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ADV RidesKTM Adventure Rally: A Sea of Orange Hits the High Rockies

KTM Adventure Rally: A Sea of Orange Hits the High Rockies

Spectacular rides in Colorado's Rockies with KTM pros and a chance for glory!

Published on 10.15.2019

The KTM Adventure Rally has a vibe that you can pick up on as soon as you get in the same vicinity of their orange factory semis. This year in Breckenridge, Colorado, much like last year in Park City, Utah, one couldn’t help but feel like the inmates were running the asylum in these high rent ski heavens. That’s all part of the experience, though; It’s commonplace to see a crusty KTM 950 nosed in behind an immaculate Tesla Model S on a boutique-strewn boulevard while a pack of demo bikes rumble by on their way back to the epicenter of this madness. The lost identity of a ski town out of season is unmistakable, too early for snow but too late for the tourist rush of summer, and that is the perfect time for a few hundred KTM enthusiasts to take up residence.

KTM Ultimate Race special test
We were surprised to see these big motocross jumps at an ‘adventure bike’ race. KTM placed a few rocks in front to keep speeds down, but that didn’t prevent some riders from sending it!

This year was the 16th annual US KTM Adventure Rally, fittingly tucked in the heart of the Rockies featuring fan favorites like “Ride with the Pros” group rides, Seminars, Demo Rides, and Self-Guided GPS tours. New for this year was the overnight camping option lead by KTM Pro Chris Filmore that offered fifteen riders the opportunity to go on a two-day guided adventure with some amenities provided for an unforgettable Rocky Mountain moto camping experience. 

The Ultimate Race

KTM Ultimate Race Special Test

Returning for the second time was the KTM Ultimate Race Qualifier, testing the grit of some of the top amateur riders in the US. Although more refined this year after its inaugural running in 2018, with even more spectator opportunities and complex challenges. What hadn’t changed was the end result of the competition: The two top riders winning a trip to Morocco to represent their country in a factory-backed effort in the Merzouga Rally.

KTM Ultimate Race Special Test
KTM Adventure Rally 2019
Soft dirt in the woods section caused many a skilled rider to go down.

Festivities kicked off Thursday afternoon with a ruckus riders meeting and the Ultimate Race competitor’s first hurdle of lifting a full-size adventure bike from its side, circling it, and then setting it back down. This served as perfect amusement for attendees just arriving and the qualifier as a whole would continue to be great entertainment.  

KTM Adventure Rally 2019
Retired Dakar Rally racer Kellon Walsh was a site to see for spectators at the Leadville motocross track during the day one special test.


On the first day of competition riders would need to complete two timed laps at the Leadville Motocross Track for the special test, then spend the remainder of the day navigating through the woods surrounding Breckenridge. Riders would use the REVER app for GPS navigation while ensuring they captured as many of the 30 waypoints as possible before the cutoff time. After a full day of riding, exhausted riders had to complete a timed wheel-change before getting a well-deserved rest. The top 10 riders with the best combined scores would qualify for the next day’s competition. 

KTM Adventure Rally 2019
The wheel-change challenge can be a make-or-break event for competitors looking to advance to day two in the KTM Ultimate Race qualifier.
Wes VanNieuwenhuise KTM ultimate race qualifier 2019
Wes VanNieuwenhuise was a beast in the KTM Ultimate Race US Qualifier and went on to be the top finisher.

On day two, finalists were required to navigate through even more technical terrain than the previous day, with a total of 62 waypoints and a timed section. After it was all said and done, the scores were tallied and winners were announced Saturday evening at the annual banquet dinner. First place went to Wes VanNieuwenhuise followed by Brendan Crow. Congrats to both riders who will be representing the USA in Morocco for the Ultimate Race Final. For more background on the Ultimate Race qualifier, check out our article covering the 2018 Adventure Rider Rally.

Beyond The Race

Riding the trails of Breckenridge at the KTM Adventure Rally.
The one-hour loops offered an easy way to get out for a quick ride and see some of Breckenridge’s spectacular landscapes.

