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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Anna´s travel route

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Photos: Anna Grechishkina
Video: Anna Grechishkina


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      One of the hallmarks of 21st century life to date has been the increased ease to self-market. Social media, networking platforms and recruitment websites mean that it is possible to make shortcuts and directly target the vocational niche of your choosing.
      While there are still no substitutes for experience, contacts and knowledge, the possibilities to break into a desired field like MotoGPTM racing can seem a little clearer. There are even specific ‘race engineering academies’ that can train an aspiring mechanic in the processes and demands of preparing competition-spec equipment. In Spain ‘schools’ like the Monlau facility in Barcelona now have an element of prestige.
      There are different ways in. Alex Merhand, part of Miguel Oliveira’s Tech3 crew, studied and qualified as a data engineer, served his ‘laptop apprenticeship’ for two years for a factory team in MXGP and then graduated to MotoGPTM. On the other side of the ‘entry coin’ is John Eyre, a Brit now three years in Red Bull KTM as a mechanic looking after one of Johann Zarco’s KTM RC16s. Almost two decades in MotoGPTM John submerged himself in the scene by working part-time for a local rider in the British Superbike series. “The best thing to do now is to get a good qualification if you want to be working with data or electronics but if you want to be a mechanic then you just have to get experience and see if you can find someone that will take you on for weekends,” he says. “Do your studies during the week and get to the track at weekends. A lot of people at BSB will do that.”
      John Eyre (GBR) & Adam Wheeler (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Eyre started his journey as an eager kid obsessed by bikes. “Everybody asks ‘how did you start?’. Well I began working at races in the British Championship for a guy in the 250 series who was from the same village as me. Instead of taking holidays I went racing on the weekends. That was between 1993 and 1998 mainly as a kid.”
      “My Dad used to race grass track, road racing and vintage bikes – I have vintage bikes at home – so it was a bit of a passion thing [inherited] from him,” he says. “I did a bit of racing but you quickly realize that it’s expensive and if you crash then you still need to go to work on a Monday morning. So, I went more into mechanic-ing and the technical side.”
      KTM RC16 © Rob Gray
      Once in the race paddock then the relationships John made, the work he performed and a particular character towards the job meant he was in a position to start moving: A role working for Paul Brown in Supersport led to a year with Steve Hislop in Superbike and then finally the opening to arrive to Grand Prix at the end of 2000. “Steve was really good and I really enjoyed working with him,” he recalls. “I always wanted to get into Grand Prix and a friend was working at the Shell Advance Team and a job came up. I was thinking about it because I was 21 and it meant moving to Spain. That was 2001 and it was with Leon Haslam in the 500s.”
      As well as a mechanical mind, concentration and diligence seem to be two essential skills. Making a mistake in race bike prep can be perilous but Eyre is quite forthright about the mentality required. “A motorcycle is only nuts and bots: You just have to put it together properly. I always double check everything and was brought up to be extra sure. Then when you are in a team you bounce off each other in terms of the jobs: When that feels easy and second nature then you know you are in a good crew.”
      John Eyre (GBR) KTM RC16 © Rob Gray
      At MotoGPTM level a stripped-down racing prototype looks like a complicated collection of exotic parts and tech. For Eyre and his peers it is all relative. “It is technical … but the bike still has two wheels, two handlebars, a seat! I have worked on a lot of bikes; 2-strokes and a lot of engine stripping. Nowadays you get an engine and you just place it in the chassis. Before you had to do all the maintenance yourself with the pistons, rings, cranks: That was almost a daily job. I miss working inside the engine: the gearbox, cylinders. We used to build everything but now it is just placement of the engine, there is even a specific guy just for the gearbox.”
      “When new stuff comes you have to have a little look and think about it … but generally if it is made right and properly then it should go together nicely,” he adds on the evolution of parts and ideas in MotoGPTM.
      John Eyre (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Eyre could be the best spannerman in the business but a crucial part of his job (and something anyone looking to reach his position should be aware of) is blending with his co-workers – around 5-6 in the immediate vicinity – and making the best team environment. “I think you have to be easy-going with everybody,” he says of the personality needed to spend so many days and hours on the road and in pitboxes. “You have to be open-minded and then you’ll warm to them and them to you. We have a new Crew Chief this year and he has been absolutely brilliant.”
      He spent more than ten years at HRC (as part of the unit around KTM’s new test rider Dani Pedrosa, “I’d worked with Mike [Leitner] for about nine years and I was looking for a different challenge”) and this was a big marker on his CV. It meant that his name and face was firmly entrenched in the MotoGPTM scene: Another boost to employment prospects. “It’s not easy,” he smiles of making contacts and the ‘networking’ element of breaking into the paddock. “I remember one guy telling me it was easier to get in the Arsenal football club first eleven than it was to get into our team in BSB!”
      Knowing the job, being good with people (thus building contacts) and having the disposition to handle a race situation: If a wannabe mechanic still believes they are suitable then the next step is persistence. “What you cannot beat is race experience,” Eyre stresses. “You can have all the qualifications under the sun but that experience counts for a lot. The group really matters as well. When you have a good group of lads then you tend to know what they want before they know themselves and vice-versa. There are a lot of shortcuts and it seems to click.”
      John Eyre (GBR) & co-workers © Rob Gray
      To achieve any goal takes sacrifice. Reaching MotoGPTM might be a promised land for many but, as with anything “you have to take the rough with the smooth,” Eyre says. Nineteen weekends of racing on five continents plus tests means a long haul of kilometers on the road and in the air, and many days away from home. Much of the work formerly done in workshops is also carried out in the pitboxes of the circuits.
      “The travelling is massive. There has to be a compromise now because if they keep putting more and more races then there won’t be an off-season. I remember when I first started Grands Prix then we didn’t begin racing until April and we’d have a test in Malaysia and Jerez and that was it. Now we start the day after the last race of the year! Testing is hard work compared to racing. The travelling can be a burden but if you want to be in the world championship then you have to deal with it. I enjoy the job when I’m here.”
      Above all – and like the riders themselves and anybody else striving for results at elite level sport – Eyre says commitment and determination is what will help you make it in the end. “If you are into it then just keep trying and don’t give up,” he insists. “You have to have a passion for it. I remember being at school and saying that I wanted to go grand prix racing. Half of the teachers said ‘you won’t do anything like that’ but if you keep your head down and carry on …”
      John Eyre (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Photos: Rob Gray 
    • De Dementor
      Switchcraft: Ride modes for your mood
      Posted in Bikes, Riding KTM BLOG discovers more about the host of electronic rider aids on the new KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R, including the new riding modes easily operated by the push of a button.
      KTM 690 SMC R & KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      A psycho supermoto and a long-distance enduro that are both high performance, big capacity single cylinders that are hardcore and street legal. These distinctive attributes aren’t commonplace in the motorcycle market and require a certain character who wants one. And these are the characters KTM likes building bikes for.
      Creating such unique machines around the various regulations placed on manufacturers isn’t easy. But for the new KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R, both bikes didn’t just get updated for compliance but had a whole host of new features developed for them.
      A whole host of electronic systems come fitted straight out of the box – ABS with cornering sensitivity, lean-angle sensitive traction control, Quickshifter+ and two different ride modes that can be easily selected from a new bar-mounted switch. The previous versions of these models had ABS and just a switch under the seat to choose from three selectable engine maps (comfort, street, sport) and an additional “bad fuel” map; nice to have the options, but not very practical on the fly …
      ABS has been mandatory (and rightly so) on new motorcycles from 125cc and above in Europe since 2016 but KTM took the opportunity to also fit the cornering ABS function to these bikes – it allows the rider to commit to their line mid-turn and apply full braking power should the unexpected happen. Not a system to rely on at every corner but incredibly comforting to know it’s there. With a KTM PowerParts dongle, Supermoto and Offroad ABS functions are also available, allowing the rear wheel to be blocked and removing the anti-roll function. The ABS can also be completely turned off, if you’re that way inclined …
      The Quickshifter+ is purely performance orientated and makes a big difference to riding comfortable, saving time, mental effort and, of course, energy in everything from flat-out missions to gentle commutes. So, what about traction control? Is it really necessary on a single?
      KTM LC4 MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      Power wise, these bikes take advantage of the increased performance from the latest generation LC4 and, at 74hp, are the most powerful production single cylinder bikes. Very healthy indeed, but not MotoGPTM or KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R leagues. The 690s do, however, make a big punch of torque – 73.5 Nm. This is around 10 Nm less than a modern 1000cc sportsbike in a package that weighs at least a quarter less. Epic fun in the right conditions, but think about that on patchy tarmac or deep mud …
      “The KTM approach to fitting electronic systems has always been the same – to add to the riding performance of the bike and increase safety without diluting the experience,” said KTM Product Manager, Adriaan Sinke, to the world’s media in Portugal at the launch of the two bikes in February. “The ride modes are there to allow riders to get the most from the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R in all situations and conditions.”
      Indeed. The Mattighofen massive decided to implement motorcycle traction control (MTC) with cornering sensitivity to the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R. And as part of its two selectable ride modes operated by a new switch cube on the left bar, the amount of traction, anti-wheelie and the throttle response can be quickly altered to suit the riders’ ambition, ability and conditions.
