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KTM Adventure Rallye

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This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #23

2017 The Blue Mountains Another roaring success.

Every time we get off the bike many of us are heard to mutter it was the best ride we’ve ever been on. It’s hard to say if the second KTM Rallye was better or equal to the first – the 2016 Jindabyne High Country Ride – but in the eyes of everyone who rode this event, it was as good, if not better.

Preparation for the Rallye started when the first information was sent out through KTM dealers to customers before the news went public. Not surprisingly, within 36 hours the entry list, capped at 150 riders, was full.

Within another 48 hours overwhelming demand meant entries had blown out to 190.

Cells River Road must be one of Australia’s most spectacular adventure routes.
John Corbett got all colourful at Jenolan Caves.

Meet the crew

The 2017 KTM Blue Mountains Rallye started at the Wisemans Ferry Caravan Park on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in NSW. Final documentation, GPS loading and last-minute preparation for the five days ahead were dealt with. As usual, Rosie Lalonde, KTM Marketing Coordinator and Event Organiser, had everything nicely lined up and in place. The KTM support vehicles for documentation and machine inspection were set up directly opposite and very handy to the bar and lounge area.

That evening the riders’ briefing set the tone for the week.

Support staff were introduced and KTM Managing Director Jeff Leisk explained the Rallye was all about the riders, and was one-third riding and two-thirds socialising.

Next up was route coordinator Nick Selleck of Maschine and his marking crew, most fondly known as Sprocket, Grego, Huffy and newcomer Con Thermos from Otway Trail Tours.

Others to be introduced were photographer Danny Wilkinson and videographer Adam Riemann. Both professionals had a few hints on how to get the best shots, like, “If you see a photographer, don’t pull up to say, ‘G’day’”, and that a good photo isn’t all about speed.

Toby Price turned up for the Monday evening and had a bit of a talk about Dakar and his recovery. Being just a fraction over two months since he broke his leg, Toby had decided to ride an 1190R just for the second day. As it happened, he enjoyed the riding, relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie of the riders so much he stayed and rode four days.

He mentioned it was like getting back to the grass roots of what riding is all about.

A very happy and committed group of KTM owners completed the 2017 KTM Adventure Rallye.

Slip’n’slide

The Tyres For Bikes 4WD truck was always on-site to keep tyres fresh where needed, and even to pick up riders having a problem. Rob and Anja Turton, and their crewie Mick McGuiness, worked tirelessly changing tyres, often until late into the night.

On the TV side of things, KTM had organised Channel 10 commentator Kate Peck to do a segment for RPM.

Kate and her producer were with the event for four days and had also recently done a segment on Toby Price.

Peter Ziegler from KTM Austria was along to see how things were done in Australia, and also to get some inside information for the KTM rally to be held in Italy later this year.

Peter had a few wild stories of his riding escapades, like the time he hit, but luckily didn’t injure, in his words ‘a baby cow’. And then there was the concrete culvert with water over it that everyone was warned about, but did take a few riders by surprise. There’s certain to be good Youtube footage of Peter throwing Ray Barnes’ 1190R down and sliding across the culvert in a nearly graceful manner.

It was a new one for me. If you rode between the wheel tracks the traction was fine, but if you rode on the black tyre tracks, which looked like rubber, it was slipperier than ice. Danny Wilko got some awesome images there not only of Peter, but also of Greg Limpus and no doubt a few other unlucky riders. Best save was Damien McLoud, who came in on the slippery black line way too hot on his 990, but saved the day with a bit more throttle and a nice left-right power slide.

Maybe he was just lucky.

Channel 10 commentator Kate Peck and her producer were with the event for four days and had also recently done a segment on Toby Price.
Ridin’ the storm.

Star power

Another surprise visitor was former AMA Supercross champion, American Ricky Johnson.

Leisk and Johnson go back a long way to their early racing careers, and Jeff mentioned to him he should come along. As Jeff told it, the decision was made in about two minutes over the phone.

Johnson won AMA Supercross titles in 250cc and 500cc classes from 1984 to 1988, and then trophy track titles in the TORC series in two classes in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

He was a Baja 1000 winner in 1997 and 2003 and has competed in many other off-road truck and stock-car races in his career, including winning the 2014 Frozen Rush, an off-road course on snow.

Ricky had several talks and interviews on different nights throughout the event and was a very informative and easy-going, down-to-earth type of bloke.

From left: Chris Bostleman, Trudi Selleck and Toby Price.

Pick and choose

Another frequent visitor who’s had large involvement with the KTM racing side of things was Colin Ross, on board for his second Rally.

Colin has been a long-term major sponsor of all of the KTM race teams including motocross, enduro and rally.

It looks like for 2018 the KTM Rallye will start on one of Colin’s stations near Katherine in the Northern Territory, then run south through mainly cattle stations down to coincide with the Finke Desert Race.

