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The race to produce high performance, efficient and safe motorcycles pushes manufacturers to employ new technologies from industries such as motorsport and aerospace, as well as developing state of the art electrical systems to improve a rider’s performance and comfort.



The KTM Blog takes a look at some of those used by the Austrian manufacturer and breaks down the technical jargon behind them.

Imagine the scene… passenger on the back, fully loaded with luggage, wet winter gloves, adverse camber, then you have to stop on a hill while you wait to pull out onto the next road. This can be a stressful for most riders. Trying not to roll back, keep a solid footing and eventually pull off without stalling can be a real balancing act.

So, put simply, HHC is an electronic function that allows you to keep a solid footing by holding your bike stationary whilst on a hill, leaving you free to place both feet down and use the throttle without the awkward one finger on the brake lever too. When active, HHC uses the bike’s in-built sensors to detect incline, speed and use of brakes, then when needed automatically takes over the braking aspect of the controls until you are ready to pull away again. The rear brake is held on by the ABS system.



Traction control is a feature most are familiar with. Open the throttle too much or too early then the rear wheel will start to spin faster than the front, causing the bike to lose traction. Sensors detect the differences in speeds and warn the bikes ECU which then slows electronic fuel injection and power output to bring them back inline. So how does this relate to MOTOR SLIP REGULATION? Well, because it is the complete opposite process.

V-twin engines are known for their relatively high engine braking which under rapid downshifts or when abruptly closing or chopping the throttle can cause a difference of speed between the motor and the rear wheel. This creates a torque feedback, a set of opposing forces. The tire brakes traction with the surface and hops in the air momentarily potentially causing instability. A rider may describe this sensation as rear wheel “chattering”. A slipper clutch like the PASC system used on LC8 models alleviates most torque feedback, but on slippery surfaces MSR comes into action. The system opens the throttle slightly for the rider to bring the engine speed up to that required to equal the forces of the rear wheel, preventing any chatter and maintaining constant contact with the road. Any difference in wheel speeds is therefore avoided keeping the bike stable, and rider safe.



Engineers in the KTM R&D department face a difficult set of challenges daily. Develop engines with superior performance, with service lives and maintenance durations that improve cost of ownership, all whilst meeting the demands of hened environmental awareness and legislation. This pushes them to analyze every aspect of efficiency inside a KTM’s beating heart, and there’s one force that cannot be avoided in a complex system of moving parts: friction. Friction losses in a vehicle can amount to 10 to 15% of an engine’s output so selection of the optimal materials is essential.

One solution is DLC coating, a technology used originally in helicopter transmissions and the pinnacles of motorsport. DLC stands for Diamond Like Carbon, it is a material coating that achieves properties of two other carbon-based materials, diamond and graphite. This makes it one of the toughest material coatings available today. Carbon molecules are applied as a film to metal parts replicating the structure of these materials. Diamond is extremely hard, and graphite is known for its low friction, so it is ideal for parts moving at high speeds in contact with one another, like the surface of the cam finger followers in an LC8’s valvetrain.



So why does this quickshifter deserve a plus? And how does it really work? A quickshifter is a device for clutchless gear shifts. An aftermarket kit is composed of a module that interferes with either the electronic fuel injection or ignition systems and a sensor built into the shift rod that detects pressure when shifting. When activated the device will slow down or cut off either system for a set time, reducing power and load on the transmission while the gear is engaged. Typically, as the devices are designed for racing, they are calibrated only for aggressive shifts at high RPMs.

Now this is where the KTM QUICKSHIFTER+ differs. Rather than building a sensor into the shift rod, two sensors are utilized inside the transmission itself – one on the selector shaft and the gear position sensor mounted on the shift drum. The benefit of this is accuracy and flexibility. The system can detect direction of change (up or down), when to interrupt fuel injection and slow ignition timing, which gear is being engaged and when to reinstate fuel supply. It can also open the throttle valve to speed up the engine, this achieves slick down changes, removing the need manually “blip” the throttle. So, for the KTM rider it certainly is a plus because it all equates to clutchless shifts, up and down the box, that responds to their riding – so the shift action is fast when needed, but buttery smooth at half-throttle.




The KTM Blog brings you a quick run-down of KTM’s 2020 Supercross line-up along with some of the pictures from the official team introduction, which took place just over one week ago at the ‘RD Field’ test track facility close to KTM North America’s base in Murrieta, California.


Cooper Webb @SimonCudby

It’s officially the ‘off-season’ in US Motocross and Supercross racing terms, after an exhilarating year of competition for KTM’s athletes. The few weeks between the final event of 2019 and the start of Anaheim 1 on January 4th, 2020 will surely fly-by as KTM’s Factory and KTM supported teams prepare for their assault on the 17-round Supercross campaign in what is known as one of the most intense dirt bike competitions in the world.


Cooper Webb / Ian Harrison / Marvin Musquin @SimonCudby

Headlining KTM’s premier factory effort is the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin, who are both set to contest the 2020 AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross Championships. Webb will be aiming to defend his 450SX Supercross championship crown in the new year and was pleased to reveal the number one on his KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION machine to the press at the recent media event where he took to the track to showcase the new Red Bull KTM livery aboard his Factory machine. French-racer Musquin, who recently signed a further two-year agreement with KTM, is currently recovering from an injury but is looking forward to being fully ready for the new season in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing outfit, which is led by Team Manager, Ian Harrison.


Brian Moreau / Brandon Hartranft / Tyler Keefe / Derek Drake / Pierce Brown @SimonCudby

Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM was presented once again as the official KTM 250 Factory Team and this exciting squad features a brand-new line-up of young, talented riders -Brandon Hartranft, Brian Moreau, Derek Drake and Pierce Brown. The team was created by high-adrenaline sports design mastermind Troy Lee and continues to be overseen by Team Manager Tyler Keefe. The 250 squad has close KTM relations with the goal of achieving the ultimate success in 250cc competition whilst helping the riders extract their potential.


Forrester Butler / Justin Bogle / Blake Baggett / Michael Byrne @SimonCudby

The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC – WPS – KTM team will field two riders in the 450cc division in 2020 for both AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross. Michael Byrne will continue to lead the team as manager along with Team Owner Forrester Butler, who has many years of experience in the industry. Riders Blake Baggett and Justin Bogle will look to build on the team’s first wins in the 450SX and 450MX classes this season (clinched by Baggett) with the KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION.



It’s an exciting new line-up for KTM – we can’t wait for Supercross to start!

Image: Simon Cudby



Some of the finest memories, stories and imagery from the eighteen rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship


Tony Cairoli @RayArcher

Still leading the way
Tony Cairoli, MXGP of Great Britain, Matterley Basin, March 24th
The sun shines down on Tony Cairoli as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider and MXGP world championship leader powers along the long start straight at Matterley Basin and the British Grand Prix. This was round two of 2019, the first in Europe, and at a venue where many were wary of the March date and the notoriously unreliable UK weather. The weekend turned out to be dry and Cairoli would triumph in England for the second of four victories in the first five races. The Sicilian was victorious several weeks previously at the opening fixture in Argentina – a personally satisfying success considering how narrowly he was defeated by teammate Jeffrey Herlings at the same circuit in 2018 – but Matterley showed that, even at 33 years of age, Cairoli was still the reference for the premier class. After this photo Cairoli would total another four successive podium results and then a crash in qualification for the Grand Prix of Russia followed by another season-ending fall shortly after in Latvia would sadly curtail #222’s ambitions for a tenth world title.


Jorge Prado & Tom Vialle @RayArcher

Happy Holeshots
Red Bull KTM MX2 duo! MXGP of Czech Republic, Loket, July 28th
In the MX2 class the sights of the two Red Bull KTM 250 SX-Fs of Jorge Prado and Tom Vialle leading the pack around the first turn were frequent throughout a series that started in South America and finished in Asia. Across eighteen Grands Prix the two eighteen year olds were proficient and scarily unbeatable out from the gate (as neatly displayed in the second image at Kegums in Latvia which shows the advantage they enjoyed away from the line). Incredibly, from a grand total of 36 moto starts the Spaniard and Frenchman owned 30: an essential ingredient in the combined tally of 17 Grand Prix wins between both of them and 31 moto checkered flags for Prado. The photograph here is the unmistakable first turn from Loket and the Grand Prix of Czech Republic.


Jeffrey Herlings @RayArcher

A brief reply
Jeffrey Herlings, MXGP of Latvia, Kegums, June 16th
A torn expression on the face of the defending MXGP World Champion Jeffrey Herlings here at Kegums in Latvia. This is lockeround nine in June. The Dutchman has returned to Grand Prix duty a few weeks after riding and building pace from what was a three month convalescence due to a badly broken right foot: courtesy of a pre-season training accident. The soft and sandy Kegums circuit had been the scene of Herlings’ first win with the KTM 450 SX-F in 2017 and amazingly the champion claimed victory in his very first MXGP moto of the year. The slight grimace hides the truth. Herlings had suffered a small fall on the sighting lap of the race and his right foot had been hit by the unsuspecting Arminas Jasikonis. Herlings had lined up and another fracture in the same area as the previous injury would mean another operation and another frustrating period on the sidelines.


Jorge Prado @RayArcher

That’s two: and goodbye MX2
Jorge Prado, MXGP of Sweden, August 25th
Jorge Prado is swamped after the first moto at Uddevalla for the Grand Prix of Sweden and upon confirmation of his second MX2 world title (KTM’s third back-to-back MX2 championship winner since 2009). There were still two Grands Prix to go after the trip to Scandinavia. 2019 was a tale of utter domination for the talented Spaniard: 16 GP victories from 17 appearances, 14 qualification heats, 31 motos from 34. Prado’s decimation of the MX2 class ironically casts him out of the division according to FIM rules as a double winner. He would make his debut on the KTM 450 SX-F at the Motocross of Nations over a month after this photograph and is now due to form the greatest Grand Prix line-up of all time for 2020 MXGP alongside Cairoli and Herlings: fifteen world championships under one awning.


Tom Vialle @RayArcher

Behold the rookie
Tom Vialle, MXGP of Sweden, August 25th
While Red Bull KTM uncorked the champagne at Uddevalla for Prado there was also big celebrations for Tom Vialle. The French rookie is hard on the gas here, coming out of the pit lane chicane and on the way to a 2-2 scorecard that would give him the overall Grand Prix and disrupt Prado’s successive streak of spoils. Sweden would be the only time that Prado stood on a Grand Prix podium away from the top step. For Vialle, this was the peak of an astonishing rookie season that delivered seven podiums and 4th place in the world.


Glenn Coldenhoff & Jeffrey Herlings @RayArcher

Remember me?
Jeffrey Herlings & Glenn Coldenhoff, MXGP of Turkey, Afyon,quali September 8th
Jeffrey Herlings swaps congratulations with countryman and fellow KTM rider Glenn Coldenhoff at the climax of the Grand Prix of Turkey and the penultimate round of MXGP 2019. Herlings made his second comeback of the campaign and dramatically caught and passed the in-form Coldenhoff in the second moto to toast his first victory (the 85th of his career) of the year. It was an emotional moment for the sensitive champion who had watched from the sofa as Tim Gajser lifted the 2019 crown three races previously in Italy. Herlings, still not 100% race fit here in Afyon, would also tussle and defeat Coldenhoff a week later in China to end the season with his tail up. For his part, Standing Construct KTM’s Coldenhoff embarked on a career-high run of two wins and five podiums in the last five events of 2019 and would then dazzle the Motocross of Nations for the second year in a row.

Images : KTM, Ray Archer



When Aaron Steinmann got on his KTM 500 EXC to ride from the bottom to the top of New Zealand in 2016, he had no idea where the road would take him. Three years later, the likeable Kiwi has completed more than 125.000km crossing 50 countries on all six continents on this planet.



While most motorcycling explorers prefer the added comfort and bigger fuel tank capacity of KTM’s twin-cylinder ADVENTURE machines, for riders like Aaron it is all about the extra fun a light and highly capable offroad bike can offer. KTM Blog caught up with the extreme world traveler after he had finished exploring the relatively unknown trails of Korea.

“I fell in love with motorcycling during a short trip to Laos many years ago. Instead of being stuck in a minivan full of backpackers, I rented a bike and decided to explore the area at my own pace. I always liked having my own freedom to do things and travel and a motorcycle was the perfect tool for me to do so.”

Catching the adventure motorcycling bug during his first trip to southeast Asia, Aaron set his eyes on his first major bike traveling project upon his return to New Zealand.



Why a KTM 500 EXC?
“I’ve lived in New Zealand for a few years and when I decided to move back to Oregon in the States, I thought what a better way to get there than ride a bike instead of dealing with another 12hr plane ride! The next question was which bike to ride…”

“I knew I wanted something light I could ride in the dirt and pick up easily with the extra bags on, even if I was on my own. I wanted something with enough power to keep things interesting and put a smile on my face. I also needed something simple to work on and the 500 kept ticking all the boxes. Besides, I always thought it is a great looking bike, so for me it was a pretty easy choice.”



Picking up a KTM 500 EXC from a local dealer in late 2015, Aaron set off to plan the crucial details of his upcoming trip. “I bought my bike from a shop. I didn’t really consider any other options. The sales guy was trying to steer me towards a KTM 690 ENDURO R when I told him what my intentions were, but I insisted on the 500 EXC. He thought I was nuts but wasn’t going to turn down a sale.”

“I’ve always been telling myself that if I ever stayed long enough in one place to have a dog, I would name it Tess after a working dog my uncle had when I was a kid. Few weeks into my trip, I decided to name my bike Tess.”



Traveling light…
Moving on with his planning and preparations for the upcoming trip, Aaron quickly realized that he had to pack and travel light… “During the initial part of my trip, I was planning to ride New Zealand from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island. While preparing my gear, really it was working out what not to pack. Ever since then, selecting the items I am carrying on the bike is an ongoing process that changes depending on what countries I’m heading towards and what weather conditions I can expect.”

“For example, when I decided to ride solo up to over 5.500m on the famous Sairecabur volcano on the frontier between Bolivia and Chile, I left some of my gear in San Pedro de Atacama and did a day trip there. That was one of the highlights of my trip so far. The view was absolutely amazing, and it was one of the first times I felt I was somewhere very remote and alone. Also, my bike was a true blast to ride in that extreme terrain.”



Every end is a new beginning.
A few months after setting off for his return trip through New Zealand and onto US territory, Aaron finally reached the end of the first part of his trip. Little did the KTM 500 EXC mounted rider know that this was just the beginning of something even bigger.

“Reaching Portland, Oregon was another great moment in my trip. At that stage, I thought I was finished with traveling and the goal I had set was accomplished. I had so many people telling me that I had picked the ‘wrong’ bike, it felt awesome to have reached my goal. Soon enough the ‘Forrest Gump effect’ kicked in and I was back on the road heading north.”



“Another highlight of my trip was reaching Deadhorse in North Slope Borough, Alaska. I was at the very top of the North American continent and it felt damn good. It was a stunning day and I did the turn and burn not staying there, so it was a 720km day on the saddle. I had great conditions and it was just a fun day on the bike.”

“That day I was having a bit of a race with some guys on big Travel bikes and throughout the ride back to Coldfoot I leap frogged them a few times. I would stop to take photos and they would pass me, but soon later I would catch up pass them back. Sitting in a bar in Coldfoot with a beer in hand I saw them roll in. They walked into the bar and one said: “Who’s riding the KTM?” I slowly raised my hand and they came over shook it and we spent the rest of the evening chatting.”



From Alaska to Sahara.
After three years traveling the world on his KTM 500 EXC, Aaron has collected a wealth of experiences riding in some of the coolest places on this planet. “Riding over the last rise and seeing the Sahara Desert was another massive moment in my journey. It is just a stunning view and I had the perfect bike to go play in the dunes. It was also one of those tick of the box moments as I had always wanted to see it.”

“My time in the Sahara Desert was another little milestone at that time. It was as far south as I was going to go before heading back to Europe and crossing Asia, so it was kind of a mental halfway point. Later during my trip, I would find out it wasn’t even close to halfway.”

“For years I’ve been reading stories of people riding in Magadan and the depths of Russia. For me, it took a year longer than I had originally expected but I managed to get there. After coming out of Morocco, I was originally planning to ride to Vladivostok. I had the choice to put in huge back to back days to make it across Russia or throw the plan out the window and take it as it comes.”



“I did the latter, which allowed me to ride the Trans European Trail through the Balkan countries. I stored my bike in Georgia for the winter. I pulled the motor out and pulled it to pieces, taking it back to the States in a couple suitcases to get it rebuilt there. Few months later, I flew back to Georgia to continue my trip. During my time in Europe, I went by KTM’s headquarters in Mattighofen. Pulling a wheelie down the road outside the factory was another highlight. It felt like taking my bike back to its birth place.”

“Throughout my whole trip, there’s a lot of moments I cherish… Waking up to the sound of a hot air balloon while camping in Cappadocia and riding with Dakar Rally racer Serkan Ozdemir in Turkey were some cool moments. Also, riding in Mongolia was awesome. The place is so vast and remote and allows you to choose your own path through the steppes. Riding there was simply fantastic, the food and toilets not so much.

“Of course, I’ve met some great people along the way. I’ve had so many people reach out offering me a place to stay when I’m in their area. The people who walk up to me in a campground and say I bet you can’t carry cold beer on your bike, here have one. I love listening to other people’s stories of their travels.”



Bike maintenance basics
To ensure a problem-free trip, Aaron knows how to properly take care of his machine. “The number one question I get asked is about oil changes. I do a lot of them. I started doing them every 1.500km to 2.000km max, but now I will go for 3.000km without worrying so much. They are so quick and easy on my bike, so I don’t know why people think it’s a big deal. It also gives you a chance to give the bike a quick once over looking for anything loose etc.”

“If I am fully pinned in the desert or in race mode, I do oil changes more often. If I’m clicking some easy miles through a country like Uzbekistan or parts of Siberia – where it’s back to back 500km days with the bike just purring along at 110km/h – I stretch them. I always carry two spare pre-oiled air filters. I carry a front sprocket and I change it as soon as I see the teeth start turning around. Usually it’s around the 5.000 or 6.000km mark and that’s helped my chain and rear sprocket last longer. I use a Supersprox stealth sprocket from the KTM PowerParts catalog and they last amazingly.”



