The FINKE Desert Race is one of the most iconic events on the Australian off-road racing calendar. It is a gruelling race that test skills, endurance and stamina. But for one Aussie, just doing the race wasn’t enough to satisfy his thirst for adventure! Meet Andrew Houlihan – who rode his 1190 Adventure R from Albury to Alice Springs to race FINKE on his XC-F . . . then rode his 1190 Adventure R home again. Find out what it’s like to take the FAST WAY TO FINKE.
I got back into riding dirtbikes at 30 years of age, after a 17 year break. I purchased a KTM 250 EXC. I am now 47 and over the past 17 years have owned the following KTM’s . . .
500 EXC – current
350 EXC – current
350 XC-F current
1190 Adventure R – current
500 EXC 6 Day – on order
I started off racing MX and Enduro and have won state titles in Victoria and Northern Territory, and I also finished 4th overall in the MX Nationals Vets 40 + class in 2014.
I am/ was primarily a social / recreational trail rider and MX rider and in the past 12 months been doing longer semi-adventure rides on my 500 EXC.
In November 2015 I decided I wanted to do the Finke Desert Race. The plan was to ride my 500 EXC from Albury to Alice Springs, race the Finke, then ride back to Albury via the Simpson desert.
As time drew closer to Finke, my trip planning was well underway and I was constantly being asked about the trip, so I started a Facebook page called FAST WAY TO FINKE: https://www.facebook.com/2016Finkedesertrace/ so people could follow the lead up and the progress of the trip.
I had spent endless hours mapping out our route from Albury to Alice Springs and back, with a total distance of approx. 7000km round trip. With only 300-400 km of bitumen, the rest was all dirt tracks!
About 8 weeks before the Finke I decided I would ride my 350 XC-F in the actual race and also purchase a KTM 1190 Adventure R for the trip there, across the Simpson and back to Albury.
I was told by numerous people that the 1190 would be too big and would be a handful crossing the Simpson desert, so I spent 2000km on the 1190 Adventure R trail riding it just to see what it would be like. What a surprise I got, this bike would go anywhere I was game to take it and do it reasonably easily!
So, on June 1st we left Albury. Fully loaded up with tents, swags etc for our trip to Alice Springs fully unsupported.
We travelled 3500km to Alice Springs from Albury with only 250km of Bitumen, riding everything from tight single track to desert roads, sand dunes and flooded closed roads.
My wife met me in Alice Springs with my KTM 350 XC-F, which I raced in the Finke.
The morning after Finke finished we set of to cross the Simpson Desert towards Birdsville. The 1190 was a dream across the desert and I had no issues anywhere throughout the crossing.
Our trip continued on from Birdsville back down through the Flinders ranges and to Albury.
Whilst crossing the Simpson I buried some fuel for Scott Brittnell who was attempting a dual Simpson crossing a few weeks after our trip. I rode the 1190 back up to Birdsville and back the week after we got home from Finke to help Scott with his desert crossing attempt. In 3 days I covered 3800km on the 1190.
Scott had a bad accident during his attempt and his vehicle was left at Windorah just out of Birdsville, so the other weekend I rode my 500 EXC from Albury to Windorah, (all via dirt) to get his car. This was a 2000km trip in 2 days on the 500 with a lot of night riding on flooded roads.
In the past 12 weeks I have covered almost 20,000km on my 1190 R, 500 EXC & 350 XC-F.
During our trip to Finke we had 43,000 people engaged on the Fast Way to Finke Facebook page and at present (today), there are 22,886 people engaged. I am getting 5-6 messages a week from riders wanting to come on one of my adventures and wanting to when my next trip will be.
I have some big rides / trips planned as well as Finke, Cape York, Mongolia next year and some extreme adventure riding with Scott Brittnell.
I am extremely passionate about KTM’s and have the best support from Steve at KSP OFFROAD in Wodonga. