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The time has come to go again: MotoGP™ 2018

Engines will scream into the dusk and desert landscape in Qatar this weekend as the nineteen-round 2018 MotoGPTM season begins at Losail. Red Bull KTM will not be making up the numbers …


Pol Espargaró (ESP) KTM RC16 Losail (QAT) 2018 © Philip Platzer

Twelve months ago riders Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith started KTM’s MotoGPTM story (“adventure” as Motorsports Director Pit Beirer calls it) with a drama-free outing at Losail. The Catalan and Englishman finished in 16th and 17th positions. As the paddock unloads crates and fills the floodlit circuit pitlane this week for the twelfth running of the Grand Prix of Qatar as the championship-opener, the racers and the whole Red Bull KTM Factory Racing setup will be hoping for significantly better.

Why? By round two in 2017 Espargaró and Smith had scored their first MotoGPTM points and, together with some impressive wildcard performances from test rider Mika Kallio, would breach the top ten of the ultra-competitive division a total of seven times during the rest of the season.


Pol Espargaró (ESP), Mika Kallio (FIN), Bradley Smith (GBR) KTM RC16 2018 © Philip Platzer

Earlier this week KTM personnel and key figures from the race team gathered at the pristine Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg to ponder on a second MotoGPTM term where the crew are hunting further progress. “One good thing about KTM is that you know where you’ll start in the races but never where you’ll finish: we were the last two in Qatar last year and then we made it to the top ten during the season,” said Pol. “I think KTM is the first in history to do something like that in their first year. So we know where we’ll start – fighting for the top ten – but to finish? Maybe the top six, I hope so.”

“If we put everything together then we can start where we left off; and that is not ‘a given’ as everyone else has been working,” reasons Smith. “What a story it would be to take this bike from those positions in Qatar last year to a podium or maybe a win.”

“The competition will not be sleeping so we will see where we are in these first races,” advocates Team Manager Mike Leitner. “We made really good steps on engine and with lots of chassis work and with suspension.”

“We will keep the speed up, it’s our passion,” insisted Beirer. “It is amazing how tough MotoGPTM is: if you are within one second of the top guys you can still be out of the top fifteen. We knew this though and wanted the challenge. We have close partners, great relationships and a strong group and now we need to make the next steps.”

Alex Hofmann (GER), Bradley Smith (GBR) & Pol Espargaró (ESP) KTM RC16 2018 © Markus Berger

A major news theme around KTM at the moment involves the acquisition of the Tech3 satellite team from 2019. Partnership with Hervé Poncharal’s unit means a gilded path for young riders through the MotoGPTM ladder: Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, Moto3, Moto2, satellite MotoGPTM and factory team. “I’m happy that our structure is in place and that will mean four bikes on the grid in MotoGPTM in 2019. It’s pretty cool that a rider can stay with the Red Bull KTM family through the classes,” said Beirer for a scale of progression that no other manufacturer can boast.

Photos: Philip Platzer | Markus Berger
Video: Illuminati Productions


Almost five years on the road: Anna Grechishkina & her travelling dream

Equipped with a KTM 1190 ADVENTURE and the burning desire to travel, Ukrainian Anna Grechishkina set out on a journey. She is now almost breaking records and is nearly five years in the saddle. This is her story …

The idea to set out on this massive trip came as a surprise to me. I mean I always liked to travel mostly by bus or train with my father when I was a little girl but it was no major dream for me. I remember I enjoyed ‘going’ rather than ‘arriving’. I think that the passion for it started there … but I never thought that I’d be able to travel the world on the motorcycle!

Actually, I would have been very surprised if somebody told me that I would be riding a motorcycle at all. Nobody in my family did, I didn’t have any rider friends. So nobody inspired or pushed me: it came just as a dream in the night and eventually turned into reality.


I bought my first bike in 2005 before I had even learned to ride properly. It was a small Kawasaki Eliminator 125, which was followed the next year by the bigger Kawasaki Vulcan 900. With the 900 I travelled a lot and explored many countries around the Ukraine, in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. With each trip I wanted to go further and for longer. It became like an addiction and I was searching for any tiny possibility to get on my bike and just go.

My traveling was always limited by vacation time. Like most people, when I had to go back home to work I was stressed and discouraged! I started to look for the ways to change that. At some point a fleeting idea came into my mind – why not to quit my job and go around the world on a bike? At first I just pushed this idea away as something crazy and impossible. But I could not get rid of it. The more I thought about it, the more I loved it. Deep inside I knew it was exactly what I wanted. And if I didn’t try then I would never have peace of mind.

I chanced my luck and I tested my persistence and, here I am, having been on the road ever since for four and a half years. I’ve covered the world and with no intention to stop yet.


The scope …
I started a website to chronicle everything: I have a dream travel

Little did I know that my journey would eventually bring me into touching distance of the Guinness Book of Records for the longest, solo round-the-world trip by a female. The initial idea was to cross all the continents and as many countries as possible. By now almost all have been ticked-off, only Europe – which is my part of the world – is left. Asia, Australia, North America, South America, Africa have been covered, and I have just arrived in Europe from Egypt and shipped my bike by air.


Anna´s travel route

My trip has not only been about riding and devouring kilometers. It has been much more, and that’s why it took me longer to cover the intended distance. I have explored the life around me, meeting and talking to people, listening to their stories, inspiring and being inspired by them, encouraging and being encouraged.

I called my trip ‘I have a dream’: the words of Martin Luther King’s famous speech. I believe that all our dreams can come true with enough motivation and persistence. My main initiative and mission from this trip was to help as many people as possible to take their dreams more seriously. With that in mind I always tried to visit schools, colleges, orphanages and other places to meet kids and, in general, any groups of people willing to listen and to share my story with them, a message of the dream. I did not want just to roam around and enjoy myself, I wanted to spread the news that it is actually possible to follow one’s heart and one’s dreams. If I can do it, with all my fears and doubts, then you can do it as well and even better.

I started my journey with a lack of experience and funds and with many gaps in preparation and uncertainty. The road has been teaching and training me every day since then: I am a different person from what I have been before.


The riding and experiences …
When I was planning my trip, I visualized only two years on the road. It still seemed to be a huge time and distance for me. After a while it was clear that I would not be able to cover the world in that period. The world turned out to be extremely interesting and I didn’t want to be in a rush. Since I started my trip, I was on a very low budget and I always had to look for ways to continue, and it took time. I was lucky to meet amazing people on my way whom I didn’t want to leave.

A lot of things, including my expectations, changed since I started. In the beginning, it was just a project of traveling, covering a certain distance within a limited period of time and coming back to my country. Now this is not a project any more, this is my lifestyle, my routine, which I love and would not change for anything. Without exaggerating, I would say that this is the happiest part of my life.


But I will be honest and say that traveling on the bike for so long is not always easy and enjoyable, sometimes it is a challenge both physically and emotionally. The physical part is understandable. Being always on the move requires strength and endurance, and sometimes I feel that it’s too much for me. But emotionally occasionally it hurts even more. It’s good to see new places and meet new people almost every day, but at some point you start to miss a sense of stability, of coming back to the same place, of sharing things with people, some kind of history, without having to repeat over-and-over same things about myself.

Loneliness strikes as well. Though I meet many people on the road, I have to leave them behind, and many times it is heart breaking and brings tears to my eyes. Realizing that I might never see them again becomes a burden, which becomes heavier every time I have to say another good-bye.

Besides the fun and hardships the road is my best education and sometimes I feel that I have lived many lives while traveling, something I would never have gained through university or degree. I’ve learned to understand other people, be more flexible and tolerant and to focus on similarities rather differences. I learned also that every tiny and invisible deed of kindness matters and it is our responsibility not to miss a chance to make a difference.


The record …
I did not put it as a priority for the trip and, of course, I didn’t even think about it at the beginning. As I said before, I had only two years on the road in mind and a much more modest mileage on the odometer of the bike!

Over time all the plans and the whole vision of the trip changed. No more schedules and time frames, just open dates living on the road and accepting everything that came my way.

If, at some point while riding and enjoying this nomad life, any measurable accomplishments come my way, then why not go for it? I will be happy to have the record and I will make an effort but my biggest incentive for this trip is not distinctions or winning competitions but to explore the world, myself, new people and to learn from I discover.


The bike …
My bike, a 2013 KTM 1190 ADVENTURE, has been with me since the beginning and is my first ADVENTURE motorcycle. When I started to prepare for my trip, I didn’t have a KTM in mind and I didn’t know much about the brand. KTM came as a surprise, and now I understand that it was a perfect choice. I was a bit cautious about the ADVENTURE at first. The size and weight was intimidating. My previous bikes were lighter and with a lower center of gravity. Nevertheless, I made my choice and I’ve never regretted it. The bike proved to be a reliable, easy to handle and a comfortable companion.

Of course, I tried to visit and say hello to all KTM dealers in the countries and continents on my way. They always checked the bike’s performance and did regular maintenance with replacement of needed parts. I do not remember any serious technical issues; all the replacements were due to the proper mileage and scheduled maintenance.


My journey is not finished yet, and perhaps, far from being finished. I really want to continue with the same bike and I do feel that it still has a lot of potential. Moreover, it became much more than a bike for me. It is my friend, my home, my own ‘rock’; it is more of a personality than just a vehicle. I feel comfortable with it and I hope that we still have many more safe and enjoyable kilometers together.

Anna visited the KTM factory at the end of January as part of her epic trail and took part in a workshop where staff reviewed the KTM 1190 ADVENTURE that had clocked over 130,000 km. She spoke to engineers that checked over the machine and gave their opinion on the wear and the mileage. See what happened when Anna came to Mattighofen and what the bike’s technical crew and R&D thought of the lifespan of the KTM 1190 ADVENTURE.

To read all about Anna’s experiences and exploits then visit her website.

Photos: Anna Grechishkina
Video: Anna Grechishkina


Interview of the Month: Product Manager Adriaan Sinke – Managing expectations

Product Management are a department within KTM tasked with the difficult responsibility of juggling all the subdivisions within KTM – Marketing, Sales, Production, R&D, Kiska Design, KTM PowerParts … Using their collective experience of motorcycling, engineering and customer behavior, their purpose is to make sure that new or updated KTM products are introduced to the market in a way that satisfies the core values of KTM, hit the initial concept target and excel the expectations of the end user. Managing this mammoth myriad of motorcycle must-haves for the exciting new KTM 790 DUKE was the task of Adriaan Sinke, so the KTM BLOG grabbed a chat with him.

On the verge of the international media launch for the new KTM 790 DUKE, a bike that pitches KTM into a fresh fight by entering a new segment – the incredibly competitive middle weight naked class – with an all-new 799cc parallel twin engine, Dutchman Adriaan Sinke, Senior Product Manager (Mid-Range), seems incredibly happy and calm.


Adriaan Sinke (NED) 2018 © Sebas Romero

In the first week of March, 75 journalists from around the world came to Gran Canaria to put this much-anticipated bike through its paces – arguably the most significant street machine to introduce KTM to a new audience of riders since the introduction of the KTM 125 DUKE in 2011.

Sat in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, 41-year old Sinke has spent the last days making sure the riding route – some 180 km of incredible winding roads – provides a broad representation of the many situations KTM expects KTM 790 DUKE owners to challenge its 105 hp, agile chassis and all-day usability to.

“That’s the reason I’m smiling,” quips Sinke as we meet after breakfast. “The combination of the roads on this island, the usually sunny weather and just how good this bike is makes me happy and confident that the media – and riders – are really going to enjoy this new DUKE.”


KTM 790 DUKE © Marco Campelli

The sound of a new LC8c engine firing up outside the hotel immediately brings the conversation to engines. Powering KTM into the street market in 1994 was the KTM LC4 single-cylinder engine, housed within the original KTM 620 DUKE. Multi-cylinder Mattighofen engines on asphalt only followed in 2003 with the V-twin LC8 engine, introduced with the KTM 950 ADVENTURE. During the course of time, both powerplants have evolved hugely, through many capacity sizes, engineering excellence and through exploiting new technologies. So why now has KTM built a new engine?

“There are many reasons for this,” Sinke replies. “But mainly to satisfy a need in KTM’s existing street line-up to bridge the gap between 690 LC4 single and 1290 LC8 twin; completing a DUKE capacity ladder and now giving all riders a KTM option in the highly competitive naked middleweight segment.”

“For this capacity, a parallel twin offered the best packaging solution, in terms of its compact and narrow size. We call it LC8c – which means ‘Liquid cooled 8-valve compact’ and no – it isn’t just two KTM 390 DUKE engines combined! This is an all-new engine that brings together experience from all KTM engine types – even from offroad. Calling it a 790 when it’s actually a 799cc just fits in with the brand naming logic.”

Ah … makes sense! In the past, we’ve seen everything under 950cc powered by a single cylinder, so does the LC8c mean the end for the LC4 single-cylinder engine? Sinke is quick to reply:

“Although the new development is a twin-cylinder, the single-cylinder engine which powers the KTM 690 DUKE will continue. The LC4 drivetrain will remain untouched as a platform and will continue to be used and further developed by KTM in the future as a brand within a brand. Aside from the packaging and maintenance benefits, for those who have experienced the unique LC4 punch – including the massive refinement to the latest generation KTM 690 DUKE engine – they’ll understand why we have to keep this engine.”


KTM 790 DUKE © Marco Campelli

An all-new bike offered up many advantages and opportunities for new directions in terms of chassis design and engineering, the result seeing the KTM 790 DUKE sporting a new style of steel chassis then we’ve seen before from the Austrian brand.

“Since we started with a blank sheet of paper with the KTM 790 DUKE, we could make anything we wanted,” Sinke explains. “The target was to be as compact and light as we could, so to help achieve this we use the engine as a stressed member of the chassis, reducing weight from the chassis. But both the engine and chassis were developed simultaneously and together.”


KTM 790 DUKE © Marco Campelli

The middleweight naked bike class is arguably the most competitive right now in terms of sales and with all of the major manufacturers offering options. So, who does KTM see the KTM 790 DUKE standing toe-to-toe with?

“It depends on many reasons,” says Adriaan. “The rider’s budget, preference to engine type, brand loyalty, image, among others. But KTM does not build bikes to rival a particular model but to create sportmotorcycles with an identity of their own and a unique riding experience in the READY TO RACE way. But of course, the KTM 790 DUKE will no doubt be compared to a wide range of bikes in the segment. More importantly, this will be a motorcycle that can also rival more powerful bikes in terms of agility and fun.”

We can’t argue with his ability to avoid a direct question with a well-constructed answer. In that case, we ask who he thinks is going to be the typical customer for this bike?

“Now that’s the hardest question,” Sinke replies. “Because we really believe there won’t be a typical 790 rider. It is a typical KTM, so it is a very sporty proposition in this segment, but we’re also going to see plenty of people for whom this will be their only mode of transport, some will come up through the power and capacity ranks, some coming down in size and performance. We know it will be toured, commuted on, used on track. A very important group are the riders who have been in the midclass naked segment for a while and who plan to stay there. For this group in particular it was critical to find the essence of what makes a performance naked bike. There’s definitely a very strong demand for bikes in this segment and riders who will just about point them at anything. So, it was a challenge for our engineers and designers.”

“But because of this widespread need, we’ve gone for unadjustable suspension for simplicity. It’s still high-quality WP but designed to cope with this wide range of riders and uses. Another example of trying to appease this wide audience is the seat h. At 825 mm, it is already sufficient for most riders because of the narrow deign of the seat and tank, meaning legs have a more direct route to the ground. But this can be lowered further with KTM PowerParts to 805 mm with an optional seat or even further to 780 mm when this is combined with the low chassis kit.”


KTM 790 DUKE © Sebas Romero

Despites its hardcore image, at the moment KTM has no plans for an “R” version but Sinke remains candid on whether or not this will change. “Not at the moment … ,” he laughs. “But KTM is never standing still when it comes to its model range and exploring ways to go even more extreme.”

Speaking of extreme, the level of advanced electronic rider assistance systems on the KTM 790 DUKE is insane; setting a new level for this segment by a long shot and almost on par with that of the flagship KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R.

There’s cornering sensitive traction control with MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control), ABS cornering sensitivity and a Supermoto ABS (rear wheel blocking possible), MSR (Motor Slip Regulation) – which is electronic engine brake control, Quickshifter+ (clutchless up and downshifting) and four ‘Ride Modes’; Sport, Street, Rain and Track – delivering different levels of engine response, power and traction control settings. The Track ride mode also includes the option of Anti-wheelie off, nine levels of spin adjust, launch control and throttle control. The price for the KTM 790 DUKE represents incredible value.

We have worked very hard to make the production of the bike as efficient as possible,” Sinke explains. “Our design philosophy is one of purity; do not use unnecessary components and combine functionality where possible. And this approach has allowed us to offer a bike with such a high specification in this segment.


KTM 790 DUKE © Sebas Romero

Before Adriaan has to leave, we quickly ask him what other models will get the LC8c power?

“Ah – now that would be telling!” he laughs. “But KTM is always developing new models to satisfy the needs of the market and demands of our customers. History has shown that all our engines are supposed to work within a platform of bikes and this will continue with LC8c, such as in the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R concept.”

The KTM 790 DUKE will be available in dealers around the end of March 2018 in time for the ‘typical’ riding season, with most markets covered during 2018, apart from US and Canada which will follow late 2018/early 2019.

It’s available in two colors – orange or black – with the additional option of an A2 license-friendly version, called the KTM 790 DUKE L. This has a 95 hp has and allows for a 44 hp restriction.

Head over to and configure your dream specification KTM 790 DUKE from the huge range of official KTM PowerParts by using the online configurator.


KTM 790 DUKE © Marco Campelli

Photos: Sebas Romero | Marco Campelli


Moving to the other side of the stopwatch: Tyla Rattray

After a distinguished racing career in MXGP and AMA Supercross and Motocross, 2008 MX2 World Champion Tyla Rattray jumped away from a motorcycle at the end of 2015 and straight into a role as protégé to famed trainer and fellow countryman Aldon Baker and to head up the KTM AG’s 250 rider development program in Florida. We asked about the rapid change of life from racing at the top to preparing others to do the same …

At 32 years of age Tyla Rattray does not look too different from the wide-eyed sixteen year old that made an immediate impression as a KTM rider in 125cc Grands Prix in 2001. The incredible wear-and-tear and sizeable catalog of injury in a fourteen year career means that the Florida-based father of three (with wife Sam) can sometimes feel the punishment of all those motos and dismounts. But the South African keeps a spring in his step (and a physique that indicates he could still gun a 250 4-stroke to a respectable lap-time) thanks to an alternative challenge inside the sport.

