Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

When Opportunity Knocks… Slam The Door?

Let me start off by saying I love KTM motorcycles.  The little Austrian brand that builds high quality, very sporty, enduro motorcycles capable of covering all matter of terrain.  Actually, you might even say I am a KTM fanatic.  But sometimes, even if you are a fanatic, you have to call out your “hero” and tell them like it is.  Well, I’ve had something on my chest for the last seven years and it’s time I got it off.  So here goes…

If you saw the motorcycle adventure movie “The Long Way Round” with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, you have to ask yourself, “What was KTM thinking when they refused to give two actors three motorcycles in return for the world wide movie promotion of their motorcycle brand as they ride their way around the world on a charity mission?  Could a better opportunity presented itself to KTM on a platter?

So let’s boil this all down shall we?  Two actors, one of whom is literally known throughout the world as the planet hopping, Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi, along with a lesser known actor who provides comic relief, want to go on an around the world trip using your less than well known brand of motorcycle.  They will also be making stops along the way, helping children while using your bike.   In addition, to help them along during their journey, they will have some help.  Not one or two people, but an entire support team.  The support team will have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, a doctor, satellite communications and several other people with the ability to make border crossings happen via influential people.  Hmmm….  does that sound like an opportunity for failure to you?  KTM apparently thought so.

Oh, and don’t forget…  The whole journey is going to be made into a movie!  The kind of movie where the reality can be changed “a little”.  In movies, through the magic of film making, things happen that might not happen in real life.  Can an actor play a “Jedi Master” who reports to a two foot green creature who is even a more powerful “Jedi Master”?  In movies they can.  Can an alien land in a spaceship that looks like a Christmas tree, befriend a little boy and make his bicycle fly?  In movies they can.  Can an ogre make friends with a talking donkey and marry a princess?  In movies they can.  Can a KTM make an around the world trip with two actors and an entire support crew?  According to KTM management at the time, apparently not; not even in a MOVIE!   Jeesh!

By the time the Long Way Round movie was in production, KTM had already won 4 straight Dakar rallies, one of the most gruelling tests of man and machine on the planet.  Thereafter, KTM would continue its winning streak with an additional 7 Dakar wins in a row, a true testament to the KTM marque and the ability of its machines (as well as the men who rode them of course).  So why would KTM balk at giving up 3 bikes which would more than likely have been the far better choice for the trip as Charlie Boorman had suggested?  Could it be that they took the word of a single “consultant” and just outright refused on one person’s viewpoint?  How shortsighted and terrible.

After the Long Way Round movie and its successor Long Way Down screened, sales of BMW adventure motorcycles skyrocketed.  Even though the big GS’s were oversized and heavy, had breakdowns and were difficult to handle when the conditions got rough, many people just want to be like Ewan and Charlie and latched on to the BMW adventure bandwagon.  BMW must send Ewan and Charlie flowers every time the sales of the GS’s climb and I for one wouldn’t blame them.  They’ve created a marketing phenomenon with adventure motorcyclists.  Just mention the Long Way Round or The Long Way Down and people think BMW.  Congratulations BMW.

As for you KTM  well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson.  You make excellent machines that win gruelling races and competitions.  But in North America, almost no-one knows about you.   You’ve got to come up with a way to get people to know you and let them find out how excellent your machines are.  Maybe you ought to call Charlie and tell him you’re very sorry for the error.  You have new KTM 990s just waiting for him at his garage with panniers etc. ready to go.  Call Ewan and tell him that anyone can do the long way round easterly, it’s time to do it westerly and no highways allowed.  Period.  And while you’re at it, show off some of those sexy KTM accessories and even some of those non-KTM accessories so people know they are out there too.  They’ll only make people want your machines more.

KTM, I’ll always love your machines but the group of us here in the US can’t keep the flame alive by ourselves.  You have to help.  When opportunity knocks, don’t slam the door.  Please.   Charlie and Ewan already have too many flowers from BMW.

