Taking A 2001 KTM 640 Adventure To The Heroes Legend Rally

"If you want to go see [the desert], get off your ass and go see it."

Chris Grimm with KTM 640 Adventure
Chris Grimm and his 2001 KTM 640 Adventure ready to take on Paris to Dakar by way of the Heroes Legend Rally.Zach Bowman

Me & My Bike

BIKE 2001 KTM 640 Adventure
RIDER Chris Grimm
AGE 55
HOME Charlottesville, VA

All my buddies had KTMs, so I had to have one. Then a friend of mine found the Heroes Legend Rally online. I was sitting in the family room of our old house, and Patty was sitting in the chair when I asked her, "Hey, do you mind if I go do this thing where we go from Paris to Dakar?" I had no idea what I was getting into.

I trained for a year. I rode, lifted. It was all cardio stuff. I didn't ride my big adventure bike, though. I was going to be on that piece of s­—t for 15 days. Why the 640? It looked like the real deal. That was the only thing that looked like the 660. That, and I talked to Chris Jones, a former Dakar finisher from Atlanta. I relied on him to tell me what failed on his bike. He was like, you can put two spare levers here, your CDI goes there, your spare coil goes here, you can take this much fuel line.

KTM Tripmaster
Navigation was a major part of the Heroes Legend Rally.Zach Bowman

This was the year the French tourists were killed by the Islamic Maghreb, the year they canceled Dakar. The organizers felt it was too dangerous for their group. Our group was maybe 300 people, so they said, we’re still going. At home, I was watching the news, but at that point in time, al-Qaida wasn’t even on our radar. Neither was the Taliban.

The Valley of Death was the hardest day. It was a 120-kilometer stage, and the entire roadbook read sable sand, silver sand, khaki sand, rock and sand. I was riding with a few guys, and I dropped my bike. I was starting to feel it already.

We all got down the dune, regrouped with a couple of people who were injured, and they were just done. There were plenty of guys that just stopped. We had 20, maybe 30 kilometers left. Not far, but it was just blazing heat. We were in these little dunes only 6 or 8 feet tall, little piles, winding through, and I kept dropping my bike. When I dropped it going too slow, I was just like, “That’s it. F—k it. I’m tired of picking this f—king pig up, I’m not f—king doing it anymore, I’m f—king tired of this s—t.”

KTM 640 Adventure suspension
The 640 is stacked with spares: levers, cables, fuel pumps, fuel lines, and zip-ties.Zach Bowman

I was riding with a Dutch kid on a little Honda 450X, and I was picking my bike up, and I can still remember his look. He looked over his shoulder and was like, “Come on.” He could see the bivouac. It was only 40, 50 feet away. I just couldn’t see it because it was right below the level of the dunes.

I rolled up, and Clive Dredge, our crew chief, looked at me and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I had no expectation of seeing you at the end of today.”

He’s lived in the desert most of his life. His saying was: “I haven’t taken a single picture of the desert as long as I’ve lived. If you want to go see it, get off your ass and go see it.”