In 2004 Rattray finished as world championship runner-up in MX2 with a KTM 125 SX. In 2008 he used the 4-stroke KTM 250 SX-F to claim the title and then sought further race-winning glory in the United States, earning runner-up finishes in the 250 MX series in 2010 and 2011. A dalliance in MXGP in 2014 and 2015 brought his riding days to a close but the spark with KTM thanks to the works Troy Lee Design 250 Factory Team was reignited. Rattray, who trained with Aldon Baker as an athlete, then hooked-up with the revered specialist once more … but in a different capacity.


Tyla Rattray (RSA) Atlanta (USA) 2018 © James Lissimore Photography

Rattray’s personal self-orientated perspective of racing has widened to incorporate five other riders, mostly on the TLD program, and from the confines of the exclusive Baker’s Factory on the east coast. There are not too many other world champions and AMA national race winners active in such a capacity in the Supercross and Motocross paddock.

‘Styla’ was renowned for his work ethic as an athlete and ‘un-showy’ approach to his racing. That he knows the hard graft necessary for the job is beyond doubt but whether he can transmit that – and all of his vast international competition experience – onto impressionable youngsters is another matter. KTM, TLD and Baker believe steadfastly in his potential but it felt timely to ask some questions.

As per usual Rattray can be found friendly, accessible and open to conversation and debate. He is now a much more articulate speaker than those awkward first years in Grand Prix and the maturing effects of fatherhood and the highs-and-lows of Motocross have helped shape a rounded character.

Tyla, how difficult was the transition from being a rider to a trainer?
“Basically since I was five years old all I’ve known is to ride and race. It starts as fun, becomes a profession and then is a job. We all know this sport doesn’t last forever as a racer. It has to come to an end sometime. When it’s over you almost sit back and think ‘wow … this chapter has finished. The book is closed. What’s next in life?’ I always wanted to get into training and I tried to learn as much as I could when I was racing. I was learning about my body and what worked best. KTM and TLD were looking for someone to help their guys and Aldon is obviously the man when it comes to training in this sport and there is only a certain number of guys he can take. They wanted to find someone to help and with my history with Aldon for five-six years I had a lot of knowledge about putting-in the right kind of work and how important things like rest can be. There are no shortcuts in this sport and you have to do the work to get the results. It wasn’t like I was waiting around for a while to see what I’d do; I came back from Europe and started with these guys almost right away. I’ve been learning again and it has been a great transition.”

What about changing that mentality of a racer and only having to worry about one person to suddenly thinking about the surroundings of five other guys?
“That’s a thing about being a racer – especially one that wins – they are very selfish. It is all about them. When I was racing in Europe and I won the world championship then it was all about me. Afterwards I was trying to win national championships and it was the same. I knew I’d need to take a step back away from that … and I think a lot of people don’t like doing that. They still want some of the limelight. My goal now is to help these athletes be the best they can be and get to their full potential: it’s a great opportunity. Especially at the Baker´s Factory. I wish I had something like that when I was racing: this exclusive facility with the best tracks, track guys and infrastructure. It is first-class. And for any rider to compete against that is very tough. We have seen good results through the 450 program and now we have the whole 250 division and it is all about them now and not about me any more. I’m trying to get my experiences and mistakes across and help the riders minimize their own mistakes.”


Tyla Rattray (RSA) Atlanta (USA) 2018 © James Lissimore Photography

Did having children help with that ability to get some distance from the intensity of racing?
“Yeah. We had Brooke in 2010 and I wouldn’t change anything about that. It is fun to go to the track, do the work and come home to a bundle of joy. It was good for me and it motivated me. People say having children can be a distraction but if anything it motivated me to keep pushing and getting results. I had a family to provide for. Then we had Brody and then Blake, so three now! It would be pretty crazy to be racing now with three kids. The timing worked out perfectly.”

Was that also ‘schooling’ for how to handle the different personalities of younger riders? Everyone has their own quirks and ways to interact …
“Definitely and the kids coming through will only get younger 18, 19, 20 because that’s the whole deal with KTM, the facility and program to attract the kids from amateurs and develop them through the 250 scheme. Those first years as a pro, that’s when riders learn the most. The goal is obviously for them to win championships and then step over to the 450 program. You have to be hard sometimes. I’ll be 33 at the end of the year and I feel that this age gap is pretty good. I think there is that ‘respect’ factor and it’ll help moving forwards because I think with a group closer in age then the respect is not really there as much as dealing with someone that is a lot older. You also see it on Aldon’s side and the way the riders respect him. I think it grows every year because the age gap parts ways. I think the whole structure is still quite new to us and the communication channels will only improve because if a guy comes through the 250 side and heads into his 450 program then Aldon will want all possible information on him to see where he is at and what kind of ‘loads’ he can handle. I need to work on that: to really keep track of these guys on a daily basis.”

“It’s a dangerous sport and we want to be a prepared as we can be but a kid in the amateurs will see the riders on TV, the fireworks, the show, the money … and Supercross is only getting bigger.”

Aldon is renowned for his program and the discipline and commitment it requires. You obviously went through that and people might wonder ‘why do – or go near it – again?!’ How is the relationship between you both now?
“Well, we have a business down there in Florida and like any business you want it to grow and be successful, be bigger and better. That’s what he has been doing. I feel we have some more challenges on the 250 side because the guys coming in are slightly newer to it all; whether that’s Supercross or even a set of whoops and there have been a few crashes. Just before we came out to California for the start of Supercross Aldon had to spend thousands on a new machine just to fix and take better care of the whoops for the kids. It is a business that is evolving and I’m sure it will get better but we’re at the baby steps stage at the moment. Aldon and I have a good relationship. He has never really had an issue with me in terms of commitment, even when I was riding with him as I’d always put-in the work and he never had cause to doubt that. I was maybe not the best rider in terms of skills and technique but I got the job done. It is the same now with being a trainer. I am all-in and I want the guys to win championships and look to the 450s.”

Do you feel a bit like a rookie again? What worked for you might not work for Shane and you need to adjust to someone else’s needs …
“Yeah, I’m still learning but the basic fact underlying everything is that the work has to be done: the motos, the graft and the belief. You cannot think for a second that it will be easy. Every athlete is different and I’m learning about that. Some can recover quicker than others and obviously the younger ones have that ‘kid power’. My plate is not too full and I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to lose careful track of these guys. It is a monitoring process almost on a daily basis. It would be easy to copy-paste and email out fitness programs – you could do that for a hundred guys – but to give the right load it has to be day-by-day even down to sleep patterns and regular heart rates.”

“Rolling out at a Supercross is scary but when you are in the gate then your focus is on racing and you black everything [else] out. When I did my first A1 I was like ‘Holy Smokes! This is crazy!’ and I got on the podium; so you have a different switch ‘upstairs’. Racing has a different type of focus and it is something I miss.”

What about the mental side and the adversity of professional sport? You have your own experience but can you read or learn more to help with that aspect of the job?
“I’ve done a lot of research on it. The main issue is the variety of athletes: some are very strong mentally and others need a bit more of a helping hand. It is crazy to see how different they are but then watch when they go on the track and how close and similar are the lap-times. There is a special mentality to racing. I’m learning to help them be the best they can be when it comes to race day … but being down there in Florida they are already ahead of the game. This game is not easy. If it was then there would be a lot more professional motorcycle racers. There are only three podium spots. Many of the guys are already mentally strong. They know how to play the game and to have their head in the right place.”

Is it interesting to see how people go about the job? You would have seen teammates and friends in race teams in the past but now you have a very overall view of a spread …
“Yeah, all kinds. Some guys are really talented and coordinated and it all comes easier to them whereas others struggle to get the rhythm. At the end of the day the guys still come down there and give 100% effort and that’s what we want. It doesn’t matter one day if they are fastest or two seconds off the pace, we just want them to use their potential and do the best they can. It is also hard because you cannot expect a kid to jump out of amateurs and go straight into winning 250 SX main events. You’ll have guys in their mid-late twenties winning those races and there is a big gap to breach there. The kids need to be mature. An eighteen-nineteen year old coming into pros has to be like a normal twenty-four/twenty-five year old. They have to quickly gain experience in just a few months. The young guys at the Factory can also learn from the slightly older ones to work on their consistency at a younger age.”


Tyla Rattray (RSA) Atlanta (USA) 2018 © James Lissimore Photography

Do you think kids are a lot more switched on now?
“I think they have to be if you see where the sport is going. When I was winning in Europe it was on 125cc 2-strokes. Back then we thought ‘wow, these are fast’. We were eighteen then and the kids at the same age now have even faster bikes and 250 4-strokes. We’d have something like 38hp and think ‘we’re crushing it …’ now they’ll have 50+ with better traction and torque. The human body and its limits have not really changed … but the bikes have. Physically there is almost no time off when it comes to racing in the US and kids need to have so much strength. Add to that the gap from the kids coming through to the riders that are winning races and championships can be about eight years. So there is still a long way to go before making an impression in the 250s and transitioning into the 450s. Age and experience: it is the big separator.”

“There are a lot of factors that play a huge part in being successful in this sport. You cannot just dip in-and-out like it is golf or something.”

Can you imagine being seventeen again now and doing this?
“I was on a 125 when I was eighteen! You have seventeen year olds on fast, factory 250 4-strokes and I think the injuries now are more severe than back in the day. You are hitting the deck at higher speed. We try and develop these kids to have the strength and stamina so that when they do turn pro and head into Supercross at eighteen-nineteen they can go the distance. You want them to have confidence as well and not just get crunched every weekend. You want them to stay healthy, get the best out of them and get their mind in the game – if they are winning in amateurs then they will want to win in the pros too – but that’s tough! And how does that translate into the years they need? They need to take steps and climb that ladder.”

You talk about educating them on mistakes. Give an example of one you made: would it be something to do with racecraft or decision-making?
“Hmm, mistakes like when you are under pressure. When you should be focusing on yourself. It can be easy to lose concentration and get involved with another rider on the track that then messes your race up. Steam might be coming out of your eyes and you want go hunting for that guy at the next race because he messed up your podium position. You have to let the race come to you. If you are eighteen and a twenty-six year old who is fighting for the championship overtakes you then follow him, instead of trying a reckless pass in the next turn and crashing and paying for it. So it can be racecraft and polishing it as well.”


Tyla Rattray (RSA) Atlanta (USA) 2018 © James Lissimore Photography

Lastly is 450 SX the biggest stage for a racer? Is that what you drink-in the most as a pro?
“Once it gets down to the 450 division and making the podium there in Supercross then it is a big deal. When it comes to fans and all that then I still love the Euro scene. It is a lot different. The GPs are really professional with their podiums and setup. The crowds go a bit crazy; if you are in France fighting a French guy for the win then the atmosphere is insane. I miss that side of racing and I had a great time in Europe as well as the US.”

Photos: James Lissimore Photography


What does READY TO RACE mean to you?

Posted in People, Racing

READY TO RACE is not just a statement or a mantra from KTM, it’s a way of life. It’s what fuels our passion for success, and ensures we are prepared to do battle.

Our athletes are the men and women on the ground flying the flag for KTM, competing in the most intense and challenging conditions globally. Battling, sweating, working, racing, winning. We asked some of our Red Bull KTM Factory Motocross stars the question: What does READY TO RACE mean to you?

Video: Luca Piffaretti


Orange Squash? 2018 MXGP could be Cairoli vs Herlings

Two Red Bull KTM 450 SX-Fs finished 1st and 2nd in the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship winning 12 (6 each) of the 19 Grands Prix between them. Little surprise that many are forecasting a battle royale for 2018. We asked the protagonists themselves about the potential duel …


Jeffrey Herlings (NED, #84) & Tony Cairoli (ITA, #222) KTM 450 SX-F Frauenfeld (SUI) 2017 © Ray Archer

Motocross is the great unknown in motorcycle sport. Tony Cairoli – at 32 arguably the greatest rider in the modern era as a multi-world champion in the premier class on two brands (three models) of machine and nine titles to his credit, knows this more than most with campaigns in 2015 and 2016 scuppered by injury and misfortune. Jeffrey Herlings, 23 years old and already one of the most successful athletes in Grand Prix history and the most prolific Dutch motorcycle racer ever, has also suffered titles snatched from his grasp due to hospitalization and physical setbacks.

Even when you know, a ‘bump in the rut’ means you never know.

Herlings’ transition from being the best 250cc racer this century to MXGP rookie last year brought him head-to-head with Cairoli; a debutant MXGP championship-winner in 2009 and then victor again in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. A broken hand only weeks before the opening round of the series and a small period of acclimatization meant he took time to reach Cairoli’s level; the Sicilian thrilling fans and followers with comeback charges at his home Grand Prix at Arco di Trento and also winning again on home turf at Ottobiano. By round six Herlings had his first podium and a week later grasped the first of six triumphs, the other five coming in the final six events. At Ottobiano was the first of several ‘face-offs’. The pair would race hard again in the sand of Lommel, Belgium: where KTM filled all six MXGP and MX2 podium positions.


Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), Tony Cairoli (ITA), Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Jorge Prado (ESP), Pauls Jonass (LAT) & Julien Lieber (BEL) Lommel (BEL) 2017 © Ray Archer

2018 is far from being a KTM show however. Four other riders triumphed in 2017 and with talent like Gautier Paulin, Clement Desalle, Romain Febvre, Tim Gajser, Shaun Simpson, Jeremy Van Horebeek, Max Anstie and Glenn Coldenhoff and more mean that the Red Bull KTM duo will have a tough job to reign supreme through nineteen rounds, thirty-eight motos and fifty-seven race starts (counting qualification heats).

The weight of numbers is convincing though. Since 2010 there have been sixteen MX2 and MXGP championships and the Cairoli-Herlings axis has claimed nine of those. Cairoli has 83 GP wins. Herlings has 67. #1 and #2 from 2017. Cairoli into his fifteenth year of full-time Grands Prix and his tenth on a 450/350. Herlings reaches his ninth, his second term with the bigger bike. Cairoli is a monolith of Grand Prix since the mid-00s. Herlings is still on the rapid ascension to stardom and his victory in a wild-card appearance at the Lucas Oil AMA Pro National Motocross series in the US last year only increased his profile further.


Jeffrey Herlings (NED, #84) & Tony Cairoli (ITA, #222) KTM 450 SX-F Teutschenthal (GER) 2017 © Ray Archer

The formbook – a flimsy and often unreliable roadmap for MXGP – would still indicate that #222 will be looking hard at #84 and vice-versa in 2018. “How to beat Tony? To be faster but also to be smarter, which is already really difficult because he has been on the scene a long time, fifteen years I think, and he knows all the ins-and-outs and all the tricks thanks to that experience,” says the challenger. “You need to have pure speed but also know when to really use it. Everyone makes mistakes but the difference will come down to the big ones and avoiding those as much as possible, while also staying out of that injury-zone.”

“Tony has everything you need: he can start, charge and be fast on pretty much every track,” Jeffrey adds. “To beat that then you also need the full package and to try and make it work better.”


Tony Cairoli (ITA) KTM 450 SX-F 2018 © Ray Archer

Pre-season race appearances so far in 2018 don’t provide any clues. Herlings won Internationals in the UK and France. Cairoli reigned in the Internazionali D’Italia once more; his tenth national senior title and a replica of the confident start to 2017. For Herlings though the recent winter was one of his best and most trouble-free in recent years, devoid of injury worries or wasted recuperation time. “I feel comfortable and strong and we did everything we planned to do without any hiccups,” he said last week.


Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F © Ray Archer

What about Cairoli then? The dismay and frustration of 2015-2016 was eased with his return to glory in 2017. “I know I can fight for the title whereas before we had two years that were difficult and we didn’t know the situation,” he explains. “Now we are 100% sure we can fight for it.”

In the second half of 2017 Cairoli and Herlings passed each other on different trajectories: the championship leader riding safely and wisely to guard his margin in the points standings, the pursuer finding all-out speed to gobble chequered flags with hungry abandon. With both beginning from ‘0’ this week in Argentina Cairoli might have to consider Herlings in another light as part of the wider threat.

“It doesn’t really matter who I am facing,” he claims. “I’m looking at the bigger group of riders and for sure Jeffrey is one of the fastest in there but it is a world championship with a lot of guys motivated to do well and I will face everyone trying to beat me. I’ll try to stay in front of everybody.”

Cairoli is just one world championship away from Stefan Everts’ record haul of ten: motivation enough to go full-tilt again in 2018. But the Sicilian insists his drive comes from inner and a more personal source. “It is important to have fun and to check if I can improve in some ways: that’s the challenge,” he says. “I want to see if I can get better, so I am almost going up against myself.”


Tony Cairoli (ITA) Frauenfeld (SUI) 2017 © Ray Archer

In the background is the devoted technical crews of both riders: Claudio and Davide De Carli and their core Italian group and then Dirk Gruebel, Wayne Banks and the rest of Herlings’ inner circle. A KTM contest for MXGP spoils could bring some interesting, tense and dramatic moments within the larger Red Bull setup but Gruebel – who also oversees the MX2 title push with Pauls Jonass – sees both the advantages as well as any potential awkwardness.

“It is give-and-take and luck will play a big role and some days one will be better than the other,” the German says. “They both need to accept that they cannot win every week and guys from other brands will also be in there. They both need to be consistent. I hope we don’t need to manage anything but we will need to gauge the situation. It is a luxury situation to have two guys from the same team going for a title … but it is also high maintenance!”

For fans of each rider, KTM staff and MXGP devotees it could be a thrilling seven months ahead.


Jeffrey Herlings (NED, #84) & Tony Cairoli (ITA, #222) KTM 450 SX-F Ernée (FRA) 2017 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


Collecting Moments #6: The Road to Recovery

Posted in People, Riding

Dialing things down a notch. But only in preparation for new adventures … That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past few months. My injury marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life. My main focus was no longer new adventures, but rather something much simpler, and self-explanatory: recovering!

