Red Bull Romaniacs on an adventure bike.
If Chris Birch ever tells you he has a great idea, stop for a minute and take that thought with a grain of salt. New Zealand’s Birch is a hard enduro tough guy, a nine-time Red Bull Romaniacs veteran who has finished on the Gold class podium five times. [Birch also won it in 2010.] Birch has won the Roof of Africa Rally three times, has eight New Zealand Enduro championships, and has raced the Dakar Rally.
To the keen observer, Birchy’s cheeky smile is merely set there as a distraction. I think it’s like when Travis Pastrana gets a crazy idea, but Chris Birch would come up with the enduro version. In the end it is you who somehow ends up bench-pressing your adventure bike over a nipple high log in the rain.
Quinn Cody quickly got sucked into Birchy’s idea; race adventure bikes in Red Bull Romaniacs. What was originally meant to be a two-man quest ended abruptly when Chris got hurt prior to the race. The flare had been lit and Cody had no choice but to follow it through. Cody is a four-time Baja 1000 champion, a Dakar Rally racer and currently works for KTM in R&D developing Adventure, Dual Sport and Street product. He also helps run The Kurt Caselli foundation.
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Dirt Buzz: You have never been one to shy away from a challenge but this time you took it to the next level. What sort of sane person rides an adventure bike at Red Bull Romaniacs?
Quinn Cody: Yeah, I guess I'm pretty good at convincing myself to do stupid hard things on motorcycles. Although this was 100% Chris Birch's idea he somehow ended up talking me into being a part of it. We were in Peru at the 1290 Adventure R press launch back in February having some beers with my boss from R&D in Austria. The boss got a real kick out of the idea and the next thing we knew an email went out to the whole R&D group that they were to start working on a couple of 1090's for Romaniacs! Not long after that the marketing department jumped on it as well and it was game on.
DB: What is the difference between the premier class [Gold] and the Iron class that you chose to ride in?
QC: The Gold class is ridiculous and designed to be nearly impossible for the best riders in the world. The Iron class is more of a long, challenging trail ride (for an enduro bike) with some really nasty obstacles thrown in. We chose the Iron class because the organizer said that was the only class that our bike could physically fit through on the trail.
DB: The man-made prologue obstacles though the streets of Sibiu are nuts. I heard the prologue was optional for the Iron class…did you ride it?
QC: We were thinking about it but after Chris got hurt I decided to play it safe and skip the prologue. If I did ride the prologue there could have been some pretty good potential to damage both bike and body. The organization had me come out and do a little show for the fans. I just popped over a few logs and did some burnouts everyone seemed to love it.
"The boss got a real kick out of the idea and the next thing we knew an email went out to the whole R&D group that they were to start working on a couple of 1090's for Romaniacs!" – Quinn Cody
DB: In the world of extreme enduros, it doesn’t get any tougher than Romaniacs. The break down of the classes explains a bit of what you will face depending on what class you enter. Two of the four classes available state this warning: “Your physical fitness, mental stability and ability to deal with pain should be world class.” You knew when you signed up it was going to be a beat down, didn’t you?
QC: For sure! I'm pretty mentally strong so I figured I'd just muscle my way through as best I could but it was pretty scary after Chris got hurt because he was kind of my mentor. All of a sudden I was the lead rider going into something I had no idea of what to expect. I don't usually get too nervous before races but man—I was super balled up before the start of the first day!
DB: Tell us about the KTM1090R. I am sure that ‘heavy lifting’ doesn’t cover all of the ups and downs you face on such a mammoth machine.
QC: The bike I rode was not too far from a stock bike. We did a few things to help out with cooling and maintenance but overall it was pretty basic stuff. Riding the 1090 just takes a lot of energy in the tight technical terrain, then you get into the nasties and it just kills you. You never really know when the next nasty section is going to come so you have to really ride to conserve energy, which is tough because some of the trail is just world-class terrain and you can’t help but rip it up!
DB: As you mentioned, nine-time Romaniacs competitor Chris Birch was also supposed to race with you. [Birch broke his hand just before the event.] Did you guys miss suffering together out in the mountains above Sibiu?
QC: For sure, I was kind of there to support him and help out if he had a problem, I could follow him and help fix the bike or whatever he needed—unfortunately it didn't work out for us and I was super bummed for him.
DB: What was the hardest part of the whole experience?
QC: I'd have to say some of the bottlenecks on day one had to be the toughest. There were these nasty, slick, rocky uphills with 30 riders stuck on them. I had to park my bike and hike up to ride some guys’ bikes up for them. I wasted a lot of energy in some of those sections.
DB: Once a bucket list is ticked off, do you record it into the history books or are you going to go back again and try to better your finish? [Quinn finished 33rd out of 104 in the Iron class.]
QC: Ask me in a few months [laughs]
No, if KTM wants to do it again I'm game but I'd kind of like to look to do something else that no one has done before.
DB: What does an event such as this say about the enduro community in general? Most normal folk have trouble even getting off the couch if they hear there will be any pain and suffering involved.
QC: Yeah it's an awesome group of people and all the Hard Enduro guys are great! I really have a whole new respect for this form of racing. There are a lot of young fast kids coming up and it's going to be fun to watch them going after Jarvis in the next few years.
" ... if KTM wants to do it again I'm game but I'd kind of like to look to do something else that no one has done before."
– Quinn Cody
DB: Who was instrumental in helping you get this bike to the finish line?
QC: We had a great team: Gerald Matschl from KTM R&D was a big part of getting the whole project going. Wolffi, our mechanic, Andi Mier, Chris and Monica Birch, my wife Charli and of course KTM USA for letting me come and give it a go. The one guy I can't thank enough is Peter, my chase rider. Peter saw it all: the good, bad and the ugly! He helped me through some pretty messed up situations that I got myself into.