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Chris Birch’s 5 Favorite Things on the KTM 790 R After Racing It

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Back when legendary enduro racer Chris Birch was coaching amateur participants for KTM’s Ultimate Race he wasn’t thinking much about the Hellas Rally in Greece. He just knew the KTM 790 Adventure R had the potential to kick ass on a serious level. Now, having finished a remarkable 4th place overall in what has become one of Europe’s most challenging rallies — an event geared heavily toward lighter 450cc machines and not do-it-all adventure bikes — he’s more than proven his theory.

“It’s hard to believe how well [it] handles in the most extreme situations until you’ve raced one,” he says of the bike, a machine more reminiscent of the big-bore Paris-Dakar bikes we watched in the 90s than the dirt bikes you see competing in today’s rallies.

”What I Loved Most About Racing the 790 R”

Chris Birch racing the KTM 790 Adventure R at Hellas Rally


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When asked what he loves most about racing the KTM 790 Adventure R, Birch says firstly it’s the bike’s extremely capable suspension. “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.” Birch says he felt comfortable pushing the KTM 790 Adventure R hard during the grueling seven-day event, no matter how diverse the terrain.

He also cites the bike’s braking system as a feature that encouraged complete confidence. “Managing your brakes’ temperature in long stages is really a crucial thing,” says Birch. With some of the stages including more than 400 km of riding per day he adds that confidence in the braking system gave him less to worry about so he could focus fully his performance.

Chris Birch racing the KTM 790 Adventure R at Hellas Rally

Birch describes the power delivery from the bike’s parallel twin as smooth and tractable, and despite the engine’s potent 95hp output, it delivered all the torquey goodness (65 ft-lbs) necessary to find traction on the most tricky and slippery parts of the trail.

Also on his list of favorite features is the 790’s 5.3-gallon fuel tank and claimed 280-mile range, which allowed him a huge advantage over most of his Hellas competitors who were riding smaller bikes. He says he never had to worry about conserving fuel during the event.

Chris Birch racing the KTM 790 Adventure R at Hellas Rally

But to come out on the winning end of a 7-day, 1200 kilometer rally raid with a smile on your face requires a bike that’s comfortable as well as competitive. Birch loves that there are seat options available from KTM PowerParts, and opted to go with the taller version for the Hellas. “The seat gave me total freedom to move my weight all the way forwards and back. It just made riding easier,” he says, plus “it felt great to finish this long week of riding without a sore arse.”

In a past video Birch also praised the 790 Adventure R’s Rally Mode with its on-the-fly traction control options, as well as the bike’s overall ergonomic triangle and how the compact fuel tank shape allows for a deeper, more forward seating position that’s perfect for aggressive maneuvering. “You can do so much on this bike sitting down,” he says, “which really saves you for long days of adventure riding.”

WATCH: Chris Birch also shares some of his favorite features on the KTM 790 Adventure R for Adventure Riding.

Birch was excited going into the Hellas on the KTM 790 R because he knew it was capable, but was eager to explore its full potential in real race conditions. “It was a huge highlight for me to learn how to get the most out of this cool machine,” he says. “It’s an amazing motorcycle and I enjoyed every moment of racing it.”

Photos by Actiongraphers

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Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

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