18 responses

  1. tengoal

    We already had this conversation. It took you 8 paragraphs to say the same thing I did when I said “KTM really f****d up”. You did, however, make some nice comments about Obi Wan. 🙂

    Like

    April 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    • Yah but, now I feel much better having gotten it off my chest to the world! 🙂

      Like

      April 21, 2012 at 8:21 am

  2. I believe it’s time they took a Triumph Tiger……

    Like

    April 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    • That’s an interesting point. Time will tell how the big Tiger will fare in the adventure riding segment. Nice post!

      Like

      April 16, 2012 at 12:14 am

  3. Wow, I can’t believe that KTM would drop the ball like that. They must have been asleep that morning! Maybe they should start getting paid by the bike manufacturers as well as having free bikes and parts for their journeys.

    Like

    May 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    • You are right, KTM did indeed drop the ball on this one. We’ll see what they do in the future. Thanks for the comment!

      Mike and Kim

      Like

      May 8, 2012 at 11:26 pm

  4. Pingback: KTM and "Not The Long Way Down" - WestCoastBiker.net

  5. Alfred Hoeld

    I saw the trip on Tv for a bigger part some years ago and found him entertaining, but just today saw the part, in which KTM refuses to be part of the show!
    I was stunned!
    I missed the part when you can see the “Special Investigator” KTM sent or when he was named.
    Would like to know who he was.

    I am Austrian myself and sorry to, that KTM missed here an opportunity.
    Maybe Mr.McGregor had not been known so well in the Austrian Alps at that time?
    In the years since and with much more big movies he was playing in, the responsible Managers in the KTM company, should have a got a big kick in his ass.
    The Tv series, Long way around has just started a rerun in a English Tv channel, I receive here in Thailand via Satellite. BBC Knowledge?
    Shit happens!
    At least, KTM jumped in a boat with the big Austrian RED BULL in the Moto 3 class and elsewhere and did not ignore that opportunity!
    By, from Alfred, better next time KTM

    Like

    July 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

    • Hi Alfred,

      Thanks for your comments. Perhaps Ewan McGregor wasn’t so well known, but wow, KTM surely missed a great opportunity with the Long Way Round series. But as you say, they didn’t miss the opportunity to jump into Moto 3 and for that I am grateful. I just wish that they had gotten the TV coverage on the adventure riding since that is really where they shine.

      Thanks for dropping by and please come back soon!

      Mike

      Like

      July 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm

  6. Mark

    Hindsight is 20/20. At the time, what if there was an accident or something didn’t work out? As much potential reward there was for gaining in brand equity, there was a possibility of tarnishing the brand if it didn’t work out.

    Yeah, the KTM may be a better dirt bike, is lighter and more powerful, but the GS looks a lot cooler and has a mystique to it that the KTM just doesn’t have.

    Like

    May 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    • Thanks for the comment Mark! I agree that the GS really has built quite a mystique and that is to BMW and the movie’s credit. But frankly, if the KTM broke down, so what. They would also have had the relief team to support than as did Charlie and Ewan have during their journey with the BMW. Plus, we have to remember, this is a movie where the actual facts aren’t always shown. KTM really had a ripe plum and ended up with a sour lemon.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Mike

      Like

      June 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm

  7. Charles Darmanin

    Long way down, round or whatever, and putting away all publicity stunts, for sure KTM messed up not to participate in this show, and usually they lead the way with merchandise, BMW are really not strong there, however from my experience with 2 KTMs post 2005, and 3 BMWs post 2006, with the KTMs I was driving for 4 weeks and the next 2 weeks at the Mechanic and around 300 to 350 Dollars each time, with the BMWs in the last 10 months, the GS 12 needed to be towed because the TPS sensor was faulty, 140 Dollars in 10 months! Lets admit it if you do not know how to play the part of the mechanic, KTM is not your bike, and for sure KTMs are not what you really call endurable. But for the fun of it KTM wins hands down, as they say Alpha males ride BMWs and real males ride KTMs, so where does it put me…. in real life …. always in the red on my bank account…. I will take on any racer motorbike any time with my KTM motard in twistees, but I will never try to cross Europe with a KTM, but I will do it any time on one of my 3 Bms the 800 and 1200GS and with my 1200RT I will drive anywhere where tarmac reaches even if it is all 180 degree bends I will just have to raise the foot pegs on the BMs cause these mammoths can really bend, though I think BMW are colourblind or something, they always dress their bikes up in horrible colour schemes.

