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ADV NewsMTB & ADV Bikes: How Chris Birch Combines His Two Passions

MTB & ADV Bikes: How Chris Birch Combines His Two Passions

 Motorcycles or mountain bikes? Why not both?

Published on 10.20.2020
Chris Birch combines Mountain bikes and adventure motorcycles

Chris Birch, an accomplished off-road racer and riding coach from New Zealand, is a life-long motorcycle addict. He has won hard enduro races like the Roof of Africa and Romaniacs, successfully competed in Erzberg, WEC, Hellas Rally Raid, and the Dakar Rally, and is also an avid adventure rider having traveled and raced in over thirty countries around the world.

However, few people know that Chris had almost quit motorcycling for mountain biking once. “It was a long time ago, probably ten or twelve years, but there was a point where I was getting a little fed up with where the motorcycle racing world was going and thought I’d go back to racing mountain bikes instead,” said Chris. Mountain bikes have always been his passion parallel to motorcycles, and right now, Chris is spending more and more time cycling once again. Not only that, but he found a way to combine his two passions by installing a bicycle rack on his adventure motorcycles and hitting the trails on both.

The Best of Both Worlds

Chris Birch mountain bike rack on his adventure motorcycle

Chris says he’s always ridden mountain bikes and BMX, including downhill and enduro racing as well as mountain bike trials. “I was actually the New Zealand mountain bike trials champion, except it’s not exactly the cool stuff you see on Danny Macaskill’s Instagram page – we just sort of hop around on the rear wheel, but it’s really good fun,” he shared. Currently, Chris rides mountain bikes at least three times a week, always looking for new trails to explore.


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To be able to reach the mountain bike trails on his motorcycle, Chris installed a bolt-on bicycle rack on his KTM 1090 Adventure. He uses the same set up for his KTM 790 and KTM 1290, depending on which bike he’s taking out. The rack is made by 2×2 Cycles, a US-based company offering rack solutions for motorcyclists. “My background is in mechanical engineering, so at first, I was trying to come up with some ideas of how I could build the rack myself. Then, I saw the 2×2 products and I figured I’d just try that – it seemed both brilliant and simple. Sure, I could have tried to copy the idea and build it myself, but I thought it would be much easier to just buy one and I didn’t want to try and reverse-engineer it. And I have to say, it works great,” Chris said.

Chris Birch combines Mountain bikes and adventure motorcycles

He has to slightly modify the rack for different bicycles and needs to use straps to secure the bikes well. However, according to Chris, the weight is distributed very evenly and carrying the mountain bike on the back barely affects the motorcycle’s handling. “It feels similar to when you have heavy panniers. The motorcycle is a bit wobbly when you start moving, but once you get the speed up, you don’t even feel it’s there,” he shared. Because the bicycle’s forks are positioned right behind the rider’s back, it’s not throwing the motorcycle off-balance when there’s a bump in the road.

According to Chris, he can easily take the motorcycle off-road even with the bicycle on the back, but he prefers to stay on graded dirt and gravel roads. “I’m not hitting single track with the mountain bike on the back, there’s just really no point and I don’t want to break anything. Besides, if I’m carrying the mountain bike, the single track will be reserved for cycling,” Chris said.

Chris Birch mountain bike rack on his adventure motorcycle

The only downside of carrying the mountain bike on a motorcycle is finding places to stash away the riding gear while out on the trails cycling. “I would also advise people to research the legality of a bike rack like this, I would imagine in some places, it may not be road legal.”

Mountain Biking To Improve Motor Skills

Although Chris is racing less this year, both because so many events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 and because he is focusing on rider coaching, he says he loves to stay in shape and be ready for new adventures. Mountain biking helps to improve balance and technique, has an added fitness benefit, and, according to Chris, it’s good for the mind. 

Chris Birch combines Mountain bikes and adventure motorcycles
Photo by Actiongraphers

“Just getting out there in nature and exploring is already a benefit. Mountain biking also helps you feel the terrain a lot better as you are closer to the ground and you feel it through the bicycle’s tires much more; it helps understand traction, and teaches you how to make the trail flow which is very important for off-road and enduro motorcycle riding. I see a lot of newer, younger enduro guys braking really hard, then ripping it out of corners, then braking hard again, whereas mountain biking teaches you how to make it flow and maintain rhythm. It can help improve your adventure riding skills, too, because it’s all about fitness, balance, and technique after all,” Chris says. Combining endurance training, being outdoors, and building your fitness level is beneficial to any rider out there.

Chris Birch combines Mountain bikes and adventure motorcycles

For him, mountain biking helps train and keep fit without spending hours in the gym. As he is prepping for the upcoming KTM Adventure Rally and New Zealand’s hard enduro races, Chris is on his mountain bike just as much as his motorcycles – and he recommends other riders swap out engines for pedal power, too.

Photos courtesy of Chris Birch

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte
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3 thoughts on “MTB & ADV Bikes: How Chris Birch Combines His Two Passions

  1. Pingback: MTB & ADV Bikes: How Chris Birch Combines His Two Passions - My blog

  2. MTB’s are the best way to train for ADV if you’re serious and have that type of goal – on the KTM Rallye I asked all my fellow riders if they trained on MTBs and the answer was universally YES. so Birch is not alone, and always had a push bike in the back of his van next to his motorbikes when i was there with him, now he’s ditched the van. by contrast on the BMW Safari most had trained in the pub drinking beer and had the gut to prove it, a fine strategy too. But these days it’s Pol Tarres I look to for Adv inspiration as trials riders are the best circus artists of them all.

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