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ADV NewsWatch: Chris Birch’s Extreme Muddy Adventure On KTM 890 And 690

Watch: Chris Birch’s Extreme Muddy Adventure On KTM 890 And 690

Straight from the showroom into a mud bath.

Published on 03.13.2023

If you had a perfect adventure bike dream, it might look like this: You’re riding massive wheelies across a lush, forested landscape, bounding up impossibly steep, rocky, rutted mountain paths and splashing through a rollercoaster of rivers and mud bogs. Along the way you entertain your pals with gravity defying stunts, and then magically pull snacks and perfectly intact sandwiches from your luggage. But alas, sadly, you eventually wake up, that is, unless you’re Chris Birch making yet another spectacular video.

Yup, the charismatic Scottish-born, New Zealand raised enduro champ is at it again, this time taking his brand new 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R on a romp through the New Zealand countryside along with friends Matt Kneesch on a brand new KTM 690 Enduro R and Liam Ellis aboard Chris’ “old”  2022 890 Adventure R. The intention? Getting some mud on the two “straight off the showroom floor” bikes, and boy do these guys follow through. 

In the video’s introduction Chris tells his buddies the day’s route will take them across farmlands and into high country where they’ll encounter a track he hasn’t ridden up in a long time. “I think it’s going to be a bit of work,” he says with a mischievous grin. “There might be some ropes involved.” 


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From there, the dream-like ride unfurls with the riders skidding eagerly through graveled corners before they’re through a gate and the bright orange KTMs erupt onto lush, green farmland, which they fly across in Steve McQueen mode. There are some fast, splashy river crossings before the crew gets into a pine forest laced with single track, and here the real ripping begins. 

The wheelies and jumps are strong in this section of the video, and the pro footage makes you feel right there in the thick of it. It’s a thrill to watch, all thanks to Chris’ regular videographer and unsung hero, John Colthorpe, who rides his own bike with all his camera gear in a backpack in order to document these extreme rides, including last year’s breathtaking Sea to Source video. 

Of course you’d expect the action to be top shelf, this is Chris Birch after all, an eight time New Zealand Enduro overall champion and three time Roof of Africa winner. He’s been on the Red Bull Romaniacs podium seven times, including a win in 2010, and competed successfully in ISDE, WEC and EEC events including Erzberg, Hells Gate, Last Man Standing, as well as the Dakar back in 2012. 

But the coolest thing about this affable, big adventure bike loving Kiwi might be how he’s turned his passion for racing and riding into a sub-career teaching others how to ride their own adventure bikes like a pro. There are online videos you can subscribe to, or in case you missed our story earlier this week, he’s returning to the U.S. for the second year to run in-person coaching clinics in Georgia (April), Virginia (July) and Utah (Sept). 

He’s also become famous for these wild riding videos, and the latest production, sponsored by Kriega, is another winner. Once the guys get higher into the mountains things are tighter and gnarlier. His buds get stuck on the brutal climb and Chris jokes, “how am I supposed to soar with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys?” Then adds, “Just to be fair this is a freaking steep hill.” 

A few rock-spewing pushes and pulls get the two trailing bikes off the slope just as the music cuts back in and we’re off again, racing through a gorgeously green mountainscape, jumping huge boulders (sometimes unsuccessfully) and chasing up riverbeds through a thickly treed forest. As they go further, things grow more tropical, first with a little mud slicking up the trails, and then with a world of mud, with monster-truck worthy bogs. It’s hilarious, especially the bit where the 690 sinks and they have to pull it out with a recovery rope. 

Yet the hardest run was saved for last in the form of a punishing climb up a rocky, rutted steep section that is the stuff of nightmares, not dreams. There are fist bumps at the top, but happily, this isn’t the end of Chris’ latest video. Instead we’re treated to a debrief and equipment run through by Chris, standing next to his freshly detailed 890 ADV R, which he reports suffered only a small scratch on the headlamp due to rock thrown up by one of the other riders. 

It’s a cool section of the video, where he unpacks the contents of his Kriega OS luggage system, the harness of which stays with the bike so it can accept different liter value panniers. For this ride he says he used the lightweight 6 liter bags, for a total of 12 liters of storage (there are also 24 and 36 liter options). During the unpacking, you get to see exactly what the KTM star carries on these rides, from the Motion Pro titanium spanners in his tool roll right down to his choice of trail snacks.

And while riding at Chris Birch’s skill level is a fantasy for most of us, at least he’s willing to share the dream via these knockout videos. And heck, you don’t even need to wash up afterwards. 

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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Patriot159
Patriot159
March 13, 2023 9:27 pm

Since I’ll never ride my 790 R with the skill level anywhere near Chris’ I thoroughly enjoy watching him ride “my bike” in a way I can only dream of! Amazing athlete in his own right!

Kai
Kai
March 20, 2023 11:59 pm

Very impressive riding skills! And one interesting detail, good to notice for the shorter ones among us: always when Chris is doing a controlled stop, he is not sitting ON the bike, but standing next to it with one foot down, the other leg holds the bike (like when he stops at the gate)! Much more stable than trying to bslance a high bike on the tip of your toes!
However: this is mostly bejond my skill level, but I prefer to take it much slower to see a bit of the natural beauty around me. Those guys wouldn’t even notice three naked women standing a few meters off the track, riding at THAT speed!

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