“I do a bit of preventative work also. Before I crossed into Morocco, I replaced the clutch thinking I might be doing lots of sand. Did it next to my tent and it wasn’t that hard. I did my first top end rebuild at 870hrs as the bike needed it. Then I did my second at around 1.300hrs but it didn’t need it. I did it because I did the bottom end and thought while it is all in parts I might as well do it all. At that time, I was heading from Georgia across Mongolia and Siberia so it was good piece of mind to know it was all done.  When traveling alone in those type of areas piece of mind is a massive thing.”

At the time of writing, Aaron is at Port Klang, Malaysia and waiting to get his bike delivered. Expecting to jump back on his bike soon, the extreme motorcycling traveler will continue his trip all the way back to where it all started from three years ago, in the bottom of New Zealand.



You may follow Aaron’s adventures via his profile on Instagram: @braaping_kiwi

Photos: @braaping_kiwi



73 years of history only adds to the prestige of the Motocross of Nations, the oldest and only closed circuit team race in the world that generates an atmosphere unlike anything else in motorsports.


Jorge Prado @RayArcher

At Assen, the Geert Timmer grandstand runs from the exit of the Ramshoek curve, all the way along the pit straight and along to the first corner. It houses a major chunk of the 60,000-seating capacity at the famous racetrack.

At the 2019 Motocross of Nations, well over half of the tribune is full. Half of that crowd is getting wet. The rain is pouring down at one of Europe’s oldest motorsport facilities, but it is apt that the Motocross of Nations is taking place at the Drenthe venue. The Netherlands hosted the very first MXoN (then carrying the title “Motocross des Nations”) back in 1947. Assen is the definition of a modern motocross circuit: a temporary course chiseled from thousands of tons of imported sand and making full use of the permanent infrastructure like the paddock, VIP lounges, Media Center and more. It has been the home of the Dutch Grand Prix on the MXGP calendar since 2015, but the MXoN is a different animal altogether.


Jeffrey Herlings & Jorge Prado @RayArcher

There is a reason – several actually – why this particular race is a firm date in the agenda for many, and that’s not a presumption; you only have to look at the flags, costumes and special effort made by patriotic supporters to surmise that this annual fixture has been eagerly anticipated. People are drawn to the MXoN for the unique appeal that it provides. There is nothing like it. Motorsports fans are typical drawn to a particular rider/driver or a brand, but the MXoN is all about pride in the flag and the prospect of watching the three best athletes (two on 450s and one on a 250) selected by their country to compete as a team towards the singular goal.

The three motos, five scores (the worst is dropped) and the inverted scoring system (1 point for 1st and all the way down to 40 for a DNF) mean a convoluted feeling of ‘what is going on?’ In the final laps of the last moto the implications of an ever-changing race order also bounce around in terms of the ultimate podium positions: the classification is undecided and often unknown by the spectators right up until all the riders have crossed the finish line. It means an overall comprehension of the event is daunting, but it’s not why the majority of the crowd is there. As much as there is competition and bragging rights at stake on the track there is also fierce support and rivalry at the fences: British fans bellow for the Brits, French fans go wild for the French, the Latvians wave flags for the Latvians, the Dutch roar and light flares for the Dutch. And so on. The opportunity to enjoy and display some national pride in a sport that doesn’t involve a ball spills into fun with eccentric costumes and paint. There is a carnival feel at times, almost like a music festival. It is like the FIFA World Cup but with all the teams together and squashed into one day. The media attendance rivals any MotoGP™ event for interest and the industry presence is rarely as high for any dirt bike meeting.


Jorge Prado @RayArcher

Back on the sand and breaking the format of the Nations down further reveals more novelties: the sight of 250s racing against 450s (and it is not unusual for a 250 to win), the strategy of which rider takes the better start slot (1-20 for the first athletes and then 20-40 for the second), seeing ‘obscure’ motocross territories like Cyprus and China trying to compete and the sheer depth of the entry list. A country like Slovenia might boast the MXGP World Champion in their ranks but their combined strength is far less compared to nations with a competitive and renowned trio. The same case applied to Spain with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado making his first outing on a KTM 450 SX-F at Assen.

The fever of the MXoN is usually hottest around the “home nation”.

At Assen the timing was right for Team Netherlands. Starring Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings, the 2018 MXGP World Champion and one of the fastest motocross riders in the world, and Standing Construct KTM’s Glenn Coldenhoff among the three, the Dutch have finished as runner-up for the past three years. They had been trying to dislodge the hegemony of Team France and a streak that had existed for five editions and since Latvia in 2014.


Jeffrey Herlings @RayArcher

Amazingly the orange crew had never won and the last time the Nations had visited the Netherlands was in 2004. The MXoN has been hosted by France, Great Britain, USA, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Latvia since that day in Lierop.

Herlings and his KTM 450 SX-F have a good fit with Assen. Thirteen months earlier he had won the Grand Prix and celebrated his first premier class world title (the fourth crown of his career) in front of the adoring masses. He has also won in the MX2 category across the white sand. Coldenhoff as well knows the feeling of top-three speed around the terrain. Both KTM riders came into the traditional season curtain-closer in peak form: Herlings had won the last two MXGPs of the in Turkey and China to ease the pain of an injury-hit 2019 while Coldenhoff had arrived to a career-high with five podiums and two victories in the last five rounds. Together with MX2 racer Calvin Vlaanderen they were heavy favorites, even in spite of the disagreeable weather that gave other nations hope that mistakes and an upset to the rulebook was more of a possibility.


Glenn Coldenhoff @RayArcher

Together with his KTM 450 SX-F, Coldenhoff would become the second rider ever to win two motos two years in arrow (he excelled the previous summer at RedBud in the USA) after former Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Tony Cairoli who managed the feat in 2012 and 2013 with the 350 SX-F. #259 was the star performer but Herlings’ first outing in Race1 was the action bright spot of a dark and cloud-lined day. The 25 year old pushed all the way through the field and only just failed to beat Slovenia’s Tim Gajser by less than a second. His progress animated the Dutch public even more and with Coldenhoff’s breakaway in the second race (and Vlaanderen’s efforts on the 250 to 10-10) the Netherlands had a large buffer before the decisive last gate drop.

“Going into the last moto we knew only one of us had to finish,” said Herlings afterwards. “When I saw Glenn up front I thought ‘that’s good’. It takes some pressure away when you can line-up with two other guys that are capable of winning their class. We expected – well, I don’t want to sound too confident – to go for the win but it still all had to fall together. We still had to pull it off, and I never had one second of doubt in both of those guys. We’ve been training a lot in the last few weeks and we’ve been pretty fast. I knew we had a big chance of winning.”


Team Netherlands celebration @RayArcher

“These guys are individual sportsmen, great sportsmen, but they function very well as a team,” assessed Team Manager Patrice Assendelft. “This weekend anything could happen because of the weather. It was like a gamble before we started the weekend but they did so well. It means a lot. I promise you, we’re not going to wait another 70 years or something!”

“It was very tough with those conditions but I’m glad we made it. Of course the goal was to win. We would definitely be disappointed with something less. I won the races in RedBud last year but this one was definitely nicer because of the home crowd.”


Jeffrey Herlings @RayArcher

Herlings has now tasted two kinds of professional glory at Assen: the selfish and the selfless. For an individual who insatiably feasts and feeds on victory the MXoN delivered an odd sensation. #84 claimed he was “very not satisfied” with his scores of 2-4 but “we’re really here for is to win as a nation, and that’s what we did.” And the main difference between celebrating a MXGP World Championship and an MXoN win? “About fifteen degrees and the sunshine!” he joked.

Back in 1947 Great Britain were the first winners of the competition. It was fitting that the trio of Adam Sterry, Red Bull KTM Enduro rider Nathan Watson (the ex-MXGP ace was drafted in late as a replacement) and KTM rider Shaun Simpson (victor of the first Dutch GP at Assen in 2015) were able to profit from a technical problem for the French on the last lap and take the final podium spot behind the Dutch and then the Belgians. The relentless showers may have continued right through the event program but the drama did not wash away as Gautier Paulin’s bike rolled to a halt.


Nathan Watson @RayArcher

For the outgoing champions the next twelve months cannot pass quickly enough. The Ernee circuit in northern France will be the next destination for this enduring contest and this time it will be the Dutch wearing those prized 1, 2, 3 number plates.

Images: KTM, Ray Archer



In the immediate hive of Sunday’s activity after a European MotoGP™ it can be easy to find Pol Espargaró sitting in the Red Bull Holzhaus Energy Station eating a bikini. The 28-year-old is not chewing on beach clothing but a toasted ham and cheese sandwich (so called in Catalonia). It’s almost a ritual. A small ‘reward’ for the sandwich-crazy lead rider of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team that is deep into its third term at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.


Pol Espargaró @Gold and Goose

The Holzhaus is typically packed with KTM’s team members and guests throughout a Grand Prix weekend but riders tend to eat at unusual hours and often with a plate of food different to everybody else. It’s hardly surprising. They need to be at a mental and physical peak of performance and alertness for the mere minutes they are on track and need to drill machinery to the maximum.

Now a six-year veteran of the premier class after jumping into MotoGP™ as a Moto2™ World Champion in 2013, Espargaró is at the forefront of KTM’s progress in the sport and has already racked up seven top ten results in 2019. When the Spaniard hopped on the RC16 for the first race at Qatar in 2017 he was 2.5 second adrift of the pack. At Misano for round thirteen of the current campaign Pol was second fastest on the MotoGP™ start grid.

Like KTM, Pol is hungry. On this occasion, we interrupt his sandwich time to talk about a facet of preparation that many fans might not necessarily know about.

Tuck in!


Pol Espargaró @Sebas Romero

It seems there is much more knowledge and awareness in professional sport about diet and intolerances now. Is it something you think about or wanted to learn about?
I think it is important to know your body as much as you can. We have a lot of good doctors to hand and with blood tests and other examinations you can know a lot about what you should eat and what is good for you and what isn’t. You can have an idea yourself just through feeling but the science helps. I think many people can have an athlete’s diet quite easily now but it helps to have that analysis which focuses even more on what will help you on the bike. Our sport, or the race time, is just forty minutes so you don’t need to be eating, eating and eating. The energy we spend is very quick. It means we don’t really need things like supplements or an ultra-strict program. Although we have routines of course. I eat at least two hours before getting on the bike. When the race is at 2:00 p.m. then that’s OK but practice on Saturday is 1:30 p.m. and it means a weird early lunch!

In your case are there any intolerances or problems?
Not really. I tolerate bread and gluten very well so I can eat a lot of it during the day. But I still prefer light food and healthy stuff without sauces. Very plain. It’s not the nicest or most fun but it works.


Pol Espargaró @Sebas Romero

How does it work at home?
We have a machine that makes lots of different foods and it is very simple and easy to make healthy stuff. As well as good desserts! In the winter I’m much easier with what I eat. We have a Mediterranean diet, which is pretty clean. I don’t like fast food and I don’t eat it. So in the winter I am eating what I want rather than what I should and I think this is a good way to try to forget a little of the discipline of what we do. To enjoy life a little. Then, about a month before the season, I will start to get super-strict to get back to the weight I need to be.

What does ‘super strict’ mean?
Simple stuff. No sauces. Pure food as well. So if I’m eating an omelette then the eggs will be ecologic. A lot of fish. No heavy meats. I love pasta and there are hundreds of different kinds. I bake my own bread at home and love doing that. I’ve made versions with cereals, different grains and ingredients.

When you were fifteen and first came to the world championship did you really have to learn about this stuff or were you already eating well and benefiting from it?
When I started on the 125 I went to live alone. I think I was seventeen when that first happened, so you need to learn to cook for yourself pretty quickly. At that time I was not taking much care of my diet. Actually I don’t think that happened until I got to a good level of Moto2™ and into MotoGP™! I wasn’t being super-careful or asking questions about what I was eating and why and how much I was eating. [smiles] I remember back when I was riding 125s that I was eating a lot of frozen food. I would go to one shop in particular and fill the trolley! In my home the fridge was almost empty and the freezer was completely full! The microwave was used a lot! The food was not super-bad but it wasn’t great either.


Pol Espargaró @Sebas Romero

Your brother [Aleix] owns a sushi restaurant. How was he with food and as a reference for you?
Aleix was always better than me. Right now we eat differently because we have different bodies and he loves cycling. He needs to be very light, so he eats a lot of vegetables. Aleix is very focussed on his diet and he gains weight quicker than I do. I have a bit more muscle than him. He’s always been careful. I think having a restaurant is a risky business but he loves the Sushi and he did me a big favour because he opened that place and the food is really good. That could finish soon for me though because in January I plan to be a vegetarian. I am already talking with nutritionists and diet specialists as well as trying things.

I’m kinda against how we are treating animals. I’m not eating so much meat now but I still think it will be tricky because I’m eating a lot of fish and lots of chicken. The hardest part will be sticking to it when we are flying around the globe and in airports and when you might not have vegetarian food to hand. But, a lot of things are difficult in this world, so I’m going to try at least.

Was there a moment when you were struggling for stamina or you were really curious about what you were eating and how it could give more energy?
Yes, and it was when I came to KTM. It was a new project and the bike was very physical to ride so I knew I needed to be as fit as possible. Every single detail with the body – eating, training, supplements – had to be really accurate. I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – give up anything in the races because of a physical reason. I trained so much in the beginning and now even more – much more than when I first came into MotoGP™. Every year I discover a little bit more and it’s actually quite fun to find that stuff out: you get motivated by it. The vegetarian plan is motivation and I like that.


Pol Espargaró @Sebas Romero

You have the motorhome at the track but then you have the Energy Station. Do you always eat here?
I have breakfast in the motorhome and can have lunch here or there because it’s usually just white rice and chicken breast. I’m also here in the evenings because the food is unbelievable.

OK, so what’s the MotoGP™ race day eating routine…?
I don’t eat so much when I wake up because we are out on the bike just after 9:30 a.m. for warm-up. I’d have to get up much earlier than I do if I wanted to eat well. I choose to rest instead! Warm-up is not so long anyway. After that I’ll have a couple of pieces of bread with some oil and turkey – always the same! It’s not much fun. At midday I’ll have a small amount of rice and chicken. On Saturday, if we are doing a long FP4, then I’ll have a couple of supplements like energy gels or bars and also some caffeine.


Pol Espargaró @Gold and Goose

What about hydration? That must be tricky in places like Thailand and Malaysia especially.
I normally drink a lot but on race day – right up until I get ready – I drink and drink water until I go to the toilet and it is like the water is just passing through! I do this even in cold conditions because I think is super-important to be hydrated, even mentally. Forty minutes before it is time to get ready then I stop drinking otherwise I would be running off the grid. You see riders walking off sometimes and I think it is connected with nerves and your body wanting to expulse that energy. So Sunday morning I’m in the toilet quite a lot! I sometimes use a CamelBak during the race for something extra.

What is your dietary weakness?
Oh! Desserts, and it feels like it gets harder to resist! Sometimes in the winter I do oven-cooked bananas with sugar on the top. Unbelievable. As a kid I didn’t like dessert – I know! – but recently Chocolate Coulant is amazing and Nutella is hard to resist: I can eat that now after a big strong effort training during the winter and when I need some sugar. I think I love it so much because I keep away from it as much as I can most of the time.


Pol Espargaró @Sebas Romero

What’s a typical ‘reward’ dinner then?
Sundays after the race I don’t care! If the result is good then I can eat an amazing quantity! Most of the weekend I’m not eating much so Sunday can be crazy and I usually finish a big plate. On the other hand, if the results are not going well then I feel like my stomach is closed and I won’t want to eat much for a day or two. It’s strange how the body works.

Lastly: favourite Catalan dish?
Ah! ‘Pa amb tomaquet I embotit’ (toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato and oil and a small piece of cured meat or ham). My parents were working when we were kids – me, my brother and sister – and if my Mum was stressed or tired at the end of the day then she’d just prepare this plate and I loved it. Bread with some ‘fuet’. It’s not so healthy, and I know if I’m going to be a vegetarian then it will be over with but I will make the effort to be veggie. The bread stays though: there is no way I could get rid of the bread!

Images : KTM, Sebas Romero, Gold and Goose



Red Bull KTM Factory Racing is a team punching its weight in the ‘prize’ division of MotoGP™. It is a collective of almost fifty full-time people of different ages, nationalities, cultures and genders. The grand prix paddock is a strange environment: a mini society of diverse backgrounds, educations, beliefs. Most of all it is a home of expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm for sport, bikes and competition.


Andrea Cantó @SebasRomero

In the technical side of the garage each person has a specific role to play in helping Pol Espargaro and Mika Kallio find the precious tenths of a second they need in the nineteen rounds of the FIM World Championship. (Even) in 2019, motorcycle racing – and perhaps international level motorsport on the whole – is a male dominated world but KTM are one of the very few elite level squads to subvert that trend and depend on the nuance and skills of at least three women to help make their MotoGP™ project tick. We decided to ask Data Strategy Engineer Jenny Anderson from Britain, Analyst Andrea Cantó and Team Coordinator Beatriz Garcia both from Spain about their jobs and how people – not just women – can hope to follow their path and work at the peak of motorcycling competition.


Jenny Anderson @SebasRomero

OK, first of all tell us about the day-to-day work in Red Bull KTM Factory Racing …

Jenny Anderson: For me I guess there are two parts: there is the bit at home – which is preparation for the event and the analysis after the event – and then there’s the work around data at the track itself. Leading up to a GP I will look at data from previous days at a circuit and I’ll try and prepare a base. I am the link between the engine and the rider. If you gave the rider just a cable from his hand to the engine then it would be hard to handle because there is so much power in these bikes. So I tweak the torque levels corner-by-corner, the traction control, the wheelie control and the engine braking to make it easier for him to ride and for better performance. I do all of this as a base before we arrive to a GP and then I work with Pol during a session and he will say “I need more,” I need less” and we tune as we go along.

Andrea Cantó: I do the tire analysis for all four KTM riders. I talk to the Crew Chiefs and they tell me the plan they have for the tires for the day and then they supply me with the comments from the riders. We try to analyze the data to see if everything is in line and then make a plan for the next day and eventually for Sunday. The target is to figure out which tire will be the best for the race because some will have a very high performance in the beginning but then drop a lot faster, some have less performance but more consistency. It is about trying to find the one for each racetrack. I’ve worked for nine seasons in racing and was a long time inMoto2™; there it was simpler and we only had two specs of tire instead of three. I was a data engineer then so doing analysis in general and not only on tires.

