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140,000 Kilometers Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

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World traveler Aaron Steinmann, better known to his fans as theBraaping Kiwi, has recently finished a trip of a lifetime. Since 2016, Aaron has ridden over 140,000 kilometers around the world covering 6 continents and 51 countries on ‘Tess’, his 2015 KTM 500 EXC-F. An unusual bike for a round-the-world trip, Tess has held up magnificently and, according to Aaron, it’s a sturdy, reliable bike for traveling.

However, taking the KTM 500 around the world wasn’t the original plan: at first, Aaron only planned to ride from New Zealand to Portland, Oregon. “My initial trip idea was to ride some 20,000-30,000 kilometers from New Zealand to Oregon, so a huge distance just wasn’t on my mind. That’s why I picked the KTM 500: it’s a lightweight, solid dirt bike, and since I wanted to go light and ride lots of off-road, it made sense at the time,” Aaron shares.

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

Having shipped the bike from New Zealand to Chile, Aaron rode the KTM 500 to Portland where the journey was supposed to end – except by that time, the adventurer realized he wasn’t quite done with traveling yet.


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After taking some time in Oregon and rebuilding the top end of the engine to prepare the bike for another leg of the journey, Aaron rode the bike to Alaska and decided he’d travel back to New Zealand on Tess…via Europe and Russia. “The trip sort of grew on me, as did the bike, and I made the decision to keep going,” Aaron says.

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

The 30,000km journey across the Americas now became a world expedition adding Europe,Morocco, Central Asia, Mongolia, Russia, Australia, and finally, New Zealand to the route.

How did the KTM 500 perform? what challenges Aaron faced along the way? and where is he headed next? We caught up with the Braaping Kiwi to find out.

Preparing the Motorcycle

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

According to Aaron, at the beginning of the trip, the KTM 500 was almost completely stock. The traveler had replaced the seat for a Seat concepts unit, added Barkbuster handguards and a larger twenty-liter tank, and that was the extent of the modifications at first. However, Aaron always kept an eye on preventive maintenance, doing frequent oil changes every 2,000-2,500 km, changing air filters, and keeping the bike in good shape.

“I’m no mechanic, but I knew I needed to keep the bike well-maintained if I was to cover long distances. Preventive maintenance isn’t difficult and if done regularly, that alone will save you lots of trouble,” Aaron shares.

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

The first bigger maintenance job came up after Aaron reached Oregon and decided to continue to Alaska. After the Alaska leg of the journey was completed, the KTM 500 had 67,000km on the clock and Aaron had the top end of the engine rebuilt to make sure the bike would hold for the next long distance leg of his journey.

Along the way, Aaron added several other mods to the motorcycle: bigger, wider footpegs, Renthal bars, Scotts steering damper, an FMF exhaust, Haan wheels with cush drive, break away levers, Moto Minded XL Pro LED headlight, a Boyesen super cooler, and different shift and brake levers. “The journey kept evolving along the way, and so did the bike,” Aaron explains.

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

According to him, he never had any major issues with the bike. Once he reached Georgia after completing the Morocco and Europe leg of the journey, Aaron left the bike for four months and flew back to the States to work smuggling the dismantled engine in his checked luggage. “At that point, the bike had 100,000 km on the clock, and I wanted to rebuild the bottom end of the engine, so I took it apart and flew to the States to catch up on work and rebuild the engine.”

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

In terms of luggage, Aaron carried a soft Giant Loop set up to keep the bike as light as possible. His minimalist packing included a change of clothes, thermal layers, camping gear, cooking gear, and some spares like air and oil filters, wheel bearings, and spare tubes, as well as tools. “You don’t really need much when you’re traveling; I ride in four-season gear, carry just the basics, and if something bigger were to happen with the bike, I’d find a mechanic,” Aaron explains.

Getting By on a Budget

The Braaping Kiwi has financed the entire world expedition himself, renting out his house and trying to live as cheaply as possible. Aaron camped as much as he could and prepped his own meals, especially in more expensive places like North America and Europe.

Around The World On A KTM 500 EXC

If he could find accommodation for less than $30, Aaron would stay in guest houses or hotels, but for most of the time, the traveler relied on camping and pasta and rice dishes to make the resources last. “I’d avoid touristy places, eat where the locals ate, and generally don’t spend much on the road. When you’re out for a week or two, you may want to spend more on nicer accommodation or meals, but when you’re on the road for over three years, it’s not a vacation, it’s just life, and you make it work,” Aaron explains.

World’s Wildest Places

For Aaron, riding around the world was all about exploring remote places and riding off road. The Atacama Desert and the Lagunas Route in Bolivia, the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and the wilderness of Central Asia and Mongolia were among the highlights of the trip.

aaron-steinmann-ktm-500-around-the-world

However, riding in far-flung locations doesn’t come without risk: once, riding in the Sahara Desert, Aaron couldn’t find the track to his destination. He was almost out of water, and although the adventurer eventually found the way, he admits the incident gave him a scare. “It was a reminder not to get complacent,” Aaron remembers.

Trying to get the engine cleared in Georgian customs was also a challenge, but the biggest shock during the entire trip was the KTM500 getting stolen in Australia. Aaron was camping near the Uluru (Ayers Rock) when his motorcycle was stolen from outside his tent during the night, and at first, the traveler feared the bike would not be recovered.

aaron-steinmann-ktm-500-around-the-world

“It was one of the worst moments, but it also proved that 99.99% of the people in the world are good. I got so much support from Australian riders including fellow Kiwi Chris Birch and the adventure riding community overall, and eventually, my motorcycle was found within two days thanks to the efforts of the local police and the motorcycling community,” Aaron shares. The bike was damaged – Aaron had to replace the mirrors, number plate, indicators, and decals, and just to be on the safe side, it was time to give Tess an overall check-up just in case the joy riders might have damaged the clutch or anything else on the bike. The motorcycle repaired, Aaron carried on riding Tess home to New Zealand.

aaron-steinmann-ktm-500-around-the-world

RTW Tips from the Braaping Kiwi

Aaron says that the biggest takeaway from his round-the-world motorcycle adventure is that journeys like his aren’t as dangerous or difficult as people assume. For him, the trip wasn’t entirely planned, and his attitude of tackling a massive distance is simple: “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at the time.”

Aaron shares that most of the people he met along the way were amazing, and that the world is a much more welcoming place than we think. “The amount of time I got shown acts of kindness from strangers was humbling, and these are the most cherished memories of my journey,” Aaron says.

aaron-steinmann-ktm-500-around-the-world

For someone considering doing a similar trip, Aaron advises not to overthink the logistics and take it one day at a time. Most importantly, the Braaping Kiwi says it’s crucial to trust your own gut instinct and travel the way you want – there is no right or wrong way of riding around the world.

Having completed his RTW in 2020, just before COVID hit, Aaron now spends his time adventuring locally in New Zealand. However, he admits getting itchy feet already and is hoping to do another trip soon – perhaps Africa or the Himalayas, as soon as the borders open again.

Follow Aaron’s adventures on Instagram @braaping_kiwi

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Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

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