    Charles

    Like

    December 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    • Hello Charles,

      Thanks so much for your comment. Both brands of bikes have their issues and you’ve pointed out several. I would love to take my KTM on a world tour, but I too do have some concerns about repairs while on the road. My concern is less with breakdown, but more with parts availability when in the more remote areas. So I still have a big decision to make when we leave for our own long ride.

      Again, thanks for the comment.

      All the best,

      Mike

      Like

      December 23, 2014 at 7:10 am

  8. Anonymous

    Very nice article. I enjoyed it very much. The KTM 990 is a real good bike but goes through fuel pumps (about $250 to $300) like nobody’s business…so yes KTM are great as long as they are running…their motto (no pun intended) is “Ready to Race” The sentence sounds sexy, but anyone who knows racing, knows what pre and post-racing preparation is about.

    On the Dakar point I agree, but that goes to my “Ready to Race” point, at the end of each day, everything is changed, it’s a brand new bike next day.

    A small Dakar race regulation point for those who don’t know: in the late 90s we stopped seeing Yamaha and Honda although they were the previous dominating winners with the Super Tenere for Yamaha and Africa Twin for Honda. That was because Dakar made new rules that say you cant race with a factory bike. In other words either you race with the bikes you sell to public or you sell your competition bikes to the public.

    Of course, they allowed manufacturers to modify their bikes to make them race-ready but there were strong restrictions on how much money you put in the bike and what can be changed. Like the frame has to remain the same etc. That is to say, the bike you sell commercially has to be a good base bike in the first place.

    This made Japanese manufacturers leave. Only BMW and KTM had enough confidence to race the bikes they sell to the public. So KTM is a pretty good bike just needs more maintenance.

    For me, seeing that BMW frame brake turned me off, I was like what the hell….this is a 20 grand bike, not a chinese $700…I read somewhere, that BMW marketing made some statement that they did research and only 2% of their customers really take their bike to off road conditions that the bike “looks” like it can take. I was like that explains the lousy frame. That would never happen with KTM, their frame is sturdy, chassis is a strong point for KTM. BMWs are so heavy, chassis problems are bound to happen…Ever think why BMW uses the motor as part of the frame? no frame can sustain that much weight…

    In conclusion, I think the decision not to take the Long Way Round was some business executive’s idea. Which, we all know, is how the corporate world works, you have idiots, who have no idea what the product, running the show….because they got some 2cents worth degree…corporate executives always kill the fruits of people’s passion,,,

    Great article!

    Best,

    FlyingWheel

    Like

    November 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

    • Hi FlyingWheel,

      Thanks for your excellent comments. You make several good points that give additional background on KTM and the Dakar. I’m almost in total agreement with you in each area. While the big KTMs do have their well known shortfalls (fuel pump and in earlier versions water pumps), I beleive that they remedied these problems as time moved on. As you know, racing does improve the breed. Racing will often quickly identify weaknesses in the machine and it is then up to the manufacturer to remedy the problem. As you appropriately identified, the big KTMs were known for failing fuel pumps. However, as the model years progressed, I believe KTM took action to remedy the fuel pump issue as well as the other well known problem (i.e. water pumps).

      Now that the 1190 and 1290 Super Adventure have replaced the 9X0 series big KTMs, the 9X0 KTM series have been pretty well sorted and are in a pretty mature configuration. That’s not to say that KTM fixed every area, but the machine has had such a cult following that aftermarket solutions exist for pretty much everything. That’s why my concern with KTM is less for “breakdowns” but more for parts availability in remote areas. Regardless of manufacturers, parts of motorcycles break and when they do, you need replacement parts if you are to get out of trouble. Now that the 9X0 series of KTMs is “obsolete” I am even more concerned with finding parts if necessary.