Beatriz Garcia: I have responsibilities at the circuit and I am always working because I am ahead of everybody and also focussing on the next events. When I’m here in the paddock we travel Tuesday and set-up everything on Wednesday so everybody can work. Then I start with organization of the paddock passes for guests and sponsors. I’m booking all the flights and hotels and moving everybody from one place to another. Usually it is around 50 people and sometimes the WP guys and Moto3™ because I am the connection with the factory. Then things like hiring grid girls. It is more the human side of the racing team; anything away from the spares, parts and bikes I take care of.

Jenny: The electronics department is quite a broad range of people. Each rider will have a strategy person and then there is someone who is the overall manager and will be the link between us as well as giving help and advice with our job. We also have people working on the electronic hardware and doing the tools. The cause of any difficulty for the rider is not just electronics because they work with the chassis and also the suspension. But if there is a problem that can be fixed by electronics then they will be looking right at you.

Andrea: It was a big change for me moving from that Moto2™ role. At the beginning I wondered ‘do you really need one person to analyze tires?’ but I don’t get bored or have time to get bored! It’s worth having that person. It might not change the result but it makes the Crew Chief’s job easier. What I have learned this year is that you get a general perspective of what is happening on the four bikes but not really the specifics of any single one; it is a bit of a different picture.

Beatriz: The professionalism of a factory team compared to a Moto3™ team – where I worked before and you are always trying to stretch a euro to the maximum – is huge and I was scared in the beginning about how big the job would be. Also it was all-new. I set up my own system – like my colleagues – but it turned out to be very easy because everyone is so professional and experienced. It’s easy to work with these guys. Obviously there are still fires to put out, but people can focus on entirely on their jobs and if there is any other kind of problem then I will solve it.



Beatriz Garcia @SebasRomero

So how did you reach the confines of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing?

Andrea: I wanted to work in MotoGP™. I wanted to be able to learn new stuff. I approached the team to ask if they needed anyone and they were full but I ended up being lucky because they had the budget for one more person.

Jenny: I joined the project in 2015, before we had a MotoGP™ bike, and from working in the factory full-time and the electronics department. I have seen the RC16 go from zero to where we are now. I had quite an open role. My manager said “here’s the ECU for the bike we are going to build in the next six months, get something ready so it can run”. So it was a bit of everything, working with the guys on the engine on the dyno, connecting sensors, making test harnesses: it was much more hands-on at that time. Then we started testing with Mika and I was the data engineer for the test team, I then did a year in that same job for Pol and now I’m the strategy engineer for Pol.

Beatriz: My first GP year was 2011 and my previous team used to buy the Moto3™ bikes from KTM so I had a lot of dealings with them and liked the way they worked. In 2016 I met Mike [Leitner, Team Manager] at the Catalan GP, and in September I had confirmation and started in October.

Andrea: The first three or four months I had a full overload of information. There were so many new things. You try to ‘push them in’ but there is no space! It slowly starts to sink in and I still don’t know half of the things that are possible with these bikes. The good thing about being here is that you can see and feel the development. Everybody is doing something that has almost started from zero. In another place I think you would just be handed an established platform with less room to grow.



Andrea Cantó @SebasRomero

It must be tough for anybody to break into this world and work in this paddock…

Andrea: I went to college and then did the Monlau engineering school [famous institution in Spain]. I’m sorry to say but I think there is a big percentage of luck, especially when you don’t know anyone in the paddock. That was my case. What happened was that one week before an IRTA test somebody dropped out of a team and they could not find a replacement at that stage because everyone else with experience was taken. So they took the risk in giving a job to a newcomer. I think the teachers at Monlau recommended me and I got lucky. There are more and more motorcycling engineering course available now and post-graduate courses.

Jenny: I grew up in motor racing. My Dad built kit-cars and my older brother got into karting. He was like a god to me and everything he did I wanted to do. At ten I started karting and started doing data almost as a hobby; I never realized it could lead into a job like I have now. I went from having one sensor to measure the RPM on my kart to looking at the gears and analyzing speed on different corner exits. It evolved as I added more sensors and got more information. I volunteered and did work for other people with data. When I left college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and ended up going to university quite late; I was 22 when I went to study motorsport engineering at Oxford Brookes University. I was working at a car racing team in F3 at the same time and the World Series by Renault. I worked with Kevin Magnussen in my first year actually. I then worked with them full time until this project came up with KTM.

Beatriz: Contacts are everything. You need them in this world. You can be very good but if nobody knows you then you won’t get the chance to start. My nationality helped because I was able to start in the Spanish championship, that has a good profile. For the MotoGP™ class it is even harder because you need experience and other people in the paddock will ask about you.

Andrea: In the end it is a high percentage of people coming back every year and rotating around the paddock. Even for me it was not easy to find a job in the MotoGP™ class. I knew others in Moto2™ because you have people with the same schedule. When other bikes are running you don’t pay attention and you miss the window to network. Talking about the job then I think you can learn different roles. If you have good knowledge then I think you can learn to do other stuff.



Jenny Anderson @SebasRomero

What’s the sacrifice?

Beatriz: Everybody has their needs in this big group. I try to get to know everybody a little bit just to know preferences, interests, who has family and so on. It sounds stupid but the travelling is part of the job that is tiring and time-consuming. I cannot do much about a cancelled flight but I will try to do what I can to make sure people are happy getting to their job.

Andrea: I think it is a kind of lifestyle where if you cross a mark then you don’t know how to do anything else, or to have a normal 9-5. I wouldn’t like to cross that point but it is difficult to know! You get so used to it, and even when we have built the garage then your place to work is always the same. It is a strange lifestyle. For people that stop working here then I think it is because the travelling finally ‘got’ to them. For the moment I am OK. I don’t mind the travelling but I know if I want to have a family then it will be difficult and I think for most of the women that left the paddock then this was the reason. I think, in some ways, we can be very equal with gender in this world but there is not much we can do about physical differences!

Jenny: It’s not really a job: it’s a life choice. I’ve always spent a lot of weekends at a racetrack because it’s what I love to do. My friends don’t really understand what my job is and how many hours we work. People assume we turn up on a Friday, work a couple of 45 minute sessions and then we leave. Many don’t realize how much goes into it, and not just from us but also at the factory. People are working long hours all the time to achieve what we achieve. There is not a lot of downtime!

Beatriz: When I talk about my job then a lot of people don’t know much about bikes. They tend to think I am just travelling around and visiting all these places. Other people who know about racing think it is very exciting and they are quite surprised sometimes. Nobody really knows what it is like behind the scenes.




What’s it like being part of this multi-national and eclectic race team?

Andrea: I think with this job you also get to appreciate that there are good and bad points about everybody and every nationality. The Spanish are supposed to be lazy, the Italians are supposed to be cocky, the Austrians are supposed to be super-scheduled and you kind of appreciate that there is a truth to these thoughts but also there isn’t at all I like working with people from everywhere.

Jenny: Often we spent sixteen hours a day for three days in a row with the same people. It’s important to be able to get-on. It is a hard job anyway but if we didn’t have this family atmosphere then it would be tougher. Away from the track we are a good group and we socialize a lot. There is a lot of camaraderie. It’s a big part of the job; when you get chosen then it is as much for how well you’ll fit into the team as for what or how much you know. You need positive and motivated people.

Beatriz: I love it actually. You get to know different cultures and you can see how different we all are. There are stereotypes…and generally they are true!

Andrea: My mum made me take English lessons from when I was eight! Normally the people here who know another languages then don’t have too much difficulty to pick up another one; it’s incredible actually. Franco Morbidelli can speak anything and Miguel [Oliveira] speaks Spanish, English, Italian and French: where does it all come from?! I’m super-jealous.

Beatriz: I never found any bad attitudes or reactions to me. I think you need to be quite open to fit into a team and people will respect you, especially if you can do a good job.

Jenny: From my experience in cars, drivers often bring the money for a single-seater one-make series spot and it gives them a lot of clout about whom they want to work with. They might not want to work with a woman or it’s because your face doesn’t fit or you are English, Spanish or French. Here or anywhere I don’t think gender really comes into it much any more or no more than any other sport. When I was karting I’d be the only girl in a paddock of two hundred people and I have seen – just in my lifetime – how many more women are now working in motorsport both as drivers or engineering and that can only be positive.

Images: Sebas Romero, KTM



It’s no secret that synergy has helped KTM and Akrapovič grow from strength to strength across their over 20-year relationship working together to deliver the best products not just for KTM Factory Racing teams, but for every rider too. KTM Blog takes a closer look into the past, present and future of this solid partnership.


@Sebas Romero

Some quick facts: 130 world titles, 76 achieved with KTM, 9 Red Dot awards for design accrued over 28 years of operation. Founded by an ex-racer who used his passion for motorsport to develop market leading hardware in terms of both quality and performance and a name synonymous with the best. This can only be one company: Akrapovič.

To see how the great achievements celebrated in the top tiers of motorcycle racing filter down to the products available to the grass roots racer, KTM Blog talks with some of the brains behind the brawn of Akrapovič, Head of Racing R&D, Alojz “Slavko” Trstenjak.


Slavko Trstenjak @Akrapovič

Slavko has been working alongside Igor Akrapovič since the infancy of the market leading manufacturer, with his own responsibilities, experience and book of stories growing along with the company and its now 1200 plus strong team.

“I started working full-time for Akrapovič at the beginning of 1993, but I’d already been working with the company a few months before that. At the beginning I worked as a mechanic, as an engine builder, because at that time the company specialized in motorcycle tuning, and it was later that it specialized in exhaust systems. During the first years we were all multitasking, we were involved in several areas, which was necessary because there were very few of us at the company, less than ten. After that I focused on work with Igor Akrapovič on the dyno as a tester, looking for and defining new exhaust configurations. I did that for almost ten years. After that I took over leadership of the still relatively small R&D department – and in a few years it expanded to over 40 engineers in the department. Later I shifted to managing the Racing R&D department for developing racing exhausts for all kinds of motorcycles.”


Joel Smets (2003) @KTM

During this time the Slovenian company has celebrated a staggering number of victories across a wide array of disciplines, when asked Slavko proudly recalled some of his personal highlights:

“An unforgettable milestone for sure was our first world champion using an Akrapovič exhaust – Colin Edwards on a Honda in the WorldSBK series. This title was won after almost ten years of hard development work and visiting countless WorldSBK races and the German championship. Before this, there was an important achievement a year earlier, when we partnered with all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers in WorldSBK. All the Japanese factory teams and Aprilia relied on our know-how and our achievements. Personally, as a big offroad enthusiast, I was very satisfied when I was also able to help the company start developing exhausts for Offroad motorcycles, and we saw our first successes with these pretty quickly, including the first world champion title on motocross with KTM and Joël Smets, and we also celebrated success in the Dakar Rally with a two-cylinder KTM.”

The special relationship between KTM and Akrapovič ensures the highest levels of quality and a seamless fit.


Thierry Van Den Bosch (2004) @KTM

“From the very beginning, cooperation between KTM and Akrapovič was based on exchanging information in the early phase of development while seeking the best solutions together. Over the years of cooperation, we had a big impact on the design trend of exhaust systems on production bikes manufactured by KTM, especially in the offroad segment. Our engineers are usually already involved in the early phase of designing the motorcycle itself and in preproduction bikes, where we usually prepare prototypes for KTM’s basic testing; these are essential for developing other components of the bike in the development phase. This work method especially applies to certain motorsport categories like MotoGP™, where developing the exhaust system takes place at the same time as developing the other components, and toward the end all the components are fused into a complete whole. These days all the parts can be developed in a 3D model, and then the 3D models are exchanged among the engineers. The work takes place simultaneously.”

There are some differences in the design process for production bikes compared to those intended for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teams. This is mostly due to timing as new designs are developed in racing first, and then there are some other factors to consider. Slavko explained further for us:

“If we’re talking about bikes that are intended exclusively for racing, we usually develop their exhaust systems before our exhausts used for production motorcycles. When we’re talking about the general production bikes sold by KTM, the Racing R&D department doesn’t have anything to do with that; they’re developed separately, between KTM and Akrapovič’s R&D department. Here engineers already closely cooperate in the development phase and with the first prototypes, which determine the development guidelines based on the demands that define today’s development of exhaust systems, such as shapes and environmental requirements regarding emissions and noise restrictions.”


Fabrizio Meoni (2004) @KTM

“For racing exhausts, I can confirm that the shape is developed exclusively in our Racing R&D department, and we provide the guidelines. For exhaust systems installed on production bikes like the Adventure segment and all others, as far as the shape is concerned, KTM designers are also involved. We follow the principle “form follows function” and we work so that the exhaust systems are made to be used, for which we have lots of feedback and invaluable experience from close cooperation with the factory racing teams that use our exhaust systems.”

Although Slavko is not overseeing the work carried out for production bikes, this does not mean that the hard work of his team does not greatly influence the design of the product.

“We absolutely use the knowledge and experience from the Racing department for production bikes. Looking at offroad bikes, it’s an advantage to the end-users that they receive an exhaust system that’s virtually identical to the one the KTM factory teams are racing with – for example, what Cairoli, Herlings, Prado, and others are using. Most times there are minimal changes because of certain components required by layout, but regarding performance, weight, and other characteristics we try to retain the characteristics as much as possible from the racing environment to the production exhaust. With the exhaust systems for enduro and extreme enduro, it’s a nearly identical system”


Antonio Cairoli (2012) @KTM

Each racing environment demands different specifications in order to meet the needs of the rider, and ultimately win. Thanks to their broad team of engineers and scientists Akrapovič can control all factors of the design of the exhaust. Using an in-house metallurgical laboratory, they can even predetermine the titanium’s properties before being formed, ensuring the perfect finish. Slavko went on to explain some of the differences that can be seen between disciplines:

“The finish itself involves an added value that’s been present since the very beginnings of the Akrapovič company. With a lot of exhaust systems, we further increased their durability through the use of custom materials; for example, Rally is the only motorcycle series in which we use special 1.2 mm thick titanium, and not tubes with the usual 0.9 mm thickness. We know that Rally is a very long race where the exhaust has to survive the entire race for amateur racers – an unforgiving two-week torture test. This is why the choice of material and optimizing it is really important. In MotoGP™, for example, there’s a big emphasis on weight, but this isn’t the main reason we use 0.65 mm thick tubes. At the same time, we have to make sure that the material can withstand the high temperatures, stresses, and pressures that are created in the exhaust system, and so we dedicate great attention to the choice of material and constant checks. All of this already takes place in the very selection of the material supplier.”

“The Akrapovič brand is known for its race-proven products; it was born in races that we know demand performance, light weight, great sound, drivability, throttle response, and other characteristics. For a product to achieve this, you have to give it your all and pay attention to every detail, to every gram, to every mounting element.”

Brad Binder (2016) @FocusPollution

If you stop to ask any motorcyclist about what makes Akrapovič stand out, then quality and this precise attention to detail will come up. The vast majority will answer with the distinctive sound.

“Considering all the different categories of motorsport that exist today, it’s clear that we can’t ensure the characteristic Akrapovič sound for each and every one of them – but it’s true that we strive to make that sound a pleasure sound as much as possible. It’s impossible to compare the sounds of so many different championships – say, from enduro to MotoGP™. Oftentimes the configuration determines the sound produced by these instruments, but we make great efforts to tune them well, so they produce the very best sound for both the rider and the environment.”

After creating various designs, simulating models and manufacturing prototypes comes the real testing. Even in an age of advanced computer technologies and accurate simulations, Akrapovič follow an intense program of both dyno runs and real-world testing as ultimately the success of the product on track is directly related to riders’ preferences.


Pol Espargaro (2018) @Sebas Romero

“In the offroad segment we make use of testing on the motocross track near the company, and we also carry out a lot of testing on it with racers and teams. We also take part in factory team tests held at various locations, usually in Italy and Belgium, where they’re held in the winter. There we make the “final touch” and choose the configuration. The dyno is only a tool for making measurements and obtaining results, but the dyno itself doesn’t decide which configuration is the best. Here, as developers and engineers, we have to make a preselection, and we leave the final choice to the racing riders. Our philosophy is that the end user has to be satisfied. If the rider isn’t satisfied with the character of the power, with the responsiveness of the engine, then – regardless of the results that can be measured on the dyno – we haven’t achieved our goal. Conceptually, the development of an exhaust system begins on the drawing board or at the computer and with creating a prototype. This is followed by comparative testing on the dyno, and after that even more testing. These tests are often carried out by our test riders, and after them the factory racers do the final testing. In this way we can evaluate our feedback on the configurations, see if we’re working in the right direction, and whether the feedback result is relevant or not.”

“Each exhaust is unique, a development story in itself; we don’t have universal exhaust systems. Each exhaust is made for a very specific kind of motorcycle, developed to optimize its power, reduce its weight, and satisfy any type-approval requirements that apply to that kind of system.”


Nathan Watson (2019) @Future7Media

And there’s no resting on their laurels either! Constant development and product evolution go on year on year, with new products released as they maintain their position as the world’s premier exhaust manufacturer. This can be seen in the release of an all new look for the KTM ENDURO MY20 range.

“A new shape is a new beginning for the EXC family era. We’ve been working on the most stress-laden parts of the exhaust system, weak points, and research directions to improve the current exhaust and optimize it. This is why we moved to the “relief profile” of the exterior sleeve, which ensures greater durability, better scratch resistance, and more resilience to the impacts and damage that can be expected in enduro use every day. The development goal is to preserve the maximum volume in a limited space along with ensuring the lowest sound level friendly to the environment.”



To round things up we asked Slavko to summarize what he thinks is the number one benefit of an Akrapovič exhaust is to a KTM rider, regardless of their level of riding:

“The biggest benefit to end customers is that when they use our exhaust systems, they really get identical materials and solutions, and often also the identical exhaust system configuration that we create for factory bikes. End users buy what we produce for world champions, regardless of whether they’re racers or recreational riders. The end user gets a product that’s the result of working together with factory teams. This is really important to me.”

Images: KTM, Akrapovič



After more than 1,685 kilometres of riding, 1,346 kilometres of timed special stages, Sam Sunderland brought his KTM 450 RALLY home as runner-up at the recent Atacama Rally. More importantly, the British rider had earned himself enough points to claim the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – his first ever world title.



