Ryan Pyle is back home in China, after 70 days on a BMW F 800 GS Adventure searching out the most amazing roads and people in Brazil to feature in his latest ‘Tough Rides’ television series. The award-winning photographer, television presenter, filmmaker and author reveals in this interview how his latest motorcycle journey surpassed his expectations and how he is looking forward to telling adventure travel enthusiasts more about it when he visits BMW Motorrad Days in July.How does it feel to go from the jungles of Brazil to the heaving metropolis of Shanghai?It feels very strange. The intensity of my journey in Brazil, riding 10-12 hours per day plus all of the filming that needed to be completed, was really exciting and incredibly difficult. To be back at home in Shanghai with all my modern comforts feels like an out-of-body experience. No longer am I sleeping in a hammock in the Amazon wondering what bugs and wild animals might attack me in the night; now I’m back working out in the gym and enjoying catching up with friends at my local cafe.You couldn’t have more of a contrast really?In many ways it is these contrasts that I am most interested in exploring. I love living in a big modern city like Shanghai, but at the same time I love the challenges associated with surviving motorcycle journeys in remote and difficult places. I have a great passion for pushing myself mentally, physically and emotionally through these contrasts. They are incredibly educational and in my own mind they keep life interesting. And of course, the best way to explore challenging locations is on my BMW F 800 GS Adventure.Did Brazil live up to your expectations?When I begin a Tough Rides motorcycle production I try to have almost no expectations. I pick a country, I do some reading, I set a route and I pray to a higher power. There is no way to begin a 14,000km journey around a country you’ve never been to before and hold any real expectations. My only concern is that I complete my journey safely, and that my team is working in as a safe an environment as possible at that moment. Did Brazil impress? It was more impressive and more incredible than I could have ever imagined.What left the biggest and most lasting impression on you from this journey?Brazil is a country of remarkable beauty, both in landscape and in the quality of the people. The single thing that left the biggest impression on me during my 70-day adventure ride was the three weeks I spent in the Amazon region. The Amazon is flat like a pancake and the heat and the humidity can be unbearable at times, but wow, travelling through it is spectacular. Obviously the roads are tough and difficult, but these most often lead to beautiful places.And what about the GS Adventure, how did it perform?The BMW F 800 GS Adventure is a remarkable motorcycle and a fantastic addition to the BMW GS line-up. I put nearly 14,000km on the bike in some horrible conditions and the motorcycle just kept coming back for more.What about servicing and maintenance on route?During my trip I had four maintenance stops, which were planned before I left on my journey and were recommended by the BMW Motorrad team in Brazil. Amazonian mud is just horrible and destroys brake-pads, chains and can put a lot of pressure on your clutch. So given that almost half of my journey was through the Amazon, getting regular maintenance was really important. With regards to spare parts, I had extra brake-pads and an extra chain and clutch with me during my trip but never needed to make any repairs beyond the pre-schedule maintenance. The F 800 GS Adventure is a tough bike, I was incredibly impressed.What was the most unexpected thing that happened to you on this trip?There were two unexpected things that happened to me on this trip, which I was not really prepared for. The first was that I did not fully anticipate or appreciate the mud of the Amazon. It is remarkable. Some days I would be travelling through mud, and potholes full of it, that covered the height of the entire motorcycle, up to my chest; and of course the motorcycle would get stuck and I would get stuck and it would take a long time to dig out. It is so sticky and nasty and I had no idea just how slow this would make our progress. Some days we would spend twelve hours travelling and only cover 60km. Painful.The second unexpected aspect of my adventure in Brazil was the cold weather. Sure, we all know that Brazil is a tropical country but as we were closing out our journey we passed through the southern province of Santa Catarina and I spent a lot of days riding in weather that was near freezing and raining. Compare that to the multiple days in the Amazon, just two weeks prior to that, when I was suffering from heat stroke in 35C weather and 100% humidity. In my planning for Brazil I was prepared for the heat, but much less mentally prepared for the colder weather towards the end of our journey. Luckily I had my big yellow BMW Pro Rain 3 Suite for staying dry and warm in those very wet and cold conditions.What was the most challenging part of this ride for you – and how did you overcome it?The most challenging part of the journey was the Amazon. Never in my previous adventures in China and India had I encountered conditions like I did in the Amazon. It made for some incredibly miserable days of riding. But with this misery comes personal challenge, growth and eventually triumph. There were some days on this stretch that by the end of the day I was so physically and mentally shattered that I didn’t even eat, I just wanted to go to sleep so I could wake up and start attacking the route the next day; I was at war with the mud.How does one overcome something like this? I think the key is to think less. As overdeveloped urban human beings we are constantly overthinking situations. Trying to make things quicker or easier for ourselves; but out there in the Amazon there is none of that. There is only one road; there is only one way forward. So, in many cases you just need to ‘turn off’ your brain and carry on at 5km per hour for as long as you have