The choice of which motorcycle to use for my trip around the world was one of the primary tasks of preparation. Success of the whole trip could depend on it. My task was complicated by the fact that I could not afford to buy another motorcycle. And I could hardly imagine what I needed. Although I had been riding already for several years, I did not have much experience and knowledge about different models of motorcycles. I covered quite a few kilometers on a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, and really liked it, but was it suitable for traveling around the world? Hardly. At least, I thought so at that time.
The story of how and why I found myself with KTM Adventure 1190 deserves a separate blog article. I’ll just say that it was an unexpected and pleasant coincidence, on one hand, and on the other hand, the result of efforts and favor by the Ukrainian representative office and Austrian colleagues of KTM AG company. They believed in me. When doubts in viability of my idea almost turned into despair, not only close friends but also people from the outside world showed their faith in me. But my jubilation bordered with the sense of fear and load of responsibility. It was the point of no return, with no turning back.
This feeling intensified when I first saw my new motorcycle, which would accompany me for several years of my journey. I was scared even to approach it, having never ridden Adventure bikes before. It was higher and heavier than I expected, but for some reason felt we would get along and make friends.
Before my trip, I knew almost nothing about KTM motorcycles, and therefore did not even consider them as an option. My only mental association with KTM was Dakar. Of course, my idea had nothing to do with Dakar. And I got to know that KTM AG was releasing a new line of adventure motorcycles for long-distance rides, exactly in 2013, just when I began looking for one.
Nobody knew anything about it. How would it behave? How reliable would it be? These fears were further aggravated by the comments from other people that previous models of KTM were not reliable, and even various kinds of jokes about it.
But the decision was made, the unknown frightened but excited at the same time.
Four and a half years have passed since then. I’m still on the road, on the same motorcycle, which became my friend and my home. During those years, we covered 130,000 km through Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, North and South America, and Africa. I have never regretted my choice. Although I feel that I did not choose it, but it chose me. Just as the magic wands in Harry Potter chose their masters. Sometimes that it was not me who cared for the motorcycle, but the motorcycle which cared for me. As if understanding that I’m a newbie having a hard time.
Sitting down to write this text, I tried hard to remember what problems I have had with the motorcycle. To be objective and not to play along with the company which helped me.
Immediately I’ll have to admit that I’m not a person with the technical mindset, and I understand little in mechanics. I cannot fix a motorcycle if something serious happens, and I’m not always able to determine by ear or sensation if something inside goes wrong. Probably, it’s strange to hear from somebody who wants to travel the world, but this is the fact, and I do not see any point in hiding it. It’s enough for me if my motorcycle starts and hits the road, and I almost never had any problem with that.
When I say almost, I mean that several times, on cold mornings, I could not start the bike due to a dead battery, and had to use the terminals to revive it. There were no other reasons for concern.
On the way, I often visited local KTM dealers, just to say hello, and at the same time to check whether everything was ok with the motorcycle. Sometimes it was an easy and quick inspection, sometimes full service with replacement of necessary consumables. Of course, I asked professional mechanics about their overall impression, and every time I was happy with their positive response.
But despite the fact that I had no reason to doubt reliability of my bike, the African part of my journey made me a bit nervous. By that time my odometer showed about 100 thousand kilometers, it is now possible that some hidden problems might be revealed. And something told me that I would not always and everywhere find technical support. Moreover, fuel quality in many countries in Africa was very doubtful. Often the question was not even whether there would be fuel to choose from, but whether I would find fuel at all.
After a while, despite my very poor knowledge of mechanics, I began to notice changes in my motorcycle performance. It was something on the level of sensations, several years side by side with one motorcycle did not pass unnoticed. It seemed to me that the bike became more lazy and slow, I felt the loss of power. In fact, my motorcycle has from 100 to 150 horsepower depending on the chosen driving mode, and I’m sure that I never used even half of it. Therefore, I cannot say that my observations made me too worried at this stage. But where can it lead in the future and how long can I ride like this? Would the power not continue to drop? In addition, some of bikers I met on the road paid my attention to the strange sound of the engine.
