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Dementor
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The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R put to the ULTIMATE RACE test

ULTIMATE RACE podium finisher Jordan Huibregtse reviews the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R he raced this year in the desert of Morocco.

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KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019, #412 Jordan Huibregtse © Marcin Kin/KTM

An experienced adventure motorcyclist, Jordan Huibregtse has put in thousands of hours riding his own 2005 KTM 950 ADVENTURE in the gravel roads of Midwestern North America. Topping the ULTIMATE RACE qualifiers during the 2018 US ADVENTURE RALLY in Park City, Utah, Jordan secured a spot to live the riding experience of a lifetime in Morocco.

“KTM was brave in giving 12 unknown riders brand new KTM 790 ADVENTURE Rs to race in a major rally event,” told Jordan. “That speaks volumes to their confidence in this bike and their determination to set it apart from the other bikes on the market. Contrary to what a few places have reported, the ULTIMATE RACE bikes were largely stock. The suspension was stock, as was the engine, mapping, air intake, and nearly everything else that I’ve been asked about.”

Kicking off with a short prologue, the 2019 KTM ULTIMATE RACE saw competitors cover five stages and more than 1000 kilometers of racing in Morocco. The race included a marathon Stage 3 with an overnight in a bivouac and no outside mechanical support. In total, almost 1100 kilometers of hard offroad riding and navigating pushed each one of the 12 selected participants to their physical and mental limits.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R© Marcin Kin/KTM

Shortly after his return from Africa, Jordan shared a full review of his KTM 790 ADVENTURE R machine on the ADVRider.com forum. With his permission, we’ve selected Jordan’s top seven highlights on the machine that led him to securing an impressive third overall at the inaugural KTM ULTIMATE RACE.

Modifications
“Bike modifications were limited to what was needed for competition. Michelin Desert Race tires with mousses were mounted to narrower KTM PowerParts wheel sets and taller KTM PowerParts seats were. All bikes also had the aftermarket Akrapovič muffler. The street grips were removed in favor of foam rally grips, and the stock steering damper was replaced with an aftermarket piece as required by race organizers. Longer KTM rally footpegs were installed as well, and of course the bikes had a powered roadbook holder mounted to the bars and a rally computer mounted above the OEM display. The sidestand switch, ABS, and traction control were disabled for competition, though we got a chance to test the rider aids before racing. Point being, the bikes weren’t custom race bikes made to look like KTM 790 ADVENTURE Rs in the interest of marketing. They were largely stock.”

Engine
“The new twin-cylinder engine impressed me. Compared to the engine on my KTM 950 ADVENTURE, the one on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is a lot less noisy and revs out way better at the top. The 790 engine feels like a rally bike engine in the sense that it is low inertia and likes a bit more revs. It feels very happy being ridden hard and pulls strong and smooth up to the limiter. It’s almost electric in its power delivery, a feeling reinforced by the nearly silent exhaust. At low revs, fuel injection feels ‘sharp’ in the sense that it is on the lean side. As with many new bikes, this one is ride by wire. Switching from the Rally throttle mode to Street makes it feel a bit more natural. Riding higher in the rev range and using more power, the engine feels fantastic.”

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KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019, #412 Jordan Huibregtse © Marcin Kin/KTM

Weight
“On a cheap bathroom scale, the bike weighed 224lbs [101kg] on the front tire and 237 [107kg] on the rear with a full tank of fuel. Compare that with my 950, which has had quite a bit of light-weighting done to it: 241lbs [109kg] front and 248lbs [112kg] rear with a bit of fuel in it. The 790 also carries its weight much lower than the 950 and doesn’t have that slightly top-heavy feel. It’s initially almost disconcerting because it feels light/low, but still has all the inertia that goes along with the weight. As with most bikes, it feels lighter as speeds go up, the weight only making itself known in really big hits or when traction is lost.”

Transmission & Clutch
“Transmission ratios felt slightly tighter than the LC8 models, but didn’t seem to matter because the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is happier at higher rpm on the road. Gear spacing is great; none of that silly short 5th to 6th jump found in some competitors. Shifting action is precise and positive as you would expect. I missed one or two shifts right when I started riding, but that was just due to my MX boots and an unfamiliar bike. The clutch took all the abuse I gave it in stride. Clutch pull is light and predictable, but the engagement zone is narrow. Personally, I would add a longer clutch pull arm, which would lengthen engagement and further reduce effort. I don’t really see any need to retrofit a hydraulic clutch at this point. While some people were more abusive, I never had issues with the clutch in the sand in Merzouga. It bit hard and consistently, and the adjustment never moved.

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KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019, #412 Jordan Huibregtse © Marcin Kin/KTM

Ride modes
“Ride modes are what we’ve come to expect from KTM. I tried rain mode and it worked well. Throttle response is mushy, ABS and traction control are aggressive. Rally mode also activates the multi-level traction control. I left it down at 1 most of the time, where it only made itself known if I lost all my momentum in the sand and was trying to climb a big dune. The highest traction control levels become more intrusive and cut power, which isn’t great for attitude adjustments. Rally mode also uses the most aggressive throttle map, which is great offroad. It was too aggressive for me on the street if I was just cruising around trying to be smooth … which is probably why there is a street mode. Rally is the mode I used the most, and is the mode I would use if I had a KTM 790 ADVENTURE R.”

Chassis
“The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R has a steel frame with the engine suspended beneath as a stressed member. The trellis subframe is steel, which should resolve a lot of the problems people have had with toting luggage. It seems to be a solid design, with integrated bosses for mounting luggage racks. The bike has a small steel subframe supporting the front of the skidplate, with the bottom supported by the oil pan and some small steel brackets. Overall, the set up held up well for an OEM design, but I would be looking to the aftermarket for a solution if you plan to be double blipping over logs and bouncing through rock gardens.”

Fuel tank
“The fuel tank is the most striking difference from other adventure bikes. You get used to it, and it does a reasonably good job of protecting your feet and legs from brush, wind, and rain. I did drop the bike a few times and had numerous get-offs of varying severity in the sand and hardpack in the desert. The tank was unfazed by the hits and showed no damage beyond some cosmetic scuffs. I think the sacrificial plastic covers for the fuel petcocks do a good job to protect the tank even in more severe crashes on tarmac.”

Discover more: www.ktm-adventure-rally.com

Photos: Marcin Kin/KTM


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Interview of the Month: The Rookie – What’s it like in MotoGP™? Miguel Oliveira talks first tastes

The irony of course is that the 24-year-old is far from a ‘rookie’. Miguel Oliveira is the first athlete to have progressed through Red Bull KTM’s newly established Grand Prix ladder: having represented the factory in Moto3TM (6 wins) and Moto2TM (6 victories and 21 podiums). The fresh link with the Tech3 MotoGPTM squad for 2019 opened up the perfect ‘learning’ opportunity for Portugal’s sole racer in the category, and he impressed with his hard work, intelligence, application and speed in the first rounds that his tenure with KTM was impressive enough and quickly confirmed again for 2020.

Short and stocky and with an easy sense of humor, Miguel has integrated strongly into MotoGPTM with the newest motorcycle on the grid. At the time of writing he has even scored more points than his 2018 Moto2TM nemesis Pecco Bagnaia and has come close to the top ten on at least two occasions from the half-season so far.

We find him in a chatty mood and still discovering the thrill and difficulty of the elite competition in motorcycle racing.

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) 2019 © Sebas Romero

Miguel, you must have had an idea of what you needed to do for MotoGPTM but did you change anything for 2019 – physically, mentally, your program – to tackle the challenge?
“The physical training changed a bit because we knew we were going to deal with more force on the body. We did more work on the upper body with the goal of having a bit more strength. When you make that increase in the muscles you kinda then have to work the rest as well to improve the overall condition and shape! So, nutrition also changes a bit when you are training in a different way. Apart from that it was like making another ‘step’ like I did when I moved from Moto3TM to Moto2TM. Just a bit more. It was a pretty normal winter.”

You’ve spent two years tussling at the front of Moto2TM. Did you also need to adjust your mentality to the races in MotoGPTM and perhaps a new position?
“Yeah … but it is something you do along the way. It was not a case of saying ‘OK, now it’s over [as a winner] I need to switch mentality.’ It is more about the people who are around you that make you realize ‘OK, it’s the first year with the bike, it will not be amazing and you won’t be on the podium.’ It is about facing your future long-term and once you ‘get’ this then it becomes easier to go into each race.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM RC16 Sachsenring (GER) 2019 © T. Boerner

Did you have a lot of internal questions about MotoGPTM? Maybe in the same way as when you first came into Grand Prix? Things like: How will it be? How will it feel? How will I do?
“Yeah, you question yourself about a lot of things. Especially when you know you’ll be gripping a bike that is extremely powerful, and there is not much time to do that! The first test is a good example: I went from winning the race at Valencia to going back on the same track a day later with a bike where I had absolutely no knowledge or control! I was thinking ‘how am I going to dominate this beast?!’ It’s strange because you really feel like you have no control and that is not the normal situation! It is easy to get lost pretty quick. You need to take it slowly. But the team helped me a lot with this transition. They were very calm, and I was trying my best to keep calm and not look at the lap times. I was trying to absorb the information and work hard.”

What kind of guy are you when it comes to preparation off the track. Are you someone that thinks and analyses a lot?
“Every rider has his own way and it doesn’t mean that it is the right one, the best one or the correct one. I like to be analytical about my job but also keeping it fun and cool at the same time. I am not super-specific in watching images or footage. I also try to go with my feelings: This is important otherwise you will become a robot. If something is not working then you’ll perform worse in the short-term.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) Sachsenring (GER) 2019 © T. Boerner

So where does confidence comes from? Feelings? A result? The lap time?
“Sometimes I’ve had different kinds of feelings in my career and different kinds of results. Most of the time the best feelings do not match the results! If you feel good about something and the result isn’t really what you wanted then you have to take care to carry that feeling into the next race. For me ‘feeling’ is more important than the result even if it is easier to go the opposite way because if the results are coming then it means you can relax.”

It’s a journey of discovery then …
“If you look at our sport then riding a bike fast is mostly based on instinct and feeling. When you go very close to the limit it is about how good you feel within that limit and whether you can go faster or not. There are limitations of course and complex things about the bike but in general that’s the basis of MotoGPTM: Riding as comfortable as you can on the very limit. For that you need trust in what you are doing and how you feel! That’s the very thin line that we are living on each time we go on the track.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM RC16 Assen (NED) 2019 © T. Boerner

You mentioned getting lost with the MotoGPTM bike: Is it also easy to be confused with how you feel? A sensation of a rapid lap time could be a second off what you really want …
“Yes, at the end of the day everything is a balance. You cannot be over-critical of your job but you also cannot be super-relaxed and just go with the flow and hope that whatever comes out is good. You need to have a good mix of these two things: That’s what I try to do.”

Having a balance must be a bit more difficult now what with all the success in Moto2TM and then jumping into MotoGPTM … especially when it comes to attention in Portugal …
“Ha! In the last four years it went up like this [points hand almost vertical]. But this is a good thing. To be recognized for your job and for representing something. I’m lucky, in a way, to be the only Portuguese in the paddock. It is like when the Portuguese football team plays: There is only one player they are looking at.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) Austin (USA) 2019 © Gold and Goose

You are like the Cristiano Ronaldo of MotoGPTM then?
“[Smiles] I would say it is kinda like this. There are obviously other players in the team at Ronaldo’s level but they will need another one to replace him soon! I’m lucky enough to have this position.”

For people outside of Portugal then can you describe what it is like for you there? Are you on the evening news?
“Yeah. News-wise I’m probably second behind Cristiano. Overall probably third behind [Jose] Mourinho as well! I’m right there though! It is a good consequence of where I am and how things have gone. There is more recognition, but you just have to adapt your life a little bit. I’m not the guy who will make a bad face to someone who approaches me in the street because I have also been that person. I was also once a small kid asking Valentino [Rossi] for his autograph on every piece of paper I had. I know the feeling, and I know if he would have rejected me then it would have created a negative impact. So, I don’t want to do that. The fans watch you and the five seconds they might be with you is the real impression they get of you as a person.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM RC16 Barcelona (ESP) 2019 © Philip Platzer

That must be quite tiring though …
“It is. But it is something bigger than me. I can be me when I’m home. It’s the job and either you accept it or you do something else in life.”

What other sportsmen were important to you growing up?
“I tried to copy Valentino as much as I could. I even had an earring like him! That’s the truth! It’s nice to have a role model, someone that you can watch and follow. You can be your own version of a guy you look up to. That’s quite interesting.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) Sachsenring (GER) 2019 © T. Boerner

It must be satisfying having an influence on people. It means the job is not just about the trophies, the thrill, the contract and a nice car …
“I see people here becoming fascinated by the consequences of being a good rider but you can live ‘good’ for only a few years. I think if you understand that then you’ll have a more important purpose and things can come your way in the long-term. That’s how I look at it. To be a good influence for kids or those who write me messages saying they look up to me – even if it is something like twenty people – then I am happy. If you can have a positive impact in someone’s life then this has no price. It is bigger than any contract or fancy car.”

How do you think people see you as a rider? You’ve had success but it always seems that you have worked really hard for it, pushed really hard …
“That’s the story of my life and also my country’s. It seems like we have always fought double hard for anything: the Portuguese way! I have worked hard to get my results and to places and teams with a lot of challenges ahead and I’ve always succeeded. This experience has made me a stronger person and a stronger rider. When I am on a winning bike then I am going to win: It’s quite clear!”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM RC16 Le Mans (FRA) 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Sebas Romero | T. Boerner | Gold and Goose | Philip Platzer | Marcin Kin


Dementor
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Chasing the white tiger: Jordi Viladoms talks us through the brand-new adventure of the KTM rally team

Posted in People, Racing

After the amazing 1st-2nd-3rd podium in Lima and the 1st-2nd podium in Abu Dhabi, the KTM rally team is again READY TO RACE – this time by taking the road less travelled, diving into the unknown. “I am intrigued by the unknown,” says the team manager Jordi Viladoms, “which is good, but we still might be troubled by some questions.”

Why have the members of the factory rally team spent so much time lately at the Russian, Mongolian and Chinese embassies around the world? Why have the assistance team set off for a 2-week road and ferry trip from Mattighofen over Finland to Irkutsk already on June 20 (and why will the road back last one more week)? Why has Jordi Viladoms been thoroughly studying the terrain of Siberia, Mongolia and East China lately, and some basic vocabulary of the respective countries? Why has the team decided to share a cook with another team for this adventure and stored some extra tuna cans in the truck? Why can’t we predict the race’s outcome with more precision this time around? The answer can be summed up in three words: Silk Way Rally, where for the first time in its history motorcycles are joining the party.

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Jordi Viladoms (ESP) 2019 © Sebas Romero

Greetings from Siberia
The last time the rally team tackled a very different adventure was back in 2009, when the Dakar Rally moved to South America. This year, however, many novelties are on the world rally-raid menu: for the team as for the team manager. “Still, the most difficult part of racing is always the most attractive one,” says the KTM rally team manager. For a former rally-raid racer and a Dakarian a new rally adventure is the best thing he could have hoped and wished for. If the latest versions of the Dakar Rally lacked a bit of this aspect, the Saudi Arabian edition and the upcoming Silk Way Rally surely won’t. The orange team has just passed the technical and administrative verifications in Irkutsk, Siberia. Racing in the footsteps of Marco Polo starts tomorrow.

A little bit of history
At the beginning there was silk. The Silk Way Rally derives from the Silk Road, which derives from silk, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into a transcontinental network. Even if Marco Polo didn’t label any road a “silk” one, the Silk Road is often associated with him. When asked about Marco Polo, the 39-year-old Catalan replies: “I know he was smart, and had great ability to adapt. He made himself known, even famous doing this route. We are no different from him, except that we travel a little faster.” The temptation to cross the wild countries of immense taiga forests, never-ending steppes and the magic Gobi, has always been there. Much before the first Silk Way Rally in 2009, which connected Kazan in Russia to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, there was another, much longer race. The Peking to Paris motor race was firstly an automobile race, originally held in 1907, between Peking and Paris. The winner, the Italian prince Scipione Borghese, needed two months to complete the incredible 15,000 kilometers. He started at the French embassy in Peking, now Beijing, on June 10 and arrived in Paris on August 10. It was a full “malle-moto” competition, with camels carrying the fuel, not to mention that the prince also made a little touristic detour to see Petersburg. Heinz Kinigadner, who won the 1995 edition of the Paris-Moskow-Peking rally, of course made no detours of any kind.