With victories at rounds one and two of this year’s championship, Sam Sunderland was very much the man on form and favourite for the title. Going into the third round – the Atacama Rally in Chile – the 2017 Dakar Rally Champion had no plans to claim the title. The goal, as often is in the challenging world of rallying, was to get through the event safely and collect as many points as possible.

“To be honest,” admits Sunderland, “I didn’t realise I could even win the world championship early. Not until the day before the final stage at Atacama. We were talking about the race and I made a joke to Jordi that if Pablo stopped, would I win the championship. Jordi then told me, the only thing I had to do to win was beat Kevin (Benavides) and the title was mine. That night it was all going around and around in my head – don’t make any mistakes, stay calm, just do what you’ve been doing. Rally is so mentally challenging with the long hours and the navigation – I think the team just didn’t tell me in case it upset my rhythm or affected my focus on that last stage. Luckily everything went well and the boys were there at the finish to celebrate.”



Although Sam had topped the podium at the first two rounds, it was by no means an easy task. Both the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Silk Way Rally were seriously tough events. The Silk Way opened registrations to motorcycles for the first time ever in 2019 and with the event covering over 5,000 kilometres through Russia, Mongolia and China, the epic event tested riders, their bikes and their teams to the maximum.

“Everyone went in to that event as rookies as it’s never been open to motorcycles before. It was a big learning experience. It’s true that the likes of Toby, Matthias and Pablo weren’t riding at the beginning of the season, but that just makes everyone else step up their game. HRC always field a strong team and were a real threat all season. No matter the competition, you still have to successfully complete each event too, and just finishing the Silk Way is an accomplishment in itself.”



Fast forward to the Atacama Rally and Sam, once again, was riding the perfect event – consistent, yet fast stage times and making the minimum of mistakes on the fast, tricky-to-navigate timed specials. With the event’s marathon stage incorporating the two longest days of the rally, it was always going to be a challenge to get through the 800 kilometres without issue. For Sam, that issue came in the form of a bent rear disc. Facing a long stage four, the team decided to swap out the damaged item with one from a fellow teammates’ bike.

“Changing the rear disc was more like a precaution – I had ridden most of that stage with the disc bent so it wasn’t too bad, I could just sense a bit of movement there. The danger is, if that small bend in the disc causes the brake to heat up, or the pads to wear out, I could be without a brake for the next stage, and it was the longest stage of the event. There is always a risk in changing something like that too – on the marathon stage you’re not allowed to receive any assistance from the team so everything has to be done by the riders.



Normally I would have taken Matthias’ disc as he was lower down the order, but he had bent his disc too and it was possibly as bad as mine.  Toby and I are really good friends and he just stepped up and said ‘sure, just use mine – no problems,’ he didn’t even question it, I guess it’s just what we do for each other in the team. For sure, I’d do the same for him, but what you have to remember is, he then had to ride the whole of the next stage with a rear brake that wasn’t 100 percent – it’s a real big ask, so I have to say thanks to him for what he did. As it happens, we finished one-two on that stage with Toby getting the stage win, so it worked out really well in the end.”

The marathon stage was not completely without additional drama. Overnight, riders stay in a temporary bivouac, often in less comfortable conditions than they are used to. The Atacama was no exception and a few of the riders found it tough to get to sleep.



“There was one funny story from the marathon stage,” laughs Sunderland, “there was a bit of an issue that night. The car guys were having a bit of a laugh and didn’t want to sleep and I think one of the bike riders had had enough – there was a bit of an argument, but it resolved itself ok and we all got some rest before the next day. The best thing about the marathon stages in rally is, it brings all the riders together, everyone is in the same situation with no comforts, no mechanics and quite often in the middle of nowhere. The Atacama was bad for me as when I got to the Bivouac, I went to get my phone out of my pocket and it had turned itself into a flip-phone – it was bent in two and the screen was all smashed – not what you need after a stage like that. The atmosphere is good though and it’s nice to spend time with the non-factory guys. They put a lot of hard work and time into racing the events and it’s good to hang out with them and relax.”

On the final day in Chile, maintaining his impressive pace to the chequered flag, Sam did exactly what was needed to win the championship, with one round to spare. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team were waiting for him armed with the traditional celebratory banners and t-shirts.



“It’s super-nice that they do it and it was a nice surprise when I crossed the finish line in Chile. To celebrate like that with the whole team is a really special feeling. I know the team have prepared t-shirts for me twice before and unfortunately they’ve had to stay in the bag when I twice finished runner-up in the championship.”

Now with the championship decided, Sam can relax going into the final round – the Rally du Maroc – in Morocco in early October. With the focus already on Dakar Rally preparation, the Brit has the advantage that he can use the event to work on bike set up under full race conditions – a luxury not often possible when chasing a title.



“Now the pressure is off, it will be nice to have a good safe run in Morocco without having to take any unnecessary risks. The best thing is, we’re able to test things and change a lot of settings mid-race. You’re not able to do that so much in a championship fight as you don’t want to change the way the bike feels or try something extreme that might not work at all. With no pressure, we can try new things as the rally goes on and to have that opportunity to test under full race conditions is a real advantage. Overall, I’m really happy with how the bike is feeling at the moment anyway, we made some big changes to the bike before Silk Way and then after that there were just the tweaks I wanted to try on the run up to the Atacama. I’m a racer though, racers always want to win, so when we get to Morocco, I’m still going to be taking things seriously, it’ll just be nice not to have to fight quite so hard.”

After Christmas and New Year, it’ll be straight into the Dakar Rally and of course, its first year in Saudi Arabia. A Dubai resident for 10 years, Sam is looking forward to taking on the new challenge of the race in the Middle East.



“For me, I was quite happy when I found out the Dakar would be held in Saudi. I have a good idea of the sort of terrain we’ll encounter and how the general mentality is and how the people are. All these things come together to help you feel more relaxed and comfortable when facing a race like the Dakar. One of the best things about a whole new race over new ground is that it’s a clean slate for everyone. Over recent years when we’ve been in South America, there’s always one local guy that goes fast – in Peru there’s a Peruvian guy that has some information on the stages, in Argentina there’s one Argentinian rider who is super-fast. With the Dakar moving to Saudi Arabia, it should be a fair race for all.”



The goal for Dakar 2020 will be as always – to get through the event safely and secure a strong result. However, with Toby winning in 2016, Sam in 2017, Matthias claiming victory in 2018 and then Toby winning again this year, surely it must be Sam’s turn once again to pick up that iconic Dakar trophy?

“That sounds pretty good! Of course, it’s the goal and once you have won once you want to get more – nothing else compares. When you win, you raise the bar to that level. When you come second people just say, ‘better luck next time’. For yourself, you know just how hard you tried and how close you came, but from the outside, second place is second place – it’s never enough. That’s racing I suppose, I want to win again and to put it simply, that’s what all the work is for.”



A quarter of a century ago, KTM took the public by surprise by launching the KTM 620 DUKE. At the time, the Austrian manufacturer was known for its off-road motorcycles, so no one was expecting the release of a radical street bike. Today, all KTM Naked Bikes bear the name DUKE, from the KTM 125 DUKE right through to the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R…



Back in 1992, before the original DUKE series was launched, some KTM technicians had been experimenting with a road bike, featuring two LC4 engines in a special housing, each with a capacity of 553 cc. But the machine with the tubular trellis frame was no more than a thought experiment, a vision. At the time, few thought it would become a reality as the company had only just relaunched following insolvency a few months prior.

KTM 950 DUKE Prototype @KTM

Then, at INTERMOT 2000 in Munich, KTM unveiled a brand-new two-cylinder project that was to be ready for series production three years later in the form of the KTM 950 ADVENTURE. Of course, similarly to the DUKE with the LC4 in its time, there were also thoughts of producing a road model featuring the ultra-modern LC8 V2 engine. In 2003, KTM’s 50th anniversary year, a prototype of a street bike with a two-cylinder motor was also released, known at the time as the KTM 950 DUKE, was launched alongside the KTM 950 ADVENTURE. Since those working on the project were able to use the components from the KTM 950 ADVENTURE for the 950 DUKE’s engine, the conditions for producing KTM’s first two-cylinder road bike were excellent. In fact, it not only made perfect sense for the KTM 950 DUKE to be shown as a prototype at exhibitions, but also to develop it for series production.



Then in 2004, once again at INTERMOT in Munich, the result, now called the KTM 990 SUPER DUKE, was on display for all to admire—a lighter and more maneuverable machine than anything that had come before it in the large-capacity Naked Bike segment. More than anything, the KTM 990 SUPER DUKE stood out from the competitors’ products thanks to its unique design and Kiska’s unmistakable angular lettering. The KTM 990 SUPER DUKE was powered by the V2 engine, which had been increased to a capacity of 999 cc and could achieve 120 hp. The SUPER DUKE R, a particularly sporty street fighter with 132 hp at its disposal, followed in 2007. The bike could easily be distinguished from the basic version at a glance thanks to the “R” that stood out against the orange painted frame.



The KTM 990 SUPER DUKE’s successor, the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R, was available from 2014 and promised endless power. The constructors were able to draw on unlimited resources for the chassis. In the tubular trellis frame, a single-sided swing arm guided the rear wheel with wide 190 tires, while the lean-angle-sensitive traction control (MTC—motorcycle traction control) and the Bosch two-channel ABS were included as standard from the start. “THE BEAST”, the world’s most powerful naked bike, is still as raw, brutal and extreme as it’s always been.



At the other end of the KTM portfolio are the entry-level bikes from 125 to 390 cc, which are built at Bajaj Auto Ltd. in India. Twelve years ago, KTM and Bajaj entered into an extensive partnership with the objective of developing powerful liquid-cooled four-stroke engines, which KTM wanted to use as a basis for street motorcycles in the then-unconquered Street entry-level segment. This served to round off the existing range below the KTM 690 DUKE.



From 2011, the DUKE was available with 125 cc, 200 cc, and 390 cc; in 2017, the little DUKE was completely redesigned and is now hard to tell apart from larger bikes. The medium-sized KTM 200 DUKE now has 250 cc; the capacity for the 125 and 390 cc versions remained the same.

Even the KTM 125 DUKE has LED headlights in the unmistakable BEAST style, a color TFT display and a tubular trellis frame included as standard alongside high-tech Brembo brake technology with ABS; this is complemented by high-quality accessories in the KTM PowerParts range, such as an Akrapovič slip-on silencer, Wave brake discs, and various luggage systems.



The latest member of the DUKE family is the KTM 790 DUKE, introduced in 2018, which really made waves when the prototype was unveiled at the EICMA motorcycle show in 2016. The KTM 790 DUKE is also known as “THE SCALPEL” owing to its precise handling. The high-tech two-cylinder series engine with 75° crankpin offset makes for a mesmerizing sound. Here, too, nothing is left to be desired, with cornering ABS, switchable traction control, slipper clutch, and quickshifter all included as standard. Twenty-five years after the DUKE—long since a cult bike—made its debut, KTM now has a DUKE in its range to suit all tastes. This starts from the entry-level 125 DUKE, which can be ridden by 16-year-olds, through to the “BEAST”, the super-powerful KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R. There truly is something for everyone.

Long Live the DUKE!

Discover the latest KTM Naked bike range here:

Photos: KTM, Kiska




Posted in Bikes, Riding

KTM announced the launch of its latest model, the KTM SX-E 5 – an electrically powered junior model that’s innovative in design, READY TO RACE in performance and adaptable for the growing rider. The next step in e-mobility, the KTM SX-E 5 may be a great solution for encouraging new families to the sport, whilst offering another option for those who already love, ride and race dirtbikes.



As e-technology evolves, the next generation of riders are certainly likely to become more accustomed to e-powered vehicles in a world that becomes more and more familiar in using this technology. The KTM SX-E 5 not only represents KTM’s next step in e-powered motorcycles, it’s a premium junior product that grows with the rider both when it comes to ability and their size. In fact, one of the major features is that the bike can last a junior approximately five years as the seat h can be adjusted. It requires very little maintenance, just a bit of chain oiling. It makes hardly any noise. It’s easy to operate and it has a bunch of modes for the ability of the rider. Plus, KTM also offers an additional lowering kit so even the smallest riders can start with the bike early on. Pretty cool, eh?

The masterminds behind the development of this project both have children that tested the bike and have been part of the process as the bike evolved. We know that some are skeptical about this kind of technology (without the sound of a motorcycle we’re all accustomed to and love), but when it comes to getting a child on such an adaptable bike from an early age, what’s not to like. Manfred Edlinger from KTM Research and Development, who is responsible for the motocross platform for all KTM SX models, explains: “The bike is so good as it is usable for all skills of all riders.”



“In my family my daughters were younger than five and with the KTM PowerParts lowering kit they could ride on the kids track right away after a few loops on the grass. Riding like that for the very first time on a motorcycle would absolutely not be possible with a combustion bike that has similar capabilities to a KTM 50 SX. To ride on a track the very first time on the bike is a big benefit. The KTM electric bike is a really complete package – my son that’s almost eight can finish on the podium at a local race, but also the same bike is usable for a four-year-old the very first-time riding,” said Edlinger.

“This bike is so safe – it’s not only a READY TO RACE bike, but it’s also easy to operate. The kids can be quite independent with it, yet with the combustion bike it’s difficult for them to even get it started. If they are able to put on the boots and helmet alone, then they can also pretty much ride on their own. The bike doesn’t get hot, and it’s safer to let the children ride. It’s a completely new type of bike – high performance on the one hand, but also it’s a fun bike for improving skills at more locations. It’s a new era of youth riding.”



Development for this model has been similar to that of the full-size KTM SX models as raced by some of the best motocross athletes in the world. With comparable lap times to a KTM 50 SX as tested by a national level racer, it provides maximum performance with minimal noise – yet with a lot of other benefits.

“I learned a lot about the advantages of the electric bike just by actually using it, and I have a lot of examples of things that make the bike easier – you can put it in the van without fixings as it can be laid down, when you wash the bike you can see there’s not so much oil around making it easier to clean there’s absolutely no maintenance – just some chain oil and that’s it. Even the tires last a lot longer due to the power delivery. All of this experience aside of the technical features I was able to explore a lot,” said Edlinger.



“We did a lot of work on the electric test benches and we had to build benches for this kind of engine and battery. We did a lot of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) calculations along with heat resistance and heat dissipation testing – the ribs on the battery are not just a matter of design, or just by trial and error, this was really developed with modern CFD calculations. We worked on all of the hardware of the chassis completely, using the same development tools as on the big bikes with hydro pulse test benches for the frame and the swingarm. The swingarm is a highlight as it’s a cast aluminum swingarm replacing the steel welded ‘old school’ version we’ve used previously,” concluded Edlinger.



Edlinger’s department worked closely with the dedicated E-mobility team in KTM R&D, which is headed by KTM Head of Electrics/Electronics Arno Ebner. Responsible for developing the motor and incredibly adaptable electronics for the KTM SX-E 5, Ebner has years of experience in e-technology. With the KTM SX-E 5 it was really important to provide the highest safety standard, something that Ebner was passionate about achieving, as well as a bike with controllable power that fits the READY TO RACE mantra.

“The lowest mode is really smooth, with a low-end speed, and it’s even possible for parents to walk or run behind the bike. This is a big advantage over the combustion engine – the controllability of the throttle is really good compared with a combustion bike. One of the reasons that it’s easy to ride is due to a really fast response of the torque at the rear wheel. We see from national level junior rider that the lap times are similar to a 50cc combustion engine, or in some conditions they are even faster. You have this really direct and good controllable power, along with all of the advantages of an e-bike,” said Ebner.



“We tried to find the best balance in terms of safety and in terms of performance. Performance means good energy density to offer a lot of range in a small volume yet with a low weight. This is always a big issue because battery technology in general is really on a limit – we are using lithium-ion battery technology, and we have seen a steady development for improvements in this area over the last few years. I believe with the KTM SX-E 5 we really found a good solution,” continued the electrics expert.

Hours and hours of testing, abuse testing, riding testing and so on have been done with these bikes, which have a lot of premium components including the frame, subframe, WP XACT 35 suspension and WP XACT shock absorber – it’s a special new technological revolution that can be enjoyed by such a wide range of riders.



With that in mind, it also means KTM continues its commitment to encouraging new riders to the sport, whilst keeping the READY TO RACE DNA right at the heart of every model produced. Perhaps the KTM SX-E 5 will encourage new families into the wonderful world of biking, whilst creating something special and different for already orange bleeders.

Photos: KISKA



Taking place earlier this summer in Bjelašnica, the 2019 European KTM ADVENTURE RALLY allowed 150 KTM riders from 24 different countries to live the experience of a lifetime riding through the Bosnian wilderness. Revisiting the four-day-event, KTM Blog shares the full 22-minute highlights from this big adventure in the mountains of Southeastern Europe.


@ F. Montero/KTM

Held in the unexplored trails of Bosnia, the 2019 European KTM ADVENTURE RALLY was a READY TO RACE community event that included breath-taking rides led by some of the world’s best offroad racers. Participants had the opportunity to test the latest KTM ADVENTURE range while also getting the first ever look at an exciting future KTM motorcycle. Some of them even tried their skills at the 2020 ULTIMATE RACE qualifiers…

After two successful editions on Italian territory, playing host in 2019 was Bosnia and Herzegovina; the small but breath-taking country provided a backdrop of beautiful mountains, deep canyons, high plains, ice cold mountain lakes and crystal-clear rivers for the 150 riders, some coming from as far as Australia or Colombia.


@ F. Montero/KTM

After the first official day of riding, the 150 orange bleeders were exclusively presented the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY during a brief presentation. International racer and KTM ADVENTURE ambassador, Chris Birch, took the covers off the limited edition 2020 model. Along with the chance to test the latest KTM ADVENTURE range and ride with racing legends and KTM Factory Racing riders, the event also hosted a qualification round for the upcoming ULTIMATE RACE.

Participation for the qualifiers is available for twin-cylinder KTM riders who take part in any of the six KTM ADVENTURE RALLIES held during 2019 and at the start of 2020. At each RALLY, special qualification events test the riders to show if they have the excellent machine control, navigational skill and competent mechanical ability required to line up on a rally-prepared KTM 790 ADVENTURE R in Morocco. Only the top two riders from each event are chosen and from Bosnia it was #41 Iker Iturregi from Spain and #120 Andrej Crnkovic from Slovenia who secured their places for the opportunity of a lifetime in the African dunes next year.

