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KTM ADVENTURE RALLYE | Events

An adventure ride but not as you know it

The KTM Adventure Rallye offers something different to a bog-stock five-day adventure ride with a couple of latte stops thrown in, but then you’d expect nothing less from Kato. It takes adventure riding to the next level by seeking terrain not usually associated with adventure bikes, to show KTM owners what their machines are capable of.

The Rallye attracts all sorts of riders. From die-hard enduro nuts and motocrossers to easy-going adventure riders who are happy to stick to the easy route.

This year started in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales before heading up into the Central West and New England, the Upper Hunter Valley then back to the Blue Mountains.

DAY 1 WISEMANS FERRY TO JENOLAN CAVES

There were nerves going into the first day and it wasn’t helped by a sore head thanks to my new ‘mates’, Dave, Tim and Brett, who had kept the beer flowing the night before. It wasn’t the best way to start, but as the week went on I learnt riding makes up one-third of the adventure and socialising the other two-thirds.

All 200 bikes rolled out in dribs and drabs. The 1190s were a popular choice and one was my ride for the duration, but there were 950 Super Enduros, 990 Adventures, 690 Enduros and even a few old 640 LC4s. You could tell some were only there for the dirt and the promise of challenging terrain.

I rode with KTM General Manager Jeff Leisk in the morning as we headed for Zig Zag Railway through Portland and Bells Line Of Road towards some epic riding in the Blue Mountains. Starting on a section of easy dirt road and bitumen helped me settle in on the 1190R as I don’t normally ride big bikes. Judging from the skids on corner exits, some riders were getting straight down to business.

The main attraction of day one was Blackfellows Hand Trail. Thanks to recent rain, the conditions were perfect. Steering big adventure bikes through the soft sand is still challenging, but it’s nothing a big handful of throttle can’t fix.

As we followed the trail, we passed a couple of fallen riders having issues with the sand, then made our way down some steep rock sections before eventually popping out on Wolgan Valley Road. The first serious optional breakout route started here, and it was a doozy. It was a steep, rocky hill climb, full of ledges and better suited to an EXC.

I got the big 1190 stuck between a rock and a hard place. Lucky for me there were a few riders hanging around to capture the action – and help out, eventually. The trail continued to climb and eventually plateaued out where I came across a group standing around beside the trail. As you do, I stopped for a chat and they told me there’d been a head-on between Motology Films’ Adam Riemann and one of the Rallye riders. The two met on a tight corner and the resulting impact snapped the frame on Riemann’s brand-new KTM 1190R! Luckily neither were badly injured, although the punter had a sore back.

The route dove off into the trees for some singletrack. Singletrack on an 1190? I wasn’t sure but it did surprisingly well. You can ride it like an enduro if you stand up and use the footpegs. It’s just more difficult to stop and change direction quickly.

I missed a sign that would have helped me avoid a log, but decided to take it on anyway. I came in too gingerly and got stuck, again. This time there was nobody in sight and as I tried hard to remember all I could from watching Man vs Wild in preparation for my night in the bush, out of the woods came a bloke who’d broken down up ahead and had heard me struggling. The 1190 had dug a trench BHP would be proud of, so it was a two-man job skull-dragging it out.

We continued on past Cullen Bullen Lookout and down to the valley. The Rallye ducked into Sunny Corner but stayed out of the singletrack. By this point there were a lot of roos getting about and they seemed to have an attraction to KTMs.

The final stint was the narrow road down to Jenolan Caves. This is where we stayed for the night and a new rule was introduced – if your handlebar touched the ground it was a $2 fine. That money went towards the bar tab on the final night. The fund made a killing, but there was worse to come…

DAY 2 JENOLAN CAVES TO DASHVILLE

Day two started with some bitumen that went back to Bells Line Of Road. It’s hard to avoid bitumen in the Blue Mountains as most dirt roads are in national park and off-limits, but I couldn’t care less – the 1190 is unreal on the road.

We left Bells Line Of Road and joined a dirt road that links Bells to the Putty Road. The trail was loamy and you could tell by the skids that the KTM punters were having a ball. I was getting more comfortable on the 1190 by this point and started to have more fun – it’s got huge torque but you’ve got to be careful because it’ll spit you off quickly.

Putty Road offered some more epic riding but it came with a warning as it’s heavily policed. Most people stopped at Grey Gum Café for some lunch and a chinwag. It’s easy to start a convo with a random because everyone has at least one thing in common: motorcycles.

I learnt there were lots of riders who had signed up for the Rallye on their own. It’s not a bad idea when you think about it. We’ve all tried to organise a ride only to have everyone pull out the day before. KTM does all the hard work for you and it doesn’t matter if you’re on your own because you’ll meet tons of similar people throughout the week.

The route left Putty Road and moved on to one of the best sections of the entire Rallye – Howes Trail. It’s about 30km of flowing fire road with erosion mounds, sandy corners, little climbs and fast sweeping corners. The erosion mounds found the bottom of the 1190s suspension but the blokes on 690s were going for long-distance record attempts.

The sand catches a lot of people off guard and the big adventure bikes can’t be manhandled unless you’re the hulk. You’ve got to lean back and let the bike do its thing.

Howes Trail joins Finchley track and eventually spits you out at Wollombi where the pub was inundated with riders thirsty for a beer, or two, or three… A few were fixing flats from Howes Trail. It wasn’t rough but it did egg you on and one misplaced rock could pinch a tube.

After a final breakout, the Wollombi route weaved through the Hunter Valley vineyards and some riders stopped to pick up a bottle.  That night the entire Rallye camped out at Dashville. They called it ‘glamping’; I call it camping. We slept in tents that were already set-up with bedding and everything. All we had to do was eat, drink then sleep.

DAY 3  DASHVILLE TO WALCHA

The third day was the longest on the bike so far and would be the longest day of the Rallye. I clocked up about 400km after getting lost a couple times but my mates Tim and Brett cracked 450km!

We left Dashville and headed to Nundle but the first breakout route of the day slowed a lot of people down. The area near Barrington Tops is famous for its clay. Add water and 200kg adventure bikes, and it’s carnage.

I put the 1190 down three times in about two minutes, a quick $6 to the bar tab. All three times someone helped pick the big girl up and that was a common sight on this stretch of devil clay – everyone had to help.

The first breakout route had a rocky hillclimb that caught a few off guard, but the second breakout route was worse.

I had heard it was bad so to my shame I gave it a miss. I’m glad I did after seeing the footage – bikes were pointing every direction except the right way. Organisers eventually shut down the second breakout after too many riders got stuck and one bloke got hurt.

The next breakout route saw us make 21 river crossings. All were passable on a soft-roader, but the slick boulders combined with heavy bikes surprised some. The trail went through the Packers’ Ellerston pastoral station. 

After lunch there were multiple breakout routes that ducked off the main fire road through the pine forest and deep into the greenery. The surface was slippery but not from clay. Not many bikes had ridden through so there was lots of leaf matter covering the trail.

I got pretty lost in the pines when I missed a green arrow and I just went further into the darkness! I found my way out eventually and made my way to Walcha, where I met former ADB cover boy Phil Lovett at the petrol station. It was his first time on the Rallye and he was mounted on a 690 Enduro.

We stayed in swags and tents at Walcha. Two hundred adventure bikes acted as clotheslines for the night – typical of adventure riders.

DAY 4  Walcha to Riverwood Downs

I made the mistake of speaking too soon on day four and assuming it was going to be cruisey after seeing the 260km route.

But the day was much tougher than the mileage let on. The main route took us through Mummel National Park – it was cold, wet and blanketed in heavy fog. The ground was a mixture of wet, slippery clay and black dirt. I kept it upright but a few binned it in the slop.

We hit 1500m at our highest point, and conditions were at their worst. You could only see the headlight of the bike behind you, visibility was 10m max.

I stopped for a break in a camping area and another solo rider followed me in. His bike had heated grips and I was insanely jealous – we couldn’t believe how cold it was for summer! But the area is infamous for its freezing temperatures.

After the Mummel National Park the route took us along the famous Cell River Road. One of the great adventure bike roads, it weaves its way across the mountain tops with spectacular views and tight twisting sections.

The Cell River Road area could be mistaken for South East Asia, with rolling green hills and tight winding mountain roads. The only thing missing were the rice fields.

The drop from the road was hundreds of meters to the river below. Skids from bikes struggling to slow down before the countless hairpin turns were everywhere, but no one went over – unless we didn’t know and they’re still down there.

I binned it hard on the Cell River Road. Exiting a slippery corner my back wheel dropped into a drainage ditch beside the road and I got cross rutted. It catapulted me off the bike and into an embankment. Lucky a few blokes stopped to help, but not before taking a few photos.