There was never any reason for riders not to be prepared for this event, with Rosie sending out a How To Prepare rider dossier as well as a Registered Rider Accommodation dossier. Riders paid an entry fee to enter, had a preplanned GPS and arrowed course to follow, had sweep riders to keep them going and also had backup vehicles to pick them up in the case of breakdowns. As well as all that, they received a free dinner ticket every night, not to mention having a support truck carrying their luggage. The only thing for them to organise was their own accommodation.

As some of the towns were quite small, occasionally accommodation ran out, so in these cases some riders would camp.

Some riders opted to camp for most of the event.

Riding through the Gardens Of Stone National Park near Lithgow in the Blue Mountains of NSW is like riding through a movie set.

A rundown

The opening day was like every day.

Riders departed casually between 7.30am and 9:30am and had options of either the main route at 283km or the four slightly harder ‘Breakout’ sections which gave a total of 295km.

The course took in Burralow Fire Trail, Wollemi National Park, Blue Mountains National Park, Sunny Corner State Forest, Wolgan Valley, Hampton State Forest, Cooksons Creek and Evens Forest Road to land all riders at Jenolan Caves early with plenty of daylight left.

The second day tracked from Jenolan Caves to a farmstay-type campground called Dashville, which, for anyone keen to stop there, is on Kirkton Road, Lower Belford. Distances for the day were 334km for the main route, or 351km if the two Breakouts – which traversed Marsden Swamp and Polkolbin Forest – were included. Other landmarks on the day were Yengo National Park, Wollemi National Park and Blue Mountains National Park and Dashville itself.

Some snotty clay kept things interesting.
From left: Chris Page, Jeff Leisk and Michael Heaton enjoyed a quiet coldie in Walcha at the end of the third day.
The 2017 KTM Adventure Rallye kicked off beside the picturesque Hawkesbury River.

The big one

Dashville to Walcha made up the third day.

The main route was 366km and the Breakout 369km with optional sections, and this was the day people will talk about for years.

After the course markers went through there was a big downpour that changed the scenery massively, especially for the big bikes on one particular hill that seemed to stretch for two or three kilometres. This is where the team spirit really kicked in, with many riders piloting mates’ bikes up hills, or blokes teaming up to push. It seemed pretty tough at the time, but it was only one short, character-building section that gave a lot of riders a chance to see how their hearts were working. Luckily all passed with flying colours, although there were few mirrors missing and some scratches on sidecovers after this section.

Other areas traversed were Nowendoc National Park, Ben Halls Gap and Barrington Tops National Park.

This day did see a few riders get in a bit late after spending a bit too much time on the hill, and there were a couple of fried clutches, but all were good to go the next day.

Accommodation was mostly in Walcha, with some opting to stay at the bivouac at a property called Langford about a kilometre from town.

Once again there was great food and organisation and the night was a good sleep catch up for a lot of people after a big day.

And then there was the concrete culvert with water over it that everyone was warned about, but did take a few riders by surprise.
Ben Alsop and Dan Barker broke through the mist on the way to Moonan Flat.

Yankin’ it

Walcha to Riverwood Downs, outside of Dungog, made up the fourth day.

The course was an easy one, with 243km for the main route and 260km for the course with the two Breakouts.

The route wound through Cottan Bimbang and Tapin Tops National Parks before pulling up at Riverwood Downs for a big night for many on the red wine. Here we had a pushup shootout between Fred Butterworth and one of the Americans (the Yankie won), along with an initiation ceremony for a few American visitors where they had to eat cold pies and drink hot beer.

Lucky everyone had had the sleep catchup the night before.

Riverwood Downs is like a big campsite complete with bar, hall, lounge, dormitories, showers and heaps of camping.

Mark Edney, Greg Dalkeith and Rohan Donhoe enjoyed the views over the Wolgan Valley.

All over

The final day stretched from Riverwood Downs back to Wisemans Ferry with six Breakouts and a total of 327km.

The Rallye travelled through Belford National Park, Werakata National Park, and the Watagans National Park. It was all just more good riding, especially jumping on a freight train for a short while with Phil Lovett and his crew in the Watagans. It was a pretty handy – fast – bunch on a 690, 950SE and 1190R, and in no time at all it was all over and back to Wisemans for the ceremonial debrief. A few awards were handed out – which had been hand-crafted by Rosie’s dad – and there was a brief look at the new 2017 1090R and 1290R.

All up it was a great event with

• Two 1290 Super Adventures
• 69 1190Rs
• 12 1190s
• 26 990s
• Five 950 Adventures
• Eight 950 SEs
• 59 690s – about 18 of them had 700 Hard Kits fitted and many had a variety of other Safari Tank and fairing options
• Seven 640 Adventures
• One 625SXC There was also the staff team of approximately 20 690s and 1190Rs.

Bring on the Northern Territory and Finke in 2018.

Author Craig Hartley (left) did the hard work while Dan Godfrey and Scott Graham looked on.

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