daylight. Instead of talking about how tough the road is and/or thinking about turning back you just unlock your brain from having to ‘solve’ and you re-focus your entire mind, body and soul on “moving forward” ……. inch by pain-staking inch. It’s a similar mental process used for climbing mountains, there is only one way to go and that is up. There are no short cuts to climbing mountains; you just have to power through. The Amazon was my Everest, but instead of having altitude sickness and a fear of dying I was just being attacked by every living bug in the jungle and getting stuck for hours in the mud; life was never at risk, just a very intense amount of discomfort.Have your riding skills improved as a result of this journey?I always am quick to say on camera, and in my speaking events, that I am not a great motorcycle rider. You’ll never see me signing up for the Dakar Rally or anything like that. I love riding my F 800 GS Adventure and exploring countries and I love trying out some challenging routes, but by no means am I interested in racing or do I consider myself prolific in the off-road riding department. I am humble. I have a real knack for covering huge distances, staying really focused and riding in insane conditions; but all of this is done at a very reasonable speed and safety is always my first priority.Did you really feel the strength of social media with your communication of this trip?Social media is remarkable, and allows for so much interaction and sharing. On this journey in Brazil I did feel the strength of social media and the adventure community was incredibly supportive from day one. We’ve had a lovely response from people all around the world that followed my exploration of Brazil. For this support I am forever grateful.What kind of support vehicle was the team travelling in and how did this cope with the harsh jungle conditions compared to the bike?The support vehicle is a very important aspect of the production. There is no real way to make a multi-episode HD adventure television show without having a truckload of camera equipment, hard drives and a dedicated videographer. We had a large SUV to help get us through our journey in Brazil and it struggled. The incredibly long days in the Amazon specifically caused our support vehicle a lot of problems and it would regularly get stuck and have to be winched out. The bike was able to move much quicker.Did the use of drone filming make a real difference to the footage you can capture and show?Much of Brazil is very flat. Showing scale and depth was hard because there was never a high vantage point to position the camera on. So using the drone to fly above my motorcycle allows the audience to feel the landscape and get a better sense of what it might be like to ‘ride’ through such beautiful and remote places. I believe using the drone in our filmmaking will bring another element of adventure and understanding to our audience. It is a very effective tool for filmmaking.How much time will now be involved in the editing of Tough Rides Brazil?As the director of the series I’ll be working with my editing team over the next few months to begin putting together our 6x30min television series. It is an exciting process to go back over all of our footage and begin piecing together the episodes and re-living the adventure. While I am ultimately responsible for this, I am working with the same editor who worked on the previous two series and we have a strong formula laid out so my role at the moment is not full-time. We also have a great music composer working with us, as well as a colourist and sound mixing team. We are looking to have post-production wrapped in the next few months, which is great because I have a few more productions that I’ll need to work on this year while at the same time we are finishing off the post-production on Brazil.What have you learnt most from doing this latest journey?These motorcycle adventures are all encompassing. They educate, overwhelm and inspire you all at the same time. The learning process is mainly two-fold. First you obviously learn a lot about the country you are travelling in, and its people and what their lives are like; this is where we get involved in our extra-circular actives and this is where the majority of my friendships are made. In my mind these experiences are priceless and very rewarding.The second process of learning is about self-reflection, personal growth and a deeper understanding of “self”. These motorcycle adventures are incredibly challenging, how does one deal with these challenges? How does one react to internal and external pressures? How does one react to problem solving within a team environment? How does one react when Mother Nature tries to kill you again and again and again? These trips allow you to find your breaking point; they allow you to understand how to work within a team in very challenging situations and to understand your own weakness and strengths in a most pure sense. This process of self-understanding and self-reflection is also priceless; as rarely in our distracted urban lives to we really give ourselves an opportunity to “test our resolve”.If you have weak character, if you like to blame others before yourself, if you lose your temper over small issues…you won’t last one day on a Tough Ride; you won’t last one hour in the Amazon. It is not about finding a “Zen” state, it is about pushing yourself beyond your limits and maintaining respect; respect for yourself, respect for your team, respect for the country you are travelling in and respect for the dangers that Mother Nature is putting in your way.Are you looking forwards to sharing this adventure at BMW Motorrad Days in July?The only reason I do these Tough Rides motorcycle adventure productions is so that I can share my stories and experiences in that country with as many people as humanly possible. I am so excited to be visiting Garmisch for the BMW Motorrad Days and it is a true honour to be invited back by BMW Motorrad.
June 2015 | © BMW Motorrad
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