If you’ve never had an injury or been forced to take a break before, it’s a difficult situation to come to terms with. You’re faced with a whole range of new physical challenges. Day-to-day situations like putting your pants on by yourself, fetching a glass of water from the kitchen, or going up and down stairs become real challenges. But it was not only difficult physically; it was also a huge challenge psychologically. I had never felt so restricted and helpless. It took me a while to learn how to face this situation head on and make the best of it. In a way, I was fighting against myself.


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

In the months after my injury, I of course had many tests and sessions at the physiotherapist. I was overwhelmed with advice, information, and exercises to do at home. I listened to many different opinions about the state of my knee and remained convinced that it was best not to have surgery. There were many different reactions to my decision among my friends and family. Some people could understand why, some people couldn’t. Opinions differ greatly when it comes to knee injuries.

My final decision was inspired by a member of my family. My grandfather, 75 years old, is an active participant in the senior category of the FIS Ski World Cup and always finishes in the top three. He tore both of his cruciate ligaments and nevertheless has a level of fitness other people his age can only dream of. His resilience and his successful career as a pensioner athlete inspired and, most of all, motivated me. He gave me the courage to recover my strength without an operation and a risky procedure on my knee!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

The collateral ligament forced me to rest completely for a few weeks, but is now almost fully healed. The heavy bone bruising improved slowly but surely, the pain gradually becoming more bearable. I was very cautious to begin with at my physiotherapy sessions. It was more difficult than I thought to be able to put weight on the knee and to build up my confidence again. After the fall, my bones felt as if my upper leg was going to the right, my lower leg to the left. The pain was so terrible that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Learning something new is difficult, but relearning something you already knew is even harder. How difficult can it be to just stand on your leg? It’s hard to imagine, but it took a lot of effort! When I finally managed it after a few attempts, I cried from happiness and relief. The knee held!

To begin with I found it difficult to get used to my new “sports equipment”: crutches. I found them very impractical, but had to begrudgingly admit that I was even more helpless without them. I had to get used them, whether I liked it or not. I found out quite quickly, however, that crutches in fact really are a kind of sports equipment. Anybody who has used crutches will know how demanding they can be. It’s very strenuous for your shoulders and upper arms, and trying to move a bit faster will definitely make you sweat. I had discovered a new kind of sport, or at least a new and different way to keep my body active.


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

I “walked” for miles through the forest near my home, up and down hills, over roots and stones. It felt so liberating to be outside again. Nature gave me strength and made my recovery period more bearable. One advantage of compulsory breaks is that you have time to finish the things you’ve been putting off. The 2017 season was very turbulent, so I enjoyed having time for my workshop and my bike. Taking everything apart, changing parts, servicing the bike, and putting everything back together again. It’s great to know that my rocket is ready and waiting for me as soon as I’m fit and READY TO RACE again!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

All things considered, things are going much better for me now. I now understand the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” which never seemed particularly logical to me before. All in all, I have gained a lot from these very difficult weeks and months, both as a person, and from a sporting perspective. Never before have I been so desperate to get back on my KTM 300 EXC, press the E-starter, and go!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

Get to know more about Larissa on the KTM BLOG – Collecting Moments #5: An enforced brake – or check out her website!

Photos: Anna-Larissa Redinger


Glenn Coldenhoff: First goal for 2018 – Getting his bike license

He’s on the bike almost every single day, though he hasn’t got a road bike license. Mind you, for the races on motocross tracks MXGP rider Glenn Coldenhoff doesn’t need one either. Still, he’s keen to get himself that license nonetheless. During the preparations for the 2018 season he’s set himself the goal of passing his bike test.

As one of the top riders in the KTM Factory Racing Team, Glenn Coldenhoff frequently visits the most daring motocross tracks in the world, fighting to claim as many world championship points as he can along the way. All of those rides without a license, simply because he doesn’t need that piece of plastic to do so. The 27-year-old Dutchman wanted to get himself that license regardlessly. “I do quite a bit of enduro every once in a while and for that you do require a license. That’s why I started taking bike lessons,” the MXGP-rider explains.

Coldenhoff went and found himself a riding school nearby that specializes in motorcycle lessons. “And they had to be flexible enough for me to take the classes in between season preparations. Planning the lessons and tests took a bit of an effort,” he concludes.


Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) © Shot Up Productions

The Dutch motocross rider, riding for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team, starts the conquest for the license with a bike control test (known in the Netherlands as the AVB test). Since he already has his driver’s license, he was greenlit to start with the practical part of his riding lessons right away. If you don’t have a car license, you have to pass the theoretical exam first before you’re allowed on the bike. “It was the absolute first time getting on a street bike; all I’m used to is MX and enduro bikes. That definitely took a bit of getting used to, since it does really feel a bit odd at first. I did get a hang of it quite quickly, which meant I made pretty rapid progress after that.”

Riding instructor and owner of Rijschool Roy, Roy Amendt, concurs; Glenn really is something else. “Practice was hardly required to get him ready for his first bike control test.” Just two hours into his lessons, he was ready to check the first box on the road to getting his license. A box checked with ease, which meant his theoretical exam was up next. “It had been awhile since I had to study for anything. Being abroad pretty much all winter, meant it wasn’t easy putting the hours into studying. The week before I took my theory test I was in Italy and strapped for time. That alone made me nervous for the actual test, much more than my bike control test.”

Roy Amendt (NED) KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R & Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up ProductionsGlenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE & Roy Amendt (NED) KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R © Shot Up Productions

Roy Amendt (NED) KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R & Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up Productions

One early Tuesday in December, Coldenhoff checks in for his test at the CBR (Central Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen; the governmental department in charge of every single type of vehicle license in the Netherlands) in the city of Eindhoven. The testing method has changed a bit over the last few years. Since 2015 every single candidate has their own little cubicle, but they’re still in a big room together, whereas in the past there’d be big screens and everyone was side by side. Irene Heldens, spokesperson at the CBR: “In the past candidates would be sitting in this big classroom getting the same questions. That had a few big drawbacks, for instance because you could only take a bike test in that room, unlike the new system where someone getting their bike test could be sitting next to someone getting a tractor driving license.” Riding instructor Roy Amendt also quite likes the new system. “We’re one of the few riding schools in the area that actually instructs year round. Before, students had to wait a long time before they could take their theoretical test, as they’d plan a lot less bike exams during the winter. The demand was simply too low, because a lot of instructors wouldn’t teach during that time of year. Now anyone willing to take their theoretical bike test can be squeezed in between people getting their theoretical test for instance a car license. Works like a charm.”


Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) © Shot Up Productions

Not the same
Half an hour later Glenn Coldenhoff comes back out of the classroom with a faint smile. “Cutting it close,” he says. “I answered six of them wrong; the exact number you’re allowed to fail on. But it’s in the bag at first attempt fortunately.” For a moment it looked like the motocross racer from North-Brabant (the southern Dutch province that produces most of the current top riders from the Netherlands) had to open yet another book over the winter. “I was looking to get my boating license as well, but I decided not to for now. It’s even more difficult and I just wouldn’t know where I’d find the time.”

With the second box checked Coldenhoff is all but ready to take to the streets; only his AVD (the actual road test) remains. He has an appointment set at the end of January to conclude the Dutch trinity of getting your bike license. You’d expect a professional like him to focus most of his time practicing on the street bike, but then you’d be wrong. The Dutchman has been training abroad for most of the month, getting ready to come out swinging this season. “We’re getting on at the moment. I’m free of injuries now, so that’s a really good start!” Since his season preparations are of a higher priority than getting his road license, he hardly has time left to practice for it. Luckily, he’s got a bit bike skill at hand, but getting out in traffic is a whole different story. Even though he’s been making his way through Europe in a car for a while already, the KTM rider found it hard doing so on a bike. A single day before his test instructor Hendrik Britting gave the Dutchman some valuable tips. The first hour of riding didn’t go to his liking. “I know how to ride a bike and I’ve been driving cars for quite some time, too. So I didn’t think much of it, but even with those experiences in mind, I struggled a bit,” Coldenhoff says. “It’s knowing where to look, and braking with four fingers even. Normally I’d have plenty of stopping power using just two fingers, but they’re pretty strict on using all four. Oh, and using the mirrors; that completely different from what I’m used to in a car.” Thanks to Britting’s professional counseling ‘The Hoff’ starts feeling more and more at ease on the public roads on the KTM 1090 ADVENTURE. “This is a good bike, by the way. I have no frame of reference whatsoever, but I really do like it.”

Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up ProductionsGlenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up Productions

Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up Productions

Small details
After just two hours of riding class Coldenhoff dismounts the KTM to head to Germany for another training session on his trusted KTM 450 SX-F. “You can really tell he’s got the feeling for riding a bike; there’s hardly anything we can teach him there,” instructor Britting remarks. “But public roads, there’s no use in comparing it to an MX track. Glenn found it hard to work around in the beginning but after that he picked up on it pretty quickly. So I reckon he’ll do just fine at his final bike test. Tomorrow we’ll go through a few small details and then I think it should be a walk in the park.”

Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE & Roy Amendt (NED) KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R © Shot Up ProductionsGlenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE © Shot Up Productions

Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 1090 ADVENTURE & Roy Amendt (NED) KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R © Shot Up Productions

Another early morning for another bike test. But first a bit of crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. Instructor Roy Amendt: “We’re going to head to the CBR, but we’ll be taking the long way there. Just to focus on small details.” Arriving at the testing center, both men are looking confident. With just three hours of classes on the road under his belt, the Dutch MX rider feels ready to go and get it. “If he rides like he did on the way over here, he’ll be fine. He is a bit cautious, more than you’d expect from a professional racer like him.” The KTM rider agrees. “Weird, huh? Yesterday I had a moment exiting the highway when I got stuck behind a truck. I did follow the rules; I did it by the book. But it was the cautiousness that caught me out. All I could think was I should just play by the rules, ride the way I’d expect an assessor would want me to ride.”

He was worried for nothing, when CBR-assessor Krispijn Klappe watched on for half an hour only to hold out his hand at the end. He had passed. Klappe: “A bit cautious to my liking, but a pass nonetheless.” Smiles all around, as the top motocross rider proved he’s also capable of handling a bike on the open road. However, Coldenhoff would likely stick to gravel roads and on enduro trails. “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me on the road much. I really went and took my test to ride enduro legally. But it is nice to know I’m now qualified to take to the public roads whenever I feel like it.”

Roy Amendt (NED), Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) & Krispijn Klappe (NED) © Shot Up ProductionsGlenn Coldenhoff (NED) & Krispijn Klappe (NED) © Shot Up Productions

Roy Amendt (NED), Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) & Krispijn Klappe (NED) © Shot Up Productions

European regulations
As long as there’s been a European Union, there have been those for and those against it, but the fact remains that Europe decides on the licensing system. It is good to know the EU is advised by the CIECA (Commission Internationale des Examens de Conduite Automobile), a collection of examination institutes from all over Europe.

We’ve seen the introduction of certain uniformity in how licensing works since 2011. Getting a bike license has been split up into three phases. In many European countries you’re allowed to ride an A1 category bike at the age of sixteen. It means you’re allowed to ride a bike that has no more than 125cc and 11 kilowatts of power. Weight plays a part too, as you can’t have more than 0.11 kilowatts per kilogram. There are a few exceptions to the A1 regulation. Belgium and the Netherlands for instance require a rider to be eighteen years old.

Following the A1 category is the A2 license, which candidates are allowed to take by the age of twenty. You can ride a bike with a maximum power output of 35 kilowatts as well as no more than 0.2 kW per kilogram. After two years in the A2 class you’re allowed to move to the A category – the full license. Both transitions (A1 to A2 and A2 to a full A license) requires taking another riding test. Looking to get a full license first time out? That is possible. In most countries you are required to be at least 24 years of age.

Recently they’ve added a new option, known as Code 80. That allows you to take your test and have a full license when you´re 21 years old. Your license will be branded with the Code 80 and after two years on a lighter machine you are by law allowed to have the code removed and ride a full power motorcycle. When you turn 24, the code is automatically removed. Biggest advantage comes from the fact that you’re no longer required to take yet another expensive bike test to move up a category.

Though the EU regulates the rules regarding vehicle licenses, this Code 80 rule has been adapted differently all over the continent. Want to know how the rules affect you in your country? Check out this list containing all the information you might need to pass your bike test.

Special Thanks to JTX Racing, CBR, and Rijschool Roy for their rapid service and kind cooperation.

Photos: Shot Up Productions


Tickle’s tips for tackling Supercross

Red Bull KTM’s new star in the high-profile AMA Supercross series shares his thoughts and opinions on what it takes to run with the best ‘Indoors’ and in the midst of one of the most popular motorcycle racing championships in the world.


Broc Tickle (USA) San Diego (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

It is very easy to be awed by Supercross: the sense of occasion, the setting (inside Major League Baseball and NFL stadiums), the ‘showy’ aspect and the sheer number of spectators (averaging around 50,000 per Saturday evening and for the seventeen rounds run in nineteen weeks across the USA). However, it is on the tracks themselves that the magic really happens. Up close it is hard to believe that riders can achieve that speed, h and distance and defy physics in manipulation of their 450cc motorcycles. Add intense racing – where twenty athletes are separated by mere inches both on the ground and through the air – and it seems like a violent dance of glorious madness.

As reigning champions, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are one of the principal ‘honey pots’ of the AMA paddock where the fans gather to eye the robust machinery as well as the refined individuals that need optimum physical and mental conditioning to attempt such a sport.

We asked 28-year-old Broc Tickle, a former 250 SX West Champion and now into his first term on the KTM 450 SX-F alongside Marvin Musquin to tell us about the three principle – and obvious – requirements that Supercross demands: technique, fitness and bravery.


Broc Tickle (USA, #20) & Marvin Musquin (FRA, #25) KTM 450 SX-F 2018 © Simon Cudby

1. Making it happen
A Supercross layout appears to leave very little room for error. The rolling jumps, landings, rhythm sections, banked ‘switchbacks’ and whoops all seem like a recipe for disaster if the slightest misjudgement occurs. How exactly does a rider execute a rapid lap considering that the motorcycle is in the air for almost half of the time? At an even simpler level: how do they know the power and distance needed to make a jump?

“It is a feeling that you have to learn,” says Tickle. “Somebody that hasn’t ridden Supercross might think ‘you have to hit a triple fast …’ and the truth is that you don’t have to; most obstacles – especially on a 450 – are not very difficult. We could probably jump everything in first gear. Over time, you learn, and you get your feet wet with different bikes, especially if you have been doing it as long as I have! Trying Supercross for the first time with a 450 is probably not the best idea!”


Broc Tickle (USA) KTM 450 SX-F Oakland (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

“I actually didn’t ride much Supercross or Arenacross before I turned pro so it was a big learning curve for me and I did it the hard way in the first few years. You see kids riding Supercross now with 80s [cc bikes]. Anyway, the main thing is timing, and not rushing it. On a 450 it is about carrying momentum and obviously the track is going to break down a lot for us during a Main Event, so bike setup and being clean with your jumps is important.”

“I feel like I have showed 80 % so far … and the first two races were my [personal] best to start a Supercross season. It has been great to work with this team.”

2. Being capable of making it happen
Thanks to informative systems like LitPro, Supercross audiences can now see the speeds and personal data of racers like heartrate. 450 SX Main Events might only last 20 minutes and 1 lap but it is not surprising to learn that athletes are running at almost ‘maximum’ in that time. At Anaheim 2 and round three of the 2018 campaign 250 SX rider Christian Craig was chartered at a staggering 200bpm while racing. As Tickle reveals, being in shape to complete a race is one thing but extra reserves are needed to push extra boundaries. Supreme fitness and condition is also essential for matters like injury prevention for those close-call ‘moments’.

“Supercross is more intense [than Motocross] and requires an extra focus to keep you at the point where you can push and not clip jumps, over-jump and make mistakes,” says the rider from North Carolina. “It all comes down to focus and if you lose that for a moment with the pace we are pushing now then it can lead to a ‘big one’.”

“Outdoors [Motocross] is about gritting-it-out whereas Supercross is about feeling and flow; it is twenty minutes plus a lap and I never really feel like I am too winded. When you don’t ride Supercross all summer and you go back to it then you’re like ‘whoah! What am I doing?!’ and you’re holding your breath in your whoops and rhythm sections: breathing is really important in Supercross and it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or you have been doing it for a while.”


Broc Tickle (USA) KTM 450 SX-F San Diego (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

Offroad motorcycling tends to push and wear most of the muscles groups in the body. The rigors of Supercross with the take-offs, landings, impacts and scrapes mean it is all-embracing and all-punishing. “I kinda enjoy that ‘wore down’ feeling to be honest; I use it as extra motivation to push through and I’ve learned that from training with Aldon [Baker] and the guys,” Broc says. “Every time we hit the track then it is about [giving] ‘everything you have’, that’s the goal. Put in the time and do it right. In the past, I’d still do my motos at the track but almost go through the motions and taper it off. Going down there to Florida [Bakers Factory] … it was tough a few times because I wasn’t flowing, not clearing jumps, the dirt is sandy and choppy. I had a lot of tough days down there but it has built me into what I am now and I always gave 100 %.”

“I was 9th in practice at Anaheim 2 and I was just 0.7 off the lead time: it is close racing and the start is everything. There are so many experienced guys in this group that you have to make something ‘happen’.”

3. Wanting to make it happen
“This is my eleventh year [of Supercross] so I should be fine with it by now but the first time after a summer of Motocross I am always nervous at the Supercross track. Then, after the first session, I’m like ‘it’s not that bad …’. During the season, race-to-race, you’ll see an obstacle and start to think about it … but that’s when you click into focus and know that you are not coming to an event to finish tenth. I think you almost have to overestimate what can be done on a track sometimes.”

Tickle makes an exaggerated positive gesture when we ask if the sport still makes him think twice or harbor occasional fear. Racers need to be able to have the personal tools to do the job and match those physical assets with the mental desire to engage in a sporting pursuit with a high level of risk. “There are certain scenarios where you watch a race and you think ‘they’re close!’ but when you are in the moment it doesn’t feel that way,” he assures. “Or if you have a ‘moment’ … it feels quite natural. Everything is very tight in Supercross right now. Almost every rider in the Main Event has a factory bike or a well-supported team and it is all very close. I think the tracks have been mellowed because the bikes are so good now that we could pretty much jump anything. I think they [the promoters] are trying to achieve a balance of good racing and being able to keep everybody around [injury-free]. Personally, I have always built up as the season goes on. The margin for issues is so small. You have to be in tune with yourself and what is going on around you.


Broc Tickle (USA) KTM 450 SX-F Houston (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

Supercross carries grand spoils and a profile unmatched in motorcycle offroad racing (the last three multiple champions Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey all retired in their mid-to-late twenties) however outside of the top elite, the risk-versus-reward aspect can be skewed. Those twenty hopefuls at the gate every Saturday night between January and May have made – and continue to make – big sacrifices to be under the stadium lights but it seems that most have a grounded realization of what the whole show is about.

“It is important to be able to sit back and see where you are because it can be frustrating at times,” Tickle says. “You are always putting in the work and you have to appreciate things. It is awesome we are able to come here and do this, to be honest with you.”

Photos: Simon Cudby


READY TO RACE MXGP: Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Motocross Team video release

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team is ready for MXGP 2018.


Tony Cairoli (ITA) KTM 450 SX-F 2018 © Ray Archer

With a few pre-season events to warm up under their belt, the orange squad is focusing on the countdown to the opening round of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Neuquen, Argentina. From the deep sand of Sardinia, to the wintry conditions of Hawkstone Park and with just a few more races to go, the testing is almost complete ready for the 19 Grands Prix events that lie ahead.

Take a look at this year’s team in the all-new video with the line-up of Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Glenn Coldenhoff, Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado.

Photo: Ray Archer
Video: DGProductions


Interview of the Month: The Ringmaster – Aldon Baker

When KTM secured the exclusive services of the most revered trainer in Supercross and Motocross KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer was moved to say: “Now the package is complete.” Aldon Baker is a name that evokes fear, desire, confidence and respect in AMA racing. We asked him about his ‘orange’ union, his work and the future of motocross training …


Aldon Baker (RSA) 2017 © Ray Archer

KTM North America’s HQ sits quietly and plush in a suburb of Murrieta, California. Almost 3000 miles across the country and in the depths of Florida a more furious type of work – essential to the Red Bull racing wing of that operation – is taking place. Aldon Baker’s ‘Bakers Factory’ complex has been the sole domain of KTM AG athletes for over a year. The South African, who indirectly exerted his influence over the sport due to prolific alliances with Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey (as well as working with racers such as former MotoGPTM world champion, the late Nicky Hayden), is now marshalling names like Marvin Musquin, Broc Tickle, Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne. A ‘Baker-crafted’ talent has won every 450 SX championship since 2010.

“From 2010 we worked hard: we built a new workshop, we got Roger [De Coster], we created a completely new bike and we got better riders,” recounts KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer of the origins of Baker becoming orange. “We were missing the trainer … and if we missed a championship then it was probably because Aldon was working with somebody else! But we also won championships with him on our side.”

“It was a target that at one time seemed unreachable when we first had it on the agenda but at the beginning of this year we got more and more riders to him and in the end we could finally close a deal in January that there would be nobody else in his camp apart from KTM and Husqvarna riders,” he adds. “It means we cannot create a better base for a rider. If you come to us you get a good bike, team and the best trainer. We can offer a package that is really important. It took seven years for me to get all these people together to run such an operation and I think it is something that can make us strong in the future.”


Aldon Baker (RSA) 2017 © Ray Archer

Baker’s knowledge and work ethic and the subsequent results with his athletes have made him the most sought-after specialist away from a toolbox. Osborne has publicly commented on the ‘power of association’ of working with Aldon both in terms of the mental boost for the rider and the sense of foreboding for rivals on the track. Entering the Baker program however required unwavering levels of commitment.

“For sure I was scared!” half-jokes Musquin. “I did not know what to expect. In the beginning it was Roger De Coster’s idea. He said ‘I’d like you to meet Aldon and consider working with him and making a step mentally and physically in your program’. To be honest I was really curious about how it would be and I knew I’d need to move to Florida. I knew it would be a big change. Today I have no regrets. It helped me straight off in the first year. I had more confidence and I won a Supercross championship right away. It was fun to move to a new state and see new things and new tracks and riding with other riders: training all together was a big benefit.”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) & Aldon Baker (RSA) 2017 © Ray Archer

If Baker initially made inroads through the conditioning and fortitude of his ‘clients’ then he recently made another through the ‘factory’s’ policy of encouraging and asking top-level athletes and fellow competitors to train together. “It was like ‘racing’ at the practice track,” reveals Musquin, “and that’s what we do with Anderson, Osborne and Tickle now … it is a good structure.”

“This whole sport has evolved, jeez, when I first started there were no trainers and I gained some ground and saw what worked,” says Baker, sipping on a bottle of water in the heat of the Las Vegas paddock for the 2017 Monster Energy Cup. “Back in the day I would never have put two good riders together. That was not the mentality. I think to get the level up you would have had to do that but who would have been willing then? It was a challenge, and now it is kinda the norm where good riders are working together.”

“I think it is good for the sport to create that level. The improvements in bikes and machinery [are so great] that we now need to improve the athlete to keep up and that’s one of the ways to do it.”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Anaheim (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

The factory, located in Sumter County, is Baker’s biggest move towards a future plan of working with other trainers as much as the riders themselves. “My goal is to get out of being a ‘one-man show’ and to develop a business. And part of that is having the full-circle and being able to bring in new guys and develop them. Having a team will create longevity,” he says. Stamping the complex with KTM AG insignia was another part of that process. “It has probably been the biggest turning point for me in regards to what I do in the industry,” he opines. “The deal came into the forefront when I was developing the facility because it is a massive undertaking and to have them backing that and wanting to be part of that is huge.”

“I remember thinking ‘I just need one Supercross track and an outdoors track …’ and now we are up to three Supercross and two outdoor tracks! It depends how big the land is but right now it’s to the limit of what I envisaged. It could never happen in California due to the [cost/availability of] land but if you look at it then most of our races are towards the east coast, so it makes sense to be in Florida. We have the workshops and the tracks but at some point I’d like to have the machine shop and suspension bay and the full deal. I think as the relationship grows KTM will see how important it is developing the riders … I believe they are a company that is ‘all-in’ when it comes to that side of the sport.”

Aldon is talkative. He has his views on Ryan Dungey (“I felt he could have done more years for sure. But I also know that when an athlete is going to question things then this is not good. If he had not been as successful as he was then he wouldn’t have quit. Ryan also wanted to have a family and he knew that would be hard to do in his situation. I think all of those put together meant that he made a good call.”) as well as on Jeffrey Herlings who he met briefly before the Dutchman won the last AMA Pro National of 2017 and the US GP in Florida (“man, he is committed and does a lot more than anyone else wants to do. He has the right attitude and it worked out well.”). He chats handling multiple race winners (“I think you eventually get a feeling for the right feedback at the right time and you have to be upfront with all the athletes. I think you need to have that respect factor, and that they trust you. From them there is always that worry of ‘are you helping him more than me’ and the answer is ‘no, I’m trying to help you all attain the best’. It is a balance and sometimes it is not an easy job.”) and his possible future influence in Europe (“I am getting to the stage now where I need to start training other trainers and that does include Europe and of course KTM and Husqvarna are open to that. There is a big umbrella. We need to work on some logistics but I do see it happening in the future.”).


Aldon Baker (RSA) & Ryan Dungey (USA) Las Vegas (USA) 2017 © Simon Cudby

But we also want to chip away at some of that expertise when it comes to all that work in the gym and track. Are there still areas and fields for him to master? “If it was just about the training, so the cardio and the exercises then, heck, I have good enough ratios and information about the physiology of what the body is doing [not to worry] … but [the next stage] it is the mental side, the character of the athlete and the evolution of the sport,” he advocates. “What I did with Ricky back in the day would not work now. I’ve had to change things and try to learn. I have a lot more data to use and just watching motorcycling then you learn. A lot of it is on the track still: to make them sharp and fast and get them up to a level. The training is part of that … but it is a combination of everything and if you don’t have the circumstances to push that – which means the facility and a good team to provide the machinery and technical backing to be able to push all the time – then it is not easy.”

Baker certainly remains open to the latest technology and methods to diversify his feedback and to explore new waters. Where next?

“I think it is psychology,” he offers. “Something like nutrition has evolved and we know a lot more than we used to. The cool thing is that we now have a lot more tools to use, like these GPS systems to find better lines and see where speed can be won. Before it was just a stopwatch and looking at the track but technology has moved and it has been a big step forward, especially if you are watching four guys. It helps a lot.”

With almost two decades invested into Motocross Baker has developed a passion for what he does and the sport itself. He clearly has a path and objectives set for his professional life and development but what moves a man with so much success and such a potent reputation to keep on striving. “I think everyone at this level has talent and ability but helping them to really reach their goals is the fulfilment for me,” he defines. “If a guy retires under his terms and has done enough and won enough and reached his goals then that’s a real achievement.”

Aldon Baker (RSA), Mathilde & Marvin Musquin (FRA) & Frank Latham (USA) 2017 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer | Simon Cudby


His last road to Dakar #4: “I’m glad to have been a part of this Rally Dakar”

We followed Jurgen van den Goorbergh in his run up to his final Rally Dakar entry; his final attempt at winning the Malle Moto class. Obviously we’re very curious as to how the Dutchman got on in 2018’s rally. The former MotoGPTM rider spills his guts on the hardship of the most grueling rally raid in the world.


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

First of all, congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line, coming 41st. You have to be proud, right?
“It turned out to be a good end to my Dakar career. Well, the last try on a motorcycle anyway. Who knows, I might go back one day, just not on two wheels; no way. I’m glad to have been a part of this Rally Dakar, though. It was a tough one, but a good one as well. It kind of makes me proud, knowing I made it to the end on a bike I’ve built. That makes it that bit more special, even though I didn’t quite finish too high up on the leader boards because of it. I had to be careful, because above all I wanted to finish. Breaking down was not really an option. That did mean I didn’t quite come out as well as I had originally intended. I blocked that out very quickly. I came here to fight for the Malle Moto class title, but just six days in I realized that was a bridge too far. After that, I didn’t really care anymore where I’d finish. It turned out to be 41st in the end, which I’m content with. For me personally, I felt I rode a good rally, not making too many mistakes; keeping the bike in one piece. And in the end my KTM didn’t miss a beat. In hindsight I know I could’ve been faster, but I really wanted to get the bike to the finish line at all costs. That I did, so!”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

The bike made it out unscathed, but we can’t really say that about you physically, can we?
“Yeah, for me Dakar is far from over. The aftershocks are coming through in waves, because I’m suffering from a nasty neck injury still. On stage 11 I had a spill taking on a fast dune. At the bottom it flattened out quickly and I had a knoll of camel grass. You come across thousands of those in the desert and normally they’re quite soft. This one wasn’t. As my rear wheel hit it, I went off. I’ve got a nice mark from my front wheel across my helmet, so I guess I should be lucky it didn’t hit me square in the face. I wasn’t even going too fast when it happened, but it was still quite a hard hit. It immediately took me back to my entry last year, when a relatively small crash caused me to withdraw from the race. I got up right away and felt my neck had taken the brunt of it. Plus I was quite dizzy, too. And I had landed on my back as well, something I found out as the contents of my camel back was dripping down my pants. I had only done around fifty kilometers of the stage, so now I was going to have to finish the stage without water. I managed to bargain a bottle of water off a couple of locals, but that meant I had to stop every time I needed to rehydrate. Every single chance I got to get myself a drink, I took. Stopping at the roadside wasn’t my concern at this point; I was more worried about possible broken bones. After I did my own physical check-up, it turned out all was well on that front. Think about it, having to withdraw with only a few days left because you took a slight tumble and broke your collarbone. Anyway, I had hoped my neck would start to get a bit less sore as the days went by. Unfortunately, that really wasn’t the case. It only got worse in fact, so I stocked up on quite a bit of painkillers and got on with it. On the second to last day I woke up and could barely lift my head up. That is not good, I thought. That rally shouldn’t have lasted for much longer, because I don’t think I would have been able to keep going for much longer.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

You’ve been home for a week now. How’s the pain in the neck going?
“Not too good, unfortunately, and I don’t even know what’s exactly going on in there. I’ve had appointments at a chiropractor and had X-rays made as well. No fractures, luckily, but no clear image of what’s exactly wrong with my neck at this point. I’ve got an MRI planned for tomorrow, so by then I hope to know more. Looks like a pinched nerve, because I’ve got a tingling sensation in my forearm. All I know now is, things are not as they should be. It’s driving me crazy to be fair, certainly because it was the smallest of spills.”

Back to the rally. All contestants agreed this was a big one. Would you say it was tough?
“Definitely. I’ve faced hardship before, like when I first rode the Malle Moto class, but this was one technical rally. In Malle Moto you get it doubly bad, because it’s all up to you. That alone takes thirty to forty percent of your energy during the rally. I reckon this year’s winner, Olivier Pain, would certainly concur. He used to be a works rider, so top ten finishes are a regularity. This time around he had to give it his all just to make it within spitting distance of the top 25 that says a lot to me. I spoke to him a couple of times during the rally, and he told me he really enjoyed experiencing the rally this way. His eyes, however, told a different story; this to him was a one-off. You won’t be seeing him back in Malle Moto, no way! It’s a different game altogether Malle Moto, and completely different from what he’s used to. Top tier riders start every day fresh, only suffering from the rally stages themselves. As a Malle Moto rider you come out of a stage, only to have to piece your bike back together until around midnight. And then you have to get back up at four in the morning. That takes a toll, especially when you’re expected to give it your all again the next day. Malle Moto really just wrecks you.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

Which stages or areas will stay with you the most; what made the biggest impression?
“I took on the challenge one more time because the organizers had taken Peru back into the rally. That country has the most beautiful dunes, as the organizers promised us. It all came together. It was daunting, but beautiful. That shows the effect a man like Marc Coma (Director of Sport at organizer ASO) has on the rally. Last year he showed it here and there, but now he really put things back on the map. As a former entrant and winner, he knows how to make the rally as grueling as it should be. Every single time you think things couldn’t get harder, they take it one step beyond. Take the second to last stage for instance. You can all but see the finish line, only to face off on the longest day of the lot. Marc Coma kicks you out of bed and on the bike at 5.30 am, onto a stage that won’t see you back in the bivouac until nine in the afternoon, just before sunset. Just ride from sunrise until sunset. I can tell you, that made me long for the finish even more.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

In 2016 you took home the Malle Moto title and this year you had high hopes to reclaim it, only to finish fourth in the end. That has to bum you out, doesn’t it?
“I was sort of expecting to be at least on the podium, yes. Not sure if it all just came down to Olivier Pain being so fast, but in the end that’s not what it’s all about in the Rally Dakar. By the third stage I had to help out my friend Kees Koolen, because his quad bike had broken its chain. I couldn’t just leave Kees by the side of the road, so that cost me half an hour to about 45 minutes. Over an entire Rally Dakar, that’s something you could clean up on, but in the end I didn’t manage to do so. I started to fall behind, and trying to up ground only saw me make more mistakes. Missing a waypoint for instance or having to help yet another fellow rider. In the 2016 rally I had locked in to an upward spiral that was definitely not the case this time around. I had this sort of neutral like feeling about me.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

You rode a self-made bike, based off a KTM 450 EXC-F. How did people respond to that?
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed, I can tell you that. More than once others sought me out in the bivouac to come and see it. It’s a quite different from the regular rally replica bikes; mine’s built quite a bit lighter. Technically I’ve had no problems, so I’m content about that. The bike stood tall, even though I might’ve been able to go faster on it. I tried to keep my cool, but the bike would not have minded bit more push and shove. I did miss a bit more speed and stability here and there, though my bike was better when it came to handling. Truth be told, I could’ve done a better job on a KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA. My bike is perfect for amateurs who struggle making it into the top fifty. When you lack skill a bit, a lighter bike that handles well really helps. Especially in tough editions like this one. I’m not yet sure about how I’m going forward with the project. I guess I might build a few more but nothing’s set in stone yet.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

You take on a daunting ride through the depths of hell for two weeks, as Malle Moto riders even more so, that has to form an unbreakable bond of friendship among rider, doesn’t it?
“You make some amazing memories along the way. Not just literally on route, but when you get off the bike the adventure doesn’t stop. One such special moment was when I spent the night with the other two Dutch Malle Moto riders, Hans-Jos Liefhebber and Edwin Straver. In the bivouac at Tupiza we were told stage 9 was canceled, and we were required to ride on through to Salta in Argentina. Just another 500 kilometers to do after a pretty hefty ride on stage that day. We did get underway, but just after crossing the border from Bolivia into Argentina we decided to grab a hotel somewhere. Three guys in one room; it was actually – as we say in Dutch – gezellig. It was fun. After a hot shower we went and found ourselves a pizza place. Unfortunately we didn’t have any clean clothes on us, so there’s the three of us in some random pizzeria in stinking MX-gear; brilliant stuff! I felt just like some tourist. Those are the little extra’s you get from the Dakar. Same goes for meeting Juan Agustin Rojo, a young Argentinian rider who was riding the Malle Moto class for the first time. It’s a very skinny kid who had to really push himself to make it to the end of the race, but in the end he did just that. I spoke to him every night, trying to keep his spirits up and to advise him wherever he might need it. It really showed character how he got on; you can say it was a heroic effort on his part. I really felt like a father figure; like a father and a son taking on the Dakar together. Those are moments that stick by you. They’re a part of what makes the Rally Dakar special. You’ll never ever forget those memories.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) Dakar 2018 © Shakedown Team

Photos: Shakedown Team


#inthisyear2008: Clear cut – 10 years of the KTM 1190 RC8

During the past season, the KTM RC16 – the MotoGPTM bike from KTM – has been causing something of a furor amongst the established brands. Almost straight out of the gate it was helping riders to score world championship points and land top 10 spots. And exactly 10 years ago the KTM 1190 RC8, one of KTM’s first superbikes, went into production, causing quite a stir before it even went on sale.


KTM 1190 RC8 2008 © KTM

“KTM goes street” – this slogan is a good description of the recent years in KTM’s history. In 2003, KTM made their entry into Grand Prix sport with a 2-stroke 125cc machine. The same year, the “990 RC8” was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. This concept bike demonstrated KTM’s vision of creating the ultimate machine for ambitious street riders. KTM’s desire to position itself in future as a manufacturer of large-capacity street bikes was clear to all. The state-of-the-art LC8 V2 engine would provide the basis for these street bikes.

Back then, many people struggled to believe it was even possible, and yet it became a reality. The vision of 2003 went into production five years later. In November 2007, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer marked the beginning of a new chapter in KTM’s history at the leading international motorcycle trade fair, the EICMA in Milan, when he unveiled the KTM 1190 RC8 production model. “The KTM 1190 RC8 perfectly embodies the accumulated know-how and the sporting passion of our development team. It also shows that KTM is capable of implementing our chosen product strategy and successfully carrying forward the clear philosophy of our brand in the road segment too,” commented Stefan Pierer at the unveiling of the KTM 1190 RC8 at the Milanese trade show.

At the heart of the KTM 1190 RC8 lay an entirely new development: a super sporty 2-cylinder engine based on the proven LC8 range. Back then, the engine generated a peak output of 155 hp and a maximum torque of 120 Nm, allowing it to deliver a superior level of performance. A steel tubular trellis frame, the highest quality suspension and brake components, as well as extraordinary technical solutions, such as positioning the exhaust system under the vehicle, made the KTM 1190 RC8, which weighed under 200 kg even with a full tank, a superbike in the truest sense of the word.


KTM 1190 RC8 2008 © KTM

KTM also forged its own path when it came to the appearance of the new model. The concept, created by head designer Gerald Kiska, pursued the idea of simply and visually integrating high quality technology into the overall form. The KTM 1190 RC8 is a true KTM with racing in its genes; that much is plain to see. What’s more, the tests conducted by the trade press turned out to be a particularly interesting read. KTM’s foray into high capacity 2-cylinder machines with the first “Made in Austria” superbike had quite clearly been a great success. A sportier, lighter, and more powerful version soon followed in the shape of the KTM 1190 RC8 R. The KTM 1190 RC8 R was an excellent basis for use in different race series.

If you wanted to get out onto the race track, KTM PowerParts was the place for you – here you could find all kinds of accessories, from tire warmers and brake components to clothing made from carbon, covering all the potential needs of sports and racing riders. And for those looking to increase the performance of their bike on the track, there was no longer any need to go to a tuner – three different KTM performance kits were available straight from the dealers.

The KTM 1190 RC8 R Club Race Kit, which could be fitted by any dealer in just a few hours, increased the performance by 10 to 180 hp. The Super Stock Kit increased the performance even more, while the Superbike Kit allowed riders to compete in national superbike championships with a good chance of success. The factory racers prepared by Stefan Nebel and Martin Bauer to near-series IDM regulations even managed to produce 190 hp, weighed just 181 kg with a full tank, and achieved a top speed of nearly 300 km/h!


KTM 1190 RC8 R 2011 © KTM

But even without tuning, the KTM 1190 RC8 R offered impressive performance: a 287-km/h top speed, acceleration from 0 to100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, and from 0 to 200 km/h in just 8.2 seconds. The KTM 1190 RC8 R even left the top dogs from Bologna in the dust. It was not unreasonable to question whether a 200-hp superbike with the road performance of the KTM 1190 RC8 really belonged on the public roads, which is why there was no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8. Nevertheless, the KTM 1190 RC8 still fascinates people ten years later. The ultra-sharp Kiska design, the handlebars, footpegs, levers, and even the rear part and the chassis are all adjustable. The frame and swingarm are tiny works of art and even the weld seams are a feast for the eyes.

It leaves you with fond memories of a great bike. Extraordinary, trend-setting and above all: extremely fast.


KTM 1190 RC8 2008 © KTM

Photos: KTM


Interview of the Month: “It feels unreal” – Matthias Walkner, Dakar 2018 Champion

It’s like a fairy-tale. In 2017, Matthias Walkner finished runner-up at the Rally Dakar. A year later, after working hard on both his fitness and navigation, he returned to the Dakar on the new KTM 450 RALLY machine he’d helped to develop. After two weeks of riding in one of the toughest Dakars ever, Matthias clinched victory – an Austrian rider on-board an Austrian machine, with an Austrian title sponsor!

The KTM BLOG caught up with the 31-year-old on his return to Salzburg to speak to him about how it feels to clinch his first Dakar win.


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

First of all, 2018 Dakar Champion – how does that sound?
“Unreal – absolutely unbelievable. I thought at the start of the rally maybe I could get top-three. Even at the halfway point I was aiming for the same target. As the second week went on I started to believe that I could claim the victory and to be honest it was slightly scary. Things went perfectly though, call it skill, call it luck. But now I’m back home and the celebrations and media attention are still going on, I still find it hard to believe. I feel very lucky and very honored.”

You are the first Austrian to win the Dakar since Peter Reif won the truck class in 1997. The first Austrian to ever win the bike class. And to make it even sweeter, you’ve won on an Austrian built motorcycle with an Austrian title sponsor. What exactly does that mean to you?
“It’s amazing. The reception I have had ever since returning home is unbelievable. I have been so busy, but it has felt great and the reception from the fans is incredible. I was in Schladming last week and there were over 50,000 fans there and when they are all shouting your name, the emotions are overwhelming. I’ve never felt anything like it. I was sat at the table there with Peter Schröcksnadel, president of the Austrian Ski Federation, and members of the Austrian Government. It was surreal, but an amazing experience and we had some good laughs, too. One of the feelings you get is that when the fans congratulate you, they really mean it. Motorcycle racing fans are the best in the world, they understand what you have been through and what it means to win a race like the Dakar. When they say well done, you know they are sincere.”

Matthias Walkner (AUT) Mattighofen (AUT) 2018 © Heiko Mandl

What do you think it means to KTM to have their local boy win the biggest race on the calendar?
“I have been with KTM for many years now, as a racer, as a test rider. The family feeling you get within the company is huge. We have all known each other for a long time and we have worked very hard for years to help make this happen. To be able to justify and reward all that hard work with a win means a lot.”

We all know the Dakar is tough and the first objective is to finish. The first week was tough, how easily did you take things during the first week, in the sand of Peru?
“The first week was so hard, you have no idea. I wasn’t feeling my best at the beginning of the event and so I was struggling a little with my physical condition on that first week in Peru. There were times when I even doubted if I would be able to finish the event I was feeling so tired. After the rest day I was able to regain some energy and that helped a lot. In those tough conditions I generally try to ride at about 98 %, conserve a little speed and a little energy but most of all don’t make any big mistakes. I think this is what helped me to the win.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

At the half way point, what were your thoughts?
“I still hoped for a top-three, but I didn’t even consider the win. The times at the top were so close, everyone was pushing and at the halfway point there were still five or six riders who could have taken the victory. In the history of the Dakar there has always been one stage that has had a massive effect on the results; that point came on stage 10. I don’t know if I was luckier than the others or just riding smarter, but I came out of that stage without making the same mistakes as a lot of the others and it gave me a big advantage.”

That win on stage 10 gave you a comfortable gap over your competitors, a lot of top riders went awry on that day. How do you achieve the balance between ultimate speed and careful navigation?
“It helped this year that I was riding the whole rally pretty much alone. It wasn’t often that I was in a group or travelling alongside another rider. It meant that I was able to stick to my own speed and trust my own navigation. Although you can put in a really fast pace when following others, the scope for making mistakes becomes far greater. From blindly following the guy in front and relying on him, to just riding in the dust that a group of riders kicks up, it makes it so much easier to make mistakes. On that stage, about 10 km from where those guys got lost, there was a neutralization and I said to the team I didn’t understand how they could keep up that pace without making a mistake. As it happened it was only a few notes later that they went badly wrong. The pace at the top is so high, everyone has to push that little bit harder to stay competitive.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

Were there any issues with the navigation, I know some world championship events in 2017 were criticized for inaccurate roadbooks?
“I think it’s on the limit in terms of the information we get. I understand they have to make things as tough as possible without impacting safety, but I would prefer for just a few more detailed notes on the roadbook. Having said that this year it worked out well for me, but it is a lot of work when we have to cut and add our own extra notes to the roadbook. It’s something that we, as riders, will have to look at with the organizers in the future.”

The race was yours to lose after stage 10. Stage 11 was cancelled, which must have been a relief, but mentally what was it like during the last few days knowing that the victory was yours providing you didn’t make any mistakes?
“Those last few days were really hard mentally – I knew I had so much to lose. It was like riding with a gun to your head, you try not to think about it but it’s impossible and most of the time you can’t help but think about what is going to happen. All I could do was try to stay focused and not do anything crazy, but at the same time not go too slow because if I lost too much time and then had even just a small problem, I could have lost that victory. It was nice not to have to push so hard in those final stages. They were very fast with lots of stones and to make a mistake whilst pushing would have been easy. Even if I knocked it down to say, 96 % those couple of percent on a five-hour day still translates as a few minutes, so you can see why you can’t back off too much.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) Dakar 2018 ©

On the final day, during those last few kilometers before the finish, what was going through your mind?
“There were so many things going through my mind, but most of all it was like a dream coming true. Of course, you still worry about every little thing – the bike, your pace, and not to make any silly mistakes. That final stage was really fast and the fans were great but it was still easy to have a crash, even after backing off a little bit.”

Quite a few seeded riders retired due to crashes this year. The rally seems to have been as tough as the organizers promised. With the rally so competitive now do you think riders have to take more risks to get ahead?
“The problem is, racing in off-piste rivers and canyons is so dangerous because you never know what is coming next. Often dangers are not marked so clearly on the roadbook because you can be 100 meters to each side and end up riding completely different terrain. To have so many off-piste sections and sand dunes in an already tough race like this can be very dangerous as you simply don’t know how hard to push. I think that’s evident this year from the amount of injuries sustained, too. Van Beveren’s crash was a great example. The river where he crashed looked flat and you could ride it fast, maybe 120 or 130 km/h. There were so many hidden rocks there though, he was unlucky and hit one really hard. It could have happened to anyone – a couple of meters either side and he would have possibly won the stage.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

40th edition – certainly one you’ll never forget. All things considered, from your perspective do you think it was a ‘special’ Dakar?
“It was definitely special for me. I think the event is going in a good direction, but for me this year was the limit in terms of navigation and the terrain used. Some days this year were more like an enduro than a rally – I prefer the fast, open sections to the tight technical sections or camel grass. I think about 50 % of the riders finished the race and if that is the goal, then they have done a good job, I just think they need to make it tough without losing that wide-open Dakar feel.”

KTM not only rolled out an all-new bike for Dakar 2018, but it proved to be very reliable. How good was the new KTM 450 RALLY?
“It’s worked really well, but as you said the biggest success has been the reliability and its performance over two full weeks at the Dakar. It gives you a lot of confidence and it feels a lot safer. I did have two serious crashes during the rally. Luckily, I was ok, but the bike handled it especially well too, with no major issues and always stayed reliable to the end of every stage.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

From temperatures below freezing at hs of over 4500 m in Bolivia to 40 degrees heat in the sand dunes of Argentina – how do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the extreme conditions?
“For the heat there is not much you can do, it’s important to stay hydrated and as long as you are fit, that’s about as much as you can do to prepare. For the cold we have a lot of good equipment these days – heated gloves and underwear and a really good rain jacket, these things help a lot. For the altitude I try to train for a couple of weeks running up to the Dakar here in Austria and I believe it helps a lot.”

This is KTM’s 17th consecutive victory at the Dakar, results only made possible thanks to a true team effort. How important is ‘team spirit’ within the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing setup, and why is it such an important part of KTM’s success?
“The team spirit is really important. Every member of the team has his part to play and right from the moment when you ride into the paddock at the end of the stage everyone knows what they need to do. KTM and the motorsport division work so well together, it’s easy to forget that KTM are not as big as some of the other manufacturers. The key is that family feeling at KTM, the close-nit community that all share the same passion for racing and in this case, the Dakar. It’s easy to throw money at a project, but without a good team backing up the investment, that money is wasted.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) & Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Dakar 2018 ©

After such a crazy few weeks, you are now back home in Austria. What are you looking forward to doing now?
“I plan to stay at home here in Austria for a little while and enjoy the winter time. Go car driving and do a little bit of drifting. I think it’s really important to set aside some time to spend with friends and family – it helps me to relax and gives me new energy for the coming year.”

Photos: | Heiko Mandl
Video: ASO


2018 MotoGP™ season starts right now

Posted in Bikes, Racing

Less than two months before the opening Grand Prix in Qatar on March 18, the MotoGPTM teams conduct the first official IRTA test of the 2018 season.


Bradley Smith (GBR) KTM RC16 Jerez (ESP) 2017 © Gold and Goose

Now on the cusp of their second season in MotoGPTM, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team will strive after equally astonishing performances as in 2017. Before the new season starts off with the first IRTA test on January 28 at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang we look back at KTM´s first season in MotoGPTM

Photo: Gold and Goose
Video: KTM


Finding the Flow: Discovering more about aerodynamics

It is something of a mysterious art. By nature motorcycles and riders are not the most aerodynamic of vehicles on the road so what do KTM do to maximize this area of their R&D and how does it fit in with the design of the orange bikes? We delved into the quiet and complex depths of engineering at Mattighofen to ask …

Think of aerodynamics and motorcycles. Most people would conjure an image of a wind tunnel and a tucked-in rider on a sports bike. Some might revert to MotoGPTM and the weird and wonderful experiments with winglets through the last five years. A few more might remember well the ‘dustbin’ fairings of the 1950s (significant for straight line speed and gains but a nightmare for cornering and lateral forces). ‘Aerodynamics’ sounds flash and intriguing but inside KTM, and probably most other manufacturers, the quest for efficiency revolves principally around comfort and performance. “It is a lot of testing … and it is different to what you expect of aerodynamic work and maybe what the customer thinks,” reveals Nico Rothe, Head of Project Support Street. “Maybe you only think of performance or a wind tunnel. You don’t think of the pressure on the chest or the head of the motorcyclist and many other things.”

Rothe heads a small and special team in Austria with decades of experience, even touching MotoGPTM with project and concept chassis and development research from the company’s first dabble with the premier class of Grand Prix at the beginning of the century.

“80% of what we do [now] is comfort development and what the rider feels on the bike. Our goal is to make it comfortable and safe,” he says. “The truth is that most of our testing is done on the test track. For standard road development we do 300-400 tests of several versions of the bike to get comfort where it should be. It starts off as being quite rough in order to get the proportions of the fairing and then we go into very small details when it comes to sound and aero-acoustic noise reduction. Noise reduction is 50% of our work. It is noise – not sound – and to get it in a direction where it is not too annoying.”

Thinking about design
Rudimentary knowledge of KTM’s portfolio means a slew of Naked Bikes, ADVENTURE machinery and, of course, offroad models. Then from small cylinder sports motorcycles to electric bikes and race replicas; the collection is wide and diverse and the design and aerodynamic implications follow suit. How do Rothe and his guys fit in?

“Talking about aerodynamics and design is like the saying ‘what comes first? The chicken or the egg?’ But we let the designers start because we could not give them a perfect aerodynamic shape and say ‘now make a design from that’ … which is actually how MotoGPTM works! The race guys have their aerodynamic concept and the fairing is very, very functional and then the designer comes in and is allowed to change it a bit to make it look like a KTM. Our job as aerodynamic specialists when it comes to Street bikes is to make the initial Kiska design work … without changing it.”

“A lot of ideas come from the designer and they often think a bit differently than a technician. There are some aesthetic rules about how surfaces should be but you can play a lot with the angle, with the depth, with certain steps. We can give a concept of airflow and they will be able to interpret that and make it look good. Something like MotoGPTM, which is performance aerodynamics, changes very frequently and even on Street models – which is comfort aerodynamics – there can be many variations year-on-year. Calculating figures for Street bike comfort is much different to working out drag values in MotoGPTM; it is a different world of development.”


KTM 790 DUKE concept © KISKA

Tools and talent
Rothe goes into more detail with the practicalities of the job. In addition to the complexities of wind tunnel work that involves high cost due to the knowledge of the specialists required just as much as the hardware and software itself. “We have a modified test bench where we can do the airflow for cooling and a lot of time and work is spent there”. The actual day-to-day labor of aerodynamic R&D means getting very hands-on.

“If we are talking about comfort aerodynamics then it is about feeling. It is hard to put feeling into figures but I’m sure in ten years we’ll have even more possibilities to measure that. In the wind tunnel you can put the helmet and body in certain positions to measure forces and dynamic forces to get different levels but that will never replace an actual rider’s feeling and feedback. Racing in MotoGPTM is an example: data recording will give you a lot but so does the feeling of the rider and it is difficult to get that from any kind of data. Comfort aerodynamics is the same.”

“You can play with clay to improve small areas,” Rothe goes on. “Usually we work with high-end 3D printed prototype parts but sometimes our working tools are a glue gun, tape and a grinder. Sometimes we are like model makers!”


What about specifics? And how is the aerodynamic specialist implicated into the production ‘journey’ of a bike? “The windshield is the most important part for noise and sound development; it is like fine-tuning a carburetor. You cannot say the aerodynamics are frozen with the first prototypes. Something like the frame will be changing all the time. We are also one of the last ones to sign off: we are there right from the beginning until the very end. Of course we have some milestones in a project where we have to say ‘this is ready’ so other people can do their work but the small stuff goes on.”

“In the beginning of development you should freeze a proportion of the bike quite early; if you start to mold the fuel tank a lot then it pushes the air up and can make things very difficult. We have certain steps and overall we start with wind protection and the size of the parts has to be defined at an early stage. If that doesn’t work and sometimes the parts don’t sync together then you find that out the hard way with many tests to understand what is going on. The general airflow to the body has to work, and then you start with details like spoilers and lips to optimize the sound and head turbulence.”

“In the product definition there is a certain level of requested aerodynamic comfort and sometimes there are h restrictions for homologation or even for size for packaging and transportation. And to allow a production bike to fit every customer is not so easy,” he adds, “but each rider can influence the aerodynamics on the bike with standard adjustments such as footpegs and handlebars, and on premium bikes we have adjustable windscreens and seats, as well as all the KTM PowerParts elements.”

© Marco Campelli/KTM© Marco Campelli/KTM

© Marco Campelli/KTM

Where, when and how
It’s clear that the field of work and research is sizeable. Take Motocross and Enduro: the aerodynamics is mainly focused on cooling. “For the rider there is little influence,” Rothe reveals. “The difference in design for good cooling and bad cooling can be hard to see; they are little steps, little guides to guide the air inside and then suck it out. On rally bikes the aerodynamics extend to comfort and drag reduction also. Rally bikes are very challenging in this aspect.”