Enjoy the complete 2019 European KTM ADVENTURE RALLY HIGHLIGHTS here:

Check out all the latest information on the KTM ADVENTURE RALLY here:

Images: F. Montero/KTM



Celebrating 25 years from the release of the very first KTM 620 DUKE back in 1994, we take a closer look at the impressive history of KTM’s iconic single-cylinder machine through the last quarter of a century.


KTM 620 DUKE MY1994 @ KTM

With KTM starting its journey as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1953, visitors at the KTM Motohall will find three milestones in the brand’s 66-year-long history on display in Mattighofen. Alongside the R 100 [1953] and the Penton Six Day 125 [1968] – which kickstarted KTM’s rise into becoming the world’s leader for off-road bikes – visitors at the KTM Motohall can admire the model year 1994 KTM 620 DUKE, KTM’s first road bike with a 4-stroke engine.

After the former KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau AG became insolvent, KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH was launched in January 1992. The new company was keen to learn from the mistakes of the past when, at times, over 40 different types of machine had been in production at the same time, from bicycles to numerous different mopeds right through to off-road bikes. With this in mind, KTM focused in particular on the ultra-modern LC4 engine, a liquid-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke engine, making it the envy of its Japanese competitors. The concept was simple: stick to just the essentials and build a high-performance and high-quality machine around the potent single-cylinder engine that was already winning in top level enduro competition.

Even the E-starter was left out to begin with. Of course, it was clear that KTM would not be able to survive in the long term with just the Hard Enduro and a small range of 2-stroke Enduros and e-start bikes, so the developers soon started thinking about a road bike, also powered by the LC4 engine. At the time, supermotard replicas were vastly popular: these were easy-to-handle motorcycles based on Enduros, but with 17-inch road wheels—the term “supermoto” was still unknown at this point. Riding these fun bikes along windy lanes could drive the riders of significantly larger motorcycles to distraction. A bike like this—practically a go kart on two wheels—was a logical choice as there was already a suitable vehicle to base it on in the KTM 620 ENDURO.


Terminator prototype @ KTM

KTM designer Gerald Kiska’s initial design still bore the now-long-forgotten project name “Terminator”. Nonetheless, it was nearly impossible to tell that this bike was based on the Hard Enduro. A striking front fairing with ellipsoid double headlights combined with an orange-metallic paint job gave the DUKE its unique appearance. With 50 hp, the KTM 620 DUKE was the most powerful single-cylinder on the market at the time.

There is also a nice story behind the name. Two weeks before the presentation, the exhibition bike still needed a distinctive name. Project Manager Wolfgang Felber recalls that he was on his way to the executive floor with a list of different suggestions when he ran into Kalman Cseh, who was responsible for these matters, on the stairs. Cseh liked the suggestion “Duke” right away; not so much due to its reference to legendary racer, Geoff Duke—who was almost unstoppable in the 1950s on his Norton single-cylinder bikes—but more for its royal connotations. Ultimately, the stickers designed by the graphic designers did include the English multiple world championship winner’s nickname, “The Duke”, so he was indeed honored after all.


KTM 620 DUKE MY1995 @ KTM

The DUKE—today often called DUKE I to distinguish it from later models—was only available each year in a limited run and in a certain color: orange in 1994, black in 1995, yellow in 1996, black again in 1997 and the “last edition” in 1998, which already had the larger 640-cc engine, was orange once again. So, exclusivity was also included in the price.

After this, between 1999 and 2006, the KTM 640 DUKE II was built, still considered by many to be another two-wheeled piece of art. Gerald Kiska had perfected the edge design familiar from the automotive sector for motorcycles and since then all KTM motorcycles have borne Kiska’s angular lettering. And long before anyone in the automotive industry had thought of LED headlights, the KTM 640 DUKE II was the only motorcycle recognizable as a KTM just from a glance in the mirror. This was due to its two ellipsoid headlights, one on top of the other, a unique styling element in the motorcycle sector.

For many years after the “original DUKE”, there weren’t even any KTM bikes with two headlights, let alone with two of them positioned one on top of the other. With slender cast aluminum wheels and two silencers directly underneath the seat, it was no longer possible to tell that this bike was based on an Enduro. As with the first DUKE before, the DUKE II was available in a different color each year. Titanium, orpheus black, arctic white, chili red and lime green were just a few of the options. The DUKE II also remained rather exclusive, not least due to its elevated price.


KTM 690 DUKE MY2008 @ KTM

The highlight at the 2006 INTERMOT 2006 motorcycle show was the polarizing KTM 690 SUPERMOTO, which was to be the forerunner to a whole range of sporty KTM single-cylinders. The completely redesigned single-cylinder with electronic fuel injection reached 63 hp, meaning KTM could still boast the ‘blue ribbon’ of the most powerful single-cylinders among its portfolio.

The third generation of the DUKE, which followed in 2008, was different to its two predecessor models in that it bore no similarity to an Enduro, either visually or technically, but had been designed from scratch as a road bike. Highlights included the steel tube frame, a cast swingarm and above all the short silencer underneath the engine, as previously featured on the KTM RC8 superbike. In 2010, the KTM 690 DUKE R followed, upgraded with a host of KTM PowerParts and easily recognizable thanks to its orange frame, a feature of all KTM R models.


KTM 690 DUKE MY2010 @ KTM

A successor to the KTM 690 DUKE III then came in 2012, with space for a passenger and long-distance capability. The engine now had a full 690-cc capacity, so the DUKE retained its status as the most powerful single-cylinder engine available. The KTM 690 DUKE R was considerably more sporty in terms of its look, tuning, and seat position.

The current version of the KTM 690 DUKE has been around since 2016. With an advanced electronic engine management system and a second balancer shaft, the 690 LC4 engine offers a level of sophistication previously unseen in a single-cylinder engine, while delivering an impressive 73 hp.

What began 25 years ago with a now legendary cult classic continues today with the KTM 690 DUKE, with its modern styling and state-of-the-art technology. All this means that the DUKE has remained the most powerful series-production single-cylinder motorcycle for a quarter of a century.

Long Live the DUKE!


KTM 690 DUKE MY2018 @ KTM

The very first KTM 620 DUKE and some of the most iconic DUKE models ever produced can be viewed at the KTM Motohall.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our special feature celebrating 25 years of KTM DUKE history.

1993 KTM 620 DUKE prototype @ KTM

Images: KTM, Kiska



Getting to the finish line first is what MotoGP™ is all about, but to make that happen, you need to be able to scrub off speed efficiently. We take a closer look at how braking force supplier extraordinaire Brembo successfully control the negative acceleration forces for all four Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MotoGP™ riders.


@ Sebas Romero/KTM

A braking system has to be as powerful as any engine; without it, riders would be better off in a drag race. Obviously, electronics play a big part in controlling power, but when push comes to shove something has to slow the massive horsepower the KTM RC16 unleashes. Partly, it’s down to the electronically controlled engine braking, but that leaves a lot more slowing the bike down to be desired. That’s where brakes come into play.

Every single team in MotoGP™ – with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Red Bull KTM Tech3 being no exception – employs the services of Italian manufacturer Brembo S.p.A, who have been honing GP braking tech since the early 1980s. It’s an interesting yet naturally occurring monopoly. Unlike in the tires department, there’s no control brand when it comes to brakes in MotoGP™. Going with Brembo S.p.A is a choice made by the lot of them for the past three seasons.


Andrea Pellegrini @ Guus van Goethem

“Of course, that is a major compliment to the company,” explains Brembo’s chief engineer in MotoGP™ Andrea Pellegrini. “We’re very proud to have our products on every bike on the grid, but quite frankly we would really welcome the competition.” Andrea’s job is to keep each of the riders happy, but that’s no simple job. Or at least, that’s what his subtle smirk gives away. “All riders are always on the lookout for something more, something better. Not just in terms of horsepower, but in braking as well.”

In order to cater to the riders’ needs, Brembo has quite the team ready to serve KTM and other manufacturers. At Brembo’s motorsport division in their hometown of Bergamo, 300 people are constantly developing newer and better parts, with MotoGP™ and Formula 1 taking up the largest part of their day to day work.



Endless possibilities
Bergamo is located just northeast of Milan, where engineers work on different sorts of MotoGP™ braking parts. In order to give Pol Espargaró, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira, and Hafizh Syahrin the best possible means to slow their racing machines down, Brembo brings a massive array of parts to the track.

Four vital parts on the bikes bear the Brembo logo: master cylinders, brake calipers, brake pads and brake discs. In each of those four areas, riders are offered several options. Brake discs, for instance, come in two sizes; 320 and 340 mm. Apart from the difference in diameter, specific situations also require specific brake disc materials. The golden standard carbon-carbon composite comes in two variations, mostly different in terms of initial bite and brake ‘feel’.

On top of that, Brembo also offers high-mass discs. Though they add extra speed scrubbing capability, they are a bit heavier than ‘regular’ brake discs. And then there’s the steel disc, used only in wet weather conditions. “We’ve been seeing a slight change in that riders are choosing the carbon-carbon discs in the rain now,” Pellegrini says. “The mechanics do mount a cover around the discs to stop the rain from cooling the discs to below their optimal operating temperature.”


@ Sebas Romero/KTM

In terms of master cylinders, calipers, pads and pad compounds, the variety of choice makes for endless possibilities. Pellegrini: “There’s nothing weird about the amount of variation we see among riders. Brakes are a very important piece of the puzzle that makes up a competitive race machine. Which parts are picked differs from one rider to the next. It’s all down to them; what suits them and their style of riding and braking. It’s down to the team to come up with a stable configuration for their rider to be able to trust his brakes. Swapping over and interchanging parts often doesn’t help the rider. They need a constant ‘brake feel’ in order to be fast.”

According to Pellegrini, KTM RC16 mounted riders tend to stick to similar setups. “Both at the factory outfit as well as with Tech3; differences are minimal. They all seem to walk the same path in terms of brakes.” Brembo’s chief engineer knows just how well the KTM RC16 is on the brakes, though margins are minute. The rider’s riding style determines a lot in braking. “Contemporary GP bikes are very similar in terms of braking performance – once again with slight differences here and there. Some teams move the brake bias forward slightly, while others focus more on using the back brake. In the end, differences like that come down to a certain setting in suspension or engine braking, desiring a particular brake bias – more forward based or more towards the rear of the bike.”



Grip is everything
Brake performance comes down to much more than just what Brembo brings to the table. The Michelin controlled tire plays a big role in this. “When MotoGP switched from Bridgestone to Michelin, riders were presented with a completely different brake feel, even though the brake system itself did not change. The Michelins offer far better grip, especially at the front, which allows for much better braking. Front end grip is the key to good braking performance. Without it, it’s impossible to slow the bike down. If you lack grip, the front tire would lock up and start to slide. The fact we can work with the extra grip from the Michelins really helps our brake systems to perform at a high level.”

Another recent change in MotoGP™ also helps Brembo’s product to perform well. Pellegrini: “Aerodynamics are coming into play, which adds even more grip. That ups the ante even more when it comes to braking, allowing for later braking. Obviously, that puts even more severe forces on the brake system, but our components can handle those forces fine.”


@ Sebas Romero/KTM

In order to react to the constant changes in Grand Prix racing, Brembo is constantly working to improve their braking systems. In order to keep up, the Italian manufacturer gathers as much data as possible. The massive array of sensors that adorn MotoGP™ bikes nowadays also helps Brembo gain valuable data, like G-forces, brake distance, bike velocity and the temperatures that go with it all. These data helps Brembo improve brake components.

“At the moment, development is focused on master cylinders and brake calipers. Those parts are constantly evolving, mostly because we’re allowed. The rules don’t allow for much when it comes to brake discs.” If it were up to Pellegrini, there should be more room for different materials. “Carbon ceramics would be interesting for MotoGP™. It’s much lighter than carbon-carbon and wear is minimal. It would greatly improve the lifespan of a brake disc.”


@ Kiska

Rule of thumb
A recent development that has seen a lot of interest, is the thumb brake. It’s been used on race bikes since the early 90s, but more and more riders in MotoGP™ are trying it nowadays. The use of the thumb brake first came to the forefront after five-time world champion Mick Doohan was terribly injured at the Dutch Assen track. It was Brembo that came up with the solution of using the thumb to brake.

Several riders saw benefits in using a thumb brake, but the idea never really caught on. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when thumb brakes started to become a big thing in GP racing. Recently, a couple of riders have been testing a new system that employs a lever similar to the front brake lever, though it’s used with the left hand and mounted parallel to the clutch lever.

“These days riders really only use the clutch once during a race; for the start. So it’s perfectly okay for them to use their left hand to slow down the rear tire,” Pellegrini explains. The Italian expects more and more riders will start using the system. “A few riders have shown interest in the new rear brake setup, but I don’t expect riders to switch over mid-season. Just wait for winter testing; I believe you’ll see a couple more guys operating the rear brake like that.”


@ Kiska

The experience and technology going into MotoGP™ eventually end up on road bikes. Though carbon discs are not an option, there’s still loads of GP-derived braking technology on modern road bikes. Take the radial caliper mounting for instance, or monoblock calipers; born and bred on track. Recently, Brembo launched the GP4-MS caliper; also developed on the race track. “We’re not the only manufacturers that use racing to help develop motorcycle parts. Most bike riders will tell you brakes have taken a massive leap over the last few years. MotoGP development won’t stop, so Grand Prix technology seeping into road bikes won’t stop either.”

Images: Sebar Romero, Kiska, Guus van Goethem, Shot Up Productions



Restricted to 500 units, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY is for riders demanding the most hardcore performance combined with the very best suspension available. But why build this outstanding machine and how does the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY perform when ridden by experienced racer Chris Birch?


@ Francesc Montero

The third and newest member of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE family is positioned as the most travel capable rally bike. Based heavily on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R, this limited-edition model retains the same trellis chassis together with the potent 95hp LC8c parallel twin engine. The major component difference on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY is the addition of the special WP XPLOR PRO suspension.

Built in the same department as WP’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing equipment, it offers similar levels of performance for extreme riding. An additional 30mm of suspension travel front and back helps clear the most awkward obstacles and creates a seat h of 923mm for this unique model.


@ Francesc Montero

“Quite simply, we’ve built the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY because we can,” confirms KTM AG CMO Hubert Trunkenpolz. “At KTM we continually try to push ourselves and the development of our products. We have the equipment at our disposal and we know how to make a special bike for our hardcore customers. The new KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY is exactly as it says: A rally bike ready for any adventure.”

Going into detail on why and how this limited edition motorcycle was born, some of the key people behind the creation of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY share their story in this short video:

One of the first riders to explore the potential of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY in real offroad conditions has been Chris Birch. Getting the unique chance to test the new model prior to the 2019 European KTM ADVENTURE RALLY in the mountains of Bosnia, the experienced enduro and rally racer shares his feedback in the video below:

Further details on pricing, availability and the ordering process for purchasing one of the limited number KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY machines will be announced in the months to come.

@ Francesc Montero

Photos: Francesc Montero/KTM



The new double FIM MX2 Motocross World Champion opens up on a remarkable racing season, good and bad performances, motivation and being part of the best MXGP team in 2020…


@ Ray Archer/KTM

Is Jorge Prado one of the best 250cc riders ever? The eighteen-year-old phenomenon from Galicia – who spent five years in Belgium and is now based in Italy close to mentors Claudio de Carli and Tony Cairoli – has the goods and numbers to make a solid case. Amazing start skills with 20 holeshots from 30 starts so far in 2019, unbeatable pace and feisty racecraft all combined with the power of the KTM 250 SX-F. Prado is a product of the KTM ‘pipeline’ and the early signs were very bright and clear with Jorge taking a podium finish on his very first Grand Prix appearance at Assen in 2016.

Less than three years later Prado holds two FIM Motocross World Championships and 29 GP victories. He is also the most prolific Spaniard in the history of the sport by far. He is 19 on January 5th and laid waste to MX2 in 2019: 14 wins from 15 rounds he contested, a 100% podium record, 27 chequered flags from 30 starts. Due to his second consecutive MX2 crown he is obliged to move to the MXGP division for 2020, where he will be part of an astonishing three-man line-up together with Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings. All three are boasting a collection of 15 FIM Motocross World Championship titles between them.


@ Ray Archer/KTM

We talk in the glistening confines of the Red Bull Energy Station at the Grand Prix of Sweden, where Prado would bag his second gold medal two rounds before the end of the season: he has become the third back-to-back MX2 world champion and the third for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing after Marvin Musquin (2009-2010) and Herlings (2012-2013).

Fluent in three languages Jorge has a happy-go-lucky demeanour and an endearing trait of smiling quickly and easily. He can also mix comments and thoughts in a jovial manner but swiftly become serious. You leave with the impression that Prado is still a kid but also has hard self-discipline and can flip into a state of committed determination when he wants.

There is very little doubt that MXGP will be terrorized next year…


@ Ray Archer/KTM

With 14 wins from 15 Grand Prix, does it ever feel like the victories just roll into each other?
“I won every round I raced and it’s difficult to keep the focus every single time you go on the track because a small mistake means you don’t win a moto. It’s hard to stay on two wheels for a whole championship but it’s so important, also for the future: to know you can make that consistency. Sometimes when I get home or I am travelling back from the race I do stop and think ‘I’m doing an incredible job this season’. I thought at the beginning of the year that I could win many rounds – honestly – because I had the championship last year…but to take every single one is not easy at all.”

When you say it is tough, you can understand why people might find that hard to believe because you make it look very easy…
“Maybe from the outside it might look a bit easy but I am keeping my rhythm. In the last races I have been taking more distance over the second placed rider and I’m improving also: this is another goal next to winning the championship. I want to improve. Sometimes I don’t push too much because I want to manage risk but I want to ride the best I can each week. If I can ride smoothly then that’s better because I am always thinking about the future and I know the MXGP class will be hard. I need to grow up and get better.”

