KTM owners pride themselves in their brand’s illustrious history in off-road racing and love to put their bikes to the test. So KTM Durban regularly organises adventure rides for their customers and friends, catering to all skill levels and promising hours of fun. This time, they took a group through the picturesque and unparalleled Valley of 1000 Hills. KTM Durban staffer, Keryn Ehlers, was along for the ride and talks us through the events of the day.
Article by: Keryn Ehlers (KTM Durban).
Set just outside Pinetown in KZN, the Valley of 1000 Hills offers exactly what its names suggests. Flowing rivers, nasty climbs and twisty D-roads, set within the landscape of rolling hills, plunging valleys and expansive gullies is an off-road and adventure rider’s dream. D-roads are on offer for those who want to ride green, tricky single tracks, while washed away D-roads offer a little more technical riding. Or, for the more experienced riders, there are routes that would make a grown man cry.
KTM Durban’s first Adventure ride of 2020 was through the Inanda Valley, just one of the multiple routes that this area has to offer. Bright and already boiling on the first Sunday of February, 18 riders gathered to take on the green and orange routes. Everything from 690 Enduro Rs to 1290 Superadventures made up the group—and there were even a few non-orange bikes allowed to tag along, too.
I joined on a 790 Adventure—the standard ‘road-going’ one with stock tyres. One rider asked me at the beginning of the ride if I was a sucker for punishment, but I was actually the benchmark. Where the 790 Adventure and I couldn’t go, there was a split route, allowing for a more broad spectrum of riders to join. The incredibly capable 790 Adventure was only held back by me, with little experience and a Nemo-like left arm.
With the Fish Eagle’s cry, and the roar of engines shattering the quiet ocean air, we left KTM Durban and headed out to the Valley. Our leader, Angelo, had plotted a route that he had delighted in telling us about, and as we headed into the hills on the tar, it got more rural, more remote and just more beautiful. The heat rode with us the entire day, but in the early hours of the ride, the low hanging clouds and angry-looking sky made the ride look mystical and powerful.
Riding the 790 along twisted trails and tortured roads, with butterflies floating around us, we had found paradise. We soon found dirt, with a quick stop to regroup and marvel at the dam that lay below us. One panicked rider had parked next to a drain, and the noise had him worried his engine was about to blow up. Thankfully we realised soon enough and had a good laugh about it, and off we set along the route.
The valley spans kilometres, and has interlocking roads that spread out like a spiderweb over the region. They can be good and then deteriorate in corners, suddenly come into a river or have a wash-away that wasn’t there yesterday. It makes for interesting riding. A good run of rain in the previous week kept dust to a minimum, and the riders were careful to check the bike behind them when turning onto new roads.
With quick stops to regroup, the worry of 18 bikes being too many for a ride was unfounded. The inexperienced riders in the group where shepherded by the owner of KTM Durban, who rode at the back like he was looking after the flock. We had a mid-pack rider to look out in case anyone got lost, and I held up my side by trying to stay upright with two wheels attached to the ground.
A quick segue; the 790 Adventure is mind-blowing. The Miss Congeniality of the 790 Adventures, the R, is most definitely the Prom Queen of the two. But the plucky, feisty and unstoppable ‘standard’ 790 Adventure refused to be outdone by any of the other bikes, and took to the trails like a duck to water—injecting confidence-inspiring control into my ride.
While bounding up a gnarly hill (for me, but possibly flat for more experienced riders), I found myself giggling in my helmet. After crossing over small rivers and nasty mud, and flick-flacking up and down in the first section, we arrived at our juice stop. And I found out I was not the only one who had a grin on my face. We might have been hot and sweaty, but we were 18 happy adventure bike riders.
The second part of the dirt tested us a lot more with off-the-trail riding, and stretched our abilities with rivers, some light rocks, climbs and wash-aways—with us off the bikes filling holes to get through. The team worked effortlessly and dedicated, with guys off bikes helping riders through different sections.
A quick ride through the higher altitudes, and one mined-out section where the daredevils could play (and fall over), was followed by a quick drinks stop and a choice of routes to the lunch stop. The decision was to follow the river, with a group of riders riding the D-road and a second group riding the more technical river section. Bouncing along the whooped out section we had our first casualty: a tree branch took out a 990 Adventure’s screen. The rider was fine, but that was to be the worst incident of the day—a cracked screen.
Five hours after we rode out of KTM Durban’s parking lot, we rode into Café With a View’s much smaller lot, wishing for cold liquid and a longer ride. While sitting and eating our lunches, much deserved, laughter and good conversation could be heard rising from the tables.
This is what life is made of: an amazing morning with good friends, great bikes and amazing riding. As we all trickled out the café, the familiar question could be heard: “when’s the next one?”
Check out KTM Durban’s profile on ZA Bikers.