Well, the most of my African route was covered, and I hoped that I could finish it completely. However, my journey does not end with Africa…
And suddenly a completely expected and logical thought came to me. I would write to KTM headquarters in Mattighofen, Austria, and ask them to inspect my motorcycle and prepare it for the next stage of my journey. All these years I was in touch with Austria, they gave me all possible support and I was sure that they would not deny this request as well. They were interested no less than me that the bike would continue showing excellent performance.
Arrangement with Austria was done quickly, and I was looking forward to delivering my motorcycle to Mattighofen.
By that time, my African journey was coming to an end. I was going to airship the motorcycle from Cairo to Europe. Where exactly though was not obvious. Christmas and New Year holidays were approaching, this affected both the speed of shipment organizing, and the price. The original plan to ship the bike from Egypt to Austria for maintenance was not possible due to organizational delays. Since I could not deliver the motorcycle to Austria before the New Year, they were waiting for me in the second half of January. Thus, the destination both for me and for the motorcycle was Prague, the city where I planned to wait for spring and start the European leg of my trip.
I think it will be appropriate here to comment why I came to Europe in winter and did not wait until the beginning of the moto season in warmer regions, where I could continue to ride. It’s simple – in five years I missed proper winter and snow, I wanted to get the verdict on the condition of my motorcycle as soon as possible and to have a little bit of time to prepare for the trip through Europe.
Visit to Austria was approaching, and I was waiting for it with impatience. Among other things, I will personally meet people I kept in touch with by correspondence during the previous few years , and also see the place where my motorcycle was created.
The distance from Prague to Mattighofen is only 300 km. Leaving early in the morning on Monday, I could be in the workshop in Mattighofen already by lunchtime. A friend who hosted me in Prague suggested to load the bike into a van and to reach Austria without any extra risk. The task number one for now was maintenance of the motorcycle, riding on the snow-covered and slippery roads was not in plans. Besides, I decided to leave the old battery in Egypt and not to send it along with the motorcycle, I needed a new one in any case. Also I thought that I would have to leave the bike in Austria for a couple of weeks, and then to go back to collect it.
The day was frosty and beautiful, the road was like a fairy tale. It’s good that I could just relax and turn my head in all directions, enjoying the real winter scenery. I have not seen snow for more than five years, and now, with childlike delight, I collected handfuls of snow whenever we stopped.
We already passed Czech Republic and Germany, and were now entering Austria. From the Austrian border till Mattighofen there’s only half an hour drive, and I informed about my arrival soon. Due to the weather conditions, we arrived a little later than expected, the workshop would soon be closed, so I did not expect that the work on the motorcycle would begin today.
Imagine my surprise when after the first greetings and unloading of the motorcycle, it was immediately lifted to the platform and several mechanics started to work. It turned out that the maintenance of my motorcycle was a top priority, and mechanics would work in several shifts until late in the evening to finish work in a few days. So, I do not have to collect the bike later, and I can pick it up now, after waiting a few days in Austria. I was over the moon with happiness and could not believe it was happening.
I briefly gave my comments and impressions about the bike, mentioned about some loss of engine power, but in general I would just like to have the motorcycle properly checked before the next stage of my journey.
The motorcycle was immediately taken to the test stand to check engine power. As a result, my suspicion was confirmed, and now we had to find out the reason. According to the preliminary assessment of mechanics, the problem could be in the fuel filter. Most likely, quality of fuel in Africa has played a role. But it is too early to hurry with the conclusions. The bike was now in the reliable hands of professionals.
Another pleasant surprise was a party organized that evening in honor of the winner of this year Dakar. The winner was an Austrian motorcyclist Mathias Walker. It was his third year participating in Dakar, the first year he had a serious injury, and the third year brought him to the podium and the first place! It was a great honor for me to receive an invitation to this event and meet Matthias personally.
The next day was free, and I decided to spend it in a pretty town of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, just 20 km from Mattigofen. I was impressed by the castle Hohensalzburg, which offers a magnificent view of the Alps, walked along the streets of the city and the river Salzach, visited the house where Mozart was born.
