It’s Sunday and everyone’s out riding enduro except me. I sit in the shadowy office, trying to ignore the abandoned gecko tail on my desk, dropped by its former owner in some state of panic. Was it me, did I scare the gecko when I came in? I can see the gecko up on the wall, tailless and accusing.
Sundays are always the hardest when you’re nursing an injury. Any other day of the week you can console yourself that other people have boring jobs to do too, but Sunday is for dirt bikes. I know that right now, San Kamphaeng is ringing with the sound of two strokes, and I know what those trails look like, and I know how the sweat should feel dripping down my face; I remember the taste of electrolyte mix in my slightly manky camelbak as I fight to stay hydrated, and I miss the sound of my friends laughing every time one of us ends up upside down.
My ACL graft is at its weakest point right now – nearly 3 months after surgery. Soon, it will start strengthening again and I’ll be able to work towards where I need to be – which is, on a motorcycle.
For now? Paperwork. I have to schedule next season’s tours, build three new websites, sell motorcycle parts, teach myself how to do SEO properly and re-awaken a hotel from its Covid-era slumber.
After my peacefully underemployed era of motorcycle travel, I now find myself unexpectedly over-employed – but in really cool ways, for which I’m immensely grateful. I’ll show you the hotel next time; for now I want to tell you about how KTM ended up on my client list.
It all started years ago, when I rode past Singapore on my KTM 690 Enduro, all my belongings strapped to the back. I parked the bike in Johor Baru in West Malaysia, and traipsed over the causeway to see some awesome women. The first was the gorgeous Flavia, working in Singapore for Pirrelli. She lived in Sydney back in the days before my trip, and was one of the first people to show concrete support for my crazy undertaking. She got Metzeler to sponsor my tyres for the first few years, at a time when most people predicted nothing for my trip but imminent failure.
The second was the inimitable Juvena Huang, aka The Wandering Wasp. Juvena is such a cool lady: straight forward, fearless, and she’ll tell it exactly how it is. I have so much respect for that. She is also the most generous host you could imagine. She, too, opened her home to me: I couch surfed from Flavia’s loft to Juvena’s family living room, waking up in the morning to her dad making breakfast a few metres away in a typical Singapore apartment.
I climbed into Juvena’s sidecar and we explored Singapore by Vespa, and then by XR100.
The place is like a giant, tropical shopping mall with really incredible food. Everything was awesome and hilarious; the companionship of fellow women riders was mana from heaven for me.
At that time in my trip, I was tired and broke; I’d been traveling solo for more than two years on a shoestring budget, and there was no way I could afford Singapore’s first world prices. The sisterhood took me in and rejuvenated me; made space for me and reminded me: there’s space for you here in the world, and there’s space for you in motorcycling.
Juvena introduced me to her friend Cherie, who is also a badass motorcycling woman, and that’s exactly who showed up years later in Chiang Mai wearing KTM orange. It was Christmas last year, and she had ridden up from Singapore on her 701 to scout locations for the upcoming KTM Riders Academy.
This is the event where KTM trains their trainers: each year KTM Asia fly in their master instructors to teach and accredit upcoming instructors from all over the region in the fine arts of adventure riding and hard enduro.
How to find a location with suitable training areas and suitable natural obstacles? A place where you can have forty-five people doing wheelies for four days without making the neighbours cross? Easy. You ask the local riders.
And that’s how HiVolt Moto Tours became responsible for organising the venue for the KTM Riders Academy in Chiang Mai.
We had over forty trainees flying in, plus KTM staff, instructors, technicians and management. KTM Thailand trucked in 15 new KTM 790 Adventures plus 15 new enduro bikes: a mix of the new 350 EXC-F Six Days and the Husky 350 FE.
Event management may be a little outside our usual remit, but the bottom line is this: running an outstanding event here in Thailand requires exactly the same kind of relationships that running a great tour business requires. You have to seek out the right people, pay your respects, and make sure that there’s a common benefit for everyone. You work with the head of the village, the head of the subdistrict, the local caterers, the local brush cutters, the local coffee shop, the local riders. If everyone has a stake, then there is a way to solve every problem.
You also can’t rush things; you can’t just phone up and command the things you want. Sometimes, you need to take the time to walk through fields with your local stakeholders and work things out.
From a distance, it might look inefficient; but on the day, it all works.