Publisher’s note: In 2019, I attended the KTM Adventure Rally Canada at RED Mountain Resort in Castlegar, British Columbia. It was a lot of fun and the route was fantastic, but unfortunately the second day of the rally was snowy. In September.
Despite that, it was a good time, and I was looking forward to attending again, hopefully on a snowless weekend. There was no KTM rally in Canada in 2020 or 2021 (thanks for nothing, COVID!), so when the ’22 event, in the usually snowstorm-free month of June, was confirmed, I was pretty excited. And then I saw that the rally was scheduled for the same weekend as Father’s Day. Uh, there was no way I was going to get away with leaving my family to ride in Quebec for the weekend. So I had to decline my invitation and instead received the following report from Louise Mitchell-Pond. I have met Louise at rallies over the years, including the 2019 KTM rally where she took first place overall with her husband in the R2 class! She knew it would give us a good idea of how this year went, so here you go.
With the world in suspense for the last two years, the idea of registering and traveling to a motorcycle rally was exciting enough, and the preparation was worth it! The Fourth Annual KTM Rally, held in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Québec, was spectacular. It included two days of driving following pre-loaded secret tracks. As before, this event was not a race; the winners are the teams closest to the predetermined target mileage along one of two routes. R1 took riders through several challenging single tracks that included mud, rocks, and fallen logs. R2 is for adventurous riders who prefer something a little less intimidating, or like me, ride a bigger bike and aren’t comfortable singletrack for extended periods. I have an R1200 GS and my husband Neil chose his KTM 790. At this KTM event I called us the hybrid team even though our official name was “Louise and Husband”.
Before starting, the route of Day 1 was changed due to flooding. Go figure! At the last event in BC (the 2019 rally), a whole day was canceled due to snow, so a simple route change was fine for me. GPS in hand, I walked to my bike excited to get started. However, I unknowingly created a “route” from KTM’s preloaded tracks, instead of following the track. There is a difference!
The morning drive swept roads past many small towns, including Saint Donat de Montcalm and Saint Jovit, eventually leading to the village of Mont Tremblant. At Mont Tremblant, I met two brothers who rode KTMs. One of them told me that he took Chris Birch’s course and went from maybe I can ride this to I know I can ride this. His smiling face of his said it all! Meeting other cyclists at stops is always fun. The exchange of information cannot be measured. And no matter how experienced you are in rally life, there is always something to learn.
His question was, “How did you like the gravel this morning?” Gravel? Drink! What gravel? Our trip was purely by road. And even though my husband mentioned that I was not on the same route as his GPS, I ignored him and followed the pink line on the Nav VI. The extent of my concern was remembering to point out to Neil that he was spinning.
I had to rethink planning the route for the afternoon. Neil was going to lead using his Montana, but he dropped the card while he was changing the battery and completely lost track of the afternoon. Happens. So I figured out how to make the GPS route show on the map. I wouldn’t get a warning for the turns, but that’s what makes this challenging. Hopefully she wouldn’t lose Neil. That also happens.
Thank God I kept track. KTM’s afternoon ride was incomparable. As I approached the Mont Tremblant park gate, I wondered if I was in the right place. There was no mention of bringing money for park access. But the gentleman asked if we were at the rally, which was great because it meant we were in the right place, and he waved us on.
I was immediately in gravel. Dry gravel with a hard top, the kind I like. The path wound through the forest, punctuated by stretches of water crisscrossed by beaver dams covered in lush vegetation. There were a lot of beaver houses but sadly there were no beavers around. They heard it was coming. However, there were chipmunks running for their lives across the street. There was also a falcon dancing in its path between the road and the trees. But I’m not sure what type he was, since he flew much faster than me. Nice big and small waterfalls were here and there. As he rode he could smell the mix of rocks, dirt, plants and water. Among this natural beauty I hear myself say, that’s why I ride.
Day 2 started at 7 degrees centigrade, with drizzle. Not optimal for my horse adventure. Dominique Lefebvre told me that she personally made the R2 track. She didn’t want to reveal anything, but I could tell she was excited. I made the track bright red today, much easier to see in the rain, hopefully. Overdosed on excitement and caffeine, with Cher hitting my helmet, I approached the start line and my last words to Neil were: keep up!
After a couple of laps away from the Auberge I was on gravel. And there I stayed most of the day. A short time later he was on logging roads; the kind used in the fall for the various hunting seasons. These were pretty spectacular because they were wide enough for a truck and buggy enough to make for an entertaining ride. These were also quite challenging because there were so many twists and turns and other intersecting roads that I had to pay close attention to the track. If I missed a turn because I was looking at the scenery I could end up adding a lot of unnecessary miles and again the key to winning is driving as close to the original track mileage as possible.
Just when I thought I could do this all day, a transit took me to completely different terrain. It was still raining and the track got slippery. The hard packed forest road gave way to a softer type of dirt with long slippery grass. The puddles had formed making guesses about their depth a kind of lottery. I did my best, not liking a flip in any of them. I was on top of the world until I turned a corner and saw a field of mud and big bikes everywhere. The international symbol for slowing down!
When I find things difficult, I often stop and make sure I play a good tune. This required Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now. Because what did KTM add after this quagmire? A muddy hill. I watched two riders ahead of me swish and slide uphill, then cranked up the volume and got it. With drizzle in my eyes I continued for another hour until KTM took me to an oasis, La pouvoirie Lac du Repos. I could hardly contain my sadness at the “cuisine ferme” sign and yet it was open! Chicken soup was served to me with a smile as I sat by a warm fire where I hung up my jacket and gloves. I was ready for this.
After the miracle of a warm, dry building and hot soup to go with my packed sandwich, I headed out into a sunny afternoon. With no rain, there were still puddles and wet ground, but it made it easier to see. I could clearly see the buried sewer and brace myself for the splash. After leaving this smooth geographic region, I was driving down an “unpaved road”, and it was amazing. The sun had dried the top layer of dirt giving it the velcro effect and making the afternoon a lot of fun on stickiness. Clearly other riders were having a good time as well, as I could see them drifting around the corners. Thanks for the help!
Neil still blindly following me and smiling continuously, I led us to the most beautiful alley with a bumpy floor speckled with rocks and an array of trees kissing overhead. So pretty, in fact, that we passed it on to the KTM photographers. Pleased to be navigating correctly, I continued. Didn’t meet as many riders in the afternoon but it was fine as long as I had the red line on the map and Neil bringing up the rear. Leaving the forest, I stopped in a wide area hoping that if I had to go deeper into the forest, it would take a little longer for the mosquitoes to find me. A dragonfly arrived and I was suitably happy that we might be winning the war against mosquitoes. Light pink lady’s slippers were scattered here and there and it was another perfect place to inhale and count my blessings.
This bike riding adventure is certainly fun, and KTM had once again outdone themselves by giving me tracks that were tough enough but not crazy. I’ll leave that for the other guys. By now most of the tracks were almost dry and the afternoon sun was warming me as I listened to the tunes, now at a lower volume. I was entertained by the double tracks with bushes growing on the sides, sand, puddles, fallen branches, hydrolines and epic views. It was as if they scored the perfect mix of track challenge and navigation challenge. Dominique Lefebvre and KTM had pretty much pulled off the impossible.
As I walked the last few miles back to the Auberge du Lac Taureau, I was thankful for the amazing day. I was grateful that I didn’t push myself beyond my capabilities; this is always a concern for me. And I was grateful when I looked back to see my biggest cheerleader, veteran cyclist Neil, still behind me smiling. Not only did we repeat our victory in the R2 category, but we had a lot of fun, and that’s why we came in first place!