White Tiger Trophy
Back to the Silk Way Rally … In the next three years the event was held exclusively in Russia. After a three year break the 2016 edition consisted of the Moscow-Astana-Beijing route. The 2017 edition started in Moscow and finished in Xi’an in China. Last year the Silk Way Rally split in two parts, the Russian and the Chinese; the international crews battled on the route between Astrakhan and Moscow. This year the competition crosses three vast countries and is also introducing the motorcycle category. And while the Italian prince won a magnum of champagne for a win, the winner of the Silk Way Rally will get a White Tiger Trophy. The masterpiece was designed by Denis Simachev, a famous Russian fashion designer. In Chinese mythology the white tiger symbolizes courage and strong spirit, which will be needed to take the trophy home.

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Silk Way Rally

Into the unknown
5,000 kilometers (well, 5,007.96 to be precise), 2,593.15 km of timed sections, 10 stages, 3 countries – these are the main figures of the 2019 Silk Way Rally edition. On paper it looks much like the Dakar some years ago, but Jordi Viladoms, the team manager whose first official assignment was the Dakar 2019, says the comparison with the “toughest race on the planet” is not necessary. “Of course, the urge to compare the two races is huge, though I am quite sure the Silk Way Rally is a race with its complete own identity, different character and different challenges to face. But firstly, and more importantly, for us this is a leap into the unknown. The main challenge will therefore be to adapt as fast as possible to all the enigmas we will encounter: to the terrain, weather, type of bivouac, people, different organization, and even food. We heard the food there is really … interesting. I guess we will just have to be flexible and to learn very quickly.”

Three riders on the mission
The Dakar 2019 left its toll, so two warriors will miss out on the newest Eastern front: Toby Price and Matthias Walkner still haven’t fully recovered from surgeries. “We go to the Silk Way Rally with Sam Sunderland, Luciano Benavides and Laia Sanz,” explains Jordi Viladoms. “Matthias and Toby are still not ready to compete at this point and they will only join the team for the Atacama Rally in September. For Laia this is the first rally she is taking part this year, after her brave performance at the Erzbergrodeo. Sam and Luciano are both in shape and hungry to race. After only one championship race, they are first and second in the world rankings. The three of them are big fighters, capable of taking on a long race.”

Way out of the comfort zone
“There is another interesting aspect concerning the most difficult race of the championship,” he continues. “Because of the length, the scoring in this race is different. Instead of the usual 25, the winner will get 37.5 points. This is a race and a half we talking about, so it will be massively important to finish it in a good position. The cross-country rallies championship has a new concept this year: there are only four races, but much more variety. I think the decision to include the Silk Way Rally into the World Championship is a smart one; it will make the discipline stronger and bring it back to its roots. One of the fundamentals of the rally raid is to leave your comfort zone and this rally will certainly take us way out. For instance, our assistance team had to travel 14 days to come to Irkutsk and will spend three days more to return home from China. Getting visas was no walk in the park, for some team members a trip to the Chinese embassy was the real first stage of the Silk Way Rally.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Rally Zone

How to prepare for the unknown
“I studied the history of the race, trying to understand what happened in the previous years, and looked closer at the route. Theoretically, I am aware of the challenges that await us, but we will see for ourselves when we get out there. Besides this there is another interesting point: We will visit countries with cultures we have absolutely no clue about. I’ve been also trying to learn some basic vocabulary, but there is no guarantee people will understand me. This new rally is a total new adventure, so in this sense it does remind me of the African Dakars and those endless deserts we knew nothing about. If there was one race I would still be tempted to do, this is the one.”

Exploring the route
The first stage (leg distance: 255.53 km, special stage: 50.87 km) will cross the Siberian taiga forest, leading the racers from Irkutsk to their first rally bivouac on the shores of Lake Baikal. In the second stage (leg distance: 413 km, special stage: 212.02 km) the rally caravan will reach Ulan-Ude close to the Mongolian border. In the third stage (leg distance: 691 km, special stage: 243 km) the rally will head to Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, trying to avoid many dangerous ravines down the road. The fourth (loop) stage (leg distance: 476.96 km, special stage: 470.19 km) is all about the speed in the steppes. In the fifth stage (leg distance: 364.59 km, special stage: 337 km) the racers will touch the Gobi desert, reaching an altitude of 1,600 meters on the way to Mandalgovi. The sixth stage (leg distance: 411.75 km, special stage: 408.17km) will lead to Dalanzadgad, still characterized by high speed on the wide steppe roads. The seventh stage represents a Silk Way Rally style rest day – the challenge of the day will be the Chinese border crossing, before reaching the city of Bayinbaolige after a 550.66 km long liaison. The eighth stage Bayinbaolige – Alashan (leg distance: 785.11 km, special stage: 326.6 km) will be the longest one and the first one featuring real dunes. The dunes will also spice up the ninth stage (leg distance: 501.2 km, special stage: 290.30 km) from Alashan to Jiayuguan. The rally will finish the next day in Dunhuang. The last stage (leg distance: 556.66 km, special stage: 255 km) will again lead the racers on fast gravel roads to finish the adventure full throttle on July 16.

It’s gonna be fast and tricky
“A lot of hard pack means the rally pace will be extremely fast overall,” comments the team manager, and continues: “Many stony kilometers will also be quite tasking on the bikes, particularly on the wheels. The starting position will have less of an affect because of predominately gravel tracks, but there are other challenges to take into account. For example, a lot of wild animals in the forest are another threat to the riders. On many days we expect to suffer the heat, while on the other days we predict thunderstorms. I will as always try to anticipate as much as possible and make the best possible plan for every next day. This is what a sport manager does. My business card says team manager, but I am also a rider’s coach as I have been for the last four years. All in all, I will always be an ex-rider, living and breathing the rallies as one of them. Part of my mind therefore takes care of the smallest detail that can happen to the rider, while the other part needs to see the biggest picture possible. So, here we are, in Siberia, the team as solid and motivated as ever, ready to go all-in, acting like a family, breathing for the same goal, dreaming the same dream.”

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Luciano Benavides (ARG), Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Jordi Viladoms (ESP) 2019 © Rally Zone

Photos: Sebas Romero | Rally Zone


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Mr. Adventure – Part 1

Joe Pichler has ridden over 350,000 kms outside of Europe and has toured on every single KTM with an ADVENTURE sticker on. We grabbed a quick chat with the 58-year old Austrian to see what keeps his adventure going.

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Joe Pichler (AUT) 2019 © Joe Pichler

As motorcyclists, we meet many likeminded people on our rides. Motorbikes are a common language; there’s no time for differences in politics, race or religion – just a shared passion for two wheels and an engine. We are all members of a global club, ready to share stories and advice.

Please excuse the self-indulgence for a minute, but I’ve been very fortunate to meet some of the world’s best riders and racers while working in motorcycling for over 20 years. And while it´s perfectly natural to be in total awe of the ability and achievements of these athletes, their often god-like ability on a bike reminds you of your place. But then there’s Josef ‘Joe’ Pichler.

For the Moroccan launch of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R earlier in 2019, KTM brought in Marc Coma, Jordi Viladoms, Laia Sanz, Sam Sunderland, Chris Birch, and Quinn Cody. All legends. Incredible offroad riders. People who have got to the top of their chosen disciplines and still humble with it. But also invited to attend was this tall, Austrian man with crazy hair. He has no trophies to speak of but was the only rider at the event I wanted a selfie with (I know, I know … ) and felt truly inspired by.

So, why is that? Ok, Joe is tall and Austrian and I’m short and English; both of these attributes aren’t likely to change. But Joe is just a normal guy who loves to see the world by motorcycle. He has no racing pedigree – just a self-taught explorer.

After a day of carving up the Merzouga dunes on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R, the assembled media and staff were treated to a presentation from Joe before dinner. No flashy PowerPoint show – just some incredible stories illustrated with photos that can be achieved by anyone with a motorcycle and the right attitude. You could say it was inspirational, because I could be like Joe. Only shorter.

The Salzburg-born rider has been riding adventure bikes since 1984 and has since racked up 350,000 kms outside Europe. “I’ve no idea how many countries I’ve visited,” Joe says over lunch at an Oasis-like café at the foot of the Merzouga sand dunes. “It has to be around 80-90. I don’t count them.”

Joe is not saying that in a boastful way, it’s just his manner that everyone warms to in seconds. This unassuming tall man has an infectious smile and a way of talking that leads you wanting to hear more.

“Africa is my favorite place to be in with the bike,” he continues. “In 30 years, I must have spent over three and a half years riding there in different journeys; the continent is great. My favorite place is Ethiopia as it’s just so different from the rest of the continent in terms of the culture and landscape. And then there’s the Sahara.”

Ah yes, the Sahara. Joe was given a pre-production version of a KTM 790 ADVENTURE R (he doesn’t need the extra suspension performance but preferred the taller seat h) and had the bike shipped to Chad in Northern Central Africa. He then rode 19,000 km in a counter-clockwise route of the northern part of the continent, arriving straight at the International Media Launch of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R on the outskirts of Merzouga. Aside from KTM’s own test riders, he remains the highest mileage pilot of one of these bikes. So, he must be a riding god?

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Joe Pichler (AUT) 2019 © Luke Brackenbury

The right attitude
“I’m a motorbike rider of course, but not like a hardcore guy,” he says drinking a hot coffee on a very hot afternoon. “I just learn by doing; not once have I been to a riding school. I’m not really a bike rider when I’m in Europe. Before all these big trips I would ride around home, but now it’s maybe once or twice or year I ride from home to Italy or Croatia. Adventure bike riding starts for me when I leave Europe. I usually ride with my wife, Renate, or sometimes alone. For me that’s the real freedom of riding.”

The right time
It is the dream of so many riders to make their own epic trip and see the world by two wheels. Would you advise that people jump straight into riding big riding trips?

“It really depends on the person,” says Joe with no hesitation. “My first long trip was already 4 months. Before that I was just once in my life riding down to the south of Italy with a friend of mine. One night we were sitting down looking at the map of where we were, and the northern part of Africa was on it. After a few glasses of red wine, I was saying ‘it would be great to go to Morocco. Visit Casablanca.’ That idea became planted and a few years later I went.”

With his experience, we asked Joe how long you should take to plan your epic adventure and when to start.

“Just start,” Joe says. “I’ve met so many people who dream and plan for ages. When I started these big trips, I had never in my life changed a tire! I’m no mechanic. So maybe this isn’t the best approach, but it’s also good in a way.”

“Don’t make too much of plan with Google Earth and all this stuff – planning day by day. You will lose the heart of the adventure like this. Planning can be done a little on the way. You need a bit of a plan, of course, but don’t plan yourself a rigid itinerary day by day. Be open to change. Explore. You can’t be rigid. The hardest thing is to start the engine and leave the warm, nice home. But as soon as you are on your way, you’re away.”

The right place
Joe says with so much info on internet on where to go and where people have been it can be so easy just to emulate someone else’s adventure.

“Don’t try to go where others have been where there are all these pictures in Instagram and Facebook but try to find your own adventure. Sometimes it is much more of an adventure to go to somewhere which is unknown.”

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Joe Pichler (AUT) 2019 © KTM

The right papers
Being so westernized and European (for now), one thing that worries me is crossing borders. Not that I’ve got anything to hide, I just seem to have one of those faces that arouses suspicion. And that’s always scared me a little about international travel.

“Border crossing is the main thing that you have to be prepared for,” Joe says with as much seriousness as I’ve so far witnessed. “You have to be organized with all your papers; for customs, visas. Even on small borders, between Senegal and Mali, they take your finger prints and everything. But I crossed 10 countries on this trip with no problems at any borders. But our papers are all ok. If they’re not, then you get problems. So, make sure your papers are ok. It was a lot different 20 years ago …”

The right tools
With so many miles and different countries, what does Joe look for in an Adventure bike?

“For sure travel range,” Joe says without hesitation. “You need to be able to go around 400 km in normal conditions with the fuel range. This then allows you to explore more remote conditions. The next thing you need is a smooth and easy to handle engine. You are going for weeks – often riding every day – so an engine with enough power to handle two riders and luggage but easy to manage is essential.”

“The chassis is also important because you need a good strong frame. I am usually riding with a passenger and luggage, so you don’t want this breaking. But good suspension is needed as there are maybe times you are not on good tarmac roads.”

Stay tuned to read “Mr. Adventure – Part 2” and to experience what keeps Joe´s adventure going.

Photos: Joe Pichler | Luke Brackenbury | KTM


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Getting dressed for work

Posted in People, Racing

Former World Champion and current Red Bull KTM Ajo star, Brad Binder, explains the kit needed for his ‘day job’ in Moto2TM.

In a dark and undisturbed corner of the Circuit of the Americas vast Media Center, Brad Binder is happy to be wearing his full race kit. Outside, the Texan air is stifling. Inside, the air conditioning is chiming along with good effect so the likeable South African does not mind squeezing into his shiny, dark and occasionally squeaky leathers. The 23-year-old is fairly uncomplicated and undemanding when it comes to his requirements for what he needs on the motorcycle in order to race for the tenths of a second that divide vast numbers of riders in the ruthless Moto2TM division. He counts on excellent support from various brands and poses for Rob Gray’s impromptu camera setup to reveal what (and where) he uses and why.

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Brad Binder (RSA) 2019 © Rob Gray

1. The Underlayer
Binder pulls-on a special top and bottom fabric layer that sits nicely under his suit. It helps both regulate body temperature and increase the comfort aspect of the whole get-up. ‘Layers’ are one of the fastest evolving areas of sportswear in the last five years thanks to the complicated properties of the materials that deal with sweat absorption and even compression.

“One cool thing is this special type of material where as soon as it gets wet and the wind blows on it then it feels very cool,” Binder says. “It has a cooling effect. It’s not ideal for winter obviously but helps a lot with temperature control. The pants are also made from a material that means it is super-easy to slip on the leathers.”

“I used to wear long, motocross-style socks but now when the boots are tailor made and the suits are made to measure that it was all a bit tight. Nowadays I wear socks that are much shorter and come about ten centimeters above my ankle. It is actually difficult to find a good pair! When I get some that I like I stick with them all year.”

“Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be that hot at a grand prix and you are wringing the gear out because it is so wet! It is quite normal to come in to the truck soaking. The leathers keep you quite warm and you are working hard on the bike so you can lose weight over a race weekend.”

“Before a race I take off the team-wear and put on the under-suit, or layer, and then do some stretching and my normal warm-up routine. After that it will be the suit, the boots, back and chest protector, zip-up and then everything else is waiting for me in the box.”

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Brad Binder (RSA) 2019 © Rob Gray

2. The Leathers
Nowadays race suits are complicated mixes of (usually) kangaroo or cow leathers and other stretch fabrics to ensure flexibility, lightweight, ventilation and protection. They are carefully constructed, resilient and very modern with airbag technology now obligatory in MotoGPTM for the last two years.

“The amount of steps forward for leathers suits in the last six years is incredible. If I compared the suits now to what I had a few seasons ago then it is like ‘another world’ for general fit and comfort when I’m on the bike. We also have airbags as compulsory now – it’s packed into the hump and the panels are in the suit – and I think I have one of the lightest in the paddock when all is fitted.”

“The suit is made for me, so my body is being re-measured all the time. With all the training we are doing it is normal that your arms or chest can get a bit bigger. You might even get a bit skinnier. Every half year – and at the end of the season – I’m re-fitted and the suits are redone accordingly. The support at the track is incredible and anything that we want in terms of an adjustment can be done at the circuit. We get well looked after.”

“Sometimes at the beginning of the year – or if you haven’t ridden for a while – it can all feel a bit ‘hectic’ with everything on but once you’ve worn it for a while you get used to it and once it’s ‘broken-in’ then it gets more and more comfortable. I finished 2018 having used around 18-20 suits. By the third round of this year I’d already used six.”

Just before the final zip is done up Binder will place a small chest protector inside: another part of the MotoGPTM rulebook. “The chest pad is just to absorb any possible impact. It is flexible and super-comfortable. How much it can help you is unknown … but it is probably better to have it than not.”

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Brad Binder (RSA) 2019 © Rob Gray

3. The Rest
The last items for Brad will be his race boots, gloves and the helmet: all items tailored specifically to his fit and needs.

“The boots are basically the same as the ones from the shelf but they are customized a little bit. I have extremely small calves! So, I need them adjusted enough so I can tighten them properly. I really like my boots tight! I also like the profile of the boot to be narrower around the toes so they are less bulky. I am well looked after. I think I had 12 pairs of boots last year and I used two, to be honest. If I have something that fits and works well then I like to carry on with them; I think it is a bit of a superstition as well. The ones I’m wearing now I think I’ve had since the mid-point of last season.”

“I hear a lot of people talking about gloves and how they often need a new pair. Personally, whether it’s brand new this doesn’t bother me at all and again it is something customized for me. If any of the fingers are a bit tight then they stretch them out, or if they are long then they shorten them. I’ve had 3-4 crashes in the gloves I’m using now and they look brand new. I know there are different materials so that when you crash it slides on the surface, like a small carbon piece near the palm of your hand. It can be quite scientific but I’m lucky that I have not had many injuries at all with my hands.”

“For my helmet a 3D scan of my head was made so that the inside was totally custom-fitted. It is almost like an internal liner that fits every little bump! It’s perfectly formed and I’m using the new model to fit the new homologation and it must be a kilo lighter! On a normal day I’ll wear a tinted visor. If it has been raining and there are some patches on track or it’s cloudy then I will wear a half-tint. The company I’m with brought out a visor with some new technology last year where water never sits on top and it never mists up. Since then I’ve never worried about it. Before we had that dual visor system that you get in normal helmets for the road but water could sometimes drop in between the two layers. Since the new visor it’s been really cool.”

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Brad Binder (RSA) 2019 © Rob Gray

Finishing our shoot we ask Brad if there is anything that he’d like to see changed or introduced to his race outfit. Riders obviously need to move and react to the full behavior of the bike so flex is key, but aerodynamics are also vital in the chase of winning lap times so keeping their shape slim and narrow is paramount. “I don’t know what else we can wear or do,” he thinks. “I think every aspect is covered!”

Photos: Rob Gray


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Chris Birch: 5 things I loved about racing the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R

Racing a 1,200km rally in Greece and going head to head with a wild bunch of enduro-powered riders to claim a stunning fourth place result, Chris Birch highlights the top five features on his race weapon of choice, the new KTM 790 ADVENTURE R.

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© Actiongraphers

Highly experienced racer and riding coach Chris Birch continues to show the world the endless possibilities of KTM’s multi-cylinder ADVENTURE models. Clocking tens of thousands of offroad kilometers on 950 to 1290 KTM ADVENTURE machines, the New Zealander was involved in several stages of KTM’s 790 ADVENTURE models’ development.

Blown away by the infinite possibilities of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R ever since he first rode the prototype machine, Birch immediately set his mind on trying out this new machine in real rally racing conditions.

After closely monitoring the progress of all 12 racers as a riding coach at the 2019 KTM ULTIMATE RACE in Morocco, the time finally came for Chris to have a proper go aboard the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R during the Hellas Rally, held in Greece.

The May 2019 edition of the Hellas Rally Raid saw almost 200 competitors take on a 1,200km adventure in the mountains of central Greece.

“The Hellas Rally is really focused on 450cc enduro bikes,” confirmed Birch. “I was excited going into this event as I knew the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is more than capable in this terrain and I wanted to explore its full potential in real racing conditions.”

Putting in a consistent run in the opening stages of the race, Birch made full use of his vast experience to climb up the overall rankings as the race went on. Eventually earning fourth in the event’s overall standings, Birch dominated the M6 class for twin-cylinder motorcycles over 660cc.

Shortly after his week-long experience racing the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R in Greece, we quizzed Chris for his five favorite features on the potent twin-cylinder machine.

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© Actiongraphers

1. Handling & Suspension
Developed alongside the KTM 450 RALLY, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R features a characteristic steel trellis frame suspended by fully-adjustable WP XPLOR suspension at each end.

“It’s hard to believe how well the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R handles in the most extreme situations until you’ve raced one. On day three of the race I hit two huge bumps in a row whilst struggling with the dust. It just ate up the bumps and went straight ahead: incredible for stock suspension!”

“The Hellas Rally is a great adventure and I knew what was coming my way when I registered for it. Seven long days in the mountains with always winding twisty tracks and some high-speed sections can be a lot of fun when you’re riding a machine you can trust and makes you feel comfortable to push.”

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© Actiongraphers

2. Brakes
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R runs twin 320 mm discs with 4-piston radial calipers on each side. At the rear is a 260 mm disc worked by a 2-piston caliper. This model has ABS, Offroad ABS and the ability to switch the safety system off altogether.

“Riding and racing Adventure bikes for long days normally means you always need to be aware not to let your brakes overheat. Managing your brakes temperature in long rally stages is really a crucial thing.”

“What impressed me in Greece was that I could hammer the brakes on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R without any problem.”

“Some of the stages were massive and included more than 400km of riding in less than a day. The less I had to worry about, the more I was able to focus on my racing and my performance during the stage.”

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© Actiongraphers

3. Fuel Tank
A 20-liter tank with the fuel positioned low in the chassis gives the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R a range of 450kms and balanced handling even when fully fueled.

“With the extra fuel range I had over most of my competitors, I never had to worry about conserving my fuel,” said Chris. “This was a major advantage for me on some of the longest stages of the Hellas Rally. The shape of the fuel tank allowed me to sit at the front of the bike for more aggressive cornering. With most of the fuel sitting low and close to the heart of the bike, there was no noticeable changes in the handling either.”

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© Actiongraphers

4. Smooth Power Delivery
Boasting 95 hp and 89 Nm from the 799cc parallel twin LC8c engine, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R has four different ride modes – Street, Offroad, Rain and Rally – in order to be fully exploited in all conditions.

“During the race we had conditions ranging from rain to extreme heat and dust. In such diverse conditions, it’s always a big advantage to have a smooth and tractable engine. Despite its potent engine, I was impressed by the ability of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R to find traction on the most tricky or slippery parts of the trails.”

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© Actiongraphers

5. Seat
Thanks to KTM PowerParts, a huge array of seat types and hs are available for the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R to best suit each ride and rider.

“For the race I opted to run the KTM PowerParts higher seat. In total during the week we clocked more than 1,500km and it felt great to finish this long week of riding without a sore arse. The seat gave me total freedom to move my weight all the way forwards and back. It just made riding easier.”

“Overall, it was a huge highlight for me to learn how to get the most out of this cool machine. It’s an amazing motorcycle and I enjoyed every moment of racing it in Greece.”

Find out more about the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R here.

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© Actiongraphers

Photos: Actiongraphers


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KTM 790 ADVENTURE: Which path to take?

Posted in Bikes, Riding

With the arrival of the new limited edition KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY in 2020, KTM will soon offer three LC8c-powered ADVENTURE models. So, what are the differences of these bikes and who are they for?

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE, KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY & KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © KTM

To help answer that, we first have to ask what is adventure? The craving to explore new places and travel to the unknown? To take risks? A state of mind? Adventure isn’t governed by length, rules or agenda; it has a unique meaning to us all.

From its experience, KTM knows that a rider of one of its ADVENTURE machines is someone driven by curiosity, a hunger for performance and – of course – adventure. That nagging wanderlust and a desire to discover the hidden thrills and pleasures that lie just beyond the horizon.

To match the attitudes and ambition of such riders, they need a motorcycle that takes everything further; machines that channel the adventure mindset and allow them to exploit any path in front of them – even the ones yet to be explored.

KTM responded to customer feedback and demand by using its experience, talented engineers, incredible KISKA designers, development feedback of some of the finest adventure riders and partnerships with leading component suppliers such as WP Suspension, to create arguably the most exciting Travel Enduro machines ever.

But what are the differences between the three members of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE model family and who are these exciting new machines for?

POSITIONING:
KTM 790 ADVENTURE: The most offroad capable travel bike
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R: The most travel capable offroad bike
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY: The most travel capable rally bike

For those who spend more time on the tarmac but with the bravery to push their personal boundaries, and curiosity to explore trails, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE quenches this thirst. Addictive street performance that will make every ride – no matter the distance – a memorable adventure.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R satisfies the most hardcore riders; enduro and rally pilots who demand that same extreme offroad performance but in a package capable of doing the distance all-day – no matter the terrain – while carrying all the essentials to keep going over the horizon and the one after.

And when it wasn’t expected that more could be possible, the new arrival KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY is for those riders who demand the most extreme performance and the very best suspension equipment available. This is the machine that will easily cross continents in order to ride to the start line of a multi-stage rally.

KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY © KTM

BODYWORK:
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE has a front fender, mounted closer to the wheel while retaining enough clearance from the tire even for offroad use. The ‘R’ and ‘R RALLY’ have an enduro-style mudguard, mounted under the headlight for maximum ground clearance.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE is available in orange or white versions, with the ‘R’ a combination of orange, white and black. The ‘R RALLY’ is in blue and white with a unique graphic design together with carbon fiber tank protectors to finish off the unique package. Aside from the graphics differences, the ‘R’ also features orange handguards and black rear panels, as opposed to black and white, respectively, on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY.

Rear pillion handles combined to a luggage plate come installed on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE but are also supplied with the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY.

SCREEN:
The ‘R’ and ‘R RALLY’ use a shorter design (tinted and clear finishes, respectively) to allow for less restriction when riding offroad standing up, as opposed to the larger, weather-deflecting, transparent design employed by the KTM 790 ADVENTURE. Each screen is 40 mm h adjustable, by way of undoing a single Torx bolt, and are interchangeable between both models.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY © KTM

SUSPENSION:
This is the biggest difference component-wise and to the riding character between the three bikes. The KTM 790 ADVENTURE uses a split fork design (rebound controlled in the right tube, compression in the left) with an APEX shock absorber. Apart from rear preload, these are not adjustable but provide ultimate feel and control in all types of riding situations; from street to dusty trails, riding solo or with a passenger.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R’s fully adjustable WP XPLOR setup is the result of an incredibly intensive testing program to help it be the most offroad capable Travel Enduro bike with true street comfort.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY is equipped with a WP XPLOR PRO suspension, built in the same department as WP’s Factory Racing equipment, which offers similar levels of performance for extreme riding. An additional 30 mm of suspension travel front and back helps clear the most demanding obstacles and also creates a seat h of 910mm for this unique model.

SUSPENSION TRAVEL
KTM 790 ADVENTURE: 200 mm front/back
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R: 240 mm front/back
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY: 270 mm front/back

CHASSIS:
Physically, the chassis and swingarm are identical on both bikes, but the main chassis and subframe are painted black for the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and orange for the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY.

To suit its more offroad focus, the ‘R’ has slight geometry changes; wheel base of 1,528 mm (compared to 1,509 mm), steering head angle of 63.7° (compared to 64.1°), trail of 110.4 mm (compared to 107.8 mm) and benefits from a ground clearance of 263 mm (compared to 233 mm).

Featuring the same orange frame, the ‘R RALLY’ has minor geometry changes due to its extra 30 mm of suspension travel. The ‘R RALLY’ also receives KTM rally footpegs for comfort and grip when standing for long days, together with a longer sidestand to compensate for the longer suspension.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY © KTM

SEAT:
The design of the seats differs for the intended use. The KTM 790 ADVENTURE runs a split design with a pronounced step to separate passenger and rider, with the latter being easily adjustable between 830 mm or 850 mm. It features an underseat phone pocket (USB charger also available from KTM PowerParts).

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R has a seat h of 880 mm and uses a one-piece design with only a small bump stop to allow maximum movement on the bike for a variety of riding situations.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY has a seat h of 910 mm and uses a one-piece design with a high, straight racing seat to improve racing ergonomics.

All seats are compatible with each bike and multiple KTM PowerParts options include Ergo seats in standard (with three stages of heating control), +20 mm and -10 mm hs. An official lowering kit is also available for the KTM 790 ADVENTURE that brings the seat h down to 805 mm.

ELECTRONICS:
All three bikes feature a comprehensive suite of electronics and are navigation ready thanks to KTM MY RIDE, only requiring an app for onscreen, turn-by-turn directions.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R & R RALLY come ready with the new Rally ride mode installed (an option on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE) while the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY also comes as standard with Quickshifter+ and cruise control, which are optional for the other bikes.

WHEELS/TIRES:
To give riders free choice of tires without changing their wheels, identical sizes are use on both bikes.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE is fitted with Avon Trailrider; a road tire in an offroad size that provides incredible street handling.
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R wears Metzeler Karoo 3 to suit its more offroad orientated attitude but still with street performance.
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY also uses Metzeler Karoo 3, but with narrower rims with tubes for hardcore offroad riding conditions.

There you have it … Three different motorcycles that give confidence to push boundaries both mental and physical. Vehicles to chase dreams, satisfy wanderlust or to begin the rally that never has to end. Adventure is what you make of it and it appears that whatever the ride, route or rally, a KTM 790 ADVENTURE is the best way to make it. So, which path would you take?

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY © KTM

Photos: KTM


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Wheelie Academy with Rok Bagoroš: Lift it up

Everyone who’s ever watched a motorcycle stunt show, will have felt that urge; I want to do that! But as easy as it looks, the sort of stunts and tricks guys like Rok Bagoroš bring to the table are incredibly difficult to master. You’ll find that out soon enough once you book a lesson at the Slovenian stunt rider’s Wheelie Academy.

For years I tried to piece together an acceptable wheelie for the motorcycle magazine I worked for as a road tester, but unfortunately, the end result would never involve any sort of excitingly high lifted front wheel – or at least not to a point I felt in control. Lifting it up at a call kept getting me down. Especially when looking at the photographic outcome afterwards, it was hardly anything to write home about, though it felt like an incredibly high-flying frontend; it really wasn’t ever. Mere decimeters from the deck every single time. Knowing exactly what makes it such a hassle to achieve only fuels the frustration; I’m simply too afraid to flip the bike. Weirder still is the fact I’m sure I’ve never even come close to the infamous point of no return.

I’ve considered buying something cheap I could practice wheelying on, but never followed through. As I kept trying, I was more and more giving up on that illusive, controlled wheelie. Until I heard of Rok Bagoroš’ Wheelie Academy. As of last year, the Slovenian freestyle motorcycle stunt rider shares his knowledge of how to ‘lift it up’ – without crashing bike after bike, obviously.

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© Jowin Boerboom

Mounts of dirty dishes
Of course, I knew Rok Bagoroš as the YouTube stunt sensation he’d become over the years, throwing around bikes on videos. The sight of him near effortlessly swinging a bike around on one wheel – front or rear; it’s all the same to him – is bizarre to say the least. But as with any masterfully skilled person, the time and effort put in pays off tenfold – even though it takes both time and effort a plenty. Bagoroš grew up in Radenci, a tiny Slovenian town with barely 2,000 inhabitants, on the border with Austria. Humble beginnings didn’t stop Bagoroš from chasing his dreams. Selling newspapers and going through mounts of dirty dishes at a local restaurant, a 17-year-old Bagoroš made enough money to buy himself a scooter. Not to take him to work or to school, no; so, he could go out and stunt! “I loved Andreas Gustafsson’s stunt videos. He stunted scooters and I wanted to do that, too.” Rok turned out to be quite talented and after putting in the hours, he learned to up his game as he got better at more advanced tricks. “Back then I had gotten into Chris Pfeiffer’s stunting. Pfeiffer was the first stunter who got a contract with a manufacturer.” That outlined Rok’s mission; becoming a professional freestyle stunt rider. He worked as hard as he could, with his tricks catching on with fans. In 2011, the Slovenian caught a major break when KTM asked him to ride the orange machines professionally. “It really was a dream come true. Though I had always hoped I could one day stunt for a living, I did not expect things would go this fast.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

Doing laps
Eight years on, Rok Bagoroš and his team are taking on the next challenge. Of course, Rok and his buddies will still be doing the stunt shows we know and love them for, making awesome videos as they go, but as a sort of side gig they’ve started their very own Wheelie Academy. In a small group Rok teaches motorcyclists how to make a controllable wheelie. “No more than eight riders at a time,” he makes very clear. “I’m not interested in doing large groups; I want to focus on making sure students get the quality time to learn. That’s just not an option if you get too large of a group.” During the four-hour course, students start with a very simple looking exercise; doing laps. Rok has thrown me the keys of a brand-new KTM 390 DUKE, explaining me what I’m about to do, as we roll up to a marked-out course. “We’re going to make really tight circles, so you can adjust to using the rear brake.” It’s been a while since I did my road test, so I’m curious to see how I’ll do in a handling course like this.

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© Jowin Boerboom

Just three laps in, Rok stops me. “Don’t worry, you’re doing fine. But I can see you’re grabbing the clutch using all four fingers. That’s not how we’re going to be doing things today. We want to have the handlebars firmly in hand, and to do that, you’ll need nothing but your index finger and middle finger to operate the clutch lever. We’ve adjusted the cable to get the clutch engagement point just right to be able to work with those two fingers alone.” As I carry on making set out laps, I find myself having to switch directions occasionally, not to get sick. Soon enough I’m able to stay within the circle, only to be stopped again by my Slovenian teacher. “Not bad at all,” Rok tells me with a smile. “But now we’re going to try and tighten the circle up even further. Keep focusing on that rear brake.” Back to the circle we go, clockwise first then counter-clockwise. Occasionally I need to put a foot down real quick, but Rok seems to let those moments slip. It’s time to stop again. This time we’re parking the KTM 390 DUKE for now. “See, using the rear brake you can turn the bike much tighter than you first imagined, right? That’s easily overlooked, but very important part of controlling a wheelie.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

Baby get higher
After a short breather, Rok goes into the anatomy of a wheelie. “Firstly, what we’ll be learning today is to perform the wheelie in a controlled fashion. Basically, anyone can lift the front wheel off the throttle alone, but that is not what we’re here to do. It’s all about balance and knowing what you’re doing.” No wonder the Wheelie Academy uses a small fleet of KTM 390 DUKEs. “You don’t need a lot of power to wheelie, as you’ll find out. A light bike like the 390 is just perfect to get you going, with the torquey single-cylinder engine to help you lift that wheel off the ground.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

In order to give the whole group the attention they need, Rok has enlisted Radislav Mihajlov – a fellow stunt rider from Serbia – as a second instructor. He’ll be getting me up to speed for the first wheelie session. “Biggest advantage to how we teach our students to wheelie, is that it’s impossible to flip the bike. Once you go over balance point, the rubber mats basically catch you. When you do hit the rubber mats – and you will – don’t touch the clutch; stick to using the rear brake. You’ll come right back down.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

To set me off, Radislav allows me to get used to riding on the five-wheeled contraption. The KTM I’ll be wheelying today has been rigged with the weirdest pair of training wheels I’ve ever seen, keeping the bike upright. The cart hanging from those wheels carries the rubber mats that catch you, plus the additional rear wheel. Like riding a motorcycle with a sidecar, I try to get accustomed to the weird five-wheeler, going up and down the wheelie strip.

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© Jowin Boerboom

Not long after, it’s time to put the theory into action. Without a second thought, I let the clutch go with just a hint of throttle and before I know I’m lifting the front off the ground. Only to drop it right back down again. Four desperate attempts later, Radislav stops me again. I’m afraid I’m about to get a slap on the wrist here. “You’re not doing too bad, actually, but you should try to get more elevation; lift the front wheel higher. Try it, don’t worry!” His encouraging word should’ve calmed my nerves, but they haven’t. A sort of mental barrier keeps me from really taking flight, ending the first session with a wheelie that can only be described as moderately high. Most students are in a similar situation at this point, with a few of them going up and over, hitting the rubber mats that are there to catch you. Don’t think any of us can say they’re very much in control of anything at this point, but at least we’ve come to experience what it’s like to get a bike vertical.

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© Jowin Boerboom

As I head into my second session of learning how to wheelie controllably, my focus is on elevation. Luckily, it’s not just Radislav that’s noticed my progression; I can feel it, too. Rok chips in every now and again with an additional pointer or two. “If you just drop the clutch, you won’t need much throttle at all; your body weight should help lift the front as it moves back. Most students tend to do this; they’re trying to physically pull the front up, unknowingly transferring weight over the front in the process.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

No problem at all
As I conclude my second session, I’m starting to feel confident. Rok Bagoroš seems satisfied with my progress, even more so than I am. “You’re starting to get a hang of it; not bad at all. Right now, you seem to have the separate actions under control. Time to string those actions together.” I can tell you, practicing wheelies for long periods of time is pretty tiring, so I’m glad to get a little break, using my fellow Wheelie Academy students for entertainment as I catch my breath. Got to hand it to those KTM 390 DUKEs; they’re getting a beating, but they don’t seem to miss a single beat. Just a bit of fuel every now and again, and they can do this all day long. “Certainly, in the beginning, students really drop the front quite hard, giving the front suspension a hard time. So far, the 390 DUKE has been taking it on the chin like a champ,” Tomaž Bratusa, Rok Bagoroš’ mechanic tells me. “Students tend to think we’re constantly replacing clutch plates and front suspension parts, but that’s really not the case. We keep up with regular maintenance and that’s pretty much it. Of course, we check all the bikes before packing up at the end of the day. That way we can be sure all the KTM 390 DUKEs are good to go for the following group.”

Session three is when I really start to get a hang of it; a sense of control is slowly but surely creeping in, though it’s still no easy task pulling a textbook wheelie out of the hat.

It’s a mix of not shifting my weight back right on one go and being too eager on the throttle on the next. Still, as I get off the bike to hand it over to another student, it’s near impossible to keep the smile off my face. Rok gives me a thumbs up as I sit down on one of the comfy seats in the KTM awning. More than anything, I’ve come to the conclusion you don’t just go out and learn to wheelie. The Academy is a tough nut to crack. There’s so many bits and pieces you need to put together – that takes some serious focus. Sooner than expected, though, I’m back on the 390. The day is starting to draw to a close, I’m going all out; I want to put on that fully controlled wheelie Rok’s been trying to teach me all day. It seems the harder I try, the harder it gets. Focus on technique has made room for frustration, set on by me just wanting it too much. So, by session five I’ve really lost all focus and concentration – my fellow students are also feeling the strain. It just all seems so easy; you pay the man, you get on the wheelie machine, and there you go, you can wheelie. But it’s simply not that simple – one of the main things Rok Bagoroš’ Wheelie Academy has taught me above all. It still takes practice, you still learn to wheelie by doing it. Four hours of trying to lift it up later, the Slovenian freestyle stunt rider sends us off back home, but not before he sits us down for a few final words. “Consider learning to wheelie like learning to swim,” he says. “You don’t learn to swim in just one morning or just one afternoon. If it’s a good wheelie you want to make, you’re going to have to put in the hours of training. You’ve done a good job getting a hang of the basics, now you need a closed-off area to go and build on those basics – you need to practice. Do remember, though, today’s course hasn’t just saved you a lot of money in repairing a bike you will have crashed a few times before finding control, but you’ve saved yourself a few broken bones as well. How we teach, you can safely go up to and over balance point, without writing off a motorcycle. I believe, from what I’ve seen today, all of you could master a perfect wheelie at some stage. For now, it just requires you to invest the time and the energy to perfect it.”

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© Jowin Boerboom

Do you feel like having a crack at Rok Bagoroš’ Wheelie Academy? Well, you can! The next courses are on June 25-27 in Murska Sobota in Slovenia. Check out Rok´s website for all you need to know. Oh, and definitely have a look on Rok’s YouTube channel. It’s full of … let’s just call it inspiration!

Photos: Jowin Boerboom


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About the queen of Dakar and the Erzbergrodeo: “I’ll be back to finish it!”

It was the end of May and the Iron Giant wasn’t in the mood. On a freezing, stormy day, 1800 riders gathered at his feet to try their luck. Among them, 34 fun and fearless women in muddy boots were waiting for the Iron Road Prologue to start. The toughest girl in motorsport was feeling like a rookie again. As a Dakarian, she knows only too well the thrill of the unknown, yet nothing compares to the Erzbergrodeo.

To Laia Sanz, the gnarliest, one day hard enduro race in the world was not only a new race but also a new discipline to get to grips with. She was way out of her comfort zone, for the first time in her life, saddling a 2-stroke bike, tackling a brand-new adventure.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

Mission Erzbergrodeo
We are sitting under the Iron Giant, chatting about the madness she was about to endure. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I should have competed here last year, it was sunny, and the track was shorter. This is quite a challenge for a hard enduro rookie,” she said, and I thought: “This is what you always do, lady. You love challenges. You never shy away from anything. You are not afraid to stare fear in the face. You even know how to lose. That’s why you always win.”

And this is more or less how Laia Sanz’s first Erzbergrodeo affair went.

Her goal was to become the first woman in the event’s 25-year history to finish the infamous Red Bull Hare Scramble. Her time ran out at the moment she passed the CP 20, or in other words: She didn’t finish the race, but she placed herself among the 30 best competitors.

Speaking of the race with 500 contenders, but only 16 finishers, no extra comment is needed. Anyway, the best thing Laia took out of it is the knowledge that the hard enduro is too much fun to put away into a box of memories. 18-times world champion in trials and enduro, as well as the most successful female in the cross-country world is already planning a comeback to the Erzbergrodeo.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 300 EXC TPI Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

30 days before the storm
It was only a month before the toughest single hard enduro race in the world, when she finally felt good enough to start with hard enduro training. First, she called her good friends from trials Alfredo Gomez and Pol Tarres, 4th and 9th place in the Red Bull Hare Scramble 2019 respectively, and said to them: “Guys, I need some help. I have enrolled for the Erzbergrodeo.” The two were happy to assist her in pursuing the newest challenge, threw her into deep water and she needed to pick it up fast. For the first time she also ride a 2-stroke KTM 300 EXC TPI, specially prepared for the event.

“I wanted to train with the best, this is the only way you can push your limits. Though those first days training were a nightmare. The guys were taking on impossible uphills, it completely freaked me out. But I had no choice, it was take it or forget Erzberg. At first, I was rolling down the hills, but in the end I pulled it off. And it just felt amazing! Luckily the team also made an amazing bike. The tires have fantastic grip, the suspension is perfect and it’s simply incredible to see what the bike can do. Each day of preparation I learned something new. My confidence was growing, but I was also becoming aware of the fact I couldn’t be physically ready in time,” she confessed right before the Iron Road Prologue. “I wish I could have started to prepare straight after the Dakar. Unfortunately, I picked up an injury in the last stage and it was more serious than it originally seemed. I knew from the beginning of my preparation that I could run out of steam before the finish line,” she added.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 300 EXC TPI Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

Partners in crime
Jaume Betriu, her boyfriend as well as one of the most skilled enduro and motocross riders, was with her most of the time. “I consider myself very lucky. Jaume knows me better than anybody. On the one hand, he is super supportive, but on the other he always pushes me over my limit. It’s hard and funny at the same time when you are emotionally involved. I can easily imagine telling him where to go when he patronizes me, completely exhausted in Carl’s Dinner; this is the most dreadful section of the race where help is allowed. While stressful, the whole process of training together was a fantastic journey. Well, after this, he will either ask me to marry him, or he will leave me for good, there’s no middle ground,” she joked.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

Wining and dining with Karl
Everybody knows how the story went by now. Laia Sanz achieved an impressive time in the first run of the Iron Road Prologue and rode even better the next day. Still, the 13.5 km long track was completely ruined after a stampede of 1800 riders. Thanks to a wild card the organizer gave to the best two female riders of the prologue, on a Sunday race she attacked from the first line. She started well and avoided a big traffic jam at the foot of the Three Kings section. Passing the first checkpoints riding between 16th and 18th place. At this point, her goal of becoming the first woman to finish the race was still within reach. After that the unpredictable factor kicked in and her race changed. She made a mistake just before Carl’s Dinner, slipping down on a snowy slope. She used up her energy trying to climb back with a slightly damaged bike.

When Laia reached the scariest part of the race, the so-called Carl’s Dinner, she was completely exhausted. “To understand the level of difficulty of Carl’s Dinner you have to experience it. The problem is the length, it’s a psychological war you are fighting within,” she explained. Every year the genius boss of the Erzbergrodeo, Karl Katoch, is more a fan of slow food. Luckily, among the iron rocks there was also Alberto Cano, Laia’s mechanic, to join Jaume in helping her. “Normally Alberto is just watching me. If I don’t have any issues with the bike, he can’t do much during the race. This time he played his part really well, I’ve never seen him so busy,” she laughs.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 300 EXC TPI Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

Hard enduro is so much fun
When asked if she wants to come back, or even try some other hard enduro races, Laia replies: “If you had asked me this on Sunday after the race, I would have said no way. Today it’s a yes, for sure. What’s more, I think I will quite miss all of this. The Erzbergrodeo is somehow magical, the atmosphere is quite unique. And most importantly, hard enduro is fun. I had already had so much fun preparing for it. In the first days I hated it, that’s true, but then I got hooked. So yes, I will be back, with more experience and better prepared. The only problem is that every year the race gets longer and more difficult. Karl is a very nice guy, but a little crazy.”

The bottom line: Laia and Jaume are still together and she still has the same goal to become the first female rider in history to finish the impossible Erzbergrodeo and Karl will never change.

The challenge continues …

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 300 EXC TPI Erzbergrodeo (AUT) 2019 © Future7Media

Photos: Future7Media


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#Inthisyear1969: New models and motorsport success

The opening of the KTM Motohall was a hugely important day for Europe’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer. The “Friends Opening” was attended by 400 guests, including Roger DeCoster, KTM Motorsport Director for North America, whose protégé Cooper Webb had won the fourth AMA Supercross Championship for KTM just days before at the Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. Another American, without whom KTM might not have become what it is today, also traveled to Mattighofen for the event. John Penton, now 93 years old, set things in motion in the late 1960s when he placed a major order with KTM for the production of light enduros with 100cc and 125cc.

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Hobby Automatic © KTM

In the mid-1960s, interest in the motorcycle slowly began to pick up once the great crisis at the end of the 1950s was over. Unlike many motorcycle manufacturers in German-speaking countries, KTM survived because it didn’t make the mistake of trying to compensate for the decline in sales by producing a car. And also due to the fact that the motorcycle also gained a sporty image when Japanese manufacturers entered the European market. Instead of being seen as a conventional way of getting to work, the focus had turned to the thrill of the 2-wheel ride. The KTM program did also contain a “proper” motorcycle with 100cc and a Sachs four-speed engine, sold as the “Hansa” in the USA, but the 50cc vehicles were initially the center of attention in the model range. Due to driver license regulations, these were suitable for both for everyday use and for young motorcycle enthusiasts.

The “Hobby Automatic” was launched in 1969 as the new entry-level model – “the new formula for the perfect ride” according to the KTM brochure at the time. “No need for technical knowledge”. And it delivered on its promises. The 2-hp Sachs engine with centrifugal clutch and 1-speed transmission made for a carefree ride.

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KTM Comet 504 S © KTM

When it came to weather protection, the various Comet models with fan or airflow-cooled Puch engines couldn’t keep up with the Ponny II moped, which now had a Puch four-speed engine in the “Super 4” version, but the Comets were also reliable everyday vehicles.

KTM presented a super-hot motorcycle with the Comet 504 Super – narrow fenders and a chrome-plated 10-liter specially shaped fuel tank made for an unmistakable line. While the German competitor models still had an undamped fork or an antiquated-looking front swingarm, KTM fitted an oil-damped fork in the Comet 504 S. Coupled with the two slender silencers and the special airflow-cooled KTM cylinder instead of fan cooling, the Comet 504 S was the undisputed star among KTM’s motorcycles.

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KTM Penton 125 © KTM

However, the highlight of KTM’s 1969 program was the KTM Penton 125, which brought in the bulk of the 25% increase in sales compared to the previous year.

Two years before, John Penton, an American motorcycle dealer from Ohio, contacted KTM because he was looking for a manufacturer for lightweight offroad and motocross bikes that lived up to his expectations. The first prototypes were ready by the end of 1967 and one year later, the small offroad bikes passed the acid test in the USA and at the “Sei Giorni”, the International Six Days Enduro in San Pellegrino, Italy. As soon as the Penton riders, including Penton’s sons Jack, Jeff, and Tom, identified weaknesses on tough offroad races in the American New England states, solutions were sought in Penton’s workshop, which were immediately incorporated into the series in Mattighofen. Of course, this did not escape the notice of engine manufacturer Fichtel & Sachs in Schweinfurt and it came as no surprise at the International Six Days Enduro in 1969, when ultra-modern, aluminum cylinders were used on the Penton bikes, while the bikes from German Sachs subsidiary Hercules still had to make do with the old cast iron cylinders. Five gold medals, six silver and two bronze medals for the American and European riders that started out on KTM Penton is more than a respectable result for the tough International Six Days Enduro in the Allgäu Alps around Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

While John Penton’s (initiator of KM Penton) team triumphed no less than 38 times in the 100cc and 125cc class, Arnaldo Farioli won the Italian 125cc offroad championship and Jouka Laaksonen became the Finnish offroad champion.

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John & Jack Penton KTM Motohall 2019 © Penton

If you would like to take a closer look at this piece of motorsport history up close, we recommend a visit to our KTM Motohall in Mattighofen, where you can marvel at a 1969 Penton, along with many other victorious bikes.

The KTM Motohall is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Closed on Mondays.

Photos: KTM Penton


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TPI engine development for enduro – improving the breed

Since the arrival of KTM’s TPI models for 2018, the evolution and development of these fuel injected 2-strokes has been ongoing and a “steep learning curve”. The MY2020 model launch in Bassella, Spain gave chance to check how KTM R&D and the factory racing teams have pushed to improve the new breed …

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KTM EXC MY2020 © Sebas Romero

By now we are familiar with the ground-breaking move KTM made in the enduro world for model year 2018 with the introduction of the KTM 250 and 300 EXC TPI models. The transfer port injection engine was a step change in the history of motorcycles, an revolution of the 2-stroke.

That first generation of TPI proved more economically, made life easier with no need to pre-mix fuel and removed the age-old problems of needing to understand and change carburetor jetting to meet weather conditions and altitude. It was a new breed.

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KTM 300 EXC TPI MY2020 © Marco Campelli

Though an instant success, the R&D team didn’t rest on their laurels. Before the first year of production was complete, they were taking feedback from owners, plus factory racing teams and already improving the TPI.

KTM’s Head of Engine Offroad and Motocross, Michael Viertlmayr, says it has been a steady process of improving the engines ever since and a learning curve that has seen improvements to the hardware and perhaps most importantly, the electronic software controlling the TPI engines.

The racing department played a big part in the evolution of the TPIs since day one. Factory racers like Jonny Walker and Taddy Blazusiak took on the TPIs for the 2018 season with both hands and the bikes immediately proved themselves in the World Enduro Super Series.

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Jonny Walker (GBR) KTM 350 EXC-F MY2020 © Marco Campelli

All the time the development of the TPI engine was marching forward and the racing teams played their role helping develop software and mapping to improve that consistency and rider feel for power and rear wheel grip.

Racers always want more bottom power, to be smoother and more controllability so when the racing department meets those demands the knock-on effect also benefits the regular rider and the production machines.

Most obviously we have seen this as new and different engine maps have become available to existing first generation TPI customers to get installed at their KTM dealer.

“I have been working on the development of the TPI bikes nearly almost from day one,” explains Blazusiak. “We had a long process until the TPIs were ready to hit the market with even some bikes that weren’t good to ride, but it’s the same process that happened with four strokes.”

“But it’s a process like everything and in a couple of years we’ll look back asking ourselves ‘how did the carbureted bikes last that long?’” says Taddy.

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Taddy Blazusiak (POL) KTM 350 EXC-F MY2020 © Marco Campelli

Ringing loud and clear at the MY2020 model launch in May 2019, was the message that the latest fuel injected KTM engines were more ‘on point’. “The tolerances should be minimum and that’s what we have been working on for the new bikes,” says Joachim Sauer. “The TPI technology itself hasn’t changed much, it has improved in performance. It has been an optimization of the bike, now the power valve in the new cylinder is working together perfectly with the new exhaust system, the adding of a new ambient pressure sensor and a new throttle body that gives a more precise power delivery.”

Viertlmayr adds the software is now of equal importance as the hardware in R&D terms and he is quick to point out the mind-boggling number of working hours each one of the 100 software updates the TPI has swallowed up.

The aim, always, is to improve the all-important rider feeling with the bike and this has been a key element for the MY2020 models. Along with a new cylinder head with an increased compression ratio on the 250cc engine, new exhaust port windows for improved precision, new exhaust systems, air filter boxes and ECU mapping we have a “rounding up” of the model as Sauer puts it.

The result is a new generation of TPI models (three now including the all-new KTM 150 EXC TPI) which are somewhere between the first TPI and a carburetor model in feeling.

“We have tried to maintain the positive side from both worlds,” says Viertlmayr, “the controllability and the rich feeling from the carburetor version but the benefits from fuel injection; the clear running, not filling the engine with fuel when going downhill and the immediate and clean response – which lots of people liked from the beginning with the TPI, and I think we have accomplished that with the MY2020 models.”

Where to next in the evolution of the TPI? “We have a lot of ideas and plans to make it even better in the future,” continues Viertlmayr. “We stay pretty hard focused on the development of the 2-stroke TPIs. We are highly focused on lowering the emissions on the bikes and we are also working in close collaboration with the racing department to have an even better rideability.”

It is hard to think of a bolder step in terms of offroad motorcycle development in recent times than the transfer port injection, 2-stroke engines. In a world that is increasingly all enveloped by software and technology, the KTM EXC TPIs stand at the front of the queue pushing to take offroad motorcycles forward for the next generation.

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KTM EXC TPI MY2020 © Sebas Romero

Photos: Sebas Romero | Marco Campelli


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Ready to RAAM: Supporting one of the greatest ultracyclists of all time

Setting off to achieve a record-breaking sixth victory at the 4,800km-long Race Across America, Austrian cyclist Christoph Strasser has been trusting a KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S as an official support motorcycle.

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© groox.com

For 36 years the notorious RAAM has been challenging ultracyclists from across the world to push their physical and mental limits. Starting under one of the longest piers in California, the race spans 4,800 kilometers, climbs 53,000 meters, crosses 12 states and finishes on the east coast of the vast American continent.

On June 11, Christoph Strasser will take to the start of the 2019 Race Across America [RAAM]. A five-time RAAM winner, the Austrian ultracyclist will attempt a record sixth victory at his solo ride from California to Maryland. Christoph will also try to be the first rider ever to win the globally known race for a third consecutive time.

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© groox.com

With Christoph’s team using a KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S while filming for his upcoming documentary, we caught up with the man riding this exciting big travel motorcycle throughout the filming process. An experienced motorcycle trainer, Viktor Sator completed several hundreds of kilometers aboard the KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S while filming for Christoph’s upcoming documentary film.

“It was a great experience riding the bike in various conditions,” confirmed Viktor. “With the different mappings and its advanced electronics making it really enjoyable to ride even at low speeds, the KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S is a real allrounder bike and the ideal motorcycle to shoot a film following a cyclist.”

“Christoph is a great athlete and a role model”, continued Viktor. “It was an honor to be part of the filming crew for his documentary. I love to create new experiences and this one sure helped me learn more things. While riding, I had to make sure my camera guy in the back would feel as safe as possible. I always had to keep an eye on him while making sure we both follow Christoph from a safe distance.”

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© groox.com

“The KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S provides both rider and passenger with great levels of comfort. Whether you are riding solo across continents, or completing the everyday commute to the office, it makes every ride fun, safe and comfortable. Especially in bad weather or tricky road conditions, it’s hard for any motorcycle to match the efficiency of the big KTM machine.”

The documentary will be first broadcasted on Austrian television channel ORF2 on August 15, 2019.

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© groox.com

Photos: groox.com


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Supercross to Motocross: Ways that Marvin Musquin shape-shifts his KTM 450 SX-F

The 2019 AMA Pro National Motocross series is firmly underway in the USA and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin provides some insight on the technical switch from ‘indoors’ to ‘outdoors’ with his KTM 450 SX-F.

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Marvin Musquin, one of the elite athletes in the hectic calendar of Supercross and Motocross dirtbike competition in the USA, is sitting atop his KTM 450 SX-F conducting a TV interview. It is media day at one of the final dates of the rapid-fire 17-rounds-in-18-weeks AMA Supercross campaign. Musquin looks very much at home on the technology he has helped develop and race at the forefront of the highest level of SX/MX for ten years now in Red Bull KTM colors.

At the end of the Supercross season the Frenchman and the rest of the paddock were already thinking of the upcoming Motocross championship that will fill the summer months for twelve further weekends of intense position-swapping.

“It is always a search,” the 29-year-old says (TV duties completed) of the period of adjustment and setup needed to change from the Supercross incarnation of the KTM 450 SX-F to Motocross. “I mean, we always have a base from the previous year and that’s where we start. The plan is to have one day a week riding Motocross towards the end of the Supercross calendar so we are set for Outdoors.”

“We obviously race and ride a lot with the ‘Supercross’ bike which means firmer suspension,” he adds. “That’s the main thing. We are really used to those settings … so when we jump to the Outdoors bike it takes a while to familiarize, especially with the speed of riding a Motocross track.”

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

For AMA-centered athletes much of the calendar year revolves around Supercross. The championship itself runs from January to May and, once Motocross is then finished, testing for the following year commences by the end of the summer. The Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas in Mid-October is almost the equivalent of a ‘pre-season race’ and the whole training, testing and riding prep period builds up to Anaheim 1 and the launch of another term.

Despite the priority for the spectacular stadium-based series, many of the top riders have felt the physics of a Motocross bike since their formative years. “It is like an old pair of shoes?” Marvin grins. “Ha! You could say that! When you jump on it and you check the sag with the guys and the thing moves and you’re not even riding then you know you’re not on a Supercross bike anymore!”

Asked for the main area of variation when it comes to his KTM 450 SX-F then Musquin’s reply is immediate. “The suspension is quite a bit softer. It is a complete change. I don’t believe there is much different about the internals but we always have a few things to try. We can also play with the offset of the bike – with the front end – we can make the bike a bit longer if we want to.”

While Grand Prix benefits from prototype rules the AMA uses firmer regulations locking the race bikes to their production bases. “Compared to MXGP and the world championship we cannot really change the frame,” #25 explains. “We can only play with length and offset, stuff like that.”

“The Motocross and Supercross bikes are not two different animals,” he adds. “They still feel like the same bike but the suspension moves a lot easier in Motocross because it is softer and freer to absorb the bumps. In Supercross we jump so much and you want the suspension to absorb those pockets you land in, and when you hit the whoops. For the power when you are wide open with the bike in Supercross then it feels very similar to what you’ll have in Motocross.”

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KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Supercross will normally involve a 30-40 second lap time. In Motocross this is more than doubled. Doubles, triples, rhythm lanes and whoops are exchanged for ruts, bumps and waves, higher speed and more ground time. Finding appropriate tracks to mimic what riders will encounter in the AMA Nationals is also an issue for dialing in those crucial last few clicks.

“In Motocross you always look for comfort with the suspension, but you don’t want to go too soft so that at speed you are bottoming the rear through braking bumps; that can be very dangerous, and it can bite you pretty hard,” Musquin reveals. “We try to practice on decent and rough tracks, but I feel [it’s only] when you arrive to the race that you appreciate how rough it can get. In Europe you know you can go to a place like Lommel [Belgium and one of the toughest sand tracks in the world] on a Wednesday and you’ll find a rough track! Down in California we try to go to a place like Glen Helen – which at the end of the day is bumpy – but it is not as soft and rutty and rough as tracks in the Nationals. In Florida we have tracks that are way more sandy and deeper and we try to ‘build’ some bumps with the dozers to get nearer those race conditions.”

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

So, Musquin has orientated the handling of the KTM 450 SX-F for Motocross … but that’s not all. “You don’t want a Supercross engine on outdoors tracks!” he stresses. “It is pretty aggressive, and you want longer gearing for Motocross, so then you are changing maps, cams and gearing: there is a big difference there.”

“You don’t want to be going through the gearbox when you are coming out of the turn,” he adds. “I like my bike to run longer in second or third. It makes a big difference and affects the feel and the shock. You get to a certain speed sometimes where you have to close the gas a little bit so the suspension is not moving too much or getting kicked.”

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Of KTM’s current roster Musquin is the rider with most knowledge of SX-F machinery, having climbed on the 250 midway through 2009 on the way to his first MX2 world title (Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings joined Red Bull KTM’s MXGP team for the 2010 season). It gives him a unique perspective on the factory bikes and the optimum configuration for Grand Prix, Supercross and the demands of the Nationals. “Ten years: they have changed!” he says. “Especially the suspension with WP. I rode the 250 in 2009 with the PDS shock … but at Lommel that bike was unbelievable! I won both motos on my 250 and people could not believe it. I had such a good feeling on sand tracks with the PDS. It would be fun to go to Lommel and compare the bikes now and see what exactly I liked about it. I’m so used to the 2018-2019 models.”

Musquin is a race winner both indoors and out. A title contender in both championships as well. A rider known for his amiability as much for his versatility and technical prowess. If he’s made to choose between Supercross and Motocross for a last ever race he breaks into a big smile. “Argh! Very tough question. For feeling of the bike then I’d say Motocross but the feeling in general of just riding would be Supercross because I love the jumps and stuff … but it’s tough! You have the ruts in Motocross and if you have a sick track with great dirt then … arghh! I would pick a giant Supercross track with good dirt and ruts and jumps!”

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Photos: Simon Cudby


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Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Bike Experience

If you had to dream up the perfect environment for riding your new KTM 790 ADVENTURE R you’d end up describing the venue for KTM UK’s new Experience Partner, the Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Bike Experience. Yes, the media launch for KTM’s latest bike was in the Moroccan desert, but sand is a very specialized surface. For most, the dirt is the ultimate destination – and that’s not in short supply at Sweet Lamb.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © TooFast Media

Located in the heart of Wales, just off one of the principality’s most spectacular roads, the journey to the venue is thrilling in itself. You’d be tempted to ride for another 20 miles to the coastal resort of Aberystwyth, but a bigger challenge awaits those with an adventurous streak and a willingness to develop some serious offroad skills. As soon as you turn right off the main road and onto the property an incredible area awaits. If you’ve signed up to a course you can kiss goodbye to the tarmac for the next two days.

Sweet Lamb covers 6,600 acres of land that, when it comes to farming, only sheep can take advantage of – but thankfully the woolly livestock don’t have the place to themselves. The landowners are petrol heads at heart and have opened the farm to those willing to take on the terrain. It’s the home of the showcase stage of the British round of the World Rally Championship, famed for its jumps and water splashes. This means that the tracks, trails and turf easily lend themselves to those on two wheels looking for a challenge.

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© TooFast Media

For the last few years, a small adventure school was operating on the site run by Mark Molineux, a former enduro and rally racer. Moly, as he’s known to everyone, wanted to release the potential of the site with an adventure bike manufacturer – and there was only one he was interested in. “I’ve been approached by a lot of manufacturers to use the land and the facilities at Sweet Lamb, but I was only really interested in attracting KTM as the ADVENTURE range is the best in the business. I didn’t want to settle for anyone else.”

KTM UK were first brought to the site when they were looking for a venue to host their first Adventure Festival in 2018. Once they saw what Sweet Lamb had to offer it was clear that their search was very quickly over. “We came to look and ride the site when it was covered in snow, but even under a white blanket it was clear that our search for an amazing venue was over,” says KTM UK’s Marketing Manager, Simon Roots. The festival was held later in the year, where 75 KTM fanatics – and special guest Chris Birch – explored every inch of the land available over the course of three sun-filled and fun-packed days. From the amazing feedback from the event it was clear that there was a huge demand for much more Orange activity on the land.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © TooFast Media

After the dust had settled (literally, as the festival was held in a rare heatwave in mid-Wales), Sweet Lamb came up with a proposal to become KTM UK’s first Adventure Experience Partner. With KTM UK’s Experience Partners running motocross, enduro and FREERIDE E projects, the last piece in the puzzle was an Adventure Experience to not just join the competition – but to surpass it. Knowing that the game changing KTM 790 ADVENTURE R was soon to be released, KTM UK worked with Sweet Lamb to develop a two-day, multi-level Adventure Experience that would enable both novice and experienced riders to tackle terrain suitable to their talent – all set against the greens and greys of the spectacular landscape.

Moly has a massive ally in his corner – the landowner, Jonathan Bennett. Between them, they dream up new routes to carve through the landscape. Whatever free time they had last year was spent cutting through the mountainside to create a new three-mile long route – the aptly named ‘New Road’. They’ve also developed an incredible skills area that certainly puts the fun in functional. More fundamentally, the safety side of riding on the vast site has been honed to ensure that everyone is kept safe at Sweet Lamb. After a winter spent honing the syllabus, building a new headquarters and taking possession of ten new KTM 790 ADVENTURE Rs and a pair of KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE Rs the Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Bike Experience was ready to open its doors – first to dealers and press, and then to its first customers.

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KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R © TooFast Media

A common theme is developing with everyone that comes to Sweet Lamb. Once people have parked, the spin round on their heels to take in the views and you can see their mouths go ‘wow’ before they do another 360-degree gaze at the landscape. The KTM dealers pioneered this reaction and were in rapture about both the bike and the venue. They returned to their shops to spread the word to their customers about what the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is capable of and how impressive the venue is.

The press, too, were enthralled with what the venue could offer, the standard of teaching and the insane ability of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R. A wide spectrum of ability came to the press day where novices quickly gained confidence thanks to the balance and refined manners of KTM’s latest ADVENTURE machine. Those with more experience under their belts could exploit the power, WP suspension and electronics of the bike to push their riding forward. All, however, could see that the venue is the best in the UK thanks to the range and scope of the riding available.

The most telling praise, however, came from the first group of paying customers. Of the ten that came, four rebooked on the spot having developed skills and experience they had never dreamed of. Others have since rebooked too, meaning that Sweet Lamb’s initial customers will have moved from the bronze to the silver level. Orange level is next, then an Orange Pro event will be the pinnacle of the school’s teachings. This is where KTM’s READY TO RACE attitude comes in, with Sweet Lamb bringing in top riders for schools with racers and ambassadors for the ultimate in fast-track learning.

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© TooFast Media

Because the ultimate in offroad machinery is supplied, the Sweet Lamb Experience appeals to a wide group of potential customers. Firstly, there are those that have bought a new KTM 790 ADVENTURE R or a KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R who want coaching and experience of what their machine is capable of. It’s also an opportunity for those curious about the bikes to demo them in an extreme location. Then there are those looking for a new experience in a stunning setting or to engender confidence in a variety of different conditions. If you’re looking to participate in the KTM Ultimate Race on a KTM 790 ADVENTURE R then the training offered here could get you on the flight out to Morocco! It’s a two day course, but you can also easily spend a week exploring the area on public trails and tarmac roads, putting into practice the knowledge imparted to you at Sweet Lamb.

The Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Bike Experience has hit the ground running, and with word of mouth, media reviews and dealers all evangelizing about the event it’s sure to make a huge impact in the UK. For more information on the event then head to ktm.adventurerallybike.co.uk.

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© TooFast Media

Photos: TooFast Media


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The Ultimate Winner: Scott Myers Interview

After five days ripping up the Moroccan desert against 11 other KTM 790 ADVENTURE R-mounted racers, Scott Myers talks us through the seven crucial moments that led to him becoming the inaugural KTM ULTIMATE RACE champion.

From never having ridden a ‘big’ Adventure bike offroad to winning a five-stage long race in the sands of Africa, Scott Myers’ story is one to be heard. A seasoned motocross, supercross and Baja (21 of them, in fact!) competitor, the 50-year-old American accepted a random invitation to join the KTM ULTIMATE RACE qualifiers by KTM ambassador Quinn Cody and the rest is history.

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Scott Myers (USA) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

With Scott providing an in-depth interview to Upshift online magazine, with their permission we’ve extracted the seven major steps in the American’s unique journey to KTM ULTIMATE RACE supremacy.

1) A racing background
“My father raced professionally back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I got into riding when I was three-years old and started racing when I was five or six. I had a career in racing motocross and supercross, but I was no Ricky Carmichael. I got to ride in the best days; the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. I was lucky to race in the days when you could make a pretty decent living out of it. I had a great career and then I got into racing Baja. I’ve been racing Baja for over 20 years now and I have multiple championships racing down there. That’s how I really got to know Quinn Cody.”

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Scott Myers (USA) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

2) An adventure bike newbie
“Quinn is the reason I got the idea of going to the KTM ULTIMATE RACE qualifiers in Park City. I had never been on an adventure bike in my life before. I have a KTM 950 SUPER ENDURO, but did not take that motorcycle on the dirt until recently. Quinn asked me to join the qualifiers at the KTM ADVENTURE RALLY and I just showed up. I had not ridden that motorcycle in the dirt until I pulled up to the line for the special test in Park City. I showed up with an eight-gallon tank and full saddlebags. People were laughing at me like you could have left your bags back at the hotel at least. So, I raced the special with full bags and I won it. That was my jump into adventure bike riding really.”

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Scott Myers (USA) & Quinn Cody (USA) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

3) It’s all getting real …
“Before heading to Morocco, I tried my best to eat a bit better and lose a few pounds. I just got on my motorcycle a lot and rode with my son every weekend. With my family, a full-time job and everything in between, that’s all I had time for. What made me a little bit worried at first was the GPS navigation. The idea of rally racing is you’re following this roadbook, you come to a certain turn, and you need to look over and make sure that your ODO matches the road book. So, you know that you’re on course, and boom, off you go again.”

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Scott Myers (USA) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

4) Pre-race woes
“I’d never navigated in my life, so I had no idea what I was doing. In Morocco there were a few competitors that had never seen a road book and others who were more experienced. I found it to be not as difficult as I thought. I love the idea of navigation anyway. Racing offroad is not so much that type of navigation but it does require to know your bearings. I’ve always felt that was pretty naturally for me. I found that the navigation itself in this race was hard. It took me a couple of days to get used to it, but I got better and better at it. It was great having Quinn to help and Marc Coma was there every day. The greatest rally navigator on earth, sitting there at a table with me, helping me figure stuff out.”

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Scott Myers (USA) & Marc Coma (ESP) KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

5) In the heart of the Moroccan desert
“I thought Morocco was amazing. I’ve never seen so many sand dunes in my entire life. Rocky roads, the technical stuff, the high-speed stuff all suits my style perfectly. But, I’d never even ridden a big bike in the dunes before. I also loved the camaraderie between competitors. There was no competitive nature whatsoever at the end of each day. I would say my buddy Kevin, the farmer from New Zealand, he was probably the most competitive guy there. But it was great. There’s no way it could’ve been a better group. Smiles every day.”

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Competitors & KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

6) The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R machine
“The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R was amazing. It handled so good for an Adventure bike. I was totally blown away. But at the same time, yeah, I struggled. The sand over there is so soft at points that your bike would instantly be buried. There was no gassing out of it, there was no momentum that you could get. You were going to be there for a few minutes to get it out. KTM has found a niche with a modern-day Adventure bike, with all the bells and whistles, the ABS, the traction control, just the modernization of an Adventure bike, but really dirt-friendly. Great dirt suspension, obviously lighter than one of the bigger bikes, has a good feel to it and a high fender like a dirt bike. For that guy that’s wanting to get into this, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is the only and best bike to buy.”

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Scott Myers (USA) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R KTM ULTIMATE RACE 2019 © Marcin Kin

7) Almost throwing it all away
“During the race, I’d find myself holding my breath sometimes, racing in this amazing country. But I also had to deal with mental and physical stress and I almost screwed up the entire thing. I had a perfect week of no problems and entered the last stage with a 33-minute lead, but ended up crashing four or five kilometers before the finish. I came up over this dune and I didn’t make it up. As I was coming up over again I hit a piece of camel grass and went over the bars. It took me a few minutes but finally got the bike back up. From there I cruised it all the way to the finish and that was it. The feeling of everything that was going through my mind was like nothing you can even imagine. Quinn was there yelling at me for almost throwing it all away. But I’ve made it. I’m just so thankful to KTM for everything. I’ll be going to some KTM ULTIMATE RACE qualifiers and I’m so excited to kind of be a part of it.”

The full interview was published in issue 33 of Upshift.

Photos: Marcin Kin
Video: KTM


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KTM EXC 2020: For the Journey to Extreme – The All-New KTM Enduro Range

Posted in Bikes, Riding

KTM launched its latest KTM EXC range this week in Bassella, Spain, and we at the KTM BLOG would like to share some images of the most extreme KTM Enduro models yet in action.

Developed on the toughest climbs, gnarliest terrain and deepest mud with our Red Bull KTM Factory Racing stars, the benchmark-setting KTM enduros have just raised the bar. A new KTM 150 EXC TPI joins its bigger brothers in the 2-stroke range, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and the KTM 300 EXC TPI – all featuring the latest TPI (Transfer Port Injection) technology. In the 4-stroke range it is the 250, 350, 450 and 500 KTM EXC-Fs that are ready for the hottest battles and most technical terrain.

KTM 150 EXC TPI MY2020 © KISKA

The KTM SIX DAYS models offer a premium parts package and are widely regarded as the best competition bikes on the market, while the KTM 300 EXC TPI ERZBERGRODEO is a new model to celebrate the iconic ErzbergRodeo hard enduro event in Austria, which is in its 25th year, with a special and exclusive design for this strictly limited model.

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KTM 300 EXC TPI ERZBERGRODEO MY2020 © KISKA

For model year 2020 a newly developed chassis that has evolved from the previous edition, along with new, more efficient yet high-performing engines, joins the improved WP XPLOR suspension and much more. It means the latest KTM EXCs, which are already the class leaders, offer the best equipment for the most difficult journeys to extreme, whatever the level of rider.

Photos: KISKA



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Jorge Prado: Making the best better?

Posted in People, Racing

MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado seems to have it all at 18 years of age. So, we asked those close to him: How can #61 possibly improve?

OK, firstly the essential data: Jorge Prado recently turned old enough to buy a drink but became an FIM Motocross World Champion in only his second full season of Grand Prix in 2018. He claimed a podium finish in his very first MX2 appearance as a wildcard in 2016 and won on his sixth outing as a Red Bull KTM rookie in 2017. He’s the first world champion from Spain. He owns the most holeshots from any rider in all classes from both 2016 and 2017.

Possessor of superlative technique and phenomenal starting prowess he rarely makes mistakes, is still blossoming with his physical condition and is a protégé of teammate Tony Cairoli and the De Carli camp inside Red Bull KTM. KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer recently claimed that Jorge could be placed in the same mold as other teenage sensations like Ken Roczen and Jeffrey Herlings.

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Jorge Prado (ESP, #61) KTM 250 SX-F Pietramurata (ITA) 2019 © Ray Archer

So far in 2019 Prado is undefeated on the track. A haematoma on his left shoulder after a crash while training caused him to miss the British Grand Prix but every other moto and round has fallen to the reigning champion. Prado said that he decided to keep the #61 for 2019 (rather than simply remove the ‘6’) because he feels he has not done enough to earn the #1 plate in his career so far. It is an odd and humble self-assessment, and recognition that Prado is not the finished article. However, to the fans, the rest of the paddock, his rivals and even those tight with the Galician inside KTM there is not much more to add to his arsenal of talent and capacities.

“Riding-wise and technically I don’t see a big window for improvement anymore,” straight-faces KTM Motocross Manager Joel Smets. “His timing is almost spot-on perfect. He will look at a jump and from the first attempt he will clear it perfectly. His position on the bike [also good] and even his starts! You cannot imagine him to be much better with those.”

Team Manager Claudio de Carli’s son, David, has been working, training and tutoring Prado since he veered into the Italian’s circumference in the off-season of 2017. David may claim that “the second time is always harder” when it comes to claiming a championship, but Prado has looked simply superior in 2019 MX2. “When we started last year, we found some areas where we could improve the training but for 2019 I think he was on another level and, at the moment, this is really, really high,” David adds. “When he is training with Tony – which they do together a lot – it is almost like a race. They push each other to the limit, they are lucky, and it is good for both of them. Jorge is another year older and with another year of experience; it’s normal that he is better.”

De Carli’s role cannot be understated in Prado’s evolution. The family’s Roman home became a new base of operations as opposed to Belgium. From an inconsistent rookie term – where four wins were celebrated but the then-sixteen-year-old also pulled out of two Grands Prix due to exhaustion – the acceleration of his potential has hit the highest gears. “The more of a unit you are then the stronger you are … but of course it is not easy,” he says. “You need to know the rider’s character and how to take him. You need to talk direct to him – not confuse any issue – and then you’ll be on a good line.”

As well as being a training partner and focusing on his own efforts in the MXGP class, Cairoli has also been implicit. “Jorge is going really well and I think he has improved a lot compared to last year,” #222 claims. “He’s much faster and stronger physically. I think it will be an even better year for him in 2019 and he’ll be really good. He’s really down to earth and this is nice.”

“He has developed well,” says MX2 Team Manager and Red Bull KTM Technical Director Dirk Gruebel. “In the beginning there was a lack of strength but that was related to age and it seemed that he grew out of it in 2018. He is also just human and this season he made a mistake while training and crashed. Sometimes you don’t know what an injury will do to you but riding-wise, speed-wise it is tough to see how he can be better.”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Pietramurata (ITA) 2019 © Ray Archer

From 44 grand prix appearances at the time of writing Prado has 27 podiums: 20 of those being wins. It’s an impressive ratio in such a small space of time and he is already the most successful Spaniard in the history of the FIM World Championship by far.

But there must be some weakness. Surely?

“At the moment there is nothing to say,” smiles De Carli. “I think we have already improved a lot from 2018 and I think the training crash this year is the only thing we could have avoided.”

Probably there is still room for improvement physically,” Smets demurs “but technically he is already so good and can beat everybody now.”

“A thing he could improve on is some race craft occasionally,” the Belgian says after some thought. “He can get a bit over-confident and then mistakes come. He reminds me a bit of Ben Townley [Red Bull KTM’s first MX2 World Champion in 2004] – he had the same thing: He could show so much confidence that it got scary! It’s about staying within your limits and your focus. Maybe Jorge has a bit too much nonchalance and it’s the same for some other guys. You see it with the scrubs and the way they move the bike because they feel great and are having a lot of fun. To judge everything about a race comes down to experience. I think this is quite normal for Jorge at his age [to miss that]. Once he gets his focus and confidence dialed-in I cannot see anybody that can beat the kid.”

Gruebel sees a slightly different side of being an elite athlete. “You need to be able to take the pressure,” the German says. “Everybody thinks it is so easy for him but they should also think back to what they were like when they were seventeen or eighteen! Probably they can’t imagine what it would be like to be the best MX2 motocrosser in the world. Of course, this is the dream of every kid trying to get in this sport but to actually get there and live through it with all the pressure from the media, all the other racers and sometimes even the family: It is not easy. He did well. He’s one of the youngest champions ever. He’s a handful!”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Pietramurata (ITA) 2019 © Ray Archer

The analysis leads on to where he will go and what Prado will do next. If he wins MX2 again in 2019 then he is obliged to leave the class. Red Bull KTM could contemplate a fantastical MXGP line-up of Prado, Herlings and Cairoli on KTM 450 SX-Fs. The path might change the dynamic in the De Carli faction of the team and would be the route for Prado to finally eye a righteous claim for that number 1 plate. It would also mean another challenge: Mastering the bigger motorcycle and far more experienced competitors. The difficulty of the task was highlighted by Jeffrey Herlings´ misjudgment in the early throes of 2017 and led the Dutchman to the kind of commitment and sacrifice that formed the basis of his ruthless 2018 title campaign.

“It will be interesting when he moves up a class because of his body size: Next to someone like Jeffrey he looks tiny but he’s growing and he is someone that rides more with talent and technique than strength,” says Gruebel. “I’ve seen him riding a 450 and it is pretty impressive … but that’s play-riding.”

“We are not thinking about it too much at the moment … but I think he will be a really good 450 rider because of his style,” offers De Carli while also warning: “Riding the 450 will mean another step.”

“The day he moves up to MXGP he will need a bit more muscle-power and all-around conditioning … but that will come because his body is still developing at the age of eighteen,” advocates Smets. “By twenty-to-twenty-one he will be even stronger and together with his skills you can imagine how it will be. I wouldn’t like to be one of his opponents at that moment.”

Then there is the USA. At the end of 2015 and into 2016 Prado spent a significant amount of time in California riding the supercross tracks and absorbing what it would be like to move across the Atlantic. “It was a lifelong dream, so I don’t know if it is dead yet,” says Gruebel. Jorge’s public talk of transitioning to SX has not been prevalent in the last eighteen months, maybe because of the effective blend with the De Carli setup. “Of course, I’m happy if he stays in Europe but it is a decision he needs to make by himself and we don’t want to turn him away from a dream,” says David.

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Pietramurata (ITA) 2019 © Ray Archer

Prado is as bright a talent as they come, but he is also a product of the KTM program: The same kind of expertise that has already helped new rookie (another eighteen-year-old) Tom Vialle make a career breakthrough in 2019.

“He has been with us for so long and was picked out as a ten-year-old on a 50/65cc and since then he’s had support and done many training sessions with the team,” Gruebel reveals of the Spaniard. “He kinda grew into it and that helps with handling the spotlight and seeing how the other guys, the older guys, go about their racing. You can learn your lessons quickly as opposed to going through it alone. From our side we try to give him the best material possible like we do with all our guys. It seems we are in a good direction with that because we have produced many world champions so far.”

Red Bull KTM have helped Townley, Tyla Rattray, Marvin Musquin (twice), Roczen, Herlings (three times), Jordi Tixier, Pauls Jonass and Prado become MX2 title holders in the last fifteen years. There is a wealth of knowledge and excellence under that orange awning which means the praise that Prado receives from the crew – and considering what they have witnessed over the years with the KTM 250 SX-F – is something to treasure.

“It is almost magical,” Smets says of his ability. “I have seen him doing things where I think ‘wow, to do that from the first moment is special’. OK, he’s been riding some supercross but not much in the US and no championship races, so it is all just natural judgement. To see him handling the bike like that almost gives me goose bumps. I’m not talking about normal doubles or triples but obstacles that nobody else would think to hit. He sees new options, he will try them and they’ll work from the first attempt. That is natural skill, intuition and feeling. You can do things with your heart in this sport and there are people without fear but that either works or it doesn’t; with Jorge it’s different. He makes anything work.”

Lastly, what about the teenager himself? What else is there to do?

“When I see myself riding I think ‘I can get a bit faster there’ or ‘I can enter the corner quicker here, open the gas earlier or let the bike roll more’: Motocross is a sport where you never know the limit. A half second a lap can be a lot at the end of the moto. It is a tough sport and I’m lucky I have Tony next to me training and that means I have the best reference. Sometimes we’ll be at the track and he’ll pull a very good lap and I cannot get close to him! So I know there is still some room for improvement! I feel there is a lot of work to do to get to that standard. It is difficult now at this level to get better … but with Tony as a reference I’m able to push every day.”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Mantova (ITA) 2019 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


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VIDEO: THE KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RIDDEN & RATED BY RIEMANN

Globally recognized motorcycle adventurer, Adam Riemann, puts the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R through its paces at the 2019 Naxos Adventure Rally.

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Adam Riemann (AUS) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Motology Films

Adam Riemann is the man behind some of YouTube’s most epic (and most viewed) motorcycle adventure films. In his latest release the Australian returns to the trails of Greece to try out KTM’s all-new 790 ADVENTURE R at the third edition of the Naxos Adventure Rally.

Extending a successful career as a motorcycle journalist into film making several years ago, Adam is the mastermind behind the renown MOTONOMAD film trilogy. From the Great Pyramid in Egypt to the Himalayan mountain trails, Riemann has ridden a motorcycle through some of the world’s most remote areas.

Spending a few days testing the new model in mainland Greece, Adam then headed to the largest of the Cyclades island group to participate at the three-day Naxos Adventure Rally. Completing several hundreds of miles in diverse terrain, mountain roads and stony trails, he wrapped up his experiences aboard this exciting new KTM machine in the short film review below …

Photo: KTM
Video: Motology Films



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Parallel Powers

Posted in Bikes, Riding

One engine with two different applications. We take a longer look at the LC8c engine that propels the new KTM 790 ADVENTURE/R and discover what makes it different to that of the KTM 790 DUKE.

The heart of every KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R starts beating in a small Austrian town called Munderfing.

KTM 790 ADVENTURE MY2019 © Marco Campelli

The Motorenwerk (engine plant) is in eyeshot of the main assembly plant in neighboring Mattighofen and flanked by the gigantic WP facility, KTM Factory Racing, the KTM E-Cross Center, the offices of KTM Austria and the new KTM House of Brands. The plant runs 24/7 and over 200 people work here to produce 300 to 400 engines every day; 2-stroke and 4-stroke, single and twin cylinders – including the new parallel twin LC8c.

Until the arrival of the KTM 790 DUKE in 2018, single cylinders and V-twins were the only engine layouts on offer from KTM. But this typically dynamic, aggressive and sporty machine came powered by the all-new LC8c parallel twin – KTM’s first production inline twin cylinder (if we don’t count the 2-stroke engine in the 250cc Grand Prix bike …). So, why this change in configuration? We asked KTM Product Manager, Adriaan Sinke, that very same question at the KTM 790 DUKE media launch last year.

“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’. 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.”

The extremely compact design of the LC8c has provided new packaging advantages for KTM. With its size and using the engine as a stressed member, the absence of a ‘rear’ cylinder and air box mounted above the cylinder heads gives more flexibility in terms of help create ergonomics to fit riders of all sizes no matter what the final application and type of bike.

History has shown us that KTM builds an engine for the intention of multiple uses. For example, the LC8 V-twin has powered superbikes, super nakeds, super adventures, super enduros and supermotos! That sounds like an easy way of making bikes, right? But KTM aren’t the kind of company who take the easy route, otherwise they’d have just used the KTM 790 DUKE’s engine in the new KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R.

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LC8c © KISKA

Physically from the outside, the two engines are identical. On paper, the ADVENTURE model ‘loses’ 10hp at peak power but has fractionally more torque. So, we asked Andreas Guehlsdorf, Project Leader for the KTM 790 ADVENTURE/R, to talk the torque and tell us what is the difference and why?

“Both the KTM 790 DUKE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE/R projects began at the same time, but the latter needed a longer development program. So, it wasn’t a case of changing the DUKE engine for the ADVENTURE – they were worked on in parallel, if you excuse the joke,” Andreas explains.

“The approach was that we wanted to have better torque; to get it quite low in the rev range. But of course, we tried the ‘DUKE’ engine in the ADVENTURE and it just didn’t suit this bike. It was almost too nervous because it just wanted to be let loose rather than cruising through a town. Adventure is all day riding – not a sprint!”

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LC8c © KISKA

So that’s the riding positioning and reasons why, but what are the component differences?

“It is down to cam timing, a longer intake tract and of course different ECU mapping,” Andreas continues. We started with the longest air intake snorkels possible in our package and adapted the inlet and outlet cam to reach the 95hp. It was the intention to keep at least 95hp and gain the maximum torque performance out of these measurements taken. In addition, with the new mapping, we got a really nice ridable torque line with smooth running in low revs and below 100g/km CO2.”

So, and like a lot of the development work the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R, KTM doesn’t favor the easy route and chooses to create a unique path. And that means that the Munderfing Motorenwerk will not be slowing down too.

To give you an idea of how life starts for an LC8c engine – and all KTM engines – each one is tested on the dyno. For the 4-strokes, this procedure consists of two parts. After it has been mounted on the dyno, each engine is turned without ignition by an electric motor (which is integrated in the test rig) via the output shaft. This serves to check if oil pressure is generated sufficiently and that water circulation works ok. If this is the case, the engine is started on its own for the very first time. This run lasts about two minutes and incorporates a predetermined testing procedure at different engine speeds. At the same time, a check for any leaks or unusual noises is done also the transmission is tested for smooth operation.

After the dyno test run each engine is back on the palette and transported again to the final assembly area. In this zone each 4-stroke engine is lifted and fixed on a working bench, where mechanics first drain the engine oil. After a new oil filter is installed the engine receives a fill of fresh oil. In addition, valve clearance is checked again and – if necessary – reset with appropriate shims. And once the engine is built into the bike, the engine is run up again on a dyno before the bike is packaged up and sent to the dealer – ready for a new owner to take it on heart-racing adventures!

Photos: Marco Campelli | Sebas Romero | KISKA


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Interview of the Month: The ways of Webb – 4 ways the new Red Bull KTM star has blasted 2019 AMA Supercross

Three seasons into life as a protagonist of the AMA 450 Supercross/Motocross scene and Cooper Webb has inked his entry in the record books. The 2019 SX campaign – the 23 year old’s first as a Red Bull KTM factory rider – has been nothing short of superlative as the former 250 SX/MX Champion (and with experience of only one other brand as a professional) has swept and surprised his rivals with 7 victories and 13 podium finishes.

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Cooper Webb (USA) Las Vegas (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

The series hurried to a conclusion at Las Vegas last weekend and, just prior to the Nevada decider where Cooper finished on the third step of the podium, we asked him for four ways in which he managed to own the red plate and grasp one of the most sought-after titles in motorcycle racing.

1) Embracing the change …
“Everything moved so quickly! When I first came over to this team I knew it was a great opportunity for me: I loved it. I had some good results but when I boomed out the first win at Anaheim 2 – in my opinion – it happened pretty fast. Then to go on from there and get more wins and the red plate and to continue to hold it is definitely a lot different. I feel like I have done a decent job so far …”

“250 Supercross racing in the U.S. is definitely different because you only race half the guys, and what you ‘do’ in the 250s doesn’t always transpire to the 450s and that also goes for the program you are on. I feel like I had a great program in the 250 class and did things a certain way that worked great. The transition to the 450s is a tough thing. I did it for a year – my rookie season – and struggled. I had injuries and not great results. My second year was the same or worse so it was a case of saying ‘OK, now none of this is working’. On paper it was easy to see that this team checked a lot of the boxes: bikes, personnel, program, the way they handle things, pit presence – it was something to really respect.”

“Racing can be such a rollercoaster with the emotions, injuries and everything that comes with it. It’s not easy to handle and becomes about putting it into perspective. 2019 has been an incredible year I have to sit back and think that the results have been good and it is awesome just to be a contender again. I feel I have prepared myself well to handle any of the different situations and one of the best ways is not to live too much in the past or in the future. You have to grasp what is there right now.”

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Cooper Webb (USA) KTM 450 SX-F Las Vegas (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

2) Keeping an open mind …
“The goal changed but the mindset stayed the same of getting better every weekend. I’m still learning stuff with the bike and the team and of racing seventeen rounds and being a contender.”

“I look at many things as a learning experience and coming to KTM I was open-minded. I feel like I always have been that way but I was in a place where the results were not coming so I was happy to sit back to absorb whatever these guys had to say and do it. The results now speak for themselves.”

“When you are not part of the Baker’s Factory then you hear a lot of stories … but I think going there without any set-ways or anything like that was a help. I think you have to be this way and just accept and trust Aldon. Whether it’s a figure like him or another team member then you have to trust what they say or it is not going to work. So that’s what I did and it’s worked out well. I’m still learning and continuing to get used to the program. It is not nearly what I expected actually. I mean, we work really, really hard but it’s fun and it’s a great group of people. I’ve enjoyed it more than any other [program] I’ve done yet. It was exciting, and I won’t lie: There were moments where I thought ‘man, I hope I can handle this …’. Not everything we do is public knowledge. There were some days where I hated life. In the first week I was actually puking on a bike ride! It definitely made you question some things but I never lost sight of the results it could bring. I had to adapt and push myself again.”

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Cooper Webb (USA) KTM 450 SX-F Las Vegas (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

3) Placing faith in the new group
“I’ve always been quite a laidback guy and intrigued by learning.”

“In everyday life it can be hard to trust people – at least it is for me – but coming to KTM I didn’t have a doubt about a single person. I knew these people were the best in the paddock at what they do. That drew my attention. The group from the mechanics, to Roger, Ian and management and to Pit: Everybody has the same goal, and what I liked about it in comparison to some other teams was that it was smaller – in terms of personnel – and the communication from the CEO to Roger to the mechanics is non-stop and the goal is to win as much as you can and to perform. Just look at what they have done and with who for the last five years.”

“That appealed to me right away and I felt like I had the missing pieces. I had the mentorship that I was looking for. It was a huge gain when you have a solid group of people that you not only believe in but you also trust. It is a big thing and definitely a cool feeling.”

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Cooper Webb (USA) & Marvin Musquin (FRA) Las Vegas (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

4) Not getting too wrapped up
“I had some good results but when I boomed out the first win, in my opinion, it happened pretty quick.”

“The biggest thing for me is to stay in the present: in the moment. The goal is the championship but the mindset is to try to win races and do the best I can. There is always room to improve and so I focus more on that rather the big championship picture.”

“There is always pressure … but I’ve always said I like being in this situation: It is what we train for and where we want to be if we desire success in this sport. You have to take the ‘things’ that come with it. I’d definitely rather be upfront rather than behind.”

“To be a champion and a premier guy in the sport I believe the mental training is just as important. It is a constant test mentally and physically and I try to embrace that. There has never been a lack of motivation. If I have lent on the guys in the team then it has been for a calming-down effect and they have put things into perspective a little better for me. You will have bad days: And that is where they step in and really help me forget those quickly and move forward. This group is really good at that.”

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Cooper Webb (USA) & Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 450 SX-F Las Vegas (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Photos: Simon Cudby


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KTM LC4 – A single success story

One iconic engine is responsible for so many KTM racing successes and as the beating heart of its most legendary sportmotorcycles produced. The 2019 KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R both share the very latest version of the KTM LC4 engine; the most powerful production single cylinder available.

These two exciting and very different new machines benefit from an engine with 32 years of constant refinement that can be felt in each addictive power pulse. Through this development, clever engineering and the advances of ride by wire and fuel injection systems, the LC4 has shaken off the stigma that large-capacity monos are too aggressive in their delivery and vibrate too much to be practical. The latest generation LC4-powered machines offer versatility with a truly unique riding experience, but the path here wasn’t always smooth …

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KTM LC4 2019 © Sebas Romero

ORIGINS
In the 1980s, KTM were coming to prominence with success in offroad racing; Heinz Kinigadner became the world champion in the 250cc motocross class for the second time on a 2-stroker in 1985. In this same year, the 100,000th KTM engine rolled off the production line – a newly developed, half-liter 2-stroke motor delivering 60 hp. But the pressure was on manufacturers to reduce exhaust and noise emissions and so the super lightweight 2-stroke engines that had overtaken the 4-strokes in the 1960s were now under threat.

After growing used to the taste of world championship champagne, KTM engineers didn’t waste any time in developing an ultra-modern 4-stroke engine based on the 500cc 2-stroke housing to stay at the top. “Only the essentials – but only the finest essentials”: this was the philosophy behind this new liquid-cooled 4-stroke ‘single’, which became known as LC4.

After five years of development, series production of the LC4 began and a 553cc version made its debut for enduro racing in 1987: the 600 GS LC4. The introduction was nothing short of sensational with instant success as Joachim Sauer – now KTM’s Senior Product Manager Offroad – and Gianangelo Croci won the European Enduro Championship in the large class and in the 350cc class respectively.

DEVELOPMENT
Typical for the READY TO RACE company, the factory competition team proved to be the best testing environment and Sauer, who was a KTM development engineer too, was able to use his experiences from the race weekend to implement suitable improvements come Monday morning.

The ultimate aim for KTM was not only to design highly-desired competition bikes, but also a concept that was suitable for the everyday and that would master both challenging terrain and also riding down to the store. At this stage, the LC4 had a long way to go before it could demonstrate its unrestricted mastery on everyday roads.

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KTM LC4 2019 © Sebas Romero

A NEW CHAPTER
When KTM relaunched as KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH in 1992 under the management of Mr. Stefan Pierer, focus and development of the LC4 engine would increase to form the basis for a new generation of motorcycles. Staying true to the original philosophy, non-essential components were still left out – including an electric start or a balancer shaft – but Enduro World Championships secured by Mario Rinaldi, Gio Sala and Fabio Farioli contributed significantly to the popularity of the LC4 engine. Next up was to point it at the tarmac …

For the 1992 Cologne IFMA show, KTM engineers and Gerald Kiska (of KISKA Design) took a 553cc enduro, chopped the chassis up, fitted some 17-inch wheels and bored the LC4 engine out to 598cc. Billed as a ‘fun bike’, the ‘DUKE’ concept was also the first orange KTM to be shown and the reality was that it was a proper Supermoto for the road with no shred of practicality. The reaction was just what KTM hoped and development for production began.

With the KTM 620 DUKE’s showroom release in 1994, Supermoto for the masses was born; big corner fun, bigger wheelies and absolute wire-tight stupidity. Importantly, the orange remained and the tone and image for KTM on the street was set.

REFINEMENT
Development of the LC4 continued and spawned many different capacities to suit offroad and street applications. The largest bore and stroke variant, first seen in 1994’s DUKE I, saw implementation of the electric start in 1996 and as the years went on, the capacity, usability and refinement increased thanks to better components and advances in engineering – 640, 660 and 690 models were spawned including the beginning of the ADVENTURE series with the KTM 620 ADVENTURE in 1997.

In arguably the world’s toughest event on both competitor and machine – the Dakar Rally – LC4-powered KTM’s notched up stage wins in the 90s thanks to Kinigadner. But it was the KTM LC4 660 R in the hands of Fabrizio Meoni in 2001 that began an unrivaled 18-year unbeaten run in this prestigious event, the bike notching up 5 Dakar wins and 16 podiums from a possible 18 until rule changes saw the class capacity dropped to 450cc.

Despite no racing classes remaining to push the LC4 further, KTM still continues at full gas with development and commitment to the unique appeal of this iconic engine for both on and offroad uses. Today, the powerful single-cylinder engine is the beating heart of the KTM 690 SMC R, KTM 690 ENDURO R and the KTM 690 DUKE to firmly cement itself as the world’s strongest single-cylinder production engine at the cutting edge of motorcycle engineering.

KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © Sebas Romero

Photos: Sebas Romero | KISKA


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KTM SX 2020: The sharpest weapons are created in the toughest arenas

Posted in Bikes, Riding

It’s been an incredibly successful Supercross season in which Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin steered their KTM 450 SX-F machines to numerous race wins, and KTM is also enjoying great success in the FIM Motocross World Championship. With that in mind it’s a perfect time to celebrate the arrival in dealers of the KTM SX model year 2020 range.

At the KTM BLOG we’d like to share a quick snapshot of the first images of the new KTM SX model year 2020 range …

With READY TO RACE machinery right out of the crate from the junior KTM 50 SX to the KTM 450 SX-F powerhouse, the KTM SX line-up is as battle ready as ever for racing in the most difficult arenas. The adult models, both 2-stroke and 4-stroke, continue to enjoy premium components such as Brembo brakes, No-Dirt footpegs, WP XACT suspension, high-quality exhaust systems and much more. For 2020 detailed refinements have been developed with engineers in Austria and the USA along with our factory racing teams to ensure the latest models are the most competitive motocross bikes yet.

KTM 250 SX-F MY2020 © KISKA

In the KTM sportminicycle range the models for the juniors are developed by the very same engineers that create our world-beating factory machines. With high-quality Formula brakes, molybdenum steel frame, ergonomically designed bodywork, high performance engines and more along with the refined components for 2020, these bikes are ideal for the aspiring youngster.

KTM 50 SX MINI MY2020 © KISKA

Photos: KISKA



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Desert riding broken down by the KTM desert tribe

Posted in Racing, Riding

With the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the first KTM Ultimate Race checked off and the big news about the Dakar Rally moving to Saudi Arabia, we wanted to elaborate on the moment’s hot topic.