      With regard to the BMW subframe breaking, I too agree that it is too important to be breaking in the field. BMW has since enhanced it, resulting in a weight gain. Prior to enhancing the subframe, BMW was well aware the machine’s heavy weight and perhaps they tried to reduce weight by lightening the subframe. Poor choice.

      What disturbed me more about the big BMW was the failure of the shock. Not even a stock shock, but an enhanced aftermarket one designed to take additional punishment. Even with this enhancement, the shock still failed in each movie. To me, this is even a bigger indictment of the big BMW. Even with an enhanced shock, the “porkiness” of the bike caused enhanced shocks to fail. Weight is a design issue and in this area BMW is not anywhere near the front of the pack. But as you pointed out, a small percentage of big BMW riders take their machines into very punishing conditions so that the BMW’s excessive weight is not as an important factor (I would note that this is true for all brands. But of the ADV brands, with the intensity of KTM’s ready to race motto, KTM riders may ride in punishing conditions more often).

      Again, thanks for your excellent comments and please feel free to comment again!

      Thanks!

      Mike

      Like

      December 5, 2015 at 4:26 pm

  9. FlyingWheel

    test

    Like

    December 9, 2015 at 1:20 pm

  10. FlyingWheel

    Thank you for your feedback and the additional information. And yes, the fork in bmw is somehow of low quality not sure why, maybe because everyone has high expectations of the German manufacturer? that’s not why, it’s the premium price…that causes people to be shocked with these things.

    I was reading on various forums and the fork failure is a source of trouble and even caused dangerous accidents to certain riders. This young girl just got ejected several yards away because her fork snapped off due to no fault of her own. She was on the asphalt and was not off-roading or anything…plus she was a lightweight type person.

    See link here:

    http://advrider .com/index.php?threads/crash-in-destruction-bay-yt.371650/

    Her accident report photos here:

    http://www.adventuresinfinite .com/Motorcycling/images/BrokenBike/

    Other Bmw failure images here, these are not good

    http://www.horizonsunlimited .com/hubb/which-bike/what-we-need-aware-when-80343

    Agreed, the aftermarket stuff makes KTM pretty good. Generally, the parts are impossible or hard to come by if you are traveling in other countries. I recall your lucky encounter with the KTM store that had exactly what you needed 🙂 :). That never happens outside of North America, Europe and maybe Australia. In Most countries big (big = 250 cc and up) motorcycles are considered a luxury and parts are not stocked. You will always have to wait.

    I just came back from a trip in Africa, I was stranded because of a battery!! Woke up the next day, bike won’t start, tried to jump start the BMW F650 (first generation) using car battery, it wouldn’t start because the amperage has to be exact no too much not too little. So here I am driving around the city in someone’s car trying to find a battery for a 1996 F650, that’s an old bike, you would think a battery for something like that is the easiest thing to find. I could not find it. We had to go a major metropolitan about 150 miles away to buy one. Good news is, it did not do it where I was the day before because that would have been a far more serious problem in the remote mountains where I was…

    My point is this stuff is part of the adventure. BMW through its Long Way Round gave a distorted notion of what adventure motorcycling is about. Like It has to be a heavy bike etc. No one in their right mind would take such a heavy thing to a real adventure. If you watch the Long Way Round, the guys did not make it, they had to be transported each time. People did not see that, they only saw the glamour stuff. You will not be able to afford what that production team had.

    Yes, I agree with you, KTM addressed those problems. Also, if you are serious about your adventure you have to do some homework, research and take the parts that are prone to fail. I would much rather carry a fuel pump than carry 300 lbs of welding equipment set to fix a frame 🙂 🙂 or find a welder. Most welders in poor countries are not able to weld anything that is not steel or iron. Those fancy advanced metallurgy – Breaking Bad type – metal mixes will get in trouble if they break in Africa or even small towns here in the US.

