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ADV EventsOverland Expo West 2017 – Where Adventure Worlds Collide!

Overland Expo West 2017 – Where Adventure Worlds Collide!

 A new venue for America's premier adventure travel event doesn't disappoint.

Published on 06.13.2017

Once a year, thousands of like-minded adventurers from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Flagstaff, Arizona for what can only be described as a spectacle. The Overland Expo West is North America’s premier travel event drawing some 10,000 patrons, 300 exhibitors and hosting more than 200 classes. The OXW’s only true equal is its sister gathering in Ashville, North Carolina, aptly called Overland Expo East.

In its twelfth year, the OX has established itself as a diverse event with a distinct emphasis on education, training and inspiring attendees to get out and experience their own brand of adventure.

Roseann & Jonathan Hanson founded the Overland Expo in 2009 after traveling extensively since 1984. Their modes of travel include everything from sea kayaks to Land Rovers with a little bit of everything in between. As journalists, authors, instructors and conservationists, they are uniquely qualified to host such an event.

Overland Expo West 2017 booths

Few other locations can rival Flagstaff for sheer natural beauty and proximity to some of the best adventure opportunities in the United States. With The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Monument Valley only a stones throw away, many visitors use the OX as a jumping off point for their own adventures or incorporate the Expo into a larger trip. Personally, we used this event as an excuse to knock the Arizona and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes off our bucket lists.

This year, the Overland Expo West was moved from its former venue at Mormon Lake Lodge to the centrally located Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds, just minutes from downtown Flagstaff. The new facilities seemed better suited for this type of event with ample parking, stages, grandstands, organized campgrounds and large pavilions for vendors. Arriving in Flagstaff Thursday night, my excitement came in waves as I spotted a plethora of 2- and 4-wheeled adventure machines slogging the last few miles to what promised to be an amazing weekend.

Overland Expo West 2017 camping
The camping area at Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds is a huge upgrade over the old Mormon Lake venue.
Overland Expo West 2017 KTM 1290R demo
KTM brought their full fleet of Dual Sport and ADV Bikes to the Expo for attendees to demo.

Friday was a blur of rooftop tents, Sprinter vans, unicorn motorcycles and one off expedition vehicles that cost more than most homes. Urals loaded to the gills casually weaved in and out of crowds and the KTM demo fleet came and went regularly with plastered smiles and itchy right wrists. We managed to enjoy some of the great food trucks on hand, attend a few classes and drop in on a couple of demonstrations too. Some of the motorcycle-specific classes included Minimalist Packing, Maintaining a Motorcycle on a Journey Around the World and Troubleshooting & Trail Repairs. Off-Road training courses were also provided onsite by RawHyde Adventures.

Overland Expo West 2017
Here’s a great way to merge your passions for both 2- and 4-wheel overlanding.
Overland Expo West 2017 booths
This mid-90’s Cagiva Elefant 900 Rally Race Bike Replica, produced only in Europe, is rare enough overseas. It’s a unicorn sighting here in the U.S.

A good portion of the day was spent perusing the thirty something motorcycle specific vendors booths and getting brought up to speed on all the new products & tech. Many of the most recognizable brands in the industry were in attendance like REV’IT!, Moto-Skiveez, Black Dog, Wolfman Luggage, Sena, Mosko, KLIM and more. The crowd’s excitement felt contagious but we couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed by all that there was to take in, I guess that’s why it’s a multi-day event!

Saturday morning brought typical blustery Flagstaff conditions threatening to topple tents and displays so we decided to head out to do some exploring of our own. With the new KTM 1090 Adventure R and the KTM Twins “Ultimate 690” at our disposal, we were ready for action!

overland expo west riding off-road trails

Good riding can be found in literally any direction from Flagstaff and we were sliding through corners and kicking up roost in no time. Things escalated quickly as we approached Mormon Lake, picking up some advanced tracks that quickly deteriorated into what was aptly described as “rock garden riverbeds.” Fear for damaging expensive KTM’s aside, we charged on with big grins behind our helmets letting our bikes do what they do best!  After getting a taste of what the high desert hill country had to offer we turned our front wheels back towards Flagstaff, completing our 80-mile loop.