Hello, desert!
The shortest guide on desert riding ever done will necessarily touch on technique but will – more importantly – cover the other side of desert racing: adaptation, preparation, navigation, hydration, nutrition and mind-set.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019 © Rally Zone

The biggest secret
“To become a great desert rider, you need the right mix of talent, knowledge and experience,” says Jordi Viladoms, KTM Rally Team Manager, and accomplished Dakarist. “You can be fast because you are brave, and you can be fast because you have truly connected with the terrain. On the one hand, the desert offers you a sense of complete freedom, but at the same time sets the rules which are extremely dangerous to break. Out there you are responsible for your own life, there is no one to blame, except nature. Very few riders understand where to accelerate and where to slow down, and that’s the whole secret. It’s not just about momentum, that’s technique, but also about finding your own speed limit while correctly interpreting the shapes of the terrain. The desert offers clues, yet you need a lot of experience to figure them out. When racing in the dunes, you normally want the straightest line because it’s the shortest way, but in the end you don’t choose your line – the desert will choose it for you. All you need to do is to let it happen, with a great deal of respect.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019 © Rally Zone

Interacting with the sand
“Riding in the dunes feels like skiing or surfing,” says Chris Birch, hard enduro specialist and offroad coach. “I think one of the coolest things about riding the bike is how you and your bike integrate with the terrain. In hard enduro, you are looking for the traction, working with the terrain, working with the side of a mountain to get you through, and in the dunes it’s like a really fine version of that. Find the right line and the dunes will be easy to cross. If you get it slightly wrong, you’ll be thrown off your rhythm. It’s all about the feeling, which you get by doing it a lot. In the desert, especially while tackling the bigger dunes, you want to keep your momentum, which is not always an easy thing to do. Always take care to keep a good, aggressive riding position so a soft patch of sand won’t throw you over the handlebars. And once you figure out the sand, you will need to focus on navigation. It doesn’t matter how fast you are if you’re going in the wrong direction.”

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Chris Birch (NZL) KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Sebas Romero

Multi-task effectively
“First of all, if you want to win a desert race, you mustn’t get lost. This means, you´ll need to have learned a lot about navigation. On the other hand, in order to learn to read the terrain, you need to spend a lot of time in the dunes. Even when you think you have mastered these two things, the unpredictability or the sunlight kick in. When the sun is very high, you get snow blind and you don’t see the contour of the ground,” says Sam Sunderland, 2017 Dakar winner and one of the best desert readers in the world. “Looking closer at the desert: You have all sorts of terrain, and dunes: small, medium, big, even giant. Each type you tackle in a different manner. The giant dunes are not the most dangerous ones, but they will suck the life out of you. Small dunes are dangerous, your speed is higher and sometimes they come with a drop. The idea is not to jump any dune, your goal is to always keep your wheels on the ground,” he adds.

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KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

Keep calm and eat dates
“First of all, to be able to race in the desert for five or more days, you need to spend time out there before the race. It’s a little bit like going to places with low oxygen; the best way to acclimatize is to climb the mountains and get used to it,” says Mohammed Jaffar, a Kuwaiti motocross and rally-raid competitor. “You can’t know the creature if you haven’t faced it at the highest temperatures, or with a storm creeping up on you. Speaking of extreme conditions, your everyday fitness diet most probably won’t suit the heat. You need carbs that will help you recover. In the days prior to a desert rally, I eat lots of white steamed rice and tuna, though my main source of energy are dates. If the Bedouin people have survived for thousands of years with the help of dates, I will as well. And because not everything in the desert will go as planned, always do your best to try not to panic. When you are stressed, you can’t think clearly and you start making the wrong decisions. In the desert you are alone, so play it smart. To reduce stress to a minimum, you need to be 100% prepared. I am always keeping lists of everything I might need.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019 © Rally Zone

Be mindful, pace yourself and drink as much as you can
“The biggest dangers in the desert are you, the decisions you make, the dust and dehydration. Speaking of hydration, start by overhydrating yourself at least two, three days before the race,” says Quinn Cody, a multiple Baja winner and KTM R&D rider. “In fact, what you have to do is to overhydrate your body, and keep your electrolytes going. During the race, you’ll always want to keep your hydration level high, so be mindful and don’t forget to drink as much as possible. In case you run out of water, be creative and proactive – stop at the first sign of human life and ask for a sip. It also helps not to make any navigational mistakes. In the desert, it’s very easy to dry out with the heat, the wind and riding a bike at high speed, so you’ll need to drink a lot more than in a normal enduro race. Focus and don’t make too many mistakes – saving your energy in the desert is fundamental,” explains Quinn. Just take a look around if you need proof, all living creatures in the desert have that one thing in common, they´re masters at saving energy!

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019 © Rally Zone

Focus + confidence = flow
“In the desert, you never know what comes next and that’s the most challenging part,” says Luciano Benavides, the youngest member of Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team who just reached his first rally world podium. “The unpredictability is part of the game, you don’t know the constantly changing terrain you are riding on and that’s something you need to embrace and accept. On the other hand, there is something you can work on, and that’s your confidence. The less fear you experience, the more relaxed and smooth your ride will be. If you get tense and scared, you’re not going to ride well and you won’t be in the flow. Being in the flow is simply amazing – all the dunes seem perfect, the line you take is ideal, you think of nothing and just enjoy riding. This is something I haven’t found in other parts of my life, only in the desert. I can’t even compare it to being in love.”

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Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019 © Rally Zone

The desert will teach you quite a lot
“The main thing I’ve learned in the desert is that you must never ever lose your concentration. Many unpredictable things happen out there, but you only make it if you don’t lose focus. In the end, in the desert you don’t fight with other people, more with yourself, and those victories over yourself are the most important. You learn to take care of your own business rather than worrying about others,” thinks a former MX3 World Champion and 2018 Dakar winner Matthias Walkner. “If you want to be a desert racer, be one 24/7. It all counts: From the food you eat, the thoughts you think, the friends you surround yourself with. And then, go out and ride! The desert wants you fully committed.”

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Rally Zone | PhotosDakar.com | Marcin Kin | Sebas Romero


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#inthisyear1959: Crisis and Shifting Focus

Posted in Bikes, History

When the KTM Motohall opens its doors after four years of planning, its three stories will give visitors the opportunity to experience the history of KTM first hand. The second story is dedicated to the development of KTM motorcycles, starting with the 1953 R 100 and KTM’s first engine all the way to the present day. For many years, KTM has been the biggest and brightest European motorcycle manufacturer, but that was not always the case. KTM has found itself in difficult times on several occasions throughout the history of the company, which spans six and a half decades. One such time was the European motorcycle crisis of the late 1950s.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

The post-war period of the early 1950s was defined by a desire for mobility. While owning a car was still out of reach for many people, a motorcycle was a much more affordable option. This was also the reason why KTM’s founder, Hans Trunkenpolz, decided to build a light motorcycle – the R 100 – alongside the industrial production of replacement vehicle parts. Given the conditions of the time, the R 100 was expected to sell well. Just one year later, a second model, the R 125, was produced and the 1000th KTM motorcycle rolled off the production line in 1954. The future was looking bright. 1956 saw the addition of three new models to the KTM range in the shape of the Grand Tourist, the small Tarzan sports bike, and the Mirabell scooter. At the International Six Days Enduro in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, four of the then six-person Austrian Trophy Team rode KTM motorcycles. In the world of road racing, Erwin Lechner flew past all of his competitors on a 4-stroke Apfelbeck KTM.

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KTM R 125 1954 © KTM

Just like in the motorbike industry of neighboring Germany, the crisis soon began to take hold at KTM, with sales slumping significantly in the late 1950s. The economic situation in post-war Europe had stabilized enough that many people could now afford a small car and the motorcycle quickly gained a reputation for being a “poor person’s vehicle”. It was the age of the microcar – the Goggomobil, the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller [Messerschmitt Cabin Scooter], and the Zündapp Janus, in which the passengers sat back to back, all became popular, despite how absurd they may seem to our modern eyes. The increasing popularity of cars drove many German motorcycle manufacturers into bankruptcy.

A large order from the Austrian armed forces for a military version of the “Mustang” came as a huge relief for KTM and saved the company from a terrible fate, though the company’s motorsport activities had to be called off for cost reasons. While the Grand Tourist, Trophy, Tarzan, and Mustang motorcycles were nevertheless exhibited at the 1959 Vienna Spring Fair, it was already becoming clear that KTM would have to stop building motorcycles. The only new development on show was the redesigned Mecky moped with a Sachs engine, which was now a two-seater. This was a hint towards the future direction of KTM. Unlike in the motorcycle market, an increase in sales of 50 cc mopeds that did not need a driving license was expected.

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KTM Trophy 1959 © KTM

In 1959, KTM entered into a partnership with ZKW, a Viennese manufacturer of vehicle components, when ZKW took over KTM co-owner Ernst Kronreif’s stake in the company after his death, thus becoming the majority shareholder. This motivated the switch from engines made by Rotax and Sachs to engines made by their Austrian competitor, Puch, one of ZKW’s biggest customers and the leading player in the Austrian moped sector. Only export models continued to use Sachs engines.

The first new model to be released after the crisis was the 1960 “Ponny moped”, a successor of the Mecky. With its distinctive twin headlamps, tail fin, and two-tone paint, the Ponny was the most elegant moped on the market at the time – it was practically a limousine on two wheels. However, for the youth of the day, the moped was not exciting enough, especially as it was advertised as a ladies moped. They longed for “sporty little machines” like the Tarzan from the 1950s, according to market research conducted by the Austrian dealers. For this reason, developing a new 50 cc moped that looked like a motorcycle became a top priority, in the hope that it would help the company gain back some ground from its main competitor, Puch. This was the push KTM needed to develop the Comet range, which went into series production in 1964 and was a huge hit right from the start. The Comet bikes, which were equipped as usual with Puch engines for the domestic market and with Sachs engines for export models, helped KTM to gain back a significant share of the market from Puch. With hindsight, taking the decision more than sixty years ago to stop producing motorcycles in favor of 50 cc models seems to have been a strategically wise thing to do. The redesigned Ponny II moped was sold until 1988 – it was certainly no one-trick pony. A variety of Comet moped and light motorcycle models were part of the KTM range until the 1980s.

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KTM Ponny 1960 © KTM

In the KTM Motohall visitors can experience the history of Europe’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer at first hand, starting with the R 100, the first KTM motorcycle from 1953, through the elegant mopeds and sporty 50 cc models of the 1960s and the successful Enduro and Motocross bikes, all the way to the present day.

A special story is dedicated to the KTM Heroes, where visitors can see the KTM world championship-winning bikes and get to know the champions themselves, who can be seen in their original riding gear. There are plenty of reasons to visit the KTM Motohall in Mattighofen!

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

Photos: KTM Motohall GmbH | KTM


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Luciano Benavides’ jumpy ride to the world cross-country rallies podium: “I said to myself I could do it, for myself, and the team”

Posted in People, Racing

It was 11am, April 4, when Luciano Benavides, still a junior, rode into the Red Bull KTM Factory Racings Rally Team’s paddock at Yas Marina Circuit as runner-up of the 29th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. A big smile appeared on his face when he took off his helmet. It was the take off the 23-year old Argentinian had been waiting impatiently for quite some time. “In this race I discovered the new me,” he said. The magic can’t be truly explained, but we can at least try.

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Luciano Benavides (ARG) Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (UAE) 2019 © Rally Zone

Starting the last stage 4 minutes and 36 seconds behind the second-placed rider, Luciano Benavides knew he would have to ride the best special of his life. “I didn’t even drink during my last stage. I simply didn’t want to lose the flow I had got into. I’ve never experienced such focus, never raced that smart, and I’ve probably never had such fun. Judging by the lines in the desert, I saw my jumps were longer compared to those of the guys in front. I knew I was fast, and if nothing unpredictable came my way, I’d finish on the podium just after Sam,” he explained.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (UAE) 2019 © Rally Zone

We asked him about his feelings on the night before the storm, fighting the storm, becoming one, and to finally storm onto the podium, but we also got the chance to get to know him better.

What was happening in your head on the night before the last stage, with the podium smiling at you?
“I don’t know how it happened, but I felt unusually calm. I slept well that night; despite the fact I had a lot to lose the next day. Before closing my eyes, I pictured myself on the podium, in second place behind Sam, and that’s exactly what happened. I said to myself I could do it, for myself, and the team.”

How did the last stage go?
“It was really hard, but mostly psychologically. The stage was shorter compared to the days before. However, to me it felt really long, because in every kilometer I was pushing like hell, trying to gain some time. I didn’t even drink. I know that’s wrong but I didn’t want to distract myself with pulling the tube of my camel bag. I was fully committed, fully focused on making it happen.”

Did you catch the famed flow the desert riders talk about from time to time with sparks in their eyes?
“Today yes, I caught it after refueling. When I arrived there, they told me I gained a whole 4 minutes in the dunes. That gave me an energy boost, but still there were 36 seconds left to make up in the fast piste, where everyone is going top speed. I knew I had to do something to win those seconds, to push more than ever. Then it was like entering a tunnel, I was only thinking of the race, of the track, and it felt like flying. I did twenty kilometers motocross style, attacking and jumping a lot. The bike felt lighter, and me as well. Before I had finished the stage I knew I had gained those seconds.”

How did you know that?
“I was looking at the lines of the guys in front and every time I jumped I saw I jumped farther, at least a few meters farther. As a result my last stage was also my best; I came second, while every stage before I had finished in 4th position.”

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Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (UAE) 2019 © Rally Zone

You were also a rookie in this race, right?
“Yes, and I will stay a rookie for more or less the whole season, till Morocco. This is the first time I am doing the complete season. My rally history just got a lot better with this year’s Dakar. Before that, I did three rallies and had two serious crashes. My entry in the world of rallies was painful, and the experience cost me greatly. It was devastating for my confidence, and motivation. After the big crash in the Dakar 2018, I was almost convinced I should have stuck to enduro, or maybe switch to motocross. Yet there is something more about rally so I wanted to stay, and try again.”

How did you find this race, the almost 100% sandy Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge?
“I love this race; I think this desert fits my riding style. I am aware though my answer would be different if it hadn’t gone well for me. But I found the perfect rhythm on the bike and every stage I felt more confident. On some occasions I was riding with Sam and following him, I learned how to cross the big dunes. My speed improved, and I also got to jump quite a lot, which is what I love.”

How would you compare this race to this year’s Dakar?
“If I had to choose, I would race the Dakar here. This year’s Dakar was much trickier because of fesh-fesh. Here in the Empty Quarter, the main problem are the broken dunes, while in Peru the most dangerous thing is fesh-fesh. I enjoyed this desert more because I could push more.”

The Atacama rally will be another first – what do you know about it?
“A new terrain is a double-edged sword; while it’s thrilling to discover new landscapes, the unknown can hurt you. What I’ve heard is that Atacama rally is very fast. The good thing is that now I am more aware of my limits and my weaknesses, so I know exactly what to work on. I am super motivated and planning to train very hard for the next rounds of the championship.”

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Luciano Benavides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (UAE) 2019 © Rally Zone

There is a big-time difference between Abu Dhabi and Salta – have you spoken to your family?
“I know my mum was following the race, but now she would be asleep. We have a family WhatsApp group and I’ve already left a message there.”

In this race we saw you riding alongside your brother – how does that feel?
“It’s wonderful and complicated at the same time. To be honest, I don’t like when I am in front of him. I used to always be behind; every time I arrived at a dangerous place I knew he had already passed, so I felt relieved, knowing I’d see him at the finish. But in this race, I was beating him, and when I crossed the finish line, my only hope was that he hadn’t crashed in the big hole I narrowly missed. In the desert you are always thinking too much.”

How is it living in Salta?
“I love living in Salta. It’s a great city, with good weather all year round. Besides that, I live in the middle of a motocross track, so for me it’s paradise.”

Are you still studying to be an accountant?
“It would have been good for the family business, but I dropped out. After I signed with a factory team, I tried to keep up with my studies, but I wasn’t doing that well on the bike or at school. I wanted to give 100 percent to something, and that was my riding. My parents understood and that made my decision lots easier. I know I can still finish university when I stop racing. I like business, but I just like racing more. My biggest hobby is motocross, and I would like to try to race some MX and SX races when I retire from rallying.”

Your teammates call you Junior. You are a junior, but this is also your nickname. Who gave it to you?
“All silly ideas in the team come from Sam, but I don’t mind this one (laughs). Actually, I have another nickname – in Argentina people call me Faster. This morning at the start, I said to myself: ‘Hey, Junior, today you should do it Faster style!’”

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Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team KTM 450 RALLY Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (UAE) 2019 © Rally Zone

How are the dynamics in the team?
“It’s really great to be in the KTM factory team. The guys always take care of me, so it’s like my second family. Every member of the team is as passionate about racing as us pilots, and that’s a key part of our success. Receiving a lot of support also between races, I couldn’t imagine a better place to improve as a rider and a person.”

What else makes you happy in life?
“This is what makes me happy. I love riding bikes. When I put on my helmet, I become what I truly am. As a cherry on a cake, in this race I discovered the better version of myself: smart, patient, consistent rider. I love to go fast, and I love jumps.”

Photos: Rally Zone


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