In the afternoon, I received a message in the form of a photo from the workshop. My first reaction was shock and horror, and the first impulse was to go straight to the workshop and find out what was happening.
But the first shock was replaced with a smile, the mechanics, of course, know what they are doing, I have no reason to worry. At the same time, I was delighted with their sense of humor.
The next day, though I wanted to rush immediately into the workshop, the plan was to visit the factory, the holy of holies of KTM company. When I was approaching the place, my heart started to beat faster, as if I was going to meet somebody special. It was the place where my motorcycle was born five years ago, magic was happening here, motorcycles produced from start to finish. Despite the fact that I’ve never been here, and in Austria in general, I had a feeling inside of me that this was the place I knew and belonged. The factory’s huge area impressed with its cleanliness and order. There was a pleasant atmosphere around me, the company’s employees, whom I saw inside and out, seemed happy with where they worked and what they were doing.
The company expands and increases the volume of production, every year an increasing number of motorcycles are produced, new models are being developed, and therefore there is a need for new premises. I was pleased to see all this and to realize that Mattighofen was the real KTM kingdom.
But I was impatient to go back to the workshop, to see my motorcycle and to hear what the mechanics would say. When I arrived, the motorcycle was in the same disassembled condition as I saw it yesterday on the photo. The mechanics were busy each with their own part of work. The engine lay apart.
The mechanics’ impressions proved to be the most positive. They even invited the R’n’D guys (research and development department), and they confirmed that for the motorcycle with the current mileage it is in an excellent condition. But of course, some parts need to be replaced, and some should be replaced for prevention purposes. The work is still going on, but very soon the bike will be back to its previous form, and I will hear the full report on the maintenance done.
The day when the motorcycle was finished and I came to pick it up, one of the mechanics, Peter, went for a test-ride. I was going to do the same when he comes back and to ride a few kilometers to the factory and back, to feel the changes, if any.
Back in the beginning, when the motorcycle was disassembled, a question arose, whether it would be the same bike after the assembly back or would it be a new one? Of course, there is no doubt, it will be the same bike, mechanics answered. But we wanted to be one hundred percent sure that everything was in order, moreover, we were curious ourselves, because we do not often receive for service motorcycles with such a mileage. So, we can say that the complete analysis of the motorcycle satisfied our own curiosity.
Peter came back from the test-ride and looked definitely pleased with the results. Now it’s my turn. Today it’s a little bit colder outside, and there can be ice on the road, so it’s better to ride carefully. I forgot all the precautions within the first few seconds I got on the bike. I really missed it while it was on the way from Africa to Europe and during winter downtime. I had a feeling that my wings had grown and I was flying. Only when the Ice Warning signal appeared on the dashboard, I came back to my senses a bit. I have to be careful on the road and to watch the trucks. This is definitely my motorcycle, which I know and remember, but with a new influx of energy and vigor.
So, what exactly has been done to the motorcycle and which parts replaced. First of all, the original suspicion that some loss of engine power was caused by a clogged fuel filter was confirmed. It was immediately replaced, and the second engine test showed different results. The same happened with the air filter, it was replaced with a new one. The motorcycle received new brake discs and brake pads, new clutch, new dashboard. The old one has shown the wrong mileage for some time.
A separate and important part of work was the engine maintenance. It was dismantled and inspected, one of the pistons replaced, valve clearance adjusted.
A nice surprise for me was the new exhaust, an Akrapovič! I immediately appreciated the new sound of my motorcycle during the short test-ride to the factory.
Replacement of some parts, in fact, was not critical at the moment, it was done for the purpose of prevention and in order to make me feel even more comfortable and calm.
I have no words to express my gratitude to the KTM team for their sympathy and help during all the years of my trip, and especially now, with the main service of my bike. I feel a part of this team, part of a big orange family sharing love for motorcycles and passion for adventure.
I know that there is no best motorcycle in the world. The best motorcycle is the one that belongs to you and serves you faithfully. Therefore, I can say with certainty that I’ve been riding around the world on the best motorcycle which has never failed me and which I hope to travel more and more kilometers with.