When you think of a race bike, you probably don't think of a large adventure bike such as the KTM 990 Adventure. KTM certainly has some excellent bikes for racing, but that's not the 990's purpose in life. The 990 Adventure is for going practically anywhere, fast. That's not the question that Team O'Neil Rally School asked, however. There is only one question that matters to rally champion Wyatt Knox: Will it rally?
It's time for a little context. In this case, "rally" means stage rally, like the World Rally Championship or the Dakar Rally. Team O'Neil specializes in teaching people the techniques for driving a car fast in low-traction conditions, such as dirt or snow. (Full disclosure: I am a graduate of their two-day rally school.) They're typically all about the cars, not the motorcycles. In fact, this is the first motorcycle they have invited to take a timed lap of the 1.25-mile course they use to test all of the vehicles in their "Will It Rally?" series.
Host Wyatt Knox is an accomplished rally driver as well as a dirt bike rider, but he's used to bikes half the size of this KTM. That's why he has Erinn Fanning do the timed lap since he has a much better idea of how to control the big KTM at speed than Wyatt does. Team O'Neil has a smooth, solid gravel surface that doesn't get rutted from constant travel by cars at high speed. The KTM's ADV tires don't dig in as well as a dedicated knobby, but even though they slide around a bit they still kick up a good deal of dirt at speed.
Before the run, Erinn says he thinks the bike will be slower than the cars. That's partly because it has just two contact patches instead of four, and also partly the danger factor. He's at a lot more risk of injury if he messes up, so he plans to take it relatively easy.
It sure doesn't look like he takes it easy on the timed run, though, and that exhaust note is music to my ears. (Seriously, the video is worth watching for that alone.) Erinn has the advantage of being able to take straighter lines through the turns than the cars, as well as the superior acceleration of a bike. The low traction evens the playing field between two and four wheels in the turns.
Erinn's only hope is that he beat the Kia Sedona minivan from a previous episode, which, to no one's surprise, was the slowest car they've tested on gravel. Instead, he beat every car they've ever tested on gravel, losing only to the Can-Am Maverick side-by-side, another not-a-car. In retrospect, Erinn feels he could have gone faster and possibly even beat the Can-Am.