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Crossing 3 Continents on a KTM 690 Enduro

 How you handle adversity defines the course and reward of your adventure.

Published on 04.23.2014
Kyrgyzstan Yurts and Horses
Riding through the Kyrgyzstan Highlands on a KTM 690 Enduro.

Preparing for the Trip
It took 14 months of preparation for the trip of a lifetime across 3 continents and 13 countries. David Darcy of Australia and Darren Higginson of the UK would travel 13,600 miles (22,000 km) on what they expected to be a three month journey. Starting in London, they would ride through Europe into Russia, Khazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Nepal, and Thailand on their way to Sydney, Australia.

Their choice of motorcycle was the KTM 690 Enduro. A high performance Dual Sport may not seem like the best choice for such a long journey and many would consider it to be too uncomfortable and unreliable for such a long trip. But Dave and Darren were convinced the KTM 690 Enduro was the perfect choice. They felt it offered just the right balance of carrying capacity, power, off-road handling, fuel range and comfort for their trip.

Rally Raid Prepared KTM 690 Enduro
KTM 690 Enduro R prepared by Rally Raid Products for long-distance travel.

The bikes did require extensive modifications for the journey. Bikes were prepped by Rally Raid in the UK, which specializes in rally racing and long distance touring modifications. Three additional fuel tanks gave them a range of 310 miles (500 km). Frame modifications, luggage rack and stiffer springs were added to handle the heavy load of their gear. A KTM Ergo Seat with sheepskin seat cover and a small windscreen provided additional comfort for the long stretches of highway.

The bikes were outfitted with Continental TKC80 Dual Sport Tires, Giant Loop bags, Garmin 660 Zumo GPS and a Spot Connect GPS Messenger. Each bike weighed in at around 308 pounds (140 kg) without gear and 462 pounds (210 kg) fully loaded.

Major Obstacles to Overcome

One month before their departure, bad news came in the form of Darren breaking both of his wrists in a motorcycle accident. The right wrist was severely broken and required many screws to set the bones. Just five days before their departure, Darren’s cast was removed. With his wrist still in a weakened state, they departed from London.

Time was of the essence, as they had to make it to the Chinese border by a specific date and time or be refused entry. As an extra precaution, they got a friend to follow them in a van for the first part of the trip in case Darren needed to rest his wrist. This allowed them to continue on without getting behind schedule while Darren’s wrist was still healing.

In Russia they experienced their first major setback when David’s KTM began having problems with the fuel pump. They had a spare, but in the rush of preparing for the trip they failed to practice how to install it. They would end up towing the bike for two days straight to the next town using a thin paracord. Out of pure luck, they met a Russian KTM fan on the side of the road who was able to connect them with a KTM mechanic who could fix the bike.

The next major hurdle for David and Darren would be getting out of Russia. Due to the mechanical failure delay, they had slightly overstayed their Visas. Visa overstays are taken very seriously in Russia and they were threatened with a five year jail sentence in a Russian Gulag. Luckily, their new Russian friend (the KTM fan) came to the rescue and explained the situation to the authorities. He was able to reduce their sentence down to just a fine.

Finally, they would cross the Russian border into Kazakhstan. At last they could use the light-weight KTM 690 Enduro to its full potential on the rugged dirt roads. But their bad luck was not over yet. Just days later, Darren’s bike would start to experience the same symptoms of a failed fuel pump. Without another spare pump and no motorcycle shops in the vicinity, they were forced to ship the bikes to the nearest big city by train where they were able to pick up a new fuel pump and complete the repair.

After two fuel pump failures, they realized the problem was caused by either dirty fuel or additives that were dissolving the plastic tank. They would use a fuel sock filter for the remainder of the trip to avoid further problems.

Riding through bull dust at 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) elevation in the Himalayas.
Riding through bull dust at 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) elevation in the Himalayas.

David and Darren would make it to the Chinese border in time for their scheduled entry and continued their journey through the Himalayas, Nepal, Thailand and Australia. They would complete the trip in four months total (one more month than expected) and experience many more challenges along the way.

Dealing with adversity was clearly a big part of their trip. But they both stayed calm in the midst of big challenges so they could handle each situation effectively. David sums it up eloquently, “No matter what your best plans, that kick in the gut is always waiting around the corner. It’s how you deal with that kick in the gut that defines the course and reward of your adventure.”

But with all the bad luck, they also received good luck in equal measure. When they were completely out of options, somehow a stranger would appear that would come to their aid. The kindness and generosity they received during the trip from complete strangers humbled them.

For more details about the “Continental Drift Tour,” you can view the thread on ADV Rider. The thoroughly entertaining video series is produced by the guys from Motorcycle Adventure Dirtbike TV. You can watch the entire five-part video series below.

Author: ADV Pulse Staff

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2 thoughts on “Crossing 3 Continents on a KTM 690 Enduro

  1. Great journey, great film and you guys are great as well! In your movie you have kept balance between information/personal impressions/movie, and you made it not boring to watch! Freat stuff again!

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