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Impetuously dismissing the ISDE as too easy, Chris Birch was the first Anzac to take on the world in Hard Enduro.

On the final day of the 2006 International Six Day Enduro (ISDE) held in Taupo, New Zealand, Chris Birch had just completed the final test, only to discover the day’s competition had been cancelled due to the conditions. Chris was a little cheesed off – couldn’t these Europeans cope with a little Kiwi mud?

“In retrospect, cancelling the day was probably the right call,” Chris recalls. “But at the time, I thought screw this, I’m through with Enduro.”

That was only until a video of the Romaniacs excited his sense of purpose and, at his own expense, was quick to take on the challenge of this now legendary event and finished a remarkable third in his rookie year. Another third-place followed in 2008, then runner-up in 2009 and, finally, a well-deserved victory in 2010. The first non-European to figure in the results.

Over those same three years Chris had been travelling to South Africa to claim three successive wins in the Roof Of Africa Rally – acknowledged by many to be the world’s first hard enduro. Different terrain and different climate zones, but it was these extreme events in Romania and South Africa that established Chris at the inception of hard enduro popularity around the world.

Chris and his wife Monica moved to South Africa, where he won the 2011 South African Enduro Championship for the Alfie Cox KTM team, followed by his only crack at the Dakar Rally in 2012. However, while the racing paid for itself, there were very few luxury hotels along the way as Chris travelled the world seeking the most improbable challenges in motorcycling; the Geico Endurocross series in the USA, the 2013 X Games, Erzberg Rodeo, Hell’s Gate and Red Bull’s Last Man Standing.

Come 2017, after winning five Romaniacs gold medals, surely Chris could not have conceived of anything more radical than entering a KTM 1190 Adventure in an event virtually designed around the attributes of lightweight 300cc two-strokes. A broken hand on the eve of the event put paid to that plan but, within months, Chris had entered the Hellas Rally, an obscure hard-core event in Greece.

Not only did Chris claim victory in the twin-cylinder class, he finished 12th outright in a packed field of enduro machines. Great publicity for Chris’s growing Adventure Riding School. It was only to be expected that, with support from Red Bull, Chris would return to Greece in 2019 to debut KTM’s 790 Adventure R, but few expected him to finish fourth outright, close behind a trio of race-prepped 500cc enduro bikes and more than seven hours ahead of the second-best finishing adventure bike. This, despite losing his navigation gear and being forced to follow the dust for almost a full day.

Throughout this period, adventure riding remained an integral part of Chris’s lifestyle, initially on a Suzuki DR650 with Monica as pillion, and later on a KTM 950 Adventure, the first of an endless parade of the latest offerings from KTM. The arrival of daughter Zoe some years back was only one of the factors behind the family’s move to Thames, New Zealand, where his Adventure Riding School is now based over the summer season.

“After running schools around the world we’d just settled in when Covid hit,” said Chris. “I really enjoy the results, it’s a great feeling to help people overcome their fears. And when I want a bit of seat time to myself, there’s plenty of great riding close to home.” Chris enjoys his role as ambassador on KTM Adventure Rallies, too.

“I’m happiest when I can master a few difficult tracks close to home, and stay close to Monica and Zoe.”

However once travel restrictions eased and winter set in, Chris was quick to relocate the Riding School and his family to sunny Spain. “Why not enjoy the climate while we can,” says Chris. “And I haven’t ruled out a return to Romaniacs in the Silver Class one day.”