A KTM 990, Honda Transalp and BMW HP2 get stuck into the muddy action at the WRC Wales Rally as we go searching for freestyle legend Travis Pastrana
Rain like you can’t believe. Horizontal slabs of thick, juicy water, drops as big as Subbuteo footballs, rain so heavy that it makes you laugh out loud at the insanity of it all and you can’t see 30ft in front of you. It’s pitch dark at 6pm and the traffic on the M4 is sloshing through an inch of standing water nose-to-tail. Filtering is potentially deadly and the bow-wash from trucks completely blinding. My feet are making squelching noises already and we’ve only got another 150 miles to go. What’s truly ironic, I reflect inside the sodden haven of my helmet, is that less than 20 minutes ago I was on fire. I could really have done with some rain then.
We’re on our way to Wales to watch our first-ever WRC rally event and give three adventure bikes a healthy dose of, well, adventure along the way. KTM’s seminal 990 represents the pinnacle of what a true adventure bike should be, combining long-distance capability with aggressive styling and dirt bike toughness. BMW’s HP2 Enduro is the serious off-road tool here, stripped down, light weight and with chunky motocross tyres. And Honda’s new Transalp is waving the flag for the budget adventurer. Simple and unfussy it may be, but it’s got 20 years refinement behind it and shouldn’t be underestimated even in this company. Word has it that American freestyle legend Travis Pastrana is competing in the rally, and we’re determined to meet the man. Anyone who’s seen his wild nine-roll crash in his Subaru and get out whooping with excitement, or witnessed him complete the world’s first double back-flip in front of 50,000 screaming fans, or launch himself into the Grand Canyon with nothing more than a parachute to save his life, cannot fail to be a little bit impressed. So we headed west to Wales. Which is right about when it started raining.
Right now, I’m on the KTM 990 Adventure. I started the trip on the brand-new Honda Transalp (with heated handlebar grips it was a no-brainer) but after just five miles it became immediately apparent that something was very wrong with the photographer. I watched Geoff lurch out of the carpark on the 120bhp KTM and it was genuinely scary. Then I saw him fail to overtake cars that were doing 28mph on a completely straight road, and practically get off and push at the first roundabout we came to. So I waved him in at the M25 services. “Mate – when did you last ride a bike?” I came straight out and asked. “Um, in 1998,” came the reply. Fantastic. We’ve got to be in Cardiff before 6pm through Friday night traffic, it’s 3pm now and our photographer last rode a bike 10 years ago and is visibly quaking with fear. I give Geoff the more forgiving Transalp and we hit the road. When he disappears in my mirrors for the third time, I get pissed off and hit the throttle.
The KTM is a beauty. It’s rough and edgey with real bite to its character. Small amounts of throttle input send it surging forwards and it completely belies its huge physical appearance by feeling small and svelte to ride. It’s shaped like a wedge of cheese, and while it’s a bit of a clamber to get onto the 860mm high saddle, once you’re up there it’s simplicity itself to ride. Through stationary traffic it makes a mockery of other vehicles, the upright ride position giving you a commanding view ahead and allowing you to scythe past queues with suitable disdain. The angular screen kicks the windblast clean over the top of your helmet, and while the seat gets a bit brutal after 100 miles, it’s a glorious way of covering miles. In black the 990 looks seriously stealth, although with Geoff’s cheap carry-all strapped to the back it did tend to ruin the style somewhat.
Continue Looking for Travis - 2/3
BMW HP2 Enduro
Price: £11,995Engine: 1,130cc, air-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, boxer-twinPower: 105bhp @ 7,000rpmFront suspension: 45mm Kayaba forks, 230mm travelRear suspension: Air monoshock, adjustable via pump, 240mm travelFront brake: 305mm disc, two-piston caliperRear brake: 265mm disc, two-piston caliperDry weight: 175kgSeat height: 920mmFuel capacity: 13 litresTop speed: 115mph
Price: £5,399Engine: 680cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve, 52° V-twin,Power: 60bhp @ 7,750rpmFront suspension: 41mm Showa forks, 177mm travelRear suspension: Showa shock, adj for compression damping, 173mm travelFront brake: 256mm discs, three-piston calipersRear brake: 240mm disc, single-piston caliperDry weight: 200kgSeat height: 841mmFuel capacity: 18 litresTop speed: 122mph
KTM 990 Adventure
Price: £8,995Engine: 999cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve, 75° V-twinPower: 98bhp @ 8,500rpmFront suspension: 48mm WP forks, fully adjust, 210mm travelRear suspension: WP shock,fully adjustable, 220mm travel, all the trimmingsFront brake: 300mm discs, two-piston BrembosRear brake: 240mm disc, two-piston Brembo, ABSDry weight: 199kgSeat height: 860mmFuel capacity: 22 litresTop speed: 135mph
Posted: 03/08/2009 at 21:51
Posted: 03/08/2009 at 22:41
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