Day Two of the KMOG/KTM Malaysia Weekend Adventure with Chris Birch saw us going for an offroad ride.
The objective was to consolidate the lessons from yesterday’s clinic into real-world riding situations.
The participants soon learned how good were the lessons and that their KTMs could withstand great abuse without even one breaking down.
Although am not proud of it, I’ve done well so far in this KMOG/KTM Malaysia Weekend Adventure with Chris Birch event. I wasn’t as fast as the fast guys, to be honest, but I wasn’t that slow either. I’ve always had a phobia for deep mud, but Chris’ advice to keep looking forward, while leaving body, core muscles and arms loose paid dividends. The bike wiggled around underneath but it went where I placed it. The KTM 1050 Adventure proved that it could hack it in offroad conditions.
We’ve now arrived at a deep laterite mud (what we commonly call “red mud”) section. It was 500 m long, wide and flanked on both sides by young oil palm plants that were about metre high. I saw the marshals up ahead signaling to our trailing group to stop and wait. Having tackled deep mud all day, I had good feelings, so I dubbed it a friendly name as the “Mud Spa.”
The BMW R 1200 GS Adventure went first. Just 3 metres up and its front wheel deflected fully to the left, dumping the rider into the dirt like a sack of potatoes. He got back on to his feet while the marshals lifted the bike onto its wheels. He got on and tried again but was promptly back in for another “treatment.”
Before I could move, a KTM 690 Adventure hopped ahead. Chris Birch was now beside us at the “start line” and he called out “Full gas. Keep it pinned.”
The KTM 690 rider did just that, but his forward momentum disappeared almost instantly when the front wheel was swallowed by the ochre monster. Still, he kept it pinned. The spinning rear wheel pirouetted around to the left in slow motion, pointing the bike perfectly facing up a steep hillside. He stopped, put more weight on the left side of the bike and gassed it. Now the rear slid around to the right, pointing him directly into the wide plantation area on what had earlier been his left. However, he kept trying while the rear slid right, left, right, left up the trail. He made it through without dropping it.
It was my turn now. Seeing how a bike with offroad tyres could do it boosted my confidence. Chris Birch advised, “Aim for that rut, once the front tyre gets in there, just follow it and keep the throttle open.” I nodded and headed out.
The front went full right lock in just 2 metres later and the rear tyre went sideways. Instead of keeping the throttle on and slipping the clutch slightly, I chickened out closed the throttle. The bike almost toppled over but I somehow kept it up. I straightened the front wheel and tried again.
But I had misjudged it and the front tyre went past it and into deeper mud. It snapped to full left lock in the blink of an eye and my stupid survival instinct intervened to chop the throttle. I went down faster than a KO’d boxer, and the bike trapped my left foot underneath it. Thank goodness Iman from KTM Malaysia had advised me to wear motocross boots instead of adventure-touring ones, otherwise my left foot would’ve been crushed to a pulp.
Following the intensive offroad clinic coached by Chris Birch and Chris Whitehouse the previous day, the KMOG/KTM Malaysia Adventure Weekend with Chris Birch headed into the offroad trails surrounding Bukit Beruntung and Serendah, for er… adventure. It was a much-welcomed follow-up as we could practice what we learned. (Click on the link below for the Day One report.)
The morning started with us leaving the Ratu Rening Residency for Bukit Beruntung to rendezvous with the marshals. They were all riding KTM’s off-roaders including the KTM 250 EX/C-F, 350 EX/C-F, 450 EX/C-F enduro bikes, while Gabit Saleh rode the KTM 1290 Adventure T as he had to ferry the official photographer/videographer.
Iman presented the briefing, saying that we had an 80-km ride ahead of use, almost all of it off-road. The offroad regulars smiled while we neophytes stopped. For me it was a mix of excitement and trepidation. You see, I popped my off-road cherry riding a Benelli Trek 1190, during the GIVI Let’s Get Dirty Adventure Ride in 2014, coached by Rob Armstrong. Not only was it heavy, it had large panniers and a top case on. If that’s not bad enough, it had half-worn Pirelli Angel ST sport-touring tyres! But I somehow survived that day without a single fall, so the KTM 1050 Adventure equipped with Metzeler Karoo 3 fully offroad tyres ought to do way better!
Despite the previous night’s heavy rain, the trail started easy, with light and loose sandy surface with the occasional patches of water and mud through an oil palm plantation.
The fast guys flew, sometimes splashing water on us poor slow guys while making their way to the front. It was good fun. Keeping vision as far up ahead the trail as possible and standing up the way Chris had thought, the bike just flowed. We were a having a braaping-good time.
Offroad riders have long told me about the many beautiful sights when riding off the highways and trunk roads. It was certainly so as we rode past small lakes, fish cultivation ponds, lifestock and water buffalos.
Soon, we arrived at the first challenge. It was a small downhill trail which led downhill to the right and back to the left to cross a small stream and back up the other side onto another trail. Everyone made it through safely, although there were a few small spills.
We rode on as the sun was fully up by this point, however, we were lucky that overhead branches shaded us pretty much of the way.
Further on, we crossed a rickety wooden bridge, a metal bridge and rode adjacent to a river and lake. We noticed a few locals fishing.
