An Orange Wave Rips Across New Zealand’s North Island


New Zealand is home to snow-capped peaks, vast fjords, picture-perfect beaches and dense virgin forests. There are vibrant cities as well, though the island nation’s biggest draw is its glorious landscapes and the adventures they promise. For adventure bike riders this country is a paradise of opportunity, and perhaps even more so for KTM owners, who come each year to participate in the manufacturer’s  Adventure Rally series, a ride fest that explores a new region of the country’s North and South Islands each year.

The 2024 event, named Three Coasts, took place in February on the “bottom side” of North Island, where riders explored the southern, western and eastern coastlines. The 150 participants of the sold out event were promised “a different challenge every day” as they rode five days on a 1,500-kilometer journey through 4 regions and a vast array of scenery.  

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

For those of us who reside a long plane ride away from New Zealand, we’re in luck. Pro photographer Simon Cudby, renowned for his MX and Adventure Bike coverage, got a chance to ride along with the group this year, coming away with striking images that perfectly sum up the New Zealand KTM Adventure Rally experience.

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Riding With Pros

There were experts on hand in New Zealand riding shoulder to shoulder with the Rally participants, including everyone’s favorite big bike riding tipster Chris Birch, and also Joey Evans. Joey has an especially inspiring story, having suffered a severe crash back in 2007 while racing in South Africa. After colliding with another bike, he was left with a crushed spinal cord and was paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors said he would never walk or even feel his legs again.

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand


Ten years later, Joey was racing in the Dakar Rally in Paraguay. He made it 9000 km into the race when on the second to last stage his bike was crushed by a rally car. Undaunted, Joey went on to ride and race in 30 countries on 6 continents, eventually penning a book, “From Para to Dakar,” which documents his comeback.

In addition to the celebrity riders, the experienced KTM staff ensure every detail goes off without a hitch. Rally organizer and KTM’s AU/NZ  Marketing Manager, Rosie Lalonde, feels the most pressure, despite having planned and supervised four successful KTM owner experiences in New Zealand, four in Australia and one Husky 701 Enduro Trek. Rosie, an accomplished adventure bike rider herself, says her goal with these trips is to give customers a chance to “get away from the stresses of their everyday lives and have an amazing experience on a bike, with friends, seeing cool new things.” 

How Much Spice Can You Handle?

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

This year’s 150 riders launched from New Plymouth at the start of their 5-day adventure. One of the coolest things about the Rally’s routing is KTM’s “something for everyone” approach. There is a main route, and then there are extra “Breakouts” routes rated using chili peppers to indicate their level of spiciness. For example on Day One, the riders’ main route was a 375 km loop from and back to New Plymouth, but more adventurous types could add in as many as three Breakout routes for a total of 475 km for the day. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

The types of terrain thrown at riders in the 1-5 chili-rated sections include descriptions of washouts, bumpy and rutted tracks, mud bogs and steep, wet climbs. One chili “will require riders to stand up to negotiate rocks, rain ruts, inclines and declines.” Two chilis and riders are “definitely standing, throttle/clutch control essential, steeper hills, creek crossings and ruts.”

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

A three chili Breakout is described at super challenging terrain that might make you wish you were on an enduro bike instead of an adventure bike. “Kiwi adventure riders love a challenge,” says Rosie. As an example, she says when it rained for the first couple days of the trip the local riders thought it made the riding better, “whereas normal people — mere mortals — think it’s too slippery to walk.”

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Photographer, Cudby, who has covered KTM Rallies in the States says the trails were much “more gnarly” than anything he’d seen in the US routing, and he was riding a 690 Adventure in New Zealand, when most participants were aboard 890/1090/1290 Adventure Rs. There is no requirement for how the group travels, so there are solo riders and small cliques, but everyone stops and helps out when someone gets stuck, as they often did on the sandy beach portions of the rides. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Routing Is The Secret Sauce

Rosie says the key to successful routing for these events is hiring local experts to map out the rides. This kind of grassroots involvement also opened gates to private land use, areas she says provide some of the most memorable scenery. That way even riders who live near to the Rally site are also seeing cool new things for the first time. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

The first day brought highlights that included three dark, drippy hand-dug tunnels, a road through the “Last Samurai” film set as well as sweeping coastal and river views. Lunch, dinner and accommodations are included in the NZ event’s fee, as is tech and tire support. Detailed road notes and gps tracks set riders up to hit ideal fuel stops and scenic overlooks. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

For Days Two and Three the overall routes were drawn for either “wet” or “dry” weather, an advanced planning strategy that made things run more smoothly.

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

The morning of the second riding day saw the group leaving New Plymouth for Wanganui, known for its black sand beaches. Riders who stayed on the main route covered 329 km that was a mixture of twisty paved roads and gravel tracks that passed through more narrow tunnels hand dug into New Zealand’s abundant mudstone rock, referred to as papa. Depending on the weather, there were either three special sections or five, with a wide range of spice ratings. As is often the case, taking the bonus legs delivered some of the day’s best views and interesting highlights of the day. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Riders left Wanganui the next morning headed for Palmerston North, on a short but winding route into the mountains. On this day, with all the riders warmed up and honing their off-road skills, the main route featured more challenging dirt tracks than offered in previous days. Two of the three Breakout routes were three chili affairs with “sharper” climbs and descents, but taking on all three only added a couple kilometers to the overall distance. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Day Four led the riders from Palmerston North to Masterton which lies on the midline of North Island’s southern end. On this segment the group was provided with the first sightings of North Island’s East Coast. Mileages for the main route were almost the exact same distance as the mileage for those who opted to include all five of the day’s Breakout routes (286/285).

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

On the final day riders were in store for a treat, crossing through exciting landscapes on challenging surfaces that are normally locked behind gates, so that even regulars to the region experienced something completely new. Highlights of the 236/260 km route were a stop at Cape Palliser where huge surf regularly pounds the rocky coastline. Riding the edge of Lake Wairarapa and the Wainuiomata coastline were also memorable sights. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

No doubt the participants of the KTM Three Coasts Adventure Rally were pleased with the outcome, having made new friends and ridden so much exciting terrain. One thing that makes these KTM Rallies stand out is the passion behind the route planning. Liam Ellis, 27, one of the lead route planners, gets it, explaining how he fell hard for adventure riding after realizing you could cover so much ground on a motorcycle, reaching places you couldn’t get by car, by foot or by mountain bike. “The serenity of it sometimes is unbelievable,” he says of the places ADV bikes have taken him. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand
KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Want To Take The Plunge?

If you’re just learning about the KTM Adventure Rally series, you’ll find events happening each year in seven different parts of the world: Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, USA and China. Many of the starting points are near establishments that rent KTM bikes, just as Ultimate Adventure Moto NZ supplied bikes for some riders in this Three Shores event. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

If you’re interested in attending a future KTM Adventure Rally, eligible bikes for these events outside of the US and Canada include KTM’s 390 Adventure, 640, 690, 790, 790R, 890, 890R, 950, 990, 1050, 1090, 1090R, 1190, 1190R, 1290 & 1290R models. The US and Canada KTM Rallies are open to other brands of street-legal adventure motorcyclesKTM designs the routes for a wide range of abilities with “the larger capacity KTM adventure range in mind.” But don’t drag your feet as these events often sell out early. 

KTM Adventure Rally New Zealand

Each of the KTM Adventure Rallies vary both in the number of days, number of participants, and equipment requirements. For more info about upcoming opportunities, visit KTM’s Adventure Rally page.  

Photos by Simon Cudby

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.





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