How difficult is it to be disciplined and committed at 18 when you are so successful, when life is good and you are so far ahead?
“Yeah, I have a think for that. You can ask the people around me. I remember I just started with my girlfriend and we were in Sardinia for the winter – a week before we were due to start testing – and I had an easy day ahead with just a run planned. I got up at 7.30 to do it and she could not understand how I could do that when I had the whole day. It’s funny but that’s just who I am. I’m very ordered with everything I do. I want to get my work done and then after you can relax. I am always thinking that the others are working and training more. I need to do what I do in the best way I can. I give my all…and sometimes a bit too much; the time to recover for the weekend can be too small. If you push too much in the week then you can have some consequences at the weekend, which I’ve had before. When I do something, I want to be better than the last time. I also know that work means you can win.”


@ Ray Archer/KTM

Has that ever caused motivation problems? Winning so much is one thing but perhaps the lack of a hard challenge means another type of test…
“Hmmm, when Tony got injured it was different. We had always trained together and when he was hurt I didn’t have that partner. The first days were a bit disorientating and I didn’t know what to do. I would ride but it was weird being on the track alone. I wasn’t used to that. I’d trained by myself all my life and in the beginning it was difficult when I started to ride with Tony but I could always put challenges every time I went out there, whether it was a lap-time or trying to be smoother or small things like my father coming to corner and telling me I was slow in one particular area: and he does that a lot! It’s good that he sees where I can improve and he’s good at that.”

Was there one race this year where you were really disappointed with your performance? Where you thought ‘I was terrible, this needs to get better…’?
“Maybe the Qualification Heat at Loket [Grand Prix of Czech Republic]. I still won but I felt bad. Just didn’t have a good feeling. Then the first moto in France. I lost because I did not push. I knew Jago [Geerts] was there behind and it wasn’t a problem. I was still leading with two laps to go and thought ‘I’ve got it’ and I made a small mistake. He got a bit closer and I decided to push but ran into the backmarkers and then he got me. If I really wanted to I could have taken another two-three seconds from him with four laps to go, but I didn’t and paid for it. That was stupid. The second moto in Palembang [GP of Indonesia] I don’t know what was wrong there. I went from first to seventh. Something was not clicking. But then I made the switch and worked my way to the front. The race turned out well.”

So, which race was the closest to perfection?
“Obviously not this year yet – but I always get a feeling like that in Assen. I can ride so smooth at that place because of the type of sand and good starts are always important there; make the right start and you can afford to relax and ride like you want, with a bit more confidence. The second moto at Lommel [Grand Prix of Belgium] was good. I really wanted to make a gap in that race and pulled it out to thirty-five seconds until the last lap when I had a small crash. It was good, but still very tough.”


@ Ray Archer/KTM

Is there one trophy on the shelf that you can look at and think ‘that one is special, I really earned it…’?
“This year has been a bit different. In many motos I made the start, got to first and then just had to focus on me and what I was doing and try not to make any mistakes. Last year with Pauls [Jonass] was a season where I look back now and think ‘that was so hard’. I started off badly in Argentina and it took me half a season to get the red plate, and another half for the title. With three rounds to go last year there were almost no points between us whereas this time I took the championship. It was a campaign where I had to push every single time. When I won I was like ‘yes!’ but looking back now it was hard racing, good racing and I was fighting a lot. This year has been incredible but different. The other riders have also been fast but I had a bit extra. I made fewer mistakes this year. The feeling around the results is different. In 2018 it was ‘Pauls, Pauls, Pauls: I need to beat him’. It was a nice championship.”

So, the KTM 450 SX-F. Your first race will be the FIM Motocross of Nations. It will almost be like a test, right?
“Yes, it will. It’s also because I have never ridden a 450. I want to make that clear.”

Not even a single play ride?
“The most I have done is half a lap at Malagrotta [Rome training base]. Ask Tony. We finished a training session back in February and I wanted to see if I could jump something. I took his bike and I don’t remember much of the sensation because the set-up was totally different for me so I was riding slowly. I hope I can start with the 450 soon because there is not much time until the Nations.”


@ Ray Archer/KTM

2020 could be daunting as you won’t only be a rookie but also part of the best Grand Prix team ever. However, perhaps Jeffrey and Tony will have more pressure to be title contenders…
“There is always pressure. Everybody wants you to win. Winning next year is not the main goal. Instead, I will be looking for improvement and trying to make a good season. I cannot tell you how I will feel in 2020 until I get used to the bike and compete against the other MXGP riders. Next year is the ‘rookie year’. An adventure. I need to keep learning and keep having fun. I have the best guys behind me and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have always been fantastic to me. I’m with them for another four years and I’m really happy about that. I just need to worry about riding and having fun.”

If you came face-to-face with the twelve-year-old Jorge Prado and told him that six years later he’d have two world titles and would win thirteen GPs in a row, what would he say?
“I think I never put in my mind the thought ‘in the future I’d like to be world champion’ but I remember that I was always ambitious. I would look at other, old riders and think ‘if he can do it then I can as well…’ One thing is thinking it, another is doing it: it’s way different. I always had a positive mindset that I would be where I am today but I think that kid would be blown-away. As a family we have worked all our lives to be where we are now and that twelve-year-old was always looking to move forward and improve every time he went out on the bike. I was looking at the leading riders of that time and trying to take all the positive and good things they were doing to put into my riding. I would copy a lot, and that’s how I built my style. I got that from not only watching at the track but also on TV and videos. If I said to the kid “you will win all this…but you’ll also still love it every time you rode” then this would be the best thing. I don’t think everybody loves riding the bike as much as I do. This is the best thing I have: I enjoy riding so much. I’m addicted.”

Photos: Ray Archer/KTM



Toying with the 50th parallel north for months, writer and creative strategist Lien De Ruyck joins a team of three adventurers as they travel east from Brussels to New York. Riding a KTM 790 ADVENTURE with no reservations or time limitations, the 33-year-old is opening herself to every experience this once in a lifetime trip has to offer.



Three months, three friends, three motorcycles, three continents, three oceans and a total of 30,000 km in some of the most remote parts of the planet… Joined by her two riding companions, Belgium native Lien De Ruyck left Brussels on Thursday, May 30, for a big trip into the great unknown.

“We decided to travel east from Belgium, toying with the 50 degrees Northern latitude,” confirms Lien. “We wanted to go where the road would take us, without reservations, expectations or time-limitations. Open-minded, with our camping gear packed and the sun hitting our faces. Motonauts on the highway of the cosmos, following in the footsteps of Carol Dunlop and Julio Cortázar…”

We caught up with Lien via email while she was in Seoul and about to kickstart the second part of her trip on the North American continent. After completing 17,500 km on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE, the young adventurer shared with us the highlights of this great overland journey and provided her feedback on the bike she’s been riding across the globe…



The start of it all.
“Setting off from Belgium, we traveled across the eastern part of Europe before landing in Ukraine. From there, the road took us into the great unknown as we entered Russia to travel to Volgograd, Omsk, Novosibirsk and Ulgi. After our first encounter with Russia, Mongolia and the infamous Gobi Desert brought us into most daring part of our trip.”

“The infamous Road of Bones [ed. R504 Kolyma Highway in Russia] forced us 2,500 kilometer through the untamed wilderness of the Siberian woods. From Yakutsk – the second coldest town on earth – we traveled to Magadan, which is notorious for its historical connection with the Gulag. Since Magadan is quite literally the end of the line, we retraced our steps on the Road of Bones before heading to the finish line of our Trans-Siberian trip in Vladivostok.”

“In this first half of the journey we passed through twelve different time zones already. During this whole trip, one thing I liked about the KTM 790 ADVENTURE is its great weight distribution. Thanks to the placement of the fuel tank, the bike handles incredibly both on and off the road. It’s a lightweight and enjoyable motorcycle in this big-boy travel bike league.”



As far as the eye can see…
“One of the most impressive moments was driving across the plains of Mongolia. Empty plains stretch as far as the eye can see and suddenly our dirt track splits in different directions. Not into two, but into something akin to a river delta. Every track winds its way through valleys and across hills, with loose sand or rocks and with lots of elevation. But at the end, all tracks come together and meet. This leads to an unbelievable feeling of freedom while riding. Every rider can choose their track knowing that we will meet several kilometers later.”

“After 41 days of travelling, we left Ulan Ude and headed towards Vladivostok, the end of the second stage of our journey. From that day onward, we raced the Trans-Siberian train all the way to Vladivostok. Coming around a bend and getting a magnificent view of the legendary train disappearing into a tunnel beneath the mountain makes you feel almost insignificant.”

“In these remote pieces of land, a great feature of my bike was its extremely low fuel consumption. Combined with the large 20-litre fuel tank, that would allow me to put in nearly 500 km in one single filling. That can be a life-saving feature when traveling through the forests of Siberia or the endless Mongolian plains.”



Life changing experiences.
“When planning this trip, we played ‘connect-the-dots’ between the points we definitely had to visit. One of those points was the Carpathian Mountain range, and specifically the Transfăgărășan pass in Romania. We were hoping on magnificent views and endless hairpins, and we got what we wished for…”

“During the night an avalanche of snow blocked the upper part of the pass and made it impossible to cross. Upon driving down, we encountered another avalanche below us, this time rocks and mud. Mother Nature had her way, and we got to spend an extra 4 hours driving up and down the pass while waiting for the locals to clear our way.”

“No matter how much time we spent searching for info online in advance, nothing could prepare us for the experience of traveling through remote areas. When riding through Russia, for example, we were staggered to come across a piece of Canada sooner into the trip than expected.”



“The Altai region in the South-Eastern part of Western Siberia will forever hold a special place in my heart. Every turn showed a new view of far sights into valleys and snowcapped mountaintops and the rivers were as icy blue as the ones in Canada or Alaska. Combine that with the twists and turns of the Altai and you see why the ‘Golden Mountains of Altai’ is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

“But perhaps the most unexpected experience we’ve had so far was completely unrelated to the motorcycle-aspect of our journey. Upon running into some technical difficulties with one of my companion’s bike, we were taken in by two different families in a small village in the middle of Siberia.”

 “Their hospitality and willingness to drop everything they were doing to help a few bikers they never met before is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. Compared to our Western standards, these people had nothing, yet they were prepared to share everything with strangers they will probably never see again.”



“For me the KTM 790 ADVENTURE is the ideal bike for this long trip. It packs a punch that is incomparable to any other bike in the middle-weight class I’ve ridden. When turning the throttle, the response is immediate and so is the adrenaline rush.”

“By selecting any of the different ride modes I can adjust the throttle response quite nicely. With the right response from the engine, it is an absolute joy to ride in any kind of terrain. Combine that with the ABS configuration and you get a great travel machine that can take you safely and with fun over any terrain.”

“Thanks to the smooth engine mapping and the smooth twin-cylinder engine, the power delivery feels almost linear while shifting through the gears. Through long stretches of asphalt in Russia or gravel and rocky paths in Mongolia, the 790 ADVENTURE has been a blast to ride.”

At the time of writing, Lien is exploring the endless dirt roads of North America. You may follow Lien’s trip around the world via her profile on Instagram or through her travelling blog.





Achieving racing success comes down to many factors and building fast bikes is just one of them; it’s the people and their skills that help form a solid set-up. Becoming aware of that years ago, KTM is focused on making every single person in their team feel at home. It’s all about being part of the family, figuratively or – in some cases – literally…


Brad & Darryn Binder @ Guus van Goethem

With KTM’s home race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg taking place during the second weekend of August, we got to see how much of a family KTM is. From the massive orange colored grandstand to the plethora of KTM race bikes in the paddock, KTM proved it’s currently enjoying a solid representation in the global Grand Prix scene.

Apart from the MotoE™ class, there’s at least one ‘orange’ bike on every single starting grid; from the Red Bull Rookies Cup right up to MotoGP™. It’s safe to say that this fact alone makes KTM one big family. That sense of togetherness gets even more profound for three specific duos in the paddock…


Philipp & Peter Öttl @ Guus van Goethem

Philipp and Peter Öttl
“Three o’clock on the dot, we would always head out to grandma’s to drink coffee. As a kid I would watch old videos of my dad racing,” Philipp Öttl says. Though the current Red Bull KTM Tech3 Moto2™ rider never actually saw his dad race in a Grand Prix, the 23-year-old knows how impressive his father’s racing skills were in the lighter classes back in the day.

During his career Öttl senior collected a total of five Grand Prix victories, both in the 80cc as well as the 125cc class. Later on, Peter Öttl would share his racing experience with son Philipp, in an attempt to help the latter reach the highest possible in motorcycle racing. “When he was just a kid, Philipp would mostly race motocross and supermoto. When he decided to switch to road racing, I was quite surprised. He started out on minibikes at age ten or eleven, only to make the switch to the ADAC Junior Cup the next season. I could really apply what I had learned over the years in helping him – it turned out quite well. Getting on in racing didn’t seem to cost him much effort.”

Philipp adds: “In 2008 we went minibike racing and just four seasons down the road I entered my first Grand Prix. Looking back on it now, I think we made a very progressive climb in results in my career.” The quick rise up the ranks is the result of Peter and Philipp working closely together. However, starting this season, things have changed.

Philipp currently competes in Moto2™ for the Tech3 squad. Peter, in the meantime, is in charge of the Sterilgarda Max Racing Team in Moto3™. “It really is a completely different situation compared to previous seasons, but to be fair, it does not feel like much has changed,” Philipp explains. “Obviously we see each other in the paddock all the time and when things go wrong, I can still go to my old man for advice.” Peter nods.

“Together we’ve achieved some great things in the past. Where Philipp is now, it’s all down to the details. I feel like it’s no longer necessary to work together as closely as we used to. Of course, as a father, it’s hard to let go. In the end I feel like it’s good for him. Carrying on without me there is the next step in his development as a rider. He’s his own man now.”


Philipp Oettl @ Gold&Goose

Good mix of traits
Öttl senior and Öttl junior obviously are blood related, and it shows – sharing certain character traits. Peter explains: “I really recognize things I do in Philipp, too. He’s got his head firmly on his shoulders and won’t shun hard work; I was just like that at his age. I’m glad he’s not a carbon copy of me, though; he’s clearly got a bit of his mother’s character, too. If you’d ask me, that gives him a good mix of genetic traits.”

Racing nowadays is hard to compare to how things went back in Peter’s GP racing days. The 54-year-old German observes an obvious difference between racing now and how it went down back in the nineties, when he himself was successful. “The bikes are much more equal today, putting the responsibility to get results firmly into the hands of the rider. In my day you had to have a works bike in order to even be able to make a claim. That was the main reason for me to stick to racing 125’s. In the 125cc class I had a good bike to race; moving up to the 250 class would have seen me on a production racer. Of course, I contemplated a step up, but in the end I couldn’t find any conclusive reasons to follow through. Being competitive was far more important to me than moving up through the ranks, purely for sake of moving up. And don’t forget; 125 racing was very popular back then. Certainly, among German race fans.”


Philipp Oettl @ Gold&Goose

While the nature of racing changes over time, the goal most racers hope to achieve does not. Winning is always on the mind of a racer. Both men from Bad Reichenhall in Germany know the euphoric sensation of taking the checkered flag first. Peter managed to claim five Grand Prix victories, with his son finally finishing a world championship race in first place last year.

At Jerez he managed to outperform Marco Bezzecchi – who would go on to become the Moto3™ runner-up that year – in a thrilling finale on Spanish soil. “It’s hard to describe the feeling. You really have to experience it to know. When you win your first race, it feels like all the hard work put in all those years pays off. Like an explosion of emotion; something I found very special to share with my father.” Peter: “Of course I never forgot how that first win feels; it doesn’t compare one bit to coming third or even second. Podium finishes are great, but winning a race… That’s ten times better.”


Brad & Darryn Binder @ Guus van Goethem

Brad and Darryn Binder
They’re clearly having to adjust being sat next to each other for an interview. It’s not that often that there’s a request to interview them both at the same time, although the South African brothers have been racing in the World Championship for a couple of years now. They even competed together in Moto3™, during 2015 and 2016. But that wasn’t the first time the Binders went head to head in the same racing class.

“We started out racing go karts,” 21-year-old Darryn explains. The youngest of the two continues: “Well, when I say we, I mean I started out in go kart racing. Brad wanted a motocross bike, and my dad gave him one, but he hardly rode it. After watching me race on four wheels, he wanted to have a go too.” Brad managed to win the championship in one of the talent classes, with Darryn following suit a year after. But it wasn’t long before race bikes started to come into play. “We were both really passionate about go kart racing for a while, but we started to grow out of it – we wanted to race bikes instead.”

Both brothers made their way onto the GP stage through the Red Bull Rookies Cup – Grand Prix racing’s talent pool. It would become a venture into the unknown for the Binders, seeing as no-one in their vicinity had made it to a level like that before. “When we were younger, our father would race in local championships, but he was already quite old when he started racing. I think he must’ve been about 27 when he first raced,” Darryn says.

The conversation takes an interesting turn, when Brad stops his little brother from continuing. “Are you kidding? Have you been drinking? He had me when he was 27, so he had to have started out racing even later. I reckon he must’ve been well into his thirties.” Regardless of father Trevor’s age when he made his racing debut, he did manage to inspire Brad and Darryn to follow in his racing footsteps. Brad: “From an early age, we we’re constantly surrounded by bikes, and as we grew older the bikes simply got bigger.”


Brad Binder @ Gold&Goose

Training together
During the season, the brothers reside in Spain. It serves the two with quite a few advantages. “Being South African, it isn’t easy to go and race in the World Championship, simply because the level of road racing back home is hardly worth mentioning. Moving to Europe, it really helped knowing we were in this together,” Darryn believes.

“And obviously we get to train together, too. Brad and I share a passion for cycling, but we’re also very competitive. Everything turns into a competition for us – I’ll always try to beat him. Starting the final climb when we’re out cycling, I usually keep my cards close to the chest – saving energy. When Brad suggests taking it easy for the climb, that’s my cue to push. And when I do, Brad immediately picks up the pace, too – and then we have a race.” Brad adds: “At least it helps motivate us to keep pushing. Sharing your training time also makes it a lot more fun. Going at it alone would get old fast. Same goes for living alone and traveling alone.”


Darryn Binder & Gold&Goose

Their focus on racing paid off in 2016, as it would be an excellent season for Brad. The elder of the two Binders claimed the Moto3™ World Championship title that year. “That really was something special,” he states. “Every single rider on the world stage, sets himself the goal of becoming world champion. It greatly improves your chances of making it to MotoGP. It definitely was the best year in my career.”