      The layout of the switch is simple and is formed for easy application with gloves on the move. The ‘map’ button at the bottom allows the selection of the two ride modes, which are illuminated when active – white for ‘1’ and green for ‘2’. The map mode can be pressed at any time and after that gives the rider five seconds to close the throttle in order for the desired mode to be activated. The five seconds and chopped throttle is to cover for accidental selection.
      At the top is a ‘TC’ button and also an orange TC-LED, that flashes when the system is detecting and reacting to a slide and, when held down for 5 seconds, deactivates the traction control altogether and remains illuminated.
      Switch cube KTM LC4 MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      So, what are the modes?
      KTM 690 SMC R
      Mode 1: “Street mode” – Sporty throttle response with cornering sensitive MTC, limiting wheel slip and wheelies to a minimum for optimal street riding performance.
      Mode 2: “Sport mode” – More aggressive throttle response, cornering sensitivity remains but with reduced traction control to allow drifts and full control of the slide, aimed at track or very sporty street usage.
      KTM 690 ENDURO R
      Mode 1: “Street mode” – Sporty throttle response with cornering sensitive MTC, limiting wheel slip and wheelies to a minimum for optimal street riding performance.
      Mode 2: “Offroad mode” – More aggressive throttle response with offroad traction control, allowing wheel slip and lifting of the front wheel for offroad usage without hindering the performance.
      KTM 690 SMC R & KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      To give you an idea of the level of effort and development put into the new ride modes, this little controller is the first CAN bus related switch for a KTM and represents almost two years of work and the integration of much personnel from the KTM R&D team responsible for these new bikes. We grabbed a quick word with two of those people responsible.
      Thomas Nussbaumer, KTM R&D Team Leader Electronic Sensors/Actuators: “When we started with these new 690s, the questions we asked ourselves was how many modes are necessary. And what options do we have for changing these modes while riding. The challenge was to find an agreement between the modes, implement this in the switch cube and for the rider to be able to change between the modes without much thought. To keep it simple as possible.”
      “It’s the first time a KTM mode switch is communicating via CAN bus with the engine management control unit and ABS control unit. It’s getting data from the wheel speed sensors, lean angle (5D/6D sensor) sensor and the engine management is getting data from the ride by wire – such as requested torque – then we get the data from which map is requested. On the old versions of these bikes you couldn’t do that while riding. But with this switch we’ve been able to build up the architecture to do this when riding – even with anti-wheelie functions.”
      Daniel Esterbauer, KTM R&D Electronic Sensors/Actuators, continues: “The two ride modes we have are perfect. Take the SMC R for example, we had to focus on two different rider levels: Road riders with less track experience or aspirations and then professional riders who spend a lot of time on circuit. So, we had to find a way to get both parties satisfied and here is where Street and Sport modes deliver excitement, confidence and safety, with their unique response and TC interference.”
      “We wanted to avoid a situation where a professional rider sits on the bike and the first thing they do is deactivate the TC. The system has to perform better than OK for even the best riders – making them feel like they are not being held back. But the modes can also be used to suit the terrain and weather conditions.”
      But what are the modes like in reality? Tom Booth-Amos is a Moto3 rider for the CIP Green Power KTM Team and a former two-time British Supermoto champion. He was invited to the launch and was able to test the ride modes on a very wet Kartódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit. Check out this onboard 360-degree video to see what the conditions and fun level was like.
      “I’d never ridden using traction control before the KTM 690 SMC R but I have to say the system was incredible,” said Tom. “We were on street tires in the rain and I could see the light on the switch cube blinking to tell me the TC was working, but the system was smooth in the way it intervened. Without it, I would have just been stood at the side of the track with a sad face on and not riding, but instead – and with the Supermoto ABS on – I could push the bike hard in the conditions and still slide around.”
      Tom Booth-Amos (GBR) KTM 690 SMC R MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      As for the KTM 690 ENDURO R, at the same event a very experienced, fast enduro racer and KTM employee (ED – who shall remain nameless) rode for a whole day mapping out the offroad course for the media on mud and sand, thinking he’d deactivated the traction control when he actually hadn’t. On being told this, he was amazed by the traction he’d been getting all day without ever noticing the system working. How is that for impressive? He was embarrassed …
      KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © Sebas Romero
      So, do riders of these bikes need these features? Well, motorcycling has been around for a long time without them. But if ride modes coupled with a brain that thinks and acts within milliseconds means you get the most from the machine whatever the conditions while having fun and be safer, isn’t it time to make a switch?
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      Discover more about the many features on both the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R at and at the nearest KTM dealer.
      Photos: Sebas Romero
      Video: Fabbegghy Studio