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ADV NewsDakar Vet de Soultrait Parks Rally Bike To Race Enduro On KTM 690 R

Dakar Vet de Soultrait Parks Rally Bike To Race Enduro On KTM 690 R

Xavier takes on Trefle Lozerien enduro race on his personal dual sport bike.

Published on 07.15.2022

Xavier de Soultrait knows a thing or two about rally raid riding, and also enduro racing. After all, he’s a 9 time Dakar vet, with a stage win and 2 top 10 finishes. And despite having broken his neck in the 2020 event, he returned to Dakar in 2022 on his Husqvarna 450 Rally bike to claim 15th position. The 38-year-old Frenchman has also been a Bajas World Cup and French Enduro Champion. 

So, we can safely assume this is a guy who has absolutely nothing to prove. And maybe that’s the point of showing up in Montpellier, France, for the grueling, 3-day Trefle Lozerien Enduro last month on his personal KTM 690 Enduro R.

Xavier de Soultrait races enduro on KTM 690 Enduro R dual sport
Photo: @IPONE

Xavier had only purchased the bike from his local dealer two weeks prior to the event, and when testing it on familiar trails near his home he found he could make better time in the open sections than on his usual 450. “I was a bit worried about the technical zones of the Trefle,” he says, “but the bike ended up being fine.” After three strenuous days of racing, Xavier, who ran in the Elite category, was pleased to finish in 43rd position in a field of nearly 600 riders. 


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He says he has been wanting to try something new, and had an inkling the 690 R would be competitive, yet also provide pleasure off the track. “You can race and have fun with that, then on Monday morning you can ride it to work,” he says, adding that it’s also a motorcycle that makes you dream up adventures, because you can use it to travel anywhere. 

WATCH: Xavier de Soultrait in action at the Trefle Lozerien on his personal KTM 690 Enduro R.

Ahead of the Trefle Lozerien, Xavier swapped the bike’s stock fork with WP’s high-end Cone Valve fork, an upgrade that would improve overall handling and supply next level firmness with just the right amount of cushion to allow for harder, faster hits in rocky sections. Being tall is another reason Xavier likes this high-riding setup. He didn’t swap out the rear shock to match, however, only dialing in the stock unit for his size and the Trefle’s varied terrain. 

He ran Michelin Medium Enduro tires with mousse, and added a bash plate and plug-and-play Akrapovič slip-on exhaust straight from the KTM catalog. Xavier also told us the bike’s ABS went “straight to the rubbish.”

Xavier de Soultrait races enduro on KTM 690 Enduro R dual sport
Photo: @IPONE

Of course this Dakar veteran isn’t the first pro rider to have recently traded a factory-prepped shredder for an adventure bike, something organizers are encouraging in order to satisfy global interest in this fast growing segment of motorcycles. 

Back in March we saw Ivan Cervantes ride a Triumph Tiger 900 Rally to a win in his class at the Bassella Enduro Race, while in May, Alessandro Botturi grabbed a mind-blowing and historic overall win at the Tunisia Desert Challenge aboard a Yamaha 700 World Raid model. 

We’ve seen Botturi’s World Raid Team partner, Pol Tarres, achieve seemingly impossible things on his series of T7 bikes, including an impressive finish at last month’s Erzbergrodeo, and just last week we learned that both Harley-Davidson and Triumph will enter their flagship adventure bikes in this month’s Spanish Rally.  

There was also the strange case of a Ducati Multistrada 1260 that nabbed an impressive finish at last year’s 7-day Transanatolia Rally in Turkey, an event that appears to be the next stop for Xavier and his KTM 690 R, though he has hinted to ADV Pulse we might see him ride an 890 in Turkey. Interestingly, the Frenchman won the Transanatolia in 2020 on his Husky FE450. 

This new adventure bike era for Xavier is less about the thrills and spills of competition as it is a way forward. With two small kids at home, and the reality of a severe injury fresh in his mind, he wants to spend more time playing — what he calls “calm competition” — instead of thrashing through the desert day in and day out just trying to stay in the top ten of events like Dakar. 

Xavier de Soultrait races enduro on KTM 690 Enduro R dual sport
Photo: @IPONE

And it sounds like he’s having a great time so far. When asked where the 690 excelled most, Xavier said “The power: Wow. On one special test I started in 2nd gear, put it into 3rd and just rode until the end. It was crazy. So, the engine is incredibly versatile.” In another interview he marveled at how the bike would let you be “an animal at the handlebar” in a technical section, and the next minute, you’re riding along the straight section “feeling like a tourist.” 

We’ll keep an eye out for Xavier at the Transanatolia Rally, and also the Africa Eco Race, where he’s considering a run. But then again, it sounds like he could just as easily be out chasing horizons on his 690 R, a bike he says he didn’t buy just to see how well it could do in enduro. He says it’s time for new adventures and big trips, just not the kind that involve chasing the dust trails of fellow racers.  

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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