Dirtbiking in this side of the world has much in common with early skateboarding culture – it’s hugely community-driven, steered by minimal parental guidance, and tends to attract bad attention from the law. Few riders in Asia have had the luxury of being initiated into the enduro world by family, and even fewer have received any sort of formal coaching – watching Megs Braap on YouTube doesn’t quite count.
KTM, our favourite (I’m biased) maker of dirt-ripping motorcycles, sets out to remedy this with the KTM RIDERS ACADEMY – a new initiative geared at making offroad skills training more accessible, safe and fun to riders in the region.
We were in Phuket, Thailand, over the first week of March 2022 for the regional kick-off of the KTM RIDERS ACADEMY, held against the stunning backdrop of southern Thailand’s dramatic mountainous coastline.
With us in enduro paradise were KTM offroad specialists from Europe, on a mission to share their expertise in the art of running a KTM riding school. There to learn the ropes were representatives from Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea and Singapore, who had already completed a first round of theory studies on the subject. Many were top offroad riders in their home countries, with coaching experience to boot.
After a grueling three-day bootcamp that ran from classroom to track, nine instructors were minted; ready to launch KTM RIDERS ACADEMY back in their home countries.
What is the KTM RIDERS ACADEMY, and why care?
The KTM RIDERS ACADEMY is offroad school. It teaches the building blocks of Adventure travel, Hard Enduro, Rally, Moto-Trial and more – how to corner, cross obstacles, go up and down hills; how to do it better, more fun, and not die in the process.
You see, many riders plunge into offroading with woefully inadequate guidance and safety gear, then end up leaving the sport completely after a frightening experience. Others are curious, but never try out at all because it’s simply too difficult to borrow a dirtbike, find a place to ride, or a community to ride with.
Even experienced riders who stick with the sport often hit roadblocks that stunt their progression. Like many in the dirtbiking community back home, my riding ability is nourished on a thin diet of good intentions and shitty advice (“when in doubt, just open the throttle!”). In other words: I’ve been riding dirt bikes for awhile, but I still suck.
Without qualified coaching, it’s hard to even know what you don’t know. As part of the launch’s media experience, some of us enjoyed a mini offroad riding clinic that took us through fundamental skills and addressed bad riding habits.
How is it different?
What sets the KTM RIDERS ACADEMY apart from other established offroad riding schools by big brands like BMW and Honda? The simple answer is that Offroad is KTM’s DNA.
For sheer performance, the offroad weaponry of the KTM family just can’t be beat. KTM, Husqvarna and GASGAS bikes dominate Supercross, MXGP, Hard Enduro and Rally races the world over, and remain the choice for both champions and weekend warriors for their unmatched power-to-weight ratio. Celebrity offroad coaches like Chris Birch and Graham Jarvis are familiar faces in the KTM family, but their visits to Asia are few and far between.
In the near future, you can travel to scenic destinations in our backyard for learn-as-you-ride adventures, with KTM-certified instructors, on highly specialised enduro and offroad-travel machines like the KTM 300 EXC TPI Six Days and KTM 390 Adventure. Or, take part on your own bike.
From either a leisure or competitive standpoint, dirtbiking is awesome, but also unquestionably dangerous. Seeding a culture of skills training will go a long way in making the sport more welcoming to newer generations of riders.
Whether you’re seeking beginner’s thrills, or for definitive skill mastery, eventually there will be learning experiences to suit everyone, and like-minded people to ride with.
The best part? You won’t have to travel halfway around the world to do it.
KTM RIDERS ACADEMY is expected to roll out first in Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines over the following months. We aren’t keeping our passports away just yet!
Cherie went to school with overachievers. She grew up to fully embrace her wicked, underachieving ways and made art, rode motorcycles, wore dinosaur costumes to inappropriate places, and was generally awesome. She has recently discovered that the optimal number of underpants to pack for world domination on your motorcycle is 2.5.