    Oh, how do I know that? it happened to me…see pictures here

    http://advrider .com/index.php?threads/bmw-f650-funduro-strada-thread.1088937/page-2#post-28176586

    When it comes to choosing between KTM and BMW always remember that It’s always better to K.eep T.he M.ust than to B.uy M.ore W.histles ..

    (or always better to K.id T.he M.ean than B.ug T.he Wuss or always better to K.iss T.he M.eat than B.ite M.ore W.ater…I can go on and on 😛 😛 )

    Thank you and I enjoy your blog. I was excited to read your Traversing the TAT…are the last episodes still in the pipes?

    Best,

    FlyingWheel

    PS: I put a small space before each .com delete that space to see the links.

    Like

    December 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

  11. FlyingWheel

    Thank you for your feedback and the additional information. And yes, the fork in bmw is somehow of low quality not sure why, maybe because everyone has high expectations of the German manufacturer? that’s not why, it’s the premium price…that causes people to be shocked with these things.

    I was reading on various forums and the fork failure is a source of trouble and even caused dangerous accidents to certain riders. This young girl just got ejected several yards away because her fork snapped off due to no fault of her own. She was on the asphalt and was not off-roading or anything…plus she was a lightweight type person.

    See link here:

    Her accident report photos here:

    Other Bmw failure images here, these are not good:

    (couldn’t post links, I could not find a contact point to send them, if you post an email I’ll send them to you.)

    Agreed, the aftermarket stuff makes KTM pretty good. Generally, the parts are impossible or hard to come by if you are traveling in other countries. I recall your lucky encounter with the KTM store that had exactly what you needed 🙂 :). That never happens outside of North America, Europe and maybe Australia. In Most countries big (big = 250 cc and up) motorcycles are considered a luxury and parts are not stocked. You will always have to wait.

    I just came back from a trip in Africa, I was stranded because of a battery!! Woke up the next day, bike won’t start, tried to jump start the BMW F650 (first generation) using a car battery, it wouldn’t start because the amperage has to be exact no too much not too little. So here I am driving around the city in someone’s car trying to find a battery for a 1996 F650, that’s an old bike, you would think a battery for something like that would be the easiest thing to find. I could not find it. We had to go a major metropolitan about 150 miles away to buy one. Good news is, it did not do it where I was the day before because that would have been a far more serious problem in the remote mountains where I was…

    My point is this stuff is part of the adventure. BMW through the Long Way Round gave a distorted notion of what adventure motorcycling is about. Like It has to be a heavy bike etc. No one in their right mind would take such a heavy thing to a real adventure. If you watch the Long Way Round, the guys did not make it, they had to be transported each time. People did not see that, they only saw the glamour stuff. You will not be able to afford what that production team had.

    Yes, I agree with you, KTM addressed failure problems. Also, anyone serious about adventure has to do some homework, research and take the parts that are prone to fail. I would much rather carry a fuel pump than carry 300 lbs of welding equipment to fix a frame 🙂 🙂 or find a welder. Most welders in poor countries are not able to weld anything that is not steel or iron. Those fancy advanced metallurgy – Breaking Bad type – metal mixes will get you in trouble if they break in Africa or even small towns here in the US.

    Oh, how do I know that? it happened to me…see pictures here

    (same link problem, go to the Funduro thread in Advrider website.)

    When it comes to choosing between KTM and BMW always remember that It’s always better to K.eep T.he M.ust than to B.uy M.ore W.histles ..

    (or always better to K.id T.he M.ean than B.ug T.he Wuss or always better to K.iss T.he M.eat than B.ite M.ore W.ater…I can go on and on but you get the idea 😛 😛 )

    Thank you and I enjoy your blog. I was excited to read your Traversing the TAT…are the last episodes still in the pipes?

    Best,

    FlyingWheel

    Like

    December 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm

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