The air is thin above 9,000 feet. Labored breathing becomes common; drawing long breathes as you climb a short flight of stairs, or push your Adventure bike around the corner. But this lack of oxygen and extreme elevation also provides breathtaking (no pun intended) views of the surrounding mountains, making you feel ever-so-small as you stand in awe amongst the jagged peaks that surround the small Colorado town of Crested Butte. And this, I presume, is why KTM chose to host their annual Adventure Rider Rally here, at more than 9,000 feet up, tucked neatly into the parking lot of the Grand Lodge, a multi-story hotel and condominium complex walking distance from the ski lift.
Our friend Scott Bright, a two-time ISDE competitor, Baja Rally champion and forthcoming Dakar Rally competitor, had invited us to attend. As it turned out, Scott and the team at REVER, were responsible for scouting, planning and riding all of the routes that KTM would make available (in advance) for those in attendance. A handful of KTM factory riders (to include the likes of Quinn Cody, Mike Lafferty and Andrew Short) would lead a small group of eager ADV enthusiasts on rides each day, varying in length and difficulty depending on what they were interested in. The routes, as I mentioned, were scouted by our friend Scott, and led Rally goers deep into the surrounding mountains and countryside, offering a variety of challenges, to include water crossings, steep switchbacks, narrow single-track and long sweeping gravel sections that cut through farmlands, edged on either side by 10,000 foot tall mounds of earth.
The vender lot was a whole other thing. Unlike many cramped or disorganized rally events, KTM’s “vender alley” of sorts was not only spacious but plentiful. A lot of favorites were there – Wolfman Luggage, Butler Motorcycle Maps, Touratech, ICON Raiden, and even Kate’s (killer) Real Food Bars – ready and waiting to shake your hands, answer your questions, and at the very least, hand out stickers. The tents and booths sat on the circumference of the lot leaving a wide berth in the center for the riders to take classes, watch demonstrations, take on challenges, or even just park and show off their two-wheeled Adventure machines. For those considering an upgrade, KTM offered demo rides of all the latest from the factory. Time on the bikes was generous, and getting on board was as easy as an ID and signature. All in all, the positive outcome of the rides and the resting place created one hell of a well-rounded rally!
The event itself is something you have to sign up for early. Capped at 300 (?) riders, KTM’s Adventure Rider Rally is unlike any ADV event I’ve ever attended. A catered breakfast is available each morning, dinner in the evening, as well as skills courses taught by Baja 1000 legend, Jimmy Lewis. A parking lot full of 1190 Adventures, 690 Enduros and 1290 Super Adventures await anyone interested in a test ride. Vendors from far and wide make the trek to display the latest ADV accessories. And then, just when you think it couldn’t be better, KTM shuttles everyone in attendance to the top of the mountain for a catered dinner and awards ceremony set beneath a tall circus tent, at well over 10,000 feet. And then they handed out prizes!
So, if you’re an avid ADV rider, KTM owner, or just looking for an excuse to ride the Colorado backcountry, be sure to sign up for next year’s Adventure Rider Rally.
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