A dream come true for Chris, it would have been for Tony too if he’d not been called home, and MOD probably would have come on the Northern Lights Trip if he’d known a visit to the KTM factory was to be included. It was worth taking a day out to train down from Frankfurt to Mattighofen, Austria and back – just to see Chris’s face as he got to touch each engine, each bike along the way as we walked the plant. Yes the WorldbyBike family has its share of KTM aficionados and when that orange bike or that KTM logo is in sight, all logic is put aside – it’s just love.
The KTM (Kronief, Trunkenpolz, Mattighofen) story really is a wonderful one. These days it sells only a few less bikes each year than BMW – 92,000 versus 108,000 and KTM’s market really is primarily the off-road one – enduro, motocross and adventure bikes – of which it has a 55% market share. Its first production year was 1953 and like Harley Davidson it went bust (in 1991) before the big revival occurred and the serious commitment to excellence in off-road competitions came through – from Moto-X to Paris-Dakar KTM has stamped its authority on this segment (has won every Paris Dakar since 2001!). We toured its R&D and competitive racing facilities – very impressive, with hordes of young bucks from designers to engineers to test riders, making the facility more like a tour of Google’s campus than a motorcycle facility.
And to cap it off, we suddenly were greeted by, “Gidday, you’re Gareth Morgan aren’t you?”. It was KTM’s first on-road test rider who’s been with them for a week – one Rodney O’Conner from Taranaki, track racer of note. It’s a small world and Kiwis are all over it!
KTM has been expanding into the on-road segment over the last few years with its Duke and RC8 series but unfortunately for the WorldbyBike team it has yet to produce a bike in what we’d call the Expedition Ride section – light enough to have genuine off-road capability, but with a strong sub-frame for luggage, reasonable fuel capacity, and comfortable seating for day after day of high miles. Its 990 Adventure Bike is too big and it looks like its 690 Adventure version won’t be out until late 2010. So there is no product yet from them for us to consider, but clearly with their off-road pedigree being so strong, we can’t wait to have something from them to consider.