements in fitness and lifestyle—all in twelve 45-minute sessions over one month, nine hours in total. Always the skeptic, I did a bit of digging to suss out that this wasn’t a ploy to lure me into becoming a mail-order groom for some uncharted territory—and no magic berries, special teas or mysterious African bank accounts involved—so I completed the thorough form, half expecting to hear nothing back.

A few days later I received a phone call from the charismatic and straight-talking creator of the programme, Adam Lewis. We discussed my application and details about my general lifestyle, including past and current activities such as snowboarding and off road motorbiking. I mentioned that, for the past few years, I have experienced chronic idiopathic hip pain for which no one—not sonographers, not physiotherapists, not chiropractors, not acupuncturists—could find a cause nor a solution. We ended the call with a promise from Adam to let me know by the end of the week if I would be one of the eight selected to pilot his programme.

I spent the next couple days contemplating—half of me wanted to be selected, half of me was wondering what I was getting myself into—and the awaited call finally came... I was invited to take part! (At this point I was really worried about what torture awaited!)

Skip to the end... Chris, Dan, me, Richard, David and James at the end of the final session (Elliot sadly missing as he had to rush to work before the photo was taken)

The selected participants got together on a warm Saturday morning to meet Adam and go through the Project Prime programme. During the session we got acquainted with each other and set personal goals for ourselves. However, our group of eight ended up being seven, as one apparently disappeared to an alternate plane of existence before we even started—super seven sounds better than crazy eights anyway.

My friends will tell you that I am quite the foodie—I love all types of food, from all cultures and with ingredients from the mundane to the impossible-to-find. I rarely eat food that I haven’t made myself from fresh ingredients. One of the criterion for the programme was to stick to strict dietary regime (ingredients, not quantities) during the month, loosely based on the Paleo diet. Another was to take three supplements each day (fish oil and a couple of minerals).

I committed to this—as I am writing retrospectively I can confirm, hand on heart, that I didn’t cheat during the month. To be fair, it wasn’t that far off my usual diet, although it involved a lot more meat and fat than I normally prefer (which didn’t particularly agree with my digestive system at first), and no starch (for the first two weeks), gluten, dairy, or sugar. My morning sweetened lattes had to be replaced with unsweetened four-shot black americanos, a shock to my system—who knew coffee was more bitter than a bride abandoned at the altar?! However, I never acclimatised to taking a spoonful of ‘lime flavour’ (term used very loosely) fish oil neat—right to the end this made me feel like barfing every single time (I should have bought the gel-cap version instead, although these are considered less effective).

Adam on the right, taking the group through movement exercises

To the programme—day one. Bleary eyed, not having emerged from my tomb of goose down, cotton and memory foam before 8am more than once in the past two years, I discovered how incredible the roads of London can be at 6am on a motorbike with a distinct absence of other vehicles. Amazing—what a way to wake up!

Arriving at Old Deer Park in Twickenham, Adam led the group through a warm up, followed by a range of fitness tests to set our baseline for benchmarking. Each test lasted just one minute and our numbers were recorded—my results:

  • 2m agility: 32
  • Squats: 37
  • Standing cross curls: 69
  • Press-ups: 19
  • Overall score (formula calculation): 264
Rather shameful. Afterwards we did a few more stretches and carried on our day. I felt tired, but oddly wired at the same time. My body hurt so much that I was having difficulty sitting down and getting up.

2m agility during the fitness testing on day one—I’m keeling over on the left

The next two sessions focussed on movement, tabata techniques and circuit training. By the end of the week I was feeling like a wet noodle and my muscles were screaming at me. My only comfort was that everyone else in the group was going through the same thing. Adam pushed everyone just hard enough, but not too far—his experience as a personal trainer enabled him to recognise everyone’s individual limits and not go overboard (defibrillator not required). Every Thursday during the month Adam arranged times with each of us to carry out mentoring sessions. Our special challenge during the week was to take cold showers (or, at a minimum, end each shower on cold).

Chris, Elliot, James, Dan, me, Richard and David holding a one-legged squat at the end of a session—despite the smiles this one was tough!

That weekend, my body was unhappy about the change in diet and I ended up with a cramping pain in my left side which lasted nearly three days. However, a cocktail of over-the-counter paracetamol and ibuprofen got me through the worst of it, and the issue resolved on its own. (Note—my day job relates to healthcare and I am very aware of the danger areas for random pain.)

During week two we kept a thorough log of everything we were eating each day. The early morning sessions varied, no two the same, from natural obstacles to utilising playground equipment in the neighbouring schoolyard. After each session, I was still feeling quite sore, but the high protein diet was helping me get over the muscle pain in less and less time. The special challenge this week was to get out and do something we enjoyed—I took to the byways on the bike to play in the mud.

The dreaded bear walk—I’m huffing along second right

Week three introduced running and bear walking—things we all took for granted as children—and it is quite amazing just how hard these exercises can be when the body is out of practice. By this point, I was tired at the end of each session, but no longer sore. My body had adapted in just two weeks.

I had a bit of a funny turn at the end of the first session during this week—I became light-headed and nauseous during the stretches at the end. In retrospect, I believe this was due to an empty stomach and made a point from then on to eat a banana before leaving home in the morning. The symptoms didn’t recur.

Everyone in the group had got to know each other and provided each other with the motivation and inspiration to give it our all. The changes to our bodies and metabolism were starting to show physically—improved posture, better movement, fewer wobbly bits all round. The special challenge this week was the ice bucket challenge.

My job is always busy (sometimes quite stressful also) and leaves me tired by the end of the day so I often don’t feel like doing much when I get home in the evenings. However, since starting the programme, I noticed that I felt much more energetic overall, to the point that I took a friend off roading on the bike after work one day that week—something that never would have happened previously. 

I had a slight setback during the weekend between weeks three and four—I pulled something my neck and ended up on a full strength dose of co-codamol for two days. Despite this I still managed to get out on the Sunday to attend a KTM demo day, so the weekend was not a complete write-off.

The final week of the Project Prime trial started with our most gruelling session to date—I think everyone was feeling exhausted by the end of it. Interestingly, I was no longer feeling sore, even after this particular difficult session.

The second session this week was the least intensive so far during the programme, in preparation for fitness re-testing during the final session. My results—including the percent increase compared to the first day:

  • 2m agility: 42 (+31%)
  • Squats: 53 (+43%)
  • Standing cross curls: 91 (+32%)
  • Press-ups: 42 (+121%)
  • Overall score (formula calculation): 544 (+107%)
In just nine hours I more than doubled my fitness score—a result which makes me very proud. I also lost 5cm from around my waist. However, these numbers mean nothing compared to the elephant in the room—the chronic hip pain I’ve had for several years. By week two, it was gone. The problem several medical professionals could not solve was fixed by several hours of this exercise programme.

To those who have not experienced ongoing pain, this will seem like a trivial point. But what it represents to me is a significant improvement in my quality of life. I can now walk for hours without discomfort, climb stairs without limping, and pick up a 240kg motorbike lying on its side in the mud without a second thought. This point alone has made the last four weeks worth every minute—and was one of the key reasons the Project Prime programme exceeded my expectations.

Off we go!

The pilot has been a huge success and the programme will greatly benefit those who join up in future when Project Prime opens to the public. It was truly amazing to witness how much everyone in the group accomplished in such a short time.

I intend to take what I’ve learned and carry on with it—the exercises and techniques, being more disciplined about getting to bed at a decent hour, rebalancing my diet, taking the stairs instead of the lift. I’m still adjusting, but I would like what I learned during the past four weeks to become normality in my life moving forward.

Adam has been a charismatic and personable leader to the group and took great interest in each of our personal requirements. I am sad to depart from such a fantastic group of people who could inspire each other to push ourselves to the limit—and would encourage anyone considering the programme to look seriously into it. Provided they have the commitment to follow it through, they will not be disappointed.

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