When his brother claimed the title, Darryn was right there with him, mainly because at the time they were both racing in Moto3™. “I remember that race so well. Aragon was a terrible race for me, but after finishing the race, I looked at the big screens right away – to see if Brad had collected enough points to take title. It was such an amazing day; I could not have been happier for him.”


Zonta & Jurgen van den Goorbergh @ Guus van Goethem

Zonta and Jurgen van den Goorbergh
This season, 13-year-old Zonta van den Goorbergh walks the paddock grounds. Son of former MotoGP™ rider Jurgen, Zonta managed to claim a ride in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. “Last year he made his debut in the European Talent Cup. With that experience, we felt the timing was right to sign him up for the Red Bull Rookies Cup qualifiers. If Zonta hadn’t raced in the ETC, we probably wouldn’t have even considered to step up. To our surprise he got the ticket for the 2019 season.”

Father Jurgen, without a shadow of doubt, is very proud of how far his son has managed to come considering his age. However, the former racer is also very much aware there’s a long way to go if Zonta wishes to achieve his goal. Zonta: “I want to race in MotoGP; that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m sure it won’t happen overnight, though. It will take a lot of work and effort to make it, but I am more than willing to do whatever it takes.”

The talented Dutchman has been introduced to motorsports at a young age, though at first only at the motocross track. “When I was three years old I got my first electric trials motorcycle, but I wanted more speed. Trials and speed don’t mix; that’s why we got into motocross. Two years ago, I made the transfer to road racing.” His background in trials and motocross gave Zonta an edge in adapting to his new home in road racing.

With his father sharing his experience, undoubtedly that helped the youngster. “If Zonta had stayed in motocross, my own racing experience wouldn’t have been as effective as it is now. Had he intended to work his way up in motocross, we would’ve had to find a trainer with MX experience. Now, however, I can train him myself.”


Zonta van den Goorbergh @ Shot Up Productions

Taking revenge
Jurgen’s own career and the experience gained over the years, shall help Zonta excel. The 49-year-old Dutchman has more under his belt than just racing in MotoGP™, since he has also competed at the Dakar Rally. “It’s not just tips and tricks in racing itself I can help Zonta with. Having my last name opens doors for him as well. People remember me from when I used to race and my contacts from back in the day pay dividends for Zonta now. It smoothens out a few bumps in the road to the top.”

Having developed a keen eye for talent over the years, Jurgen knows putting in the effort early is of the utmost importance for Zonta. “I could do another Dakar if I’d wanted, but focusing on my son’s career is my priority now. That way we won’t look back later, thinking we could’ve done better; thinking we should’ve put in more energy and time into Zonta’s career. No should’ve, would’ve, could’ves here.”

Though there’s still a long way to go before Zonta makes it to MotoGP™, the 13-year-old can already look back at battling Marc Marquez. The talented youngster took part in the Allianz Junior Motor Camp in 2017; an event organized by the seven-time world champ. “His brother Alex was also on hand to help. That was an amazing experience. I almost beat Marc in the dirt track event. In the end, he managed to overtake me on the inside, carrying a little bit more speed to the line. I hope to be able to take revenge for that in a few years’ time.”


Zonta & Jurgen van den Goorbergh @ Guus van Goethem

Photos: Guus van Goethem, Shot Up Productions, Gold&Goose


#inthisyear1979: 50,000th KTM 2-stroke engine

Posted in Bikes, History

KTM 125 MC 80 @KTM

Just one year after KTM started production of motorcycles in 1953, the company announced its first production record – the 1000th motorcycle, a R 125 “Tourist”, left the factory doors. Fast forward a quarter of a century and the 50,000th KTM 2-stroke engine rolled off the production line; as a result the Austrian Quality Seal – a quality award for Austrian Products – was awarded to the Mattighofen-based manufacturer.

At that time, the ‘anniversary engine’ was one of an ultra-modern range of sports engines, built with various displacements ranging from 125 cm³ to 420 cm³ and used in the competitor models GS 80 and MC 80 from model year 1979.


KTM 400 GS 80 @KTM

Why did it take 25 years from the production of the first KTM motorcycle to the 50,000th KTM engine? Let’s take a look at this long history. In the 1950s, many motorcycle manufacturers were assembly companies – when it came to the engine they turned to tried-and-tested designs from special engine manufacturers, such as Fichtel & Sachs. And back then, KTM was no different; its very first bike, the R 100, housed a 98 cm³ Sachs engine which was produced under license by Rotax in the neighboring Upper Austrian town of Gunskirchen.


KTM 125 GS 80 @KTM

Apart from a 50 cm³, 2-stroke engine for the “Mecky” moped, KTM stuck with the proven Rotax-Sachs units until they ceased motorcycle production at the end of the 1950s. As the focus shifted to 50 cm³ mopeds and scooters in the early 1960s, companies also turned to tried-and-tested solutions for the new generation of vehicles – while the Austrian domestic models were supplied with Puch engines, exported models were driven by a range of Sachs engines. Even the offroad sports bikes which were built at KTM at the end of the 1960s at the initiative of American John Penton were powered by 100 cm³ or 125 cm³ Sachs engines – at the time the most successful small unit in offroad racing.



And it was also Penton who triggered the development of a KTM sport engine. To compete in the up to 175 cm³ class, Penton kitted several Sachs engines out with his own cylinder. Together with the 54-mm-stroke provided by the Sachs design, this resulted in a displacement of approximately 150 cm³. But, since every cubic centimeter mattered, particularly on small engines, and the permitted displacement limit had not been reached, it soon became clear that the engine in the “Penton Jackpiner 175” was only ever meant to be a temporary solution. As Fichtel & Sachs didn’t have a suitable engine available, KTM had no other option but to build their very own engine, so as not to lose John Penton to the competition.


KTM 175 GS 80 @KTM

And so the new KTM sport engine was unveiled to the public in time for the 1971 sporting season. In doing so, KTM had made the leap from assembly company to a manufacturer who produced both the chassis and the engine itself. There were two noteworthy elements to the new design. The 175 cm³ version was designed to be the basis for versions with bigger displacements right through to an engine for the 500 cm³ class and thanks to the claw-shifted 6 speed transmission, the selector key shifting which had proved to be the Achilles heel of the Sachs sport engines, became a thing of the past.

Manfred Klerr demonstrated what the new engine was capable of by promptly winning the Austrian national motocross championship on a prototype.


KTM 420 MC 80 @KTM

Series production began in 1971 – initially for the 175 cm³ version, with the bigger displacements following shortly after. In 1976, the lower end of the range was rounded off with a 125 cm³ engine – there was also a 100 cm³ version, which Mauro Miele rode in the offroad European championships, but, unlike the other engines, it was not available to buy.

The first generation of engines from KTM was READY TO RACE – by 1979 three motocross world championships and eight offroad European championships (the enduro world championship was not launched until 1990) had been won.


KTM 125 MC 80 @KTM

In 1979, the “GS 80” was offered as 125 cm³, 175 cm³, 250 cm³ and 400 cm³ for the 500 cm³ class, the “MC 80” was available for the 125 cm³, 250 cm³ and the 500 cm³ class, where there was even a choice of two models with difference characteristics with the 42 hp 400 cm³ and the ten-hp higher 420 cm³.

KTM remains true to the 2-stroke to this day, offering the ultra-modern KTM 150 EXC TPI, KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI competition bikes. The launch of the TPI models made KTM the world’s first manufacturer to use electronic fuel injection on 2-stroke engines. The advantages are obvious – On top of significantly lower consumption and reduced emissions, there is no need to adjust a carburetor with this system.



Posted in Bikes, History


On the track, the RC8 was being raced to top five results in AMA Superbike by the likes of Chris Fillmore and even starring at the Isle of Man TT. In Europe KTM established a team to enter the competitive IDM German Superbike series. “The IDM was more-or-less a European Championship,” says Felber. “It was fully open for tire development and no restrictions on things like electronics.” The RC8 would go on to beat the competition. More important than results however was the chance for KTM to learn about road racing. It was a process that fed directly into their stunning Moto3 Grand Prix title-winning debut.

The RC8 was the ice-breaking machine that made the journey for Moto3 and thus MotoGPTM much smoother. “The IDM was an ideal playground to develop the bike but also people,” says Felber. “We raced for three seasons and it was extremely useful. We were learning a lot about tires together with Dunlop, and we won the title. We reached a level where we were able to tell [Magneti] Marelli how and what we wanted to change with our electronic software. That all fed into the new Moto3 project because it was clear that 2011 would be the last in the German Championship before all the people moved into Moto3. We had to start early actually, and I had to split people between IDM and Grand Prix. In the end we had a fully capable and working group for road racing.”


Jeremy McWilliams @KTM

While the RC8 was being modified and chiseled in Germany McWilliams was also running a separate test program. “We got Jeremy on the bike after remembering him well from the original MotoGPTM project and still, to this day, he is fantastic to work with and still so fast with so much expertise over what seems like fifty years of racing!” Felber grins. “He’s loyal, honest and he’ll never talk shit.”

“To be honest it was a big surprise to jump on the IDM version of the RC8 with the full-on Magneti Marelli spec from the road bike,” he remembers. “The improvement in performance was an eye-opener. Whatever Wolfgang and the boys had done with the bike it had huge mid-range: It was incredible and pulled like a train. I still haven’t ridden anything like it to this day that makes that kind of torque and mid-range power. Wolfgang told me it was still only making 185-87 horsepower but it felt like 210; it was that good.”

As with almost every motorcycle there were imperfections and the rough waters around the development and production bore an influence. “We were aware that we’d need some good electronics on the bike, but due to the 2008 crisis there were thumbs on budgets everywhere and we did not get the chance to develop it in this term,” Felber says.

Journalists were quick to praise the RC8’s strengths upon its introduction but they also identified some of the quirks. “Idiosyncrasies? I guess the slightly rough gear change, and also those typically unmistakable looks, which I’m not sure enough people liked,” says renowned British bike tester Roland Brown. “And the fact that by sportsbike standards it was so comfortable and versatile, but I don’t think it got enough credit for that.”



On the whole KTM had hit the mark. “I remember it was well received and I think it also sold well in the first year, especially in Great Britain,” Felber says. “I think 2000 bikes from the 2008 generation were sold there; that’s a sign that it was accepted by customers.”

Towards the end of the second decade of the century it is gaining almost cult status. Particularly as KTM indulge more and more in road racing. “I and many of the other journos thought it was very competitive with Ducati’s 1098, which is pretty high praise,” says Brown.

A competitive bike and a highly rated one: So why is the RC8 no more? The change in the WorldSBK playing field was the first ‘closing of the door’. Felber explains why: “The bike was planned as a 1000cc superbike. The engine was going to be a robust 1000cc capacity with the potential for enlargement over the years and this quickly became the case as Ducati forced the FIM to set the new limit to 1200cc. We were somehow on the wrong rail. The intake section with the throttle body dimensions was designed for a 1000. When we became aware that we’d need to beef it up to 1150 (initially) and then 1200 the deadline was already gone to increase the throttle body. This was one of the ‘birth defects’ of the RC8. It was not a disadvantage at all for the production bike – in fact it was a big help because with smaller units you get better gas flow and better rideability – but it always limited us in top power to enter WorldSBK.”


Wolfgang Felber @KTM

“There was a new version with new throttle bodies in the prototype stage, which at the time did 215hp, not too bad but we never got the release to switch it into production and have the proper base for world superbike racing,” he adds. “It was simply a company strategic decision in 2011 to go Grand Prix racing instead of WorldSBK because we could not do both … and it was the right decision. We were always very busy and were a small group so there was not too much time to be disappointed that we did not see the RC8 in World Superbike.”

As a track asset the RC8 had limited use, but surely there was a case for keeping it in the KTM portfolio? In the end the project fell afoul of other priorities and the allocation of resources. “I cannot really answer the question as to why the RC8 is not here anymore, but I can give a few points of view. KTM always ran an economic growth policy, so you had the small displacement bikes coming along, the new SUPER DUKE and many other projects. I think KTM simply had to choose where to put our R&D efforts and a SUPER DUKE or a smaller DUKE brings in more money and is more strategically important than an RC8. We have new customers. It was the better solution. There were also some comments from Mr. Pierer about the speed of Superbikes and they should just be on the track. I mean, a SUPER DUKE is also a fast motorcycle and in the end I think it was just a matter of resources and economic calculation.”


Jeremy McWilliams @KTM

For those that rode or raced the RC8 the bike was missed. “I still think to this day it still stacks up against what other manufacturers do,” says McWilliams. “Of course, everything has moved on in terms of electronic wizardry but we would have done the same with the RC8. I got to ride it – the original IDM bike – again at the end of last summer and it brought home how good it was as an all-rounder. If we had the chance to make a 1290 with the same chassis I think it would be back up there as ‘one of the bikes to have’ in the garage. It was a shame that it wasn’t kept alive. I’m still hoping – as are some of the other guys in R&D – that it will be resurrected at some stage!” 



The RC8 was a technical, stylish and functional template for KTM’s road bikes and ‘accelerating’ racing division. It was also a memorable edition to the company’s history: Perhaps even the ultimate definition of KTM’s DNA to affect and move motorcyclists. “Given KTM’s amazing success since, I guess you’d have to say that Stefan Pierer got it right as usual and made the correct call to invest in other stuff rather than throw more resources at that rapidly shrinking market,” concludes Brown. “It would have been great to see them continue the development though. I guess it’s never too late to change his mind and make a MotoGPTM replica … ”




Are the 450cc factory bikes of MXGP and the premier class of the FIM Motocross World Championship becoming too fast? We decided to ask…


@ Ray Archer

The stark realism that motocross is brutal and unforgiving is never far away. It took only ten months for Red Bull KTM to feel the extremes of the sport. In September 2018 Jeffrey Herlings had defeated nine times World Champion Tony Cairoli for the MXGP title after the pair had claimed all-but-one of the twenty Grands Prix. Fast-forward to June 2019 and both the Dutchman and the Sicilian are sidelined with long-term injuries and the works squad has to negotiate more than half a season without their prolific winners.

2019 has been a hard-hitting year for MXGP. At least three of the five factory teams in this dynamic and exciting motorsport have had their FIM World Championship dreams smashed because of surgical procedures.

The state of the injury list (an issue that has also afflicted AMA Supercross consistently over the years) and the knowledge that the average speed of MXGP crept up to a vivid 62 kph at Orlyonok for the Grand Prix of Russia (another half a dozen venues touch almost 60 when mid-low 50s is the norm) has reignited the old debate that the 450cc motorcycles used in the premier division are simply too strong and too fast.


@ Ray Archer

As with most sensitive and speculative discussions involving competitive sport there is no clear-cut answer. Motorcycling technology has undoubtedly advanced since the four-strokes became commonplace from the middle of the last decade but so have the ability and technical level of the riders. The standard of track preparation prompts endless commentary despite notable efforts to slow circuits through tighter turns, jumps and obstacles. Other paddock insiders also feel that factors such as the quality of suspension is another contributor that permits relentless all-out attack of the various terrain in MXGP that will eventually carry consequences among the twenty Grands Prix, forty motos and sixty races (counting the Qualification Heats).

KTM famously won their first MXGP crown with an innovative KTM 350 SX-F raced by Cairoli from 2010-2014. The motorcycle was created in response to the explosive and unwieldy generation of 450s, but it was soon rendered obsolete as a machine like the KTM 450 SX-F became far more compact and manageable and extremely close to the physics of the younger brother – the KTM 250 SX-F – but with more performance. Cairoli believes that the latest version of the 250 (raced by protégé Jorge Prado) is almost as strong as his old 350.

In an effort to gain a clearer picture we picked up some opinions from Tony (who gathered his nine titles from 2005-2017 on 250, 350 and 450cc machinery), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MX2 Team Manager and Technical Co-ordinator Dirk Gruebel as well as WP Suspension Racing Service Manager Wilfred Van Mil. Are the bikes really too fast? And if so, what can be done about it?


Tony Cairoli @ Ray Archer

The state of play
Tony Cairoli: Sometimes when you ride in MXGP you don’t feel out of control or too fast but when you see the races from the outside then you see the bike is very strong. You cannot make mistakes and you have to react very quickly to stuff…and that is not always the case.”

Dirk Gruebel: “I think the average speed is too high. We have to see how we get that down because you cannot hold back development of the bikes: frames have developed, suspension has developed and overall the bikes are capable of higher speed but how can you restrict it? You cannot do it if you have a 450, 250, 300… Jorge Prado is the fastest rider at a grand prix many times and that’s on a 250. The team’s job is to make the bike ‘faster’. There is no universal solution at the moment.”

Wilfred Van Mil: Riders learn from each other. A really talented guy like Tony or Jeffrey comes along and it means all the others are looking at them and their style. If you look generally at riding styles now compared to fifteen years ago then it is very different. All the youngsters look up to the big names and try to copy.”

Dirk Gruebel: “We could pack much more speed into the 450 than the riders actually use. It is not the end of the line. If they want five horsepower more then we can give it. It’s just not necessary. A 250 is around ten horsepower less but it still goes the same speed on the track, so it is not about horsepower but how riders handle it and make the most out of it. The weight difference between our bikes from a 450 to a 250 is two kilos, that’s it. Not a hell of a difference.”


Dirk Gruebel @ Ray Archer

Tony Cairoli: Suspension has made such a big step compared to a few years ago and it is so easy to ride the bike. I can see it in the amateur races I follow when I am in Rome or Sicily: everybody goes so fast and maybe they ride twice a month! They have a lot of power but the suspension now allows you to do crazy stuff.”

Dirk Gruebel: “There has been a lot of development suspension-wise because riders are not afraid of a jump now: they just hit them because they know the equipment will absorb it and won’t throw them off. I had a discussion with Joel [Smets] about the downhill double jump at the bottom of the hill at Loket [Grand Prix of Czech Republic] and he said in the past you’d come out of the turn, gas-it a bit but choose your line, close the throttle and then gas it on the take-off just to clear it. Now the kids don’t shut-off. The speed is down to riding technique, suspension and better preparation.”

Wilfred Van Mil: I think development with suspension is always improving. It is not huge steps but there are always small things, and combined with frames and handling characteristics, then it all fits together. We make the riders as comfortable as possible on the bike and if that happens then they go quicker. Every year we make a small step. It is the whole team’s job to make the rider go faster. They are many people working on that.”