Turns out one of them was Ben Alsop, Team Manager for the Motorex KTM Junior Development Team. I soon discovered he’s also a keen fisherman and at the next big river crossing he tried his luck at snagging a trout with only his mouth.

We stopped for lunch and a splash of fuel in Gloucester. A bunch of seasoned adventure riders sat me down and taught me the meaning of life and that vanilla slices make you horny – you learn something new every day.

The remaining 50-60km to Riverwood Downs was smooth sailing. We made six more river crossings, most of them were fords and passable in a Hyundai i30, but one was 4WD only and spanned about 20m. It was knee deep, littered with big slimy rocks and a few people came unstuck. It didn’t matter though because there was a huge crowd filming in anticipation of a crash, and if you went down they’d eventually sacrifice their dry boots and come in to help.

The Rallye stopped at Riverwood Downs. A group of riders from America took part in an Australian induction ceremony where they skulled a warm beer and ate a cold meat pie.

DAY 5  Riverwood Downs to Wisemans Ferry

The day started off sunny but quickly turned grey and wet. From Riverwood Downs to Dungog the rain soaked us, and at the breakfast stop in Dungog no one was enthusiastic about getting back out there in the wet.

The easy route was the popular choice, but I couldn’t help myself and turned on to a few breakout routes.

The most carnage, however, took place at an unsuspecting causeway. Unlike probably every causeway you’ve ever crossed, the safest place to ride was in the middle, not the wheel tracks.

The wheel tracks were like ice and we were warned at the riders briefing the night before. German KTM bloke Peter must not have been listening because he rode straight down the wheel track and like magic his 1190 disappeared from beneath him. We then learnt the bike in fact belonged to KTM State Brand Manager Ray Barnes. Peter was quick to talk down the damage, as if it would make breaking the news to Ray easier. I reminded him he’d be on a plane back to Germany before Ray noticed the scratch marks on his brand-new 1190. But he wasn’t – Ray noticed straight away.

The final stretch of dirt road from Wollombi to Wisemans was awesome. It was a welcome sight to see the Del Rio Riverside Resort sign and the beer tasted sweeter knowing that we had made it in one piece, just.

Being on Rallye for five days you are living in a little travelling bubble, unaware of what’s going on in the outside world. The limited network reception, long hours on the bike and nightly drink-a-thons leave little time to worry about what’s happening back home.

By the time I got to the end of the trip I’d made dozens of new mates and seen parts of Australia close to home that I’d never visited. We travelled roads I’d read so much about but never experienced, and had loads of fun. For any level of rider, regardless of your background, a KTM Adventure Rallye should be on your bucket list.   

Travelling In Style

I was pretty lucky I sat where I did on Sunday night for the riders’ briefing because I was next to two mates – Tim and Brett. They were both motocross riders, like me, who’d purchased KTM 690 Enduros and wanted to try their hand at adventure. However, the lads didn’t want to sacrifice comfort so Tim roped in his parents, Rod and Carole, to follow the rallye in their V8 Landcrusier towing the Jayco Base Station! Rod and Carole are both in their seventies and have been travelling Australia for seven years. They jumped at the opportunity to see more of the country and were happy to follow the ride.

Every night when we rode into town they were there, Base Station glowing like a small city with Tim and Brett’s beds made with a chocolate on the pillow. It was an impressive rig and one I came to benefit from after I helped Carole fix her camera.

I had everything charging off their power, plus I got on the list for a daily smoothie and a cold beer in the afternoon! If you’re thinking of going on the Rallye but none of your mates are keen, go solo because you might end up drinking beer and smoothies and charging your iPhone out of someone’s Base Station! So thank you Carole and Rod for your hospitality.

How It Works

• The Rallye is open to all KTM adventure bike owners

• The route includes bitumen, gravel roads, forest tracks, and breakout routes each day

• Rallye Fee is $895

What You Get

• Five days, 1500km adventure riding

• Lead riders, course markers and GPS files

• Luggage and tyre support assistance

• Medic/tech support

• Backup vehicle and sweep support

• Dinner included every night

• KTM Goody Bag: T-shirt, sticker and event DVD

• Event photographer

• Ride with KTM Pro riders and special guests!

• Riders book their own accommodation

WORDS OLLY MALONE

PHOTOGRAPHY DANNY WILKINSON