The use and evolution of materials meanwhile is another sphere. “Stiffness is a big point and bracket stiffening is a frequent job for aerodynamic load – this is also a problem with simulation because you cannot count the flexibility of the parts. It will be interesting in the future to play around with surfaces and ‘roughness’ like having ‘golf ball effects’ for turbulence. But it needs a lot of testing and research. We have started to work with little holes to destroy certain effects and it will look very interesting I’m sure. Especially on offroad bikes.”

When it comes to certain projects then the employment of the latest technology is nigh on essential. “It really depends on the bike: if KTM went to Superbike or made a MotoGPTM replica we would have to do performance development. We couldn’t work without CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics] and a wind tunnel because up until Prototype 2 then we wouldn’t even have an engine or rolling chassis for our work.”

“If I am sitting on a bike and I can feel the result on my body then I can check it with CFD simulation to see where it comes from, that is the advantage. CFD allows you to be very analytical and you can see lines of the particles and where they are coming from. In ten years I think aerodynamic development will look very different and we’ll have many tools and procedures to understand and become faster. The tools are actually already there … but to give the feedback and even create one loop for CFD takes ages. Sometimes it is quicker to build a measuring system on the bike and to go riding … but for that you also need a rolling chassis and working bike!”

‘Sensitivity’ seems to be a keyword with Rothe and his team. The same philosophy applies to their current efforts and what might occur in the future but we manage to extrapolate some opinions on what aerodynamics in KTM could be like in years to come. “We think a bike can be minimized further and there are other elements to consider like clothing and helmets for noise and wind. We think aerodynamic comfort will only increase because there is more knowhow available. Sound levels will drop further and there is even a chance we could have input in helmet design. Maybe we go for more adjustability so the rider himself can affect cooling, and more customization like clip-on windshields. I think electric bikes will be interesting and they have different targets; cooling is completely different.”

Intricate, unforgiving and hard to predict: the subject of ‘aerodynamics and bikes’ seems almost like the air that presents such a difficult and engrossing challenge for KTM’s technicians. With the last word Rothe insists it is a slow but scientific path of discovery. “We have a new model almost every year so it is tricky to get a big frame of reference. Many of our Street bikes have been Naked Bikes and we have a base with this type of motorcycle. With the ADVENTURE models and the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT we are building a bank of knowledge and can provide more information to the designer to say ‘please keep this element’ when they are dealing with limited surfaces. It will grow and grow.”

Photos: KISKA | KTM | Marco Campelli/KTM
Video: KTM


Motorcycle Stability Control: Feeling MSC at work

Posted in Bikes, Riding

High performance motorcycles on the road have never been safer thanks to systems like KTM & Bosch’s motorcycle stability control (MSC). Nicholas Goddard tries to find the limits of the new frontier of ABS and traction control.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Since the invention of motorcycles, riders have pushed them to their limits and engineers have gradually improved the various parts of the bike in order for the former to keep happening. It’s all about finding a new mark to continually over-step …

At first, the engines were the limiting factor. Until the Brough Superior was released in 1925, the most powerful production motorcycles had all produced less than 30 bhp. Overnight, the Brough brought an incredible 50% more performance. As engines improved, stronger brakes were necessary, then better tires, and then more sophisticated suspension. When the engines again got stronger, this cycle started over. Then, with the advent of motorcycle ABS in 1998, computers came to help out with the dynamics, not just behind the scenes with engine management systems.

Since 2014, the top-performing motorcycles have also had inertial measurement units (IMU) which allowed the development and implementation of cornering ABS. This game-changing system for two-wheel safety made its debut with the KTM 1190 ADVENTURE and KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R, developed in conjunction with Bosch and is called motorcycle stability control, or MSC.

In contrast to monstrous brakes or a stonking engine – both very obvious on the first twist of the throttle or firm squeeze of a brake lever – the IMU’s endless behind-the-scenes measurement remain completely unnoticed on a conservative ride. On such a ride, the safety systems the IMU informs are only likely to intervene during panic-braking (though they may turn on cornering-lights at night to illuminate the inside of a corner when the bike is leaned over). The bike won’t otherwise be sufficiently close to the limits of the tires (or, in the case of wheelie – or stoppie – control, the limits of physics) to trigger the systems.

In aggressive riding, the many systems that make up MSC – cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control, rear wheel lift control and, on some bikes, cornering lights – more frequently step onto the stage in order to resolve or to moderate situations that could degenerate. During nearly 1000 km on a KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT, I felt the MSC intervene dozens and dozens of times. Here’s a list of examples of non-panic, every day, brisk-riding scenarios where you can feel the magic of MSC as the bike responds instantaneously to the IMU’s live acceleration data and the measurements from the bike’s wheel-speed sensors.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Wheelie control
I first noticed an intervention from the MSC while riding on an open, undulating straight section of mountain road. As I came onto the straight and accelerated hard, I expected the front wheel to come off the ground over the first crest. I kept the throttle steady and the wheel did indeed rise into the air, but then it paused and gently came back down. It was the same story on the crests that followed. The sensation was at first unnerving. Once I trusted the system, it was possible to concentrate on the road – rather than the throttle – while accelerating as fast as possible; allowing me to enjoy the incredible performance of the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT without fear of landing on my back with it on top of me …


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Traction control
On one winding stretch of road, damp patches lingered where trees had shaded the road from a drying sun after a mid-day rain. With the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT in ‘Street’ ride mode – providing an eager 170 hp at the request of my right wrist – I came through one damp corner and accelerated too aggressively. The back of the bike stepped sideways slightly, but a fraction of a second later the MSC detected the slip and gently cut the power to the rear wheel. As the bike stood up, I twisted the throttle, accelerated onto a dry patch of road and the front wheel lifted into the air. The MSC had stopped the rear wheel from slipping then, almost immediately after, allowed the front wheel to rise slightly as I accelerated off toward the next corner. All in the blink of an eye.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Panic braking
In a fast-road situation, a rider on a conventional, non-MSC–equipped bike must not only estimate the amount of grip available, but also constantly calibrate themselves to leave a reasonable margin of safety in the event a panic-braking situation forces them to brake as hard as the conditions allow. The more talented and experienced they are, the smaller the margin of safety can be.

On an MSC-equipped bike, the situation is different. In a panic braking scenario, MSC can tell the ABS module how far the bike is leaned over which in turn tells the advanced ABS module to keep or redistribute it between the front and rear brakes if necessary. Thus aided, the rider can be sure to take advantage of all the grip that’s available on any given trajectory – even mid-corner. The rider’s mental workload is reduced significantly, and so are his stopping distances. The result is increased safety, increased speed and the confidence instilled with such a system.

During regular braking – even if only using the front brake – the braking system (if equipped with a 9.1ME system) keeps a slight pressure on the rear brake to sense rear wheel lift more quickly.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

In the wet
Unfortunately but yet fortunately, I had the chance to ride the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT in full rain conditions. Riding a motorcycle in the wet is always tricky. Gentle control inputs might not lead to a skid, but looming large in the back of a rider’s mind is just how much he can accelerate or brake without creating a precarious situation.

On a wet city road, a braking path might include a manhole cover, some uneven pavement, and slippery paint. Rather than continually adjusting brake lever pressure during a panic stop, a rider on an IMU-equipped bike can let the system determine how much braking the contact patches can handle at each point during the braking path.

If the braking demand at the lever exceeds the available grip from the contact patch, MSC modulates braking force to mirror the rider’s demand as closely as possible without locking the wheels – keeping the contact patch right on the limit of adhesion even if grip varies from one moment to the next.

Acceleration is a similar story, but this time it’s the traction control system modulating the engine’s output in order to reduce slip. When your bike is able to use all the grip and traction available, wet roads seem much grippier than before.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Braking mid-corner
Not that I didn’t trust the engineers from KTM, but I didn’t think it prudent to test the fabled cornering ABS capabilities of the MSC on public roads. Fortunately, a visit to Bosch’s testing center in Boxberg, Germany, produced such an opportunity in a controlled environment.

I had the chance to ride an MSC-equipped bike around a skidpan as fast as I dared, then grab the front brake as hard as I could. I’d expected that the system would magically find grip where I thought there’d been none. But there was no surprisingly strong braking as I grabbed the lever; instead, the ABS applied the brakes lightly and the bike slowed gently at first – there simply wasn’t much excess grip available with the bike fully leaned over. As I slowed and lateral acceleration diminished, the system would brake harder. If I stood the bike up, MSC would let me brake to the point of the rear wheel coming slightly off the ground. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t get the front wheel to slide under braking while fully leaned over. Incredible.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Final thoughts
Build confidence in MSC’s capabilities and your riding style will change. Rather than a constant obsession with how much grip is available and how you would handle a panic stop, you simply position the bike on the road, make a reasonable effort to put the tires on a grippy line and ride.

Even if I hadn’t occasionally explored the limits of the tires on my long ride, the system was constantly vigilant, ever-ready to intervene to help me around a totally unforeseen change in road conditions or a surprise obstacle.

The knowledge that the safety net is there to save you if you overstep the limit lets you ride closer to the limit. This frees up valuable mental real estate so you can focus on the road ahead.

A positive side-effect is peace of mind. If you’re riding in the rain with a passenger, you know you can brake very hard without losing control, and you won’t “under brake” and entangle yourself in a situation that could have been avoided. With this technology available, it’s getting harder and harder to justify riding a high-performance bike without it.


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2018 © R. Schedl

Photos: R. Schedl/KTM


Dakar 2018: A tough and beautiful race so far

As we reach the well-earned rest day of Dakar 2018, it can certainly be said that this year’s route so far has been one of the toughest. From the start in Lima, Peru to today’s rest day in La Paz, Bolivia, the competitors have passed through days of desert and will now head into the mountains, racing at an altitude of over 2,500 meters.


Luciano Benavides (ARG), Laia Sanz (ESP), Sam Sunderland (GBR), Matthias Walkner (AUT), Toby Price (AUS) & Antoine Meo (FRA) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©

The opening part of the 40th edition of the notorious Rally Dakar was through the dunes and desert in Peru, with off-piste riding, tough climbs, soft sand and high temperatures to battle through. A mass start on the beach on day four offered a different kind of spectacle followed by some tough navigation and difficult terrain, while Day 5 provided the second longest stage of the rally with extremely tough mountainous sand dunes during the special stage. Austrian-ace Matthias Walkner said after Stage 5: “That was such an exhausting day. They said the rally this year was going to be one of the toughest ever and it’s certainly the hardest Dakar so far for me.”

Yesterday’s stage brought the riders from Arequipa, Peru to La Paz, and while last year’s winner Sam Sunderland is unfortunately out of the race, the KTM Factory Racing Team is enjoying strong and consistent results from all of its riders aboard their KTM 450 RALLY machines heading into the second half of the event. With 3,034 km covered so far, and over 5,000 km to go across eight stages, including the ultra-challenging marathon stages where no assistance can be given by the team, we take a look at some of the most beautiful images from the race so far …

Luciano Benavides (ARG) & Laia Sanz (ESP) Dakar 2018 ©



Lyndon Poskitt: Malle Moto and the true spirit of the Dakar

Posted in People, Racing

The Dakar is often referred to as the world’s toughest rally, with most of the attention focused on the factory riders battling for victory. But some would say they have it easy compared to the heroes that decide to enter the Malle Moto class. The Dakar rule book simply describes the Malle Moto class as a ‘challenge created for Bike and Quad Riders without ANY KIND OF SERVICE’. What that means exactly is that competitors have to do everything themselves. They ride their bikes, service and prepare their bikes, and receive no outside assistance throughout the event.

Lyndon Poskitt is one of those brave riders who has decided to take on the Dakar in its purest form. Read about the Brit’s experience of last year’s race and how he prepared for Dakar Malle Moto 2018 …


Lyndon Poskitt (GBR) 2017 © Future7Media

A challenge like no other
“In 2016 I decided to give the Malle Moto class a go and totally underestimated how hard it would be. I thought I would be ok, I thought if I stayed focused and rode sensibly it wouldn’t be too bad, but you would not believe how much it wears you down. Even when things are going well, you get more and more tired every day. When people ask me how it went and say ‘oh, you did really well, you came second last year’ – let me tell you, it was a struggle.


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

The spirit of the race is completely different in the Malle Moto category. Everybody is in the same boat, they have to do everything themselves. Of course, when something happens there is this huge camaraderie of everyone getting together, it’s like a big family helping each other out. When you see some of the guys coming in early in the morning when you are getting ready to go out, you feel so bad for them, they might get an hour’s sleep at the most before heading out again themselves.

Personally, I like the phrase Malle is Rally. The class is definitely the traditional way to ride the Dakar. That’s how it was originally, but now it’s evolved into this huge commercial event. While I do have some very good sponsors – I wouldn’t be able to compete without them – I do like to keep things traditional and that’s something I try to share in the media I produce.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

Lack of sleep and the will to keep on going
“Luckily, I only had a couple of those bad nights with no sleep. There was a huge landslide last year and they had to put a detour in place. The whole day was 1150 km long, we had already raced the stage, then had to do a 600 km liaison only to arrive at a road block and be told we had to go a different way. It was already 7:30 pm and we had to ride another 350 km. Even then I thought I would be able to get in by about 10 o’ clock, but the route was all offroad and so gnarly. It was full of trucks kicking up dust and was really tough going. I managed to get back to the bivouac at 1.30 am in the morning and was the only Malle Moto bike home – everyone else was still out there.

I prepped the bike really quickly, grabbed some food and was in bed by 2 am. We were due to be up again at 4.30 am but the stage ended up getting cancelled, so luckily all the other riders had plenty of time to get back. Despite only getting a couple of hours sleep, I was all set to go. I still got up and was ready and when I went outside there were only four other bikes that had made it back, five of us in total.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

Bike maintenance, solo bike maintenance
“Every day without fail, the rear tire and mousse have to be changed, the front can sometimes last for a couple of days. It’s the only thing we are allowed to have assistance with. It’s strange why that is, but the Malle Moto organization won’t let you take a mousse changer, you have to go to Michelin to have them changed. Even though they are happy to change them for you, I would prefer to be able to change them by myself. I am quite proficient at changing tires and mousses and the problem with having someone else do it is that you have to carry your wheels and the new tires and mousses anything up to 500 meters to get them changed. It’s an added stress, especially in 40-degree heat.


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

The bikes themselves are so strong. All there is to do is change the oil and filters and generally I only do that every other night. The air filter gets changed every day, then there’s small jobs like tensioning and lubing the chain and a general check over of the bike. It doesn’t sound like too much but what is crazy is how time runs away with you – just a few little jobs can easily take up to two hours. If you get in at 7 pm, it’s soon 9 pm and you still have to get some food, sort your roadbook and attend the riders’ meeting before even thinking about sleep. You’re lucky if you get to bed before midnight and then you’re up again at 3 am.

Last year I learnt to make the absolute most of my time – get things done, don’t talk, don’t go to see people, you haven’t got time for that. It sounds extreme but that’s how you have to be in that class. Last year, I wasn’t rushing to bed and that’s something that has to change this year. I need to get stuff done quickly and get to sleep. An hour’s extra rest each night will mean a massive boost for me.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

What´s in the box?
“For the 2018 Dakar my Malle Moto box is going to be way more organized than last year. I learnt the hard way that you need to have everything organized, again so you don’t waste any time searching around for something. This year I am properly prepared, with separate little boxes inside for various tools and everything sits in there really nicely.

Tool wise, I only carry what I need. When I was building up my bike in the workshop I tried to use the smallest possible tools I could, and then put it to one side. I knew when the bike was done I had every single tool I needed to take to the Dakar. In another section of the box I have all my consumables; greases, oils, cable-ties, all the things you need throughout the day to keep you going. In the bottom of the box I have all my electrical spares, not just for the bike but for the navigation equipment too, because without that, your rally is over.


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

I keep all my energy gels in there and hydration kits. I don’t take anything that I don’t really need. The box is pretty full but for this year I managed to squeeze a bike cover in too, which comes in handy overnight in the desert. One thing that is really important is a good headtorch. I have them hidden all over the place; one on my bike, one in my gear bag and a couple in my Malle Moto box because if you lose those, you’re in trouble.

You are allowed to have someone carry things for you, but it costs money so a lot of people don’t do it. I have KTM Racing take some oil and filters, things like that and I replenish my box at the rest day. My tires and mousses for example cost me about 1500 Euro just to have them shipped with another team.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

Motorcycle loneliness
“It’s really important to stay strong. No matter how low you are feeling, because you are on your own. You have to keep pushing on. When I got to about four days from the end last year, I was completely broken. I was tired, exhausted and hurting. But somehow, I managed to get to the finish. You have to be really strong minded to do the Dakar, especially in Malle Moto.

I fell asleep on the liaison a couple of times last year, one of the hardest things is trying to stay awake. Once you are in the stage it’s fine because your adrenalin is up, but in the morning liaison, when it’s pitch black, cold and raining, you really struggle to stay awake. If you’re lucky you might just nod off for a split second and catch yourself, but twice in 2017 I ran off the road and onto the dirt and woke up riding along with an Armco barrier right next to me. That shook me up a little and so I stopped by the side of the road for a break. I must have slept for only about five minutes maximum and was woken up when the next bike came past, but that five minutes was all I needed, I set off again and felt much better.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

Media commitments
“Most of the other Malle Moto riders wonder how I do it, but if it wasn’t for the media side of things and the exposure that gets, I wouldn’t be able to compete. I’m not a factory racer, I’m not in a position where I’m going to win the event, but what I can do is relate to people. They can see I’m just a normal guy having a go at the Dakar. To be able to share my experiences is what is helping me to actually get there, and achieve my goals as well. I think now, that feeling of being able to share my adventures is 50 % of the drive behind wanting to do it. I love the social media side of things, I love the support and interest from people all over the world and it encourages me to do more.


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

What I’ll be doing this year with the daily video posts is a massive undertaking. We’ve got two people on-site and one person back in the UK receiving the data. It’s all got to be edited on the fly, which is super-technical and difficult to do. Other than the big teams with their big budgets, nobody has tried it before, so hopefully with a little luck we can pull it off and give the viewer a real taste of what the Dakar is like for a regular guy like me.