The trail started to get muddier as we went on. Sand gave way to reddish brown mud and it got progressively deeper and softer, until we reached the super challenging section in the aforementioned above.
We finally made it through after the hardworking marshals including Gabit and a number of more experienced riders like Charles Loo (Seng) of CA Cycle and multiple Rimba Raid winner Bee Wong, assisted in riding out the few bikes where the riders had found it just too daunting.
Compared to the earlier parts, this area was wide open and the sun started to bake us. We continued onto a much narrower trail passing a beautiful large lake. The surface was now hard packed so the speeds picked up. A few participants took this opportunity to also remain seated to rest their tired bodies, especially the thighs and backs.
While the forward group stopped for a break, Chris performed powerslides and powerslide U-turns on his 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure Sto everyone’s amazement. He made it look so effortless.
The convoy turned back into a narrow trial, once more under the shade of oil palm trees, and we soon encountered uphill and downhill sections. Although appearing reddish brown, we were glad that the surface was more hard-packed instead of being muddy. Parts of the trail was covered with crushed granite, too. Again, the going was made bearable by Chris’ instruction to keep looking to where we wanted to go, instead of just a couple of metres in front of the bike. Doing so avoids surprises, thereby increasing confidence and ultimately resulting in smoother riding. Besides that, we covered the clutch with two fingers and the front brake with one. Heading downwards, all I needed to do was to allow the bike’s engine braking to control my descent. If it started to go too fast, a little dab of clutch and front brake kept the speed in check. The rear brake was used to stabilize the bike, or to lock and drag the rear wheel down the steep slippery slope to bleed off some speed.
But as we headed up a steep hill, the bike immediately ahead of me slowed suddenly. I steered to the right to avoid him and the rear wheel dropped off the side of the trail. The soles of my boots were still covered in mud and the shock of the drop cause my right foot to slip off the footpeg, leaving me hanging over the right side of the bike like a MotoGP rider who’s about to DNF spectacularly. “The look ahead, give gas” advice kicked in and I did just that up the slope. I managed to pull myself up when I reached the top. There was however, a sharp pain in the right leg just above the top of the boot.
It hurt like heck but I just kept going. (It turned into a huge bruise when we got back. Badge of initiation, I called it.)
The trail connected to a tar road, where we parked at the sides for a short break. Most participants were hungry and thirsty at this point. A few faces were so red they looked like they had just left the sauna. One of the marshals had ridden ahead to look for a place for refreshments and called back that he had found one. He jumped back on and rushed to a small community sundry shop and food stall.
We parked our bikes in a hurry and almost raided the shop like a horde of Vikings. We proceeded to clear out the fridge! We had covered half the distance thus far. We had only stopped for a too-short 15 minutes before hitting the road again.
We arrived at an area which seemed to have been logged in the past and was told to ride on an uphill footpath. It looked benign from afar, being covered in thick foliage, however the ground was soft mud. The progress was slow-going as many had to either spin their rear wheels vigorously or risk tipping over, while being grabbed by the plant branches and leaves on either side. Chris Birch demonstrated that he could just blast his way up by using his higher momentum. The hot sun bashing down on us started to take its toll as more and more guys started making uncharacteristic mistakes.
It was the last challenge of the day, thankfully. The group stopped for a few moments when they arrived at a tar road. As with throughout the day, both Chris’s found themselves surrounded by participants who wanted to learn more as soon as the engines ticked off. But both guys never minded sharing their skills, thoughts and some hilarious stories of their adventures.
We adjourned back to the track at Sungai Buaya for lunch. After short speeches from Chris Birch, Chris Whitehouse and Iman, the participants demanded that Chris perform one last riding demonstration. Chris isn’t one to show off, that’s for sure, but the crowd started chanting, “Chris! Chris! Chris!”
How could he say no. He suited up, grabbed the 450 EX/C-F ISDE Six-Days and went off to pull steep hillclimbs, powerslides and unbelievable climbs over a large boulder!
With that over, he headed back to the resort for dinner. Everyone was so pumped from the day’s experience. With adrenaline suppressing whatever discomfort, as they jested with each other, sharing their experiences.
A line formed leading for Chris Birch’s autographs on pictures, T-shirts and helmets with him and Chris Whitehouse.
It has to be said that those who spotted us riding large-sizes covered in mud stared in disbelief, but the owners themselves were no less impressed to discover that their large KTM adventure bikes could withstand the rough and tough stuff, without breaking down into a million pieces.
Through the many spills, no one was hurt and that was a testament to offroading being vastly more enjoyable and fun without the need for huge speeds. Besides that, being able to overcome obstacles and get away unscathed definitely hoisted confidence and moods to a new high. If you’re a rider who craves gratification, go offroading today. It’ll work its way into developing your riding skills for the road, too, we promise you.
In the meanwhile, however, everyone one of us has become Chris Birch’s greatest fans, thanks to KMOG and KTM Malaysia.
Tune in tomorrow for our exclusive interview with Chris Birch!
Click on the link below for Day One of the KMOG/KTM Malaysia Weekend Adventure Ride with Chris Birch.