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ADV PreppingCatching Up With Chris Birch: What You Always Wanted To Ask

Catching Up With Chris Birch: What You Always Wanted To Ask

 Extreme enduro rider Chris Birch shares insights on his Big Bike fascination.

Published on 06.25.2018
Some racers, be it moto, enduro, off-road, or road, have that extreme drive to win, but when they are off the track, they might not really be into all aspects of motorcycling. Yet Chris Birch is not that kind of racer, even though he is the eight time New Zealand Enduro National Champion, three time Roof Of Africa winner, Romaniacs winner, and more. He has cut his teeth in extreme enduro racing, but has always had a soft spot for adventure riding. And with his deal with KTM as brand ambassador, he has ridden all the latest KTM ADV machines much to the delight of the adventure bike audience. The videos of him throwing around an 1190 are unreal. We reached out to him to see if we could learn more about his fascination with Adventure Bikes.

Chris Birch Extreme Enduro Adventure Motorcycle Rider

ADV PULSE: We know that you are an extremely accomplished extreme enduro rider on a dirt bike, but when was your first experience with ADV bikes?

Chris Birch: I first started on adventure bikes riding around New Zealand with my wife riding pillion on a Suzuki DR650. I wanted to share my love of bikes and exploring with Monica and we had a lot of good times on that bike. After I won Red Bull Romaniacs I spent my prize money on upgrading to a KTM 950 Adventure and we continued our exploring on that. I still have the 950 and got it running again yesterday. When the 1190 came out KTM New Zealand lent me a 1190R and told me to go show people what the bike can do off road. We made some videos and all of a sudden I’m the 1190 guy! It’s been a lot of fun.

A post shared by Chris Birch (@birchynz) on


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ADVP: You look very natural and comfortable on such heavy and big machines. Did/does that come naturally or did you need a lot of seat time to ride ADV bikes as well as you do?

CB: I’ve always ridden a wide variety of bikes, trials bikes, enduro bikes, vintage bikes, mountain bikes and bmx. There are common fundamentals to riding that I guess allowed me to ride the big ADV bikes well. It took me a while to figure out what is possible on the big bikes and I think that’s a large part of why I like riding them. I still feel like I’m working it out.

ADVP: What is your favorite part of riding an ADV bike? Any advantage that you think an ADV has over a dirt bike for off-roading?

CB: My favourite part of adventure bike riding is drifting and sliding the bike through the turns. Jumping up banks and doing wheelies makes for good photos but nothing beats the feeling of drifting from one corner to the next and getting the turns just right. Being longer and heavier than an enduro bike the Adventure bikes do this really well. Of course there are the obvious answers like exploring new places, getting out into nature, etc.

ADVP: You teach off-road riding skills to both dirt bike riders and ADV riders. What is the biggest mistake you see ADV riders making?

CB: I would say the biggest mistake ADV riders make is with the way they stand on their bike. A lot of riders have (what I consider to be) a bad standing position that makes them both unstable and inflexible and that causes a lot of problems. It takes a bit of figuring out but when students get it it can be a real game changer for them.

A post shared by Chris Birch (@birchynz) on

ADVP: Riding an adventure bike for fun or travel is one thing, but racing one is totally different. Which races have you competed in on ADV bikes and why attempt such a thing?

CB: I haven’t done a lot of racing on the Adventure bikes, only Hellas Rally and a couple of local cross country races so far. I guess the main reason is it’s a great challenge and, of course, a heap of fun. Unfortunately I missed out on doing Red Bull Romaniacs on the KTM 1090 Adventure R when I ran out of talent and broke my hand the day before the race. Hopefully I can try again one day.

ADVP: What would you say to the ADV Rider who has seen videos of you riding the 1190 and 1090 and think they will never be able to do that?

CB: I would say if you really really want to do those sort of things it’s totally possible. I’m definitely no gifted athlete or anything, I’ve just spent a lot of time practicing and riding and pushing my own limits. It’s only a matter of desire, practice and persistence. I really like that the skills I’ve developed allows me to explore places on my Adventure bike that most people wouldn’t be happy going. That gives a lot of freedom. I’m very aware that a lot of people don’t want to risk damaging their bikes by getting in to extreme off-road and that’s cool with me. We are all in this sport for different reasons and that’s something I constantly remind myself of when I’m doing the schools.

Chris Birch Extreme Enduro Adventure Motorcycle Rider

ADVP: Is New Zealand a good place to ride an ADV bike? If so, why?

CB: Yes it is! It’s beautiful, it’s diverse, people are generally friendly and there are more dirt roads and tracks than you could ever ride. It is slippery though! I’ve never ridden anywhere as slippery as northern New Zealand when it’s wet.

ADVP: Do you end up breaking a lot of parts during your extreme Adventure Bike rides?

CB: The only things I’ve broken on my Adventure bikes that have caused major problems have been clutch covers. I’ve broken a couple on my enduro bike that have cost me races and I’ve broken two on my Adventure bike. Mainly it’s from dropping the bike in rocks and the rear brake lever punching a hole in the cover. I now run indestructible ones made by Xtreme Race Components of New Zealand. That’s literally the only thing I’ve broken that has stopped me in my tracks, now I don’t need to worry about it.

If you want to know how Chris Birch makes his bike into its own winch, check out this Quick Tips story.

Author: Sean Klinger

With his sights set on doing what he loved for a living, Sean left college with a BA in Journalism and dirt bike in his truck. After five years at a dirt-only motorcycle magazine shooting, testing, writing, editing, and a little off-road racing, he has switched gears to bigger bikes and longer adventures. He’ll probably get lost a few times but he’ll always have fun doing it. Two wheels and adventure is all he needs. 

Author: Sean Klinger
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6 thoughts on “Catching Up With Chris Birch: What You Always Wanted To Ask

  1. Had the privilege of doing of doing Chris stage one and stage two ADV courses here in NZ back in Feb this year. Learnt so much in those two days.Chris is an amazing instructor and if you get the chance to do one of his schools I cant recommend it enough.One caveat as Chris mentioned in the article he had some had surgery.Good news for me as the course was pushed back a couple of weeks .So a lot of guys couldn’t change their dates, work commitments etc .So a couple of days of basically one one training was most excellent

  2. Mr. Birch sounds so down to earth & humble, “I’m no gifted athlete…” ha!

    Great article, thank you! One question tho, did you get his autograph on your helmet? 🙂