Overland Expo West 2017 KTM 1090R Adventure Motorcycle
The big KTM 1090 Adventure R impressed us with how easily it blitzed through the rocky terrain. The new suspension really is a major improvement over the 1190 R’s.
Overland Expo West 2017 KTM 690 build
The agile KTM Twins Ultimate 690 with Konflict suspension made short work of this rock garden. We’ll have full details on this unique build in an upcoming featured article. Stay tuned!

Overland Expo West Ride to Marshall Lake

Later that evening, it was time for Happy Hour and movie night at the Overland Theater. The evening’s featured film was “Expedition 65” by Sterling Noren — a documentary film that chronicles 15 riders on a journey of 10,000 miles and 65 days from Cartagena, Colombia to the “End of the World” in Usuaia, Argentina. The theater was packed with only standing room available in the back and the spectacular scenes of riding Adventure Motorcycles through South America had eyes glued to the screen. The film ended to big applause and a Q&A session with expedition leader, Jim Hyde of RawHyde Adventures. Check out the trailer below and look for the full movie available on DVD coming soon!

Sunday was full of mixed emotions as we tried to enjoy the last day of the Expo while mentally preparing to depart on our own adventure. Walking the substantially larger four-wheel pavilion lent scale to how quickly this event and overland populace in general is growing. I was blown away by how our 2- and 4-wheel worlds can feel so different while sharing many similar traits. Socializing with people from different backgrounds and aspirations left me brimming with pride in our extended community. The sense of camaraderie and inclusion felt very real with everyone walking away from the event having gained something.

Riding off to the start of the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route with the Overland Expo West still in my mirrors, I experienced a slight tinge of disappointment and really felt the magnitude of the weekend. I looked forward to the adventure at hand but immediately started scheming in my helmet on how I would get back to Flagstaff next year.

Overland Expo West 2017 KTM 690 ultimate build

Spencer Hill Author ProfileAbout the Author: Spencer Hill “The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.
Photos by Spencer Hill and Rob Dabney

Author: Spencer Hill

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8 thoughts on “Overland Expo West 2017 – Where Adventure Worlds Collide!

  1. Did the author get to “borrow” the Ultimate 690, or did you just ride it to what appears to be the South Rim? (I’m looking at that last picture…)

    • I built and “borrowed” the Ultimate 690 for the OXW and my travels on the AZBDR/UTBDR afterwards. The picture you referenced was taken on the north rim near Cameron I believe. Stay tuned for our full write up on this build.

  2. A question regarding the 2017 KTM 690 model lines:

    Does the USA 2017 690 models now have the re-designed 690 motor?

    I’m talking about the motor that (I think) was first offered in the US on a KTM 690 Duke for 2015, but not any other model. That model arrived with a significant re-design of the motor, lots of changes.

    I’ve been waiting for that motor to show up on other models, and now maybe it has? Can you confirm?

    • The 2017 690 has the same engine as the 15’/ 16′ models. The updated engine went to the 17′ Husqvarna 701.

      • That’s too bad. That engine is known to occasionally grenade. You’ll generally hear the lifter bearing going on it’s way out, if you’re paying attention. No Thanks…

        It’s silly, really, from my perspective. They have a better motor, but refuse to sell it here in equipment that could use the upgrade.

        Looks like another sale to Yamaha T7, then.

        Thanks for the kindness of the quick replies.

        • I desire to correct my comment (above). The “original” engine in US 690 models, prior to the release in 2016, of the KTM 690 Duke. That’s the engine that is known to occasionally grenade. I’ve been waiting for KTM to put that redesigned, 2016 690 Duke motor, in the rest of the US 690 model line. So, I looks like I’ll be waiting some more.

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