One of the key things for me is that the footage has to be authentic. It won’t change who I am and I won’t try to be something I’m not. I am always conscious about getting some shots though, even if that means stopping in the middle of a stage to capture something important. It takes a little time at the beginning of the day to set up the cameras, and then starting and stopping the cameras where I feel the best content is. There are a lot of riders on social media and YouTube putting together cool little edits now, but I’m hoping my videos will be more timeless than that. They’ll tell more of a story and show the true side of the Dakar.”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

When it´s all over
“Following on from the Dakar, after everything is finished, things are still tough. I took a week off at the end of last year’s event, but the effects last a lot longer than that. I was struggling to sleep properly for ages, finding myself awake for a lot of the night and I just couldn’t get back into a healthy rhythm again. Hopefully at the end of the 2018 event, everything will have gone well and I will have hours of footage to share with my followers. The Dakar really is something special, something unique and to be able to share my experiences of riding it is a real honor. I just hope everyone else enjoys sharing my journey …”


© Lyndon Poskitt Racing

Photos: Future7Media | Lyndon Poskitt Racing


His last road to Dakar #3

This will be the final time former GP racer Jurgen van den Goorbergh prepares for the toughest of all rallies; the Rally Dakar. The 48-year-old is neck deep into his preparations for his tenth go at the race. In three episodes we will be following his endeavors.


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) 2017 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

It’s been a few years since Jurgen van den Goorbergh celebrated New Year’s Eve with his family. A choice he made willingly, mind you. The last nine years he’s been partaking in the Rally Dakar, that sets off annually on one the first days of the year. Though this year the start date is a bit more family friendly, so he will able to raise a glass of champagne with the family, only to take to the sky the day after. He will eventually land in South America; Lima to be precise. Two weeks racing will depart from the Peruvian capital on January 6, with 14 stages planned. “This will be my last go at it, and I’ve got two reasons I’m going at it this one last time. Firstly, I want to show I can run my self-built Dakar bike – based off the KTM 450 EXC-F – reliably. Secondly, it’s the route for 2018. We start off in Peru, which is why I just had to go. The Peruvian desert has some of the most incredible sand dunes; those are just magical. I’m really looking forward to it.”

After those six days, the 48-year-old Dutch rider will pass into Bolivia, with a lot more technical stages planned. “That sort of terrain should suite my bike very well. It’s light and agile, so it should be good. That’s where it should shine brightest.” During last year’s edition heavy rain ruined play in Bolivia, but van den Goorbergh isn’t expecting a rerun of that this year. “I’ve been in contact with Chavo Salvatierra (Bolivian Dakar rider) as he’s using a few parts I’ve made him, and he assured me the weather looks a lot better than it did last year. It’s by no means certain it won’t rain, but it will always be better than last time.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) KTM 450 EXC-F 2017 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Difficult game
Leaving well-prepared, van den Goorbergh is really looking forward to getting this Rally Dakar on the road. Priority for the first few days is to find a rhythm he can keep up for the entire fortnight. Also an important part of the race is to get a hang of navigating at high speeds. “Obviously I’m bike fit, but that is mostly from training on an Enduro bike. The rally bike’s been tested in the roughest of terrains, but I won’t put too many miles on it. I have to save that for South America. The big boys get to train on their race bikes on a day to day basis. I would’ve done a few smaller raids if they weren’t so incredibly expensive.” Because of that, van den Goorbergh will have to get used to navigating again. “I have to regain the rhythm, because I know full well I will be messy at first. You’re used to going way faster, but now you have to look down at the roadbook from time to time. You get distracted, so focus is an absolute must; a split second of losing focus and you’re in trouble. You have to be able to look down, think, and then take the right trail. That’s what makes a rally raid so interesting. If all came down to raw speed, they’d sent Jeffrey Herlings into the desert.”

Navigating itself has changed a lot since last year, partially influenced by Marc Coma as the acting sporting director for the Dakar. It has become more difficult. “Waypoints are way more hidden now. In the past you’d be able to see the waypoint half a mile out. That won’t be the case anymore, so you’ll be looking at the roadbook more. And obviously you’re going to have to rely on your navigating skills more now.” And that is hardly easy, as van den Goorbergh knows all too well. It doesn’t take much to get into trouble. “If you run wide through a corner or if you cut it, you won’t notice until a few miles down the road your mileage is off by like 300 meters of more. That makes all the difference when it comes to taking the right route down to waypoints that only validate when you pass them by 90 meters or less. So you’re constantly correcting the miles you’ve put on the clock. It’s a difficult game, navigating.”


© Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

No rest for the weary
It’s not just navigating that could cause potential headaches for van den Goorbergh. The fact he’s running in the Malle Moto class (malle means box in French) is an extra challenge in itself. “Running in the Malle Moto is hardship. You’re not just on the bike during the day, you’re also working on it when you get to the bivouac. No-one’s allowed to help you, and that gets tough.” The days are long for van den Goorbergh and his fellow Malle Moto riders (28 in total!). “My alarm goes at around 3.30 am, because we’re usually set to depart at around 5.00 am. By the time you come back in, it’s the end of the afternoon, with little time to eat and shower. It’s simply time you don’t have as a Malle Moto contestant. You’re tired, but you are going to have to get your hands dirty, too. Otherwise the bike won’t be ready for the next day. I have a work schedule for every single day, and that’s easily an hour’s work. And that is purely maintenance, not including repairing mishaps from the stage. If you crash or run into mechanical troubles, you’ve got your work cut out for you.” In Malle Moto you can call yourself a lucky man if you make it to bed by about 11.00 pm. Most of the times you don’t even get that luxury. “That is where a lot of the big boys make the biggest gains on us, because they’ll be calling it a day at 9.00 pm. They get to rest, which in turn helps them focus the next day. Malle Moto doesn’t just get hard, it gets dangerous, because you’ve got so little time to rest.”

For the bigger problems, van den Goorbergh can call in some help with KTM. “Smaller parts like footpegs and levers I’ve got in the box, but it isn’t bottomless. If I bend or brake my bars, I can walk by KTM’s service truck. I can buy parts like that off them. Then again it’s better if you never need to bother them for parts, because that usually means you’ve been in a crash. Something that is extra heavy to have to deal with for a Malle Moto rider.”


© Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

One up
Jurgen van den Goorbergh has to finish the Dakar, living out of the box the organizers (fixed measurements of 80 x 44 x 36 cm) take to the next bivouac every day. “My box is really two boxes, with the first one lined with loose bits and pieces; bike parts. The second one houses my tools. Because this is my fourth attempt at the Malle Moto class I know exactly what to bring. When I first took the challenge in 2015, I had completely overloaded my tool box, even though I thought I was well enough informed by a duo of former contestants. At camp there’s a work bench for Malle Moto riders, which I’m glad to be able to use. First time around I had brought an axle grinder; something you’re only ever going to be using once, so you might as well borrow it when you need it.”

Apart from the box, Malle Moto riders are allowed to load up a set off wheels, a tent, and a bag of clothes. The organizers take those from one bivouac to the next. For other stuff, van den Goorbergh counts on befriended teams to carry it for him. “As a Malle Moto rider everyone knows how tough you’re going to get it, so they’re never too hard on you when you ask for a favor, like carrying a bag or some parts for you on their truck. The organizer also know about the hardships a Malle Moto rider goes through, so they think with the riders. For instance by placing the Malle Moto camp centrally in the bivouac; close to the tent where we can get food and drinks, but also close to the Michelin trucks. That alone saves a lot of time carrying wheels and tires across the bivouac.”

Despite all of the challenges of the Malle Moto class, the former MotoGPTM rider wouldn’t have it any other way. “The purest way of approaching it. I did my first Dakar in 2009, and everything was smooth sailing. I came in seventeenth in my debut Rally Dakar; an incredible performance. I was rookie of the year too, which made it extra special. On paper it’s my best result by miles, but it doesn’t feel like it. Becoming the 2016 Malle Moto winner felt more special. Doing it all by yourself gives you a bigger feeling of accomplishment at the end of it all.”


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) 2017 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Extra challenge
It would be a fantastic ending to van den Goorbergh’s Dakar career if he could just take victory in the Malle Moto class in 2018. Though things have gotten a bit more interesting for the Dutchman when he heard Olivier Pain will be running in the specialist class as well. “It was quite a surprise to hear that. Pain is an elite rider, so you wouldn’t expect him to go and run in the Malle Moto class. He’s obviously a really good rider; you would have to be to take third overall like he did in 2014. And the big boys sure know how to swing a wrench, so that won’t be much of a problem either. His only downfall might be him trying to show off his speed. He’s used to doing so for years, but in Malle Moto you’re going to have employ a different strategy altogether.” Van den Goorbergh discovered firsthand how risky eagerness can be in the Dakar. “Last year I went off just a few days into the rally, partly because I was going too fast that day. I was making good time, but in the end it didn’t pay off as I crashed. That one spill caused a DNF, so you really have to be careful.”

Despite finding a new rival in the fast Frenchman, the goal remains clear for the Dutchman. Finishing on his self-built Dakar bike is pretty much all that matters. “Of course I want to do a good job and finish as high up as possible. In riding Pain one-ups me, but that does not mean I can’t beat him. It isn’t just about raw speed; tactics play a big role. If I do make it to the end, I want to be on the Malle Moto rostrum. When things go to plan, that is feasible. Concerning the overall standings, I’d like to be in with the first fifty riders for the first week. If I can keep up with consistency, I can’t go wrong. In the final week riders will start to retire, allowing me to move up a few places. My goal is to make it to the top 35, and I’m going to give it my all.”

Don’t want to miss out on Jurgen van den Goorbergh’s process during the Dakar Rally? Then make sure you follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Jurgen van den Goorbergh (NED) 2017 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions


The KTM 450 RALLY – Unbeaten at the Dakar

KTM has enjoyed no fewer than 16 consecutive Rally Dakar victories. Even since 2011, when rules changed and engine sizes were reduced to a maximum of 450cc in an effort to bring other manufacturers into the event, KTM have won every single race. With an all-new bike for 2018, KTM once again take to the start well-prepared, well-motivated and hoping to take win number 17 …


KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Marcin Kin

Following the move of the rally from Africa to South America in 2009, the routes and type of terrains used varied dramatically to the long, flat-out stages of the ‘original’ North African Dakar. In 2011 it was made compulsory for motorcycle engines to not exceed 450cc. This was advertised as ‘levelling the playing field’ for manufacturers in the hope of attracting different brands and with it possibly different winners. At this point KTM had already won the previous nine rallies. The other factor was safety, by reducing the capacity of the machines, overall speeds would be reduced with the bikes easier to handle during the arduous two-week event.

Going into the 2011 Dakar, KTM had very little time to develop a specialized 450cc machine. Their solution was to fit a carbureted 450cc motocross engine into the chassis of their Dakar-winning 690 RALLY. Although somewhat crude, the bike was a success and took Marc Coma to his third win at the event.


Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY 2011 © Future7Media

It wasn’t until 2014 that KTM released their first purpose-built 450 RALLY. The bike was designed around a new fuel-injected 450cc engine, the result of which was a far more agile machine. The 450 took Marc Coma to another victory and year-on-year has continued to dominate the Rally Dakar, right up to Sam Sunderland’s win in 2017. Despite their ongoing success, and not wanting to rest on their laurels, KTM already had plans for a newer, slimmer and faster machine.

In development for over two years, the latest incarnation of the KTM 450 RALLY is the most capable yet. At first glance you can see the bike is slimmer and more maneuverable. Underneath the updated bodywork and fuel tanks are a whole host of other changes that have come together to create a winning machine.

A new frame and swingarm instantly create a narrower bike, a slimmer feeling between the legs for the riders. The bike handles the more technical sections with ease due to the improved design and lighter weight – over 10 kg less than the previous model. The center of gravity on the bike is lower and has been pitched forward, aiding both stability and handling at speed.


KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Marcin Kin

The swingarm now sits on its pivot inside the rear of the main chassis, this creates a stiffer rear end and makes the bike less twitchy when ridden hard over the roughest terrain. The rear subframe is fully self-supported, manufactured from carbon, and incorporates one of the fuel tanks. In total, the bike carries approximately 31 liters when fully fueled. Up front, to balance the other changes to the chassis, huge 52 mm WP forks are fitted, another big improvement over the outgoing 48 mm versions.

The bike keeps it standard size wheels – 21-inch up front and 18-inch on the rear, both shod with Michelin tires and mousses. Moto-Master brakes are fitted to slow down the bikes, mounted on the rear is a 240 mm disc while the front carries a massive 300 mm rotor. These provide enough stopping power to bring the bike to a standstill from speeds of over 180 km/h.


KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Marcin Kin

With the bike sporting an aggressive-looking black color scheme, Matthias Walkner took the new 450 to the win at the final round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in Morocco. It was Matthias’ first victory of the season and the Austrian attributed the success to an improved feeling on the new bike.

“The new bike is a massive improvement,” told Matthias. “It feels much safer to ride, although faster at the same time. I think with the input of the younger riders, the bike has progressed a lot and suits the riding style of today. The old bike was a product of the racing as it used to be five or six years ago. Riders like Marc Coma and Jordi Viladoms, who were used to riding the larger capacity machines, perhaps had a different style to how we ride now. A lot of the new, younger riders, coming from a motocross background, prefer the lighter, sleeker feel of the new bike.”


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Future7Media

To compliment the changes to the chassis, a new 450cc single-cylinder engine has been fitted. Not only providing better peak performance but also improved response. This is achieved by an all-new throttle body and engine management system. The bike is not only faster now but easier to ride at slower speeds when the going gets really tricky and the rider needs that added control.

These combined advantages will really come into their own during an event like the Dakar. With competitors covering close to 9,000 km over 14 stages the race is tough on the rider as well as the machine. The new bike, being easier to ride fast over long distances and less of a handful in the slower, technical sections, will help riders stay fresh and focused.


KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Marcin Kin

Laia Sanz will be contesting her eighth Dakar in 2018. The Spanish multiple world enduro and trials champion feels the new 450 may suit her even more than the rest of the team.

“I’m so happy riding the new bike,” explains Laia. “It felt so good In Morocco back in October at the OiLibya Rally. It’s not only lighter and faster but it’s more stable and that makes such a difference on the stages. When you hit an unexpected hole or jump the bike always stays straight and that is such a big improvement over the last bike. For me, I know I’m not as strong as some of the other guys in the team so to have a more nimble, lighter bike is perhaps even more important.”


Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Future7Media

2016 Dakar winner, Toby Price has had a tough year. The Australian injured his leg during stage four of the 2017 Dakar – pushing hard to make up lost time, Toby came off his bike in a riverbed and fractured the thighbone on his left leg. What followed was a year of recuperation and eventually, further surgery to clean up his left knee and replace the rod in his femur.

Toby has had very little time on any bike during 2017 and has only managed a couple of weeks riding on the new KTM 450 RALLY in its current form. Despite the lack of testing, the former Dakar winner is confident the new 450 can deliver another top result.

“The bike has come on so much over the past 12 months,” said Price. “Even from the outside looking in you can see the new improvements and how it should suit the more technical sections in the rally. Over the long stages its weight and agility should make things far less fatiguing for the riders – it’s lost maybe 10 kilos during its development and you can definitely feel that when you are riding it. My first full test won’t come until the Dakar itself now, but you only have to look at the results from Morocco to see how strong the bike is and everyone in the team seems to enjoy riding it. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it can do.”


Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY 2017 © Future7Media

The Rally Dakar starts on January 6, 2018. Close to 200 bikes will set off into the Peruvian desert on the beginning of their 9,000 km journey that will hopefully see them to the finish at the Argentinian city of Cordoba. The KTM team of Sunderland, Walkner, Price, Meo, Sanz and Benavides will all be aiming to take the new KTM 450 RALLY to its maiden win, the 17th in a row for the Austrian manufacturer.


  • ENGINE: Single cylinder, 4-stroke, 449.3cc
  • ENGINE MANAGEMENT: Keihin EMS with electronic fuel injection
  • TRANSMISSION: 6 gears, final drive 14:48, wet multi-disc clutch
  • COOLING: Liquid cooled
  • CHASSIS: Chromium molybdenum trellis steel frame, self-supporting carbon subframe
  • SUSPENSION: 52 mm WP USD forks, WP shock absorber with linkage, 300 mm travel front and rear
  • BRAKES: Front 300 mm, rear 240 mm Moto-Master
  • SILENCER: Akrapovič, titanium
  • FUEL CAPACITY: Approx. 31 liters
  • WEIGHT: Approx. 138 kg (dry)

Photos: Marcin Kin | Future7Media
Video: GSP Media/KTM


Sam Sunderland: The champion returns to Dakar

Winner of the 2017 Rally Dakar, Sam Sunderland has had a mixed season in this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. A title contender right up to the final round in Morocco, Sunderland endured a series of minor injuries and bad luck that eventually ruled him out of the running. Despite this, his pace throughout the year has been hugely impressive, with wins at the opening two rounds in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Sam heads into the 2018 Dakar as the man to beat.

The KTM BLOG caught up with the 28-year-old Brit to discuss all things rally and the defence of his prized Dakar title …


Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY © Marcin Kin

Sam, you’re the reigning Dakar champion, how will your approach to this year’s event be different to last year´s?
“Going into this Dakar is a lot different than last year. This year I’ve got the number one plate on my bike and last year I had never even managed to get a finish in the race. There is definitely some added pressure, but for me I’m going to approach it the same way as I normally do – take each day as it comes and try to stay safe, especially on the first week leading up to the rest day.”

Who are your main competitors?
“That’s such a difficult question. There is so much talent at the Dakar now, gone are the days when it was one or two guys who were fighting for the win. Having won a Dakar now I can relax a little I suppose, but I still know how hard I have to work to be competitive. At the start of the race there are so many talented guys who will be fighting for the win – multiple world champions from beach racing to enduro, to motocross. There are at least 10 guys with the capability of winning. Obviously, my teammates are going to be right up there – Toby Price is a previous Dakar winner, Antoine Meo – multiple world champion, Matthias Walkner ex MX3 and rally world champion. The Honda guys are fast and then you have to look at Pablo Quintanilla – world champion again this year but he’s never won a Dakar, he’s on form and hungrier than ever to take the win.”

