Would you ride around the world on a KTM 500?
If it sounds like mission impossible, Aaron Steinmann, better known as The Braaping Kiwi, has proved it isn’t. Between 2016 and 2019, Aaron has ridden 140,000 kilometers around the world covering the Americas, Europe, Central Asia, Russia, Southeast Asia, and Australia before returning home to New Zealand. According to Aaron, his 2015 KTM 500 EXC-F made for a perfect adventure motorcycle and, since The Braaping Kiwi prefers to travel light and rip up dirt wherever he can find it, a trusted off-road bike.
So what’s it like to ride around the world on a KTM 500, and how did it survive the brutal distances? Read on to discover what Aaron has experienced:
-Aaron, how did you come up with the idea of riding the world on the 500?
-Frankly, the round-the-world journey wasn’t my original plan. At first, I just wanted to ride a bike from South America to North America, and for that, I figured the KTM 500 EXC would be perfect – it’s light, off-road-oriented, the mileage would be somewhere around 30,000 km, and by the time I’d reached Oregon, US, the trip would be complete. But once I reached Portland, I decided to keep going…First, I went to Alaska; after that, I figured I’d do the TET, and then shipped the bike to Europe and carried on until I reached New Zealand again. So there was no initial plan to ride around the world, but the journey sort of evolved as I traveled.
– What were the biggest challenges along the way?
I’m very happy with the bike and how it’s performed. I did a top engine rebuild after the Alaska leg, because at that point, the bike had over 60,000 km on it. I would do oil changes every 2,500 kilometers, and at first, the bike was completely stock. As I went along, I added some mods like Barkbusters, Seat Concepts seat, bigger footpegs, things that made the ride more comfortable. I did a complete engine rebuild once I hit Georgia – the bike had approximately 100,000 km on it – but other than that, there were no major breakdowns or issues.
The biggest scare I got was when my bike got stolen from a campsite in Australia. Luckily, with the help of the local police and rider community, the bike was found; I had to fix a lot of things that the thieves broke – number plate, mirrors, indicators, and the like. To be on the safe side, I did a complete once-over on the bike just in case the joyriders might have damaged anything else that wasn’t visible. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who helped me, including Chris Birch who offered a lot of support.
-Did you mostly camp and cook your own food during the trip?
Mostly, yes. This trip was entirely self-funded, so I needed to be careful with my budget. When I traveled through cheaper countries, I’d sometimes get a hotel, but for the most part, I would camp and prep my own meals.
I’d also try to stay away from touristy places and ride off-road as much as possible. What intrigued me the most were the wild places of the world – the Sahara Desert, the steppes of Mongolia, the high-altitude desert in Bolivia.
-What would you say to people who dream of a similar trip but feel daunted?
As the saying goes, the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I never planned this huge round-the-world trip, I just kept going and improvising, and that’s the thing – so many people focus on the big picture, and it ends up feeling overwhelming. I would say, don’t overthink it, go, and figure things out as you travel along.
Logistics aren’t really that hard in this day and age, and most importantly, the world is a much safer, kinder, and more generous place than we think or are led to believe. I met so many incredible people on the road, and it was a very humbling experience to receive so much kindness from strangers and see such hospitality. So if anyone is dreaming of a round-the-world trip, I would say this – it’s not as difficult as it may appear, it’s entirely possible to solve problems as they arise, and people around the world are amazingly welcoming, supportive, and happy to help.
Watch this interview with Aaron to find out all the nitty-gritty of his trip: