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ADV NewsWatch: Getting It Wrong On A Big ADV Bike When You’re Chris Birch

Watch: Getting It Wrong On A Big ADV Bike When You’re Chris Birch

The legendary big bike whisperer shows us how to fail gracefully.

Published on 09.23.2022

After all the insane off-road stunts we’ve seen Chris Birch perform over the years on big adventure bikes, it’s easy to begin to think of him like an infallible god. But we do have to remember that he is human just like us, and does make mistakes. In this latest video “Getting it wrong…” from Birch’s YouTube channel, we get a glimpse of what it looks like to fail at ‘legend’ level.

The video starts with Chris quickly analyzing a hill climb astride his KTM 890 Adventure R. Even from the start, he’s not sure if he’s going to make it, but is ready to find out. This being his first time riding in Utah, you can imagine he’s got a lot of questions about the terrain, traction and various new obstacles he might encounter on the way up the hill. “It’s very different terrain! It’s like riding on another planet compared to home,” states Chris.

Chris Birch Hill Climb Fail on KTM 890 Adventure R

As he takes off for the steep hill climb, it appears this will just be another one of Chris’ jaw-dropping “I can’t believe he did that” videos. All looks good for a successful ascent until he’s about 90% up. Then it becomes clear he doesn’t quite have enough momentum and as the incline increases, a bump in the trail stalls the bike just short of the top. Then the bike tips on its side and begins to slide backward back down the hill.


Chris hilariously orders his bike to “Stay there!” and lets out a nervous laugh. The bike seems to heed his order as its sliding motion comes to halt. The moment after a failed hill climb is one of the most precarious situations any adventure bike rider can put themselves in, and this one looks particularly sketchy, despite the GoPro camera’s ability to drastically flatten out terrain. What went wrong? Chris admits, “I under committed to the first third, got lost on the second third and set up camp on the last third.”

This is a critical moment when you need to maintain your composure and try to figure out what your next move is. Chris states the goal perfectly in the video: “I need this bike not to cartwheel to the bottom.” Perched on top of a steep hill, with nearly 500 pounds of expensive machinery to get down, there are significant consequences if you get it wrong. Most of us would be losing our s#*t right about now but Chris seems remarkably calm. Clearly, the hard enduro champ / world-famous rider coach has been here before and has a few techniques up his sleeve to deal with the situation.

Chris Birch Hill Climb Fail on Adventure Motorcycle

After gathering himself, Chris gets to work and draws on his experience to deal with the situation. He starts by slowly edging the bike backward to a less-steep section, while keeping it in gear. Then he lays it on its other side and begins to rotate the bike. Once he has the front tire in front of the rear pointing it slightly down the hill, he can mount it and begin wiggling the front tire back and forth to get it pointing down. As soon as the bike gets fairly straight, Chris proclaims “and we’re off!” as he begins a hair-raising descent back down the hill.

Riding a full-sized adventure bike down loose, steep descents is no joke. You’ve got to go light on the brakes to ensure you don’t provoke a slide that starts you and your bike cartwheeling down the hill. Chris executes the procedure flawlessly and is back to safety in no time. 

For most of us, that would be adventure enough for the day but Chris isn’t satisfied until he gives it another shot. The second time is much easier and he clears it without issue, almost making it look easy.The skill displayed getting the bike back down the hill turns out to be even more impressive than riding it up. 

Chris Birch Hill Climb Fail on Adventure Motorcycle

As the old proverb goes, failures are just stepping stones to success. Even the best riders get it wrong sometimes, and Chris has probably had countless failures on the road to his successes. Thankfully, he’s recording some of those failures so we can learn valuable lessons from them, without the potential consequences of actually being there. And that’s the beauty of off-road riding, it gives us so many opportunities to fail and achieve some little measure of glory that makes you feel alive. The challenge doesn’t have to be anything like this hill Chris did, but something gnarly that pushes us at our own skill level. Chris states it best in his own understated way, “Well that definitely was fun. I like Utah!”. 

One thing is certain, even when Chris fails, he does it gracefully.

Author: ADV Pulse Staff

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September 24, 2022 6:38 am

Why is it that hills are always steeper than they look when you get stuck part way up?

Anthony Cooper
Anthony Cooper
October 3, 2022 8:56 pm

I just took his course in Utah and it was absolutely excellent.

Udaya Karunaratne
Udaya Karunaratne
October 10, 2022 6:29 pm

That is a neat trick; rotating the bike to point downhill and going back dow, hair-raising though, that still is!, because there is no way one can re-mount and ride up again; not with the left sloping down away from you. Thanks for that learning


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