For those not competing Ultimate Race, there were plenty of other activities to be amused by. At 9,600 feet, the morning air in Breckenridge had an unmistakable bite, and no saddle was without a thick layer of frost. It’s been speculated that KTM holds their rallies at high elevation not only to improve their bikes fuel economy but also to thin out riders without the fortitude to endure discomfort. Kidding aside, the main thoroughfare of the KTM Adventure Rally was buzzing with activity each morning, long before temperatures climbed above 40 degrees or things began to thaw. After a hearty breakfast, caffeinated attendees would start making moves towards the plethora of different activities. There were seminars, classes, and rides getting underway along with several entrancing vendors to examine.

The large parking lot that housed the rally this year was about the size of two football fields with KTM trucks and vendor booths surrounding the perimeter and a sea of orange bikes and enthusiastic people filling the center. Vendors included: Giant Loop, Cyclops Adventure Sports, Dubya USA, Gnarly Routes, Konflict Motorsports, Mosko Moto, Motion Pro, Moto Minded, Motoz Tires, Rever, Rocky Mountain ATVMC, Rottweiler Performance, Seat Concepts, Trail Tech, and Wolfman Luggage among others. 

Trail Riding at the KTM Adventure Rally

Everyone in attendance seemed to be focused on logging dirt miles and returning with dirt smiles. Most ticket holders had made significant efforts to be present in Breckenridge, sometimes traveling from thousands of miles away, and they weren’t going to waste their time milling about. It’s not the type of rally where people sit around at night talking about the idea of riding or past conquests because everyone is too whipped from actually riding.

All of the routes were top-notch with no guesswork and no wrong choices. With the Rockies at KTM’s disposal, they had done a fantastic job scouting heroic tracks. Even the “one-hour loops” turned out to be epic little adventures in close proximity to town. Taylor Robert, Destry Abbott, Mike Lafferty, Chris Fillmore, Russell Bobbitt, Taylor Robert, Scott Bright, and Paul Krause were leading rides each day. Having access to and riding among these accomplished riders amounted to an intimate experience unique to this event. The same can be said for encountering Dakar Rally veterans like Husqvarna rider Andrew Short on his factory rally bike just cruising down the trail. 

Andrew Short spotted at the KTM Adventure Rally
We had to do a double take when we came across Husqvarna sponsored Dakar Rally racer Andrew Short just cruising down the trail on his rally-prepped machine.

KTM went out of their way to maintain the highest level of hospitality. If you had a question, they were ready to answer, and if you had a problem, they were quick to offer assistance. They even had mechanics on hand, waiting in the wings to help with any mechanical issues that might crop up. There were several accounts of these specialists going above and beyond over the course of the weekend to solve problems and at no cost.  

Downed tree at the KTM Adventure Rally
A downed tree blocked our path causing an orange traffic jam but we found a way to raise the tree just enough to slip our bikes underneath.

Other activities included riding technique seminars, technical riding seminars, games and training. Jimmy Lewis was on site to offer abbreviated versions of his training curriculum Friday and Saturday in addition to performing his always-entertaining demonstrations. Both the seminars and training offered a great opportunity to study techniques and then apply them almost immediately.  

A night of camping during the KTM Adventure Rally 2019
A group of 15 riders, lead by multi-time Pike’s Peak champ Chris Fillmore, headed deep into the backcountry for an epic night of camping.

The KTM Adventure Rally distinguishes itself from other events of this scale with personal touches and face-to-face interactions. The result is a much less “faceless” atmosphere leaving attendees with the feeling they were actually part of something instead of just being on the sidelines. Eating meals in a hall with KTM factory riders & industry-leading vendors while going on rides with the pros and directly interacting with KTM representatives has that effect. Over the years, KTM has cultivated this environment and refined it almost to the point of perfection. There’s a reason this event sells out quickly each year, and if you haven’t already, you should find out why for yourself.

KTM Adventure Rally Gallery

Photos by Spencer Hill and Rob Dabney

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.

Author: Spencer Hill

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October 19, 2019 7:03 pm

Looks like fun! Hey, weren’t we supposed to be getting a KTM 390 Adventure at some point??


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