How do you prepare yourself for the Dakar? Do you start to feel the pressure build as the event gets closer?
“On the run up to the Dakar you are under a lot of pressure, there are a lot of commitments with training, testing, media appointments. It can be hard to stay focused on the actual training and making the most of your time. This year the first week in Peru crosses the big dunes and should suit me really well, but I still like to get out training in the Dubai sand to stay sharp. Other than that, I like to go cycling, to work on my fitness and stamina, and I’ll do a little altitude training to prepare myself as best I can for that part of the rally in Bolivia. I try to get out on the motocross bike as often as possible, it’s good to train on the rally bike, but the motocross bike is slightly different and I really enjoy it. I figured if I am going to be riding rally for 10 years of my life, I have to try and enjoy it and getting out on the motocrosser is something I enjoy more than anything. It’s beneficial to my riding, but it’s also my passion. There is no better feeling than getting out into the dunes and sending it! Obviously, there won’t be any of that on the run up to the Dakar, it’s just way too risky, but when I have time there’s not much that I love more.”


Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY © Marcin Kin

Talking about bikes, how are you getting on with the new KTM 450 RALLY?
“I’m loving the new bike. We were lucky to be able to put a lot of time on it in testing and then we had the race in Morocco. The guys did really well and the bike seems to be a massive improvement in terms of performance and handling. I’m really excited. It’s been such a huge amount of work and commitment for KTM. Even for the bosses to give the go-ahead for a project like this shows the faith they have in the team. I think that’s one of the reasons why KTM has won 16 years in a row now, they don’t just sit back and take things for granted, they are always pushing on with development and finding new ways to push performance on to the next level. A lot of hours have gone into the bike, not only by the team and riders, but by the designers, the engineers, everyone back in Austria and I’m really looking forward to taking it to the Dakar. Hopefully we will be able to reward all that hard work with a good result.”

The team is certainly strong this year, but be honest, do you get along with everyone? Surely it can’t always be easy travelling and socializing with guys and girls you’re trying to beat!
“I can get along with anybody, but within the team, the atmosphere is really good. There is such a deep amount of quality this year. We’ve got Toby Price who is a huge talent in offroad riding and a previous Dakar winner, Antoine Meo who is a five-time Enduro World Champion, Matthias Walkner, MX3 and rally world champion. Then there’s Luciano Benavides who is a new guy to the team, he’s young and has a lot to learn, but he’s still fast and full of motivation. Finally, there is Laia Sanz who is simply amazing, she really blows my mind. At the end of some of the long days when I’m feeling exhausted and down, I just need to look to her for inspiration because her attitude and pace are both incredible. It’s good that everyone’s treated the same, nobody is treated differently to anyone else. There is a huge amount of mutual respect for each other within the team and for what we’ve all achieved. At the start of the race, everyone is in with a chance of winning. There are no favorites within the team and I really like that.”

Do you think riders somehow have it easier now, compared to when the event was run in Africa?
“I don’t think the rally is any easier, certainly not the route. When the Dakar was held in Africa there were certainly less safety provisions in place – medical support wasn’t as good, hospitals, medical helicopters, etc. Now we’re in South America, the stages and the conditions are the toughest ever, especially when you factor in the weather and riding at altitude. When we’re off our bikes things are a little better now – back in the day the dudes were in tents so to be able to have campers to stay in is a huge improvement. I’m quite grateful that these days we have a nice place to sleep and you have the luxury of a shower every evening. Last year, Matthias and I shared a camper for the event and we finished first and second, so that was cool. Sometimes it is nice to have that camaraderie with your teammate and have someone close to discuss the day’s racing, it helps keep you both motivated. There are tense times too, times when one of you have been unable to get past the other, or maybe the other rider didn’t want to let you past and you had to ride in his dust for a few hundred kilometers. That can get a little weird when you are sharing a camper at the end of the day, but generally it’s all ok.”


KTM 450 RALLY © Future7Media

What’s the toughest thing about the Dakar?
“It has to be the length of the days. There are 14 days of riding this year and the longest day last year had us riding for 18 hours. To ride a bike for that long, even if you are just on the road, is tough. When you add in the other factors – heat, cold, terrain, altitude – it becomes way harder. That is the toughest thing, the accumulation of days like that, it has a snowball effect and the stress builds on your body and mind.”

Is it possible to say that you enjoy Dakar?
“There’s a balance – you have to put in long, hard days whether it be training, navigation work or fitness. Then come the races – some days are tough, really tough. If you asked me at the end of a 1,300 km stage in 45-degree heat when I’m hungry and dehydrated, ‘are you having a good time?’ I would probably say, well, I think you can guess the answer to that. But you have to put in that hard work to add value to the result at the finish. It’s the same with many things in life, the harder you have to work to achieve something the greater the feeling of accomplishment when you finally get there.”

Finally, what are your expectations for this year’s event?
“It’s like any sport, after a win it feels like only another win will do. When you finish fifth, then the next year you want to do better, maybe get a podium. For me now, I know that I’m capable of winning so that will always be my goal, and the goal of the team. At the same time, the Dakar is like no other race, so to get to the finish in itself is a massive achievement. This year I plan to do exactly what I did last year – stay consistent, fast and take each day as it comes. Hopefully the reward will be another win for myself and the team.”

Sam will return to defend his Dakar title in 2018 when the rally starts in Peru from January 6.


Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY © Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin | Future7Media


Life with a TPI


Life with a TPI

Posted in Bikes, Riding

From the model launch at the iconic Erzberg mountain to racing the Erzbergrodeo itself this KTM 250 EXC TPI has had a tough life. The journey continued through national Enduro and extreme championship races, EnduroGP support race to a grueling three hour beach race. But away from these big events, what is this revolution in 2-stroke technology been like to live with and ride?


KTM 250 EXC TPI © Andrea Belluschi/Future7Media

This KTM 250 EXC TPI was one of the first to roll off the production lines in 2017. It has had a tough start to life as a press launch bike and then to become one of two TPI models first in competition anywhere in the world when raced at the Erzbergrodeo. It was a baptism for both rider and bike but one we both somehow stumbled out the other side from – albeit a little battle-scarred.

With a mixture of excitement and intrigue, the KTM 250 EXC TPI made its way to my garage a week later. Thousands of kilometers away from the watchful eyes of KTM it felt like I’d stolen a baby in those first weeks. I had a pretty unique bike to poke, prod or pull it apart. All I really wanted to do though was ride it.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Andrea Belluschi/Future7Media

Determined to put the new TPI engine through a strong test that’s exactly what I’ve done to try and ride it in different terrain and conditions. Hot and cold temperatures, different altitudes and fast and slow races. It has been no half measure.

Through these events, it has been down to me to maintain and prep the bike. Yes, it is a press bike but KTM hasn’t touched it since leaving Mattighofen. I’m the one changing the oil, checking the plug gap, cleaning the air filters, changing the tires and oiling the chain.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Andrea Belluschi/Future7Media

Day-to-day living with the KTM 250 EXC TPI really has proved no different to any KTM with all components other than the TPI engine matching the 2017 250 EXC model. The only other person to touch it in that time was my local KTM dealer who installed the updated software into the control unit.

No carburetor means the whole fuel system is more water-tight and less problematic and I’m enjoying not having to worry about water or dirt getting in the carb or think about jetting for different events. It is obviously easier not having to pre-mix fuel too – the oil catch tank has been robust – plus the TPI engine takes on fuel and oil like Scrooge gives out coal.

It’s been fascinating learning how the TPI engine works compared to both a carbureted 2-stroke and a FI 4-stroke. I’m finding it climbs hills better than a carbureted 250. Rather than being responsive in just certain parts of the rev-range, the TPI responds consistently through the rev-range. For me that is a benefit – in any gear at any revs and at any speed the throttle does what I expect it too much like an FI 4-stroke. For sure it feels ‘leaner’ up the very top of the revs but with Erzberg as a measure that hasn’t held it or me back on a hill. I’m riding technical sections at slow speeds with less clutch and more trust in the throttle and as a result I’m stalling less often.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Future7Media

After three hours of the impossibly tough Weston Beach Race I was expecting a list of parts to replace as long as my arm but got exactly the opposite – one utterly worn out set of rear brake pads and a new chain spring clip plus fresh oil and a filter, a top-up of the coolant and that was it. After all that hard work how did the clutch look? Fine. I might even replace the grips soon.

Most recently of all I’ve had the WP Xplor fork and shock absorber serviced after 30-plus hours of racing. The results were unbelievable after all that riding the oil and seals were near perfect especially inside the forks looked fresh. Only the shock absorber oil had begun to change color slightly but after such a hard life who could blame it.

Photos: Andrea Belluschi/Future7Media


2018 Dakar Route


2018 Dakar Route

Posted in Racing, Riding

Mountainous sand dunes. Extreme altitude. Unpredictable weather. Punishing distances. The 2018 Dakar route looks set to be the toughest ever.


Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2017 © Marcin Kin

In recent years the Rally Dakar has found its home in South America. But, as the name suggests, that’s not always been the case. The Rally Dakar was born in 1978, taking competitors from Paris, France over 10,000 km through the deserts of Africa to the finish at the famous Lac Rose near Dakar, Senegal. 182 vehicles set off from the French capital on that inaugural trip, 74 of them completed their journey. The event grew steadily through the 80s and 90s and in 2005 a record 688 competitors entered the rally.

In 2008 the event was due to depart from Lisbon, as it had the previous two years. But a terrorist attack in Mauritania late in 2007, in which five French tourists were attacked, caused massive concerns for the organizers. As such the 2008 event was cancelled, creating doubts for the continuing future of the world’s toughest rally.

All was not lost, obviously, with the countries of Chile and Argentina stepping forward to host the event in 2009. The Dakar name remained but the event has been held in South America ever since. KTM continued their winning streak, despite the change of venue, and as of the 2017 Dakar, their run of consecutive victories stands at 16.


Matthias Walkner (AUT, #16), Sam Sunderland (GBR, #14) & Gerard Farres Guell (ESP, #8) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2017 © Rally Zone

For 2018, the Dakar will cover the three countries of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Each country will offer competitors dramatically different terrain – from the sand dunes of Peru, over the mountains of Bolivia to the fast tracks and riverbeds in the heat of Argentina.


Rally Dakar Route 2018 ©

After being included in the Rally Dakar for the first time in 2012, and then hosting the opening ceremony in 2013, Peru has been absent from the program ever since. The Peruvian government voiced their desire to be part of the rally again at the end of the 2017 event and after working closely with the organizers, ASO, they have made it happen.

Peru will host the opening six stages, which throw competitors straight into the sand dunes of the Peruvian desert. It will be tough from the outset for the riders as the bikes are often first onto each stage. The difficulties of navigating the deep sand and tall dunes will only add to their fatigue.

“I think a lot of the riders have missed the sand over the last couple of years, but after a week in Peru everyone will be sick of it again,” jokes Laia Sanz.

Stage five, which travels from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, will really test the competitors’ stamina and navigation skills. The total stage distance is a grueling 770 km, 264 km of which is timed special stage. The bikes and quads will take a separate route to the cars and trucks. Starting at daybreak, the stage takes in 30 km of huge, mountainous dunes. Accurate navigation and the ability to read the terrain will be vital to not only getting a good result, but safely reaching the finish.

On Thursday, January 11, stage six has competitors leave Arequipa in Peru and head to the world’s highest capital city of La Paz in Bolivia. The stage is another long one, covering a total of 758 km and will leave the desert before climbing to an altitude of 2,500 m at the Bolivian Altiplano.


Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2017 © Marcin Kin

The biggest challenge of racing in Bolivia is the altitude. The rest day on Friday, January 12, is held in the capital, La Paz, sitting at a staggering 3,640 m above sea level. Even after having a day off to rest and acclimatize to the conditions, travelling through Bolivia is going to be tough.

Part of the challenge is overcoming the extra fatigue that is caused by racing at such high altitudes – the level of oxygen is less than that at a lower level. It’s because of this that riders like to train at altitude on the run up to the Dakar, many choosing to ski and exercise in the mountains of Europe before the final trip to South America in January.

“Winter training is important because every rider needs to work on slightly different things. I like to get as much time on the bike as I can but often look at different techniques during the winter such as hiking at altitude, which is really good for fitness,” comments Matthias Walkner.

Stage seven of the rally leaves La Paz and heads for the city of Uyuni. The first of the all-Bolivian stages will offer a new backdrop for the teams and is the first half of the initial marathon stage. Again, good navigation will be required but also vigilance on the difficult tracks leading to Uyuni. After a total of 726 km in the saddle, riders will reach the camp where they will stay for the night. All bike maintenance must be carried out by themselves – no team assistance is allowed.

The second part of the marathon stage includes the longest special stage of the rally. A timed 498 km route faces the riders, which covers sand dunes at over 3,500 m above sea level. This stage will really set apart the strongest from the rest of the field before going into the final six days’ racing.

If things weren’t tough enough already, one of the additional challenges of Bolivia is the weather. At such high altitudes changes in conditions can be dramatic and happen extremely quickly, adding to the difficulty faced by the now exhausted competitors.

“When you add in factors like heat, cold, terrain and altitude it all becomes way harder. That is the toughest thing, the accumulation of days like that, it has a snowball effect and the stress builds on your body and mind,” explains Sam Sunderland.


Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2017 © Marcin Kin

The fast tracks and rivers of Argentina have become legendary since the Dakar crossed continents to South America. The treacherous terrain combined with unforgiving heat not only makes it tough for the competitors but also increases the chances of making a mistake. By this point in the rally, riders will have covered close to 5,000 km – their bodies will be tired, and so will their minds. One of the key factors in completing a successful Dakar is minimizing mistakes during the event. Faced with difficult terrain and tough navigation, those mistakes will become all too easy to make for even the most experienced of Dakar regulars.

The bikes and quads will enjoy a second marathon stage in Argentina. Again, no assistance is allowed when the riders camp out after the 484 km, stage 11. Part of the skill when riding these marathon stages is not only conserving your energy but also conserving the bike.

“… you have to ride a little more carefully so you don’t crash and damage the bike, because if you break something it could be the end of your race,” adds Laia Sanz.

After returning from their second marathon stage, the competitors will only have the final two days left to ride. However, January’s stage 13 on Friday 19 will be one of the toughest of the event. Now completely exhausted, the riders will face a 904 km stage that includes 423 km of timed special. Covering the sand dunes of San Juan, the terrain will be incredibly energy sapping especially after nearly two weeks of riding. The leaders will be trying to make up good time here while still riding sensibly – a retirement this close to the finish would be soul-destroying.

The final stage on the outskirts of Cordoba although short at 284 km will still be difficult with riders having to cross around 30 rivers on the way to the chequered flag. Competitors will have to stay focused right to the end in order to successfully complete the rally.

“The Dakar is like no other race, so to get to the finish in itself is a massive achievement. This year I plan to do exactly what I did last year, stay consistent, fast and take each day as it comes. Hopefully it will reward myself and the team with another win,” offers 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland.


Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2017 © Marcin Kin

The 2018 Dakar in numbers:

  • 3 countries
  • 14 stages
  • 2 marathon stages for bikes and quads
  • 5 days at altitudes of over 3,000 m
  • Close to 9,000 km total distance, 4,500 of which are timed specials

Photos: Marcin Kin | Rally Zone |


Beach Life


Beach Life

Over 700 riders at Britain’s biggest beach race present a tough test of man and a KTM 250 EXC TPI fuel injected 2-stroke machine …


© Future7Media

The otherwise normal English seaside resort of Weston-Super-Mare undergoes a massive transformation each October. At other times of the year, it is like any other holiday resort town with ice cream parlors, beach huts and amusement arcades. Once a year that tranquility get swallowed by a festival of dirt bike racing, 70,000 spectators and almost 1000 riders over two days racing.

The KTM 250 EXC TPI and I are among over 700 riders tackling the solo race and you never realize the enormity of racing over 700 other people until you try to run with them and find your own bike in a densely packed parc fermé. It is like a comedy film with people running in their riding kit and falling over each to find their lost machines.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Future7Media

That’s just the beginning. Once on your bike you fight your way to the beach and when the gates are opened at 1 pm it is like an explosion. An angry scene of dirt bikes dance and fight for balance and grip, boots and handlebars interlock and roost flies as we all head for the same 180 degree turn over the first of a thousand dunes.

Within seconds everyone is flat-out down the mile long straight into a blinding spray of salt and sunshine. Throttle pinned down Weston’s mile-long straight at 130 km/h is the sort of racing experience you should crave and fear in equal measure.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Future7Media

Sitting right back on the rear fender, arms stretched to the bars helps keep the front tire skimming the surface and the back wheel in control but control feels like life on a knife-edge of crashing. Many bikes are faster still, including Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker, on a KTM 450 SX-F for this event, and four times Enduro World Champion David Knight who were topping 150 km/h.

Beach race tracks famously blast down a long straight before snaking their ways back through twists, turns, dunes and endless, endless ruts. The sheer volume of traffic means the track changes constantly and queues, like crashes, are inevitable. It’s all part of the physical effort, the challenge and the fun.

For three hours this madness continues but after the fury of the start the race becomes a mental and physical test. Some riders, and obviously pro-riders, are taking the race seriously but for many of us it is that classic “taking part” that matters. To finish is an achievement. The madness pauses for pit stops when fuel, fresh goggles and a protein bar are consumed as quickly as you can muster.


Jonathan Pearson (GBR) KTM 250 EXC TPI © Future7Media

Under pinning my race is a faultless KTM 250 EXC TPI. The thrifty TPI engine easily does an hour between stops (more easily than the rider …) and takes around seven liters of fuel during each of two pit stops proving itself efficient despite so much full-throttle riding.

The salt water, footpeg-deep ruts and endless roost is why bike preparation is so important in beach racing. I’m new to it but careful pre-race preparation pays off with a perfect bike. I fit a new plug and sand guards over the radiators and air filter – mesh covers on the radiators and filter act as first defense and create a barrier. Supersprox steel tooth sprockets and a heavy-duty chain are vital too, as are fresh brake pads to cope with the axle deep, sandy ruts acting like grinding paste on these constantly battered parts.

There are bikes abandoned in the deep sand swamps from lap one and they remain there all race, petrified like Pompeii corpses. Under no illusions about my experience on sand my tactic was to keep plugging away, keep taking in fluid and keep myself upright. In the end getting inside the top 100 feels like a small victory from so far down at the start of this mighty event. It’s hard not to feel happy when you see a chequered flag but after three hours of this madness it was as sweet as they come.


© Future7Media

Photos: Future7Media