When i moved to Spain, I quickly discovered my need for speed had been replaced with my desire to explore, and that change made me start searching for online forums with likeminded people, great conversation and an abundance of knowledge and experience. I joined a few sites who seemed to focus on two wheeled adventure and travel, but there is one which is always top of the list. I have been a member of the Adventure Bike Rider (ABR) forum since March 2016, and whilst it isn’t the biggest or busiest, the members and quality of information and experience make it my go-to forum for all things relating to two wheeled adventure riding.
Despite riding motorbikes since I was 9 or 10 years old, I’ve never been the sort of biker to go to rallys and festivals, but after the past couple of years, particularly the ‘covid year’, and finding myself in the UK to promote Spanish Motorbike Tours, I decided to go to the event. It was a last minute decision, as the event was ticket only and sold out months ago. Luckily, the ABR forum had some tickets for sale from members who could no longer attend, so I bought a 3 day ticket with camping, for less than the price of a tank full of fuel, intending to only go for 1 day as I was dog sitting for my mate. This changed over dinner on Thursday evening, so I could be away overnight, which meant instead of a day trip, I had to pack for a night camping at the festival.
I tend to travel light, I don’t need much for a couple of days away; tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mattress, change of clothes, food and snacks, water and milk, stove and teabags, cutlery, plastic bowl and thermal mug. Along with the tools and chain lube I always carry, I filled my 31 litre pannier and half of my 45 litre box and I put my tent, clothes and washbag in the yellow holdall. So with the bike loaded with all I need, I set off.
It was only a 2 hour ride to get to the event, but the 2 hours were 95% spent on motorways and only 5% on equally straight A roads, but the journey was uneventful and I arrived at the festival around 10am on Saturday. The entrance was very well marshalled, and I was directed towards the biker check-in area. The first thing to be checked was my covid test result. This stage was utterly pointless. I obtained a lateral flow test the previous day, did it as instructed and then registered my results on the NHS website. The reason I say this is pointless is because the website asks you what the test result was, and at no point is the result verified. Luckily, my test was negative and I selected negative on the website, but anyone who tested positive could just as easily selected negative as the test result and obtained an email stating the result was negative and allowing them to then mix with several thousand people.
I was then directed to check-in to get my e-ticket verified, and subsequently given a weekend with camping wristband and a festival sticker for my bike. This would allow me unrestricted entry and exit throughout the entire weekend.
As I rode into the camping area, I found an empty pitch and parked my bike. No sooner than I had removed my helmet, I was approached by Stephen Cheshire who also owned and rode a KTM 640 Adventure. He said he had found some other KTM 640 owners who had pitched their tents together and I was welcome to join them and pitch my tent near theirs. Once pitched, I set off on foot towards the festival.
Most of the major bike manufacturers where there, and all of them had a good selection of bikes on display, and a large number of demonstrators for you to try, if you were prepared to start queuing to register for a demo ride whilst everyone else was having breakfast. There were a few global tour companies there, and luggage manufacturers, but dissapointingly there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to riding equipment. I was hoping to be able to look at and try, and hopefully buy, a new suit and gloves, but the choice was limited. There was actually more options for sauce on your burger than there was for suits or gloves to try and buy. Many years ago, I recall going to the motorshow at the NEC and walking out with bags of freebies and promotional items, lanyards, coasters, stickers, samples of producs etc, but with the exception of a lovely TRF branded necktube, nobody seemed to be handing out freebies as a way of attracting people to look at and hopefully buy their products.
Whilst walking around the festival, I found the TRF (Trail Riders Fellowship) tent where i found my dear friend Gill Mitchell. She introduced me to everyone as ‘Spanish Al’, and the TRF members made me feel like I had always been a lifelong member, including inviting me to join their camp that evening for curry and wine which was a fun and memorable evening.
The next day, I signed up to do a TRF taster ride on my KTM, which would take in 3 sections of trail inbetween some country roads and included crossing a ford. Whilst waiting for my allocated time slot, I had another walk around the event, looking for the holy grail, a bike to replace my KTM 640 Adventure.
There are some lovely bikes out there, but there isn’t much that ticks the boxes that my current bike does, and which also make me have the urge to ride them. The Triumph Tigers are nice looking bikes, but not suitable for what I do. The same goes for the BMW’s, Ducatis etc. Even the current range of KTMs just don’t appeal to me. They are all lovely looking bikes, and I’m sure they are great for touring and the odd bit of trail riding, but to find something that is under 180kg, takes rack mounted luggage, offers some wind protection on the highway, great suspension and ground clearance off-road, huge fuel range, easy to maintain, and makes you want to throw your leg over it when you see it, your choices are limited, or the bikes need a lot of modification. I could make the perfect bike in the form of a KTM 690 Enduro with an Aurora Explorer kit, luggage etc, but it would cost around £20k. At the festival, I found 1 bike that made me stop and enquire about it.
The KTM 790 Adventure R which was at the Kriega stand was the only bike at the event that I would have bought had it been for sale, been in the right colour, and if I had the money. Its simply too dark for a life in Spain, but the small changes that Kriega did made all the difference. Its only 20kg heavier than my 640, but has 40hp more, and a 6th gear. The Aurora Rally kit and side panels transform the front end of the bike turning it into something I would want to own and ride. It may not be perfect for what I do, but its as close as I could find at the ABR festival.
Here is a short video showing a small group of us crossing a ford on the TRF riding experience.
Overall, the ABR festival was a great event. I was disappointed at the lack of clothing on display and for sale, particularly as I was hoping to buy a new suit and gloves, but the organisation and atmosphere was great, and I can’t wait to go back next year.