Dirk Gruebel: “It is all about rideability. You always want to improve the lap-time. We have our reference tracks where we test in the winter and if you bring along an improvement that allows you to shave off a second or half-a-second then you have done a good job. We’re not stopping that! Everyone is doing the same, that’s our job. You have to get the power to the ground but it also needs to be a smooth delivery so the riders can easily open and don’t be hesitant on the gas or need to pay too much attention to it.  The more they can concentrate on the riding and less on the bike then the faster they can go.”


Jeffrey Herlings @ Ray Archer

A solution?
Tony Cairoli:
I don’t think it is a bad idea to reduce the power of the bikes because the 450s are on a level [that is very high] especially for our tracks in Europe that are very tiny – except for Russia which is very fast – narrow and not so many lines. They dry quickly and there is a lot of hard-pack. The 250 class is very good at the moment for the world championship because the power is so strong that is almost compares to my old 350. So to reduce the power in the MXGP class is not a bad idea and would mean fewer injuries.”

Wilfred Van Mil: “Sooner or later they will downgrade the CCs. I think if development continues like this then inside ten years we’ll have a 250 that is stronger than a 450 at the moment. You cannot get a sixteen year old on a bike like that: it will kill the sport.”

Tony Cairoli: “A 450 is a strong bike lately. I think reducing the power a bit would be a good idea.”

Dirk Gruebel: “I don’t think capacity change will solve it. If they [FIM] told us next year that MXGP was down to a 300cc limit then we’d still do our best to be the fastest out there and I think it would end up being as fast as a 450 at the moment.”

Wilfred Van Mil: “For suspension development it is engineering and new techniques, small details like different pistons, shapes, overlaps and in the end it becomes a big thing. You cannot solve everything with just suspension; it has to match the frame and the engine behaviour. We do many tests where a change to the engine character has produced a change on the suspension as well. The 250 at the moment has the same amount of horsepower as a 450 from 2004.”

Dirk Gruebel: “I don’t think you cannot solve the speed issue just by the bike. We need to get average speed down and that somehow has to happen with track design. Jeffrey mentioned at one point in the U.S. you cannot go flat-out on a Sunday like in the GPs because the track has not been touched and the lines are too deep: if you hit them flat-out then you are gone. The riders know it and respect it because they get their warnings. [More] jumps don’t help because the riders hit them full-gas. We should look into corners [layout] or laden turns where it is not possible to go that fast. It needs to be tested.”


@ Ray Archer

Tony Cairoli: “The dirt is the main thing. It must be good and make a lot of bumps. That would slow the speed and also produce line choice. At the moment, if you ride somewhere like Russia or Czech Republic you really need to be aggressive to pass and being so fast [leaves less room for error].”

Wilfred Van Mil: “From hard-pack to sand there are no big setting changes; it is more a balance thing and a couple of clicks but most of the time not even that. We do a lot of testing – that’s our big job in the winter – and we end up with one base setting that works more or less on all the GP tracks. We then just play a little with the fork line and the free sag and small details each weekend. It’s another reason why the rider becomes faster because he has the same bike every week. In the past they’d had vast setting changes from one track to the other track and the rider would have to get used to the bike again and have a feeling for it. These days the base set-up is so much better and they get more and more confident.”

Tony Cairoli: “If you had a wider track with more lines and more bumps then you’d have safer riding because you’d slow down as it gets more physical. People will get tired, and you can make a difference over who is training and who is training hard. When the tracks are as flat as they are now then you don’t see the difference, as you used to before.”

Images: Ray Archer/KTM



Backcountry Discovery Routes® is a KTM North America supported organization that has been opening up the American wilderness to US adventure riders for nearly a decade. With a new portal coming soon, BDR are working to bring easy access to European riders too…


@ Ely Woody

Adventure riders are always looking for new challenges, new frontiers. For some years the focus has been on heading east, riding the old Silk Route to venture into the Far East or across the vast Eurasian continent to the wilds of Siberia. But after nearly a decade of development, the Backcountry Discovery Routes in the USA are elevating the ‘New World’ to the status of THE adventure motorcycling destination. And with a new initiative to make access to these routes easier than ever for European riders there’s never been a better time to discover the magnificent US backcountry.

While the US is one the world’s most developed countries, its immense size (9.9 million has meant its highly urbanized population has left vast regions as virtual wilderness, albeit with a network of tracks – many made by pioneers, gold miners and the like – perfect for adventure motorcycling. Since 2010, Backcountry Discovery Routes®, a non-profit organization created by a group of adventure motorcycling enthusiasts (many with industry connections), has been scouting and plotting adventure routes across the US. The first was Washington, the latest – the ninth – Southern California, and there are two more in development, with many more to follow.

Each route comprises approximately a week’s ride, typically 800 – 2,000 km – ideal for the adventure rider with a career, family and limited holiday time – much of it off-road and always through that state’s most spectacular scenery. The routes are a free resource, each comes as a freely downloadable GPS track, but the BDR organization also support each route with plenty of online information, with recommendations on sights to see, places to eat and stay, as well as general advice and a series of stunning custom-made paper maps – all of which make planning a BDR ride very much easier.


@ Ely Woody

KTM R&D Street Test Coordinator Quinn Cody is a long-time supporter of BDR: “I’ve been involved with the BDRs since 2014 when Paul Guillien (BDR’s co-founder) invited me to a fundraiser and I learned all about it. I became passionate about it, principally because it makes adventure riding accessible to everyone.”

The organization is now adding to this resource a European BDR portal that will offer all the key BDR information in five languages (French, German, Spanish, Italian and English). European riders will naturally have specific concerns, from bike hire to insurance, guiding, group arrangements etc. and these will all be answered through this new portal.

Paul Guillien, co-founder BDR: “With nine existing routes, the BDR experience has become a staple of ADV riding in the US. In recent years, the BDR organization has seen an increasing number of riders coming from Europe, Asia and South America to enjoy the expansive riding areas in America. In support of this trend, the BDR organization has created a new program to make it easier for people to fly to the US and ride a Backcountry Discovery Route.”


@ Ely Woody

“I’ve raced all over Southern California yet when I rode the new BDR route there I experienced the locations and the deserts in a completely different way,” adds Quinn Cody. “Riding through it on a motorcycle with your camping equipment, you simply spend more time in the environment, you stop earlier to set up camp, cook your dinner, in the morning you’re making coffee, breakfast and all the time you’re in the environment – the desert – not a motel room. And you’ll see the different colors of the day, feel the change in the temperatures, you could call it immersive.”

KTM North America has been a long-time supporter of the BDR project. These routes are about responsible motorcycle travel, on sustainable routes, and as well as offering joy to riders they are bringing economic relief to less-advantaged rural communities, many of whom have been left behind by the technological and economic race of the last century.

KTM North America Marketing Manager Tom Moen says: “At KTM we are all about riding our motorcycles and supporting BDR for all they do to keep trails and remote roads open for motorcycling. We are thrilled to assist them where we can and encourage riders to get out and experience motorcycling in the backcountry. The BDR organization works hard to create new routes and provide GPS tracks and trip planning resources that we can all use.”

@ Ely Woody

Learn more at

Photos: Ely Woody



The Red Bull Romaniacs is renowned as one of the toughest enduro events on the planet, and the 2019 race was no exception. A struggle from start to finish, the event saw riders endure four full days of competition in the Romanian hills following the opening day’s prologue in the local town of Sibiu.


Taddy Blazusiak – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing @ Future7Media

The 16th edition of the Red Bull Romaniacs was an absolute thriller; epic by what the leading riders can achieve on a bike over what looks like unrideable terrain to the average dirtbiker, and epic in how close the race was to the closing stages. The Red Bull Romaniacs is certainly known as the ‘world’s toughest hard enduro rallye’ for a reason.

KTM supported rider Manuel Lettenbichler took an emphatic victory at the event – his first major event win in the WESS series. It was an extra-special victory for the German racer as it is 10 years since his father Andreas Lettenbichler was also crowned the winner. With a 40-second lead going into the final stages, all that stood between the 21-year-old and the win was a handful of tough, greasy climbs.

With rainfall making riding ultra difficult, as well as the battle of exhaustion after covering approximately 520 kilometres during the course of the race, Manuel held his nerve to take an outstanding victory aboard his KTM 300 EXC TPI.


KTM-supported Manuel Lettenbichler @ Future7Media

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Taddy Blazusiak had taken an early charge at the event by winning the prologue, but he had a small bike issue which ruled him out of the running for the overall win. The Polish multi-time Endurocross champion put in some strong performances to take fourth, with teammate Jonny Walker enjoying some positive results for fifth at the chequered flag.

Incredibly Josep Garcia and Nathan Watson, who are more suited to classical enduro terrain, battled the trees, climbs, ruts, rocks and roots to impressively finish in 10th and 11th positions respectively. It is a great achievement for the Spanish and British racers, as they celebrated improvements on their results from their event debut last year.

Here we share some of the best images from the 2019 Red Bull Romaniacs – a true test of skill, grit and determination.


Check out some of the action on Red Bull TV.

Photos: Future7Media



Posted in Bikes, History

At the turn of the decade KTM manufactured one of the most striking and surprising superbikes on the market but in a few short years it was gone. What happened to the RC8?



Wolfgang Felber leans back in his seat. The former racer and lead technician has had a hand in many KTM projects and was a leading figure in the company’s emphatic first step back to MotoGPTM with the Moto3 KTM RC 250 GP in 2011. Talk of the RC8 – an initiative that he led and steered – brings a certain air of satisfaction to his demeanor.

KTM’s first superbike was initially (and surprisingly) unveiled as a prototype at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show. “When we fight Japan, we want to fight them in their own office,” claimed current R&D Head Philipp Habsburg upon the bikes eventual launch. “The reaction was very enthusiastic … ”

Prior to the crisis that slapped the global economy towards the end of the decade, KTM were on a firm path to expansion and diversification (something that they would eventually resume, streamline and accentuate after the financial fallout). Part of that process was creation of model that would enter a sportsbike market that was still popular and seeing motorcycles like Yamaha’s YZF-R 1, Suzuki’s GSX-R 1000 and BMW’s S1000RR inspire the fray.


Wolfgang Felber @KTM

It was a bold move for the brand that had opened eyes with the SUPER DUKE road bike in 2005 and was a significant player outside of the offroad core of the company. “We started work on the RC8 thirteen years ago and KTM was more of a niche supplier then,” explains Felber.

“I remember back in July 2005 when the project was green-lit for development,” he continues. “As with most initial new projects in KTM there was not really the in-house specialists at the company, so we developed the bike while also hiring and training the people to get it done.”



KTM allegedly sunk 10 million euros into a philosophy that a smiling Felber recalls as “a 1200 v-twin ‘moped’!” But, as with most innovations that see the light of day at Mattighofen, experimentation had started before that dramatic unveiling in Tokyo and well before a young designer (now Lead Creative at the Kiska agency and the power behind the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R and latest KTM models) by the name of Craig Dent would be awestruck by the sight of the RC8 on the front of a British weekly motorcycling newspaper.

“When we made the first 950cc V-Twin engine back in 2001-2002 we had already done a very rough Superbike prototype together with a German race bike manufacturer,” Felber recounts. “We used them as our workbench. Then there was another prototype that had even more of an RC8 design about it and was built in 2001. Then there was also the show bike built for Tokyo. During the RC8 development there were constant questions about why it was taking so long! But the bike did not officially begin life until the summer of 2005, so two-and-a-half years before it was confirmed to come into stock production.”



The RC8 was a product of ambition, and the technical architecture was advanced but it was also a victim of misfortune and, crucially, timing. “There were three unlucky things,” says Felber. “One was the sudden death of one of our chief engineers on September 2, 2006. A big shock. It was a big hurt for all of us, and of course the project and engine development. The second thing was the economic crisis in 2008; the bike was being produced at the same time that everything started to crash. The third thing was that – around that time – instead of eight or nine suppliers to the segment there were five and the market shrank dramatically from one day to the next.”

KTM were winning 125cc and 250cc Grands Prix but MotoGPTM was unstable with changes in the capacity limit between 1000cc and 800cc and eventually a CRT sub class. Superbike and the production regulations seemed a better arena for KTM’s first track weapon. Of course, the RC8 was not conceived merely as a pro racer’s tool or a rich person’s toy.



The RC8 offered a preview to the ‘slight of hand’ that the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R would eventually deliver: In other words it looked and promised to be one thing (with the SUPER DUKE it was this image of being ‘The Beast’) but ended up being something a whole lot more. “The RC8 was not designed just to be a WorldSBK base,” says Felber in the confines of a meeting room in the old Race HQ in Munderfing. “We wanted to have a perfect road bike as well. That was the beginning of the philosophy towards it and that’s why the motorcycle is roomy and adjustable. It was more of a racebike by accident finally.”

Despite the step into the unknown and the difficulties that 2007-2009 would bring KTM did not ease-off the gas (Felber: “there was always good support.”). The investment remained steadfast and apparently almost 50 engines bit the dust to get the RC8 just right. 8000 models would make it off the assembly lines, into the packing crates and the hands of curious customers.

The R&D crew funneled a stream of torque into the rider’s right hands. Even into some of the best in the business. “I was surprised how good it was as a road bike when we made a comparison test,” says former Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams. “It was able to hold its own really easily, especially with the chassis. It was one of the easiest bikes you’ll ride on the road or the track.”



There were other redeeming features. “I wanted to set a new benchmark for manufacturing quality for KTM but also in general,” says Felber. “If you look at the welding on the frame and how the wiring harness was made ‘invisible’. There is not a single piece of improvisation on that bike. We spent a lot of time on it. The other thing I’m proud of is the technical layout and how you can work on the bike. It’s not such a big deal for the average customer who will leave it in the dealer or garage for any maintenance or repair but I was a racer and I worked on all my bikes by myself. I recently changed the frame on my own RC8 from black to orange and I did it in one afternoon. I think mechanics like to work on that bike.”

And of course there were those looks. Felber: “I knew we were making something powerful. Kiska’s work is always polarizing with their styling. In fact, it is not just styling; it is a statement. If you see the RC8 nowadays it is like it’s a bike from 2025. I love that approach. It is not a bike for everyone. It was polarizing: Both for the look and the technical layout with that under-slung exhaust system that made it appear totally different, and the small and narrow tail section.”

To be continued…



With over 110 KTM PowerParts available to fit straight onto the KTM 790 ADVENTURE, we look at five different ways to add practicality, fine tune comfort and increase confidence ahead of your next summer exploration…



A wide variety of KTM PowerParts has been specifically developed for the Austrian brand’s most accessible Travel bike to date, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE. With tens of thousands of possible permutations, there is something to suit every kind of rider regardless of shape or size, destination or dream.

Riders have peace of mind too, as all KTM PowerParts are developed alongside the bike. Their designs are always optimal, fitment is right first time and the wiring loom is ready to accept all plug and play electrical items – all of which means there are no surprises when it comes to your warranty.

With so much to choose from, we’ve selected a number of creature comforts to ready your KTM for its next cross-country journey.



What if I’m short?
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE has the lowest standard seat h of any KTM Travel model – but this is just the start. For those on their tip toes, extra confidence can be added in less than 10 seconds by switching out the rider and pillion seats for the single piece KTM LOW SEAT. This gives the rider an extra 10mm of reach. Should this not be enough and still leave you looking for more stable contact in those adverse camber situations, you are in luck as a further 25mm is possible. KTM and WP Suspension have worked together to produce a LOWERING KIT (Ref: 63512955044) that maintains the riding dynamics you love whilst catering for the smaller rider. The kit compromises of a new WP APEX shock and internal fork parts.



What if I’m tall?
More accessibility means more people than ever can comfortably and confidently ride a KTM, so existing fans are still catered for. The design of the seat and tank accommodate those with long legs too, but should you feel you need more space, then the KTM HIGH SEAT is the perfect solution. This adds 20mm to the seat h, raising up the rider and opening the angle of the knee, keeping you comfortable in between those spaced out fuel stops.



Finding Your Way
If you are looking to use a traditional nav set up then KTM has produced a number of solutions, the simplest being the GPS HOLDER which mounts in a damped position directly above the 5” TFT display. Suitable for many manufacturer systems including all Garmin and TomTom products, this mount is within easy reach of accessory connections for a tidy, powered set up, or the 12V accessory socket below the clocks. Combined with the Touratech-iBracket, the GPS HOLDER can accommodate the most popular Apple and Samsung devices for those that favour the use of their mobile phone. Rotatable by 90 degrees to suit the riders viewing, the iBracket securely holds the device in its aluminium chassis, perfect for securely supplementing the already detailed dash.



Lighting the Road Ahead
If you are the intrepid adventurer riding the whole day through, setting off early or arriving after dark, straying far from the comfort of street lights then we recommend the KTM AUXILIARY LAMP KIT. Two 8W, 4400 candela LED spot lights spread a wide angle of light across the road surface ahead. The kit contains all fitting brackets and wiring harnesses needed to plug straight into the KTM 790 ADVENTURE.



What’s in the Box?
It’s no secret that panniers and top boxes make it easier to carry your possessions but carrying what you need from your bike to the hotel can be a little more challenging. The KTM INNER BAGS are a simple solution to help you unload and get across the car park in one trip, spillage free. Designed to fit the irregular internal shape of the KTM TOURING CASES, the bags make the most of all available space. Complete with sturdy removable shoulder straps so you can still carry your helmet too!



Keeping Your KTM Safe
Without needing to pack or carry anything extra you can secure your KTM 790 ADVENTURE while you rest up for the next leg of your journey.  Finished in anodized orange, the ROADLOK is highly visible when bolted directly to the brake calliper. Engage the high strength steel locking pin and the device locks the wheel in place stopping any movement, which also prevents those costly and embarrassing moments when you forget to remove a traditional disc lock, you know the ones…

Should you wish to add a belt to braces, you can in the form of an audible deterrent: the plug and play KTM ALARM SYSTEM. Meeting the strictest of European test methods earned this dual circuit immobilizer and alarm system Thatcham homologation status, making it one of the best systems on the market. Securing the unit with the ALARM SYSTEM MOUNTING KIT allows you to plug straight into pre-prepared connection points, meaning protecting your KTM from envious characters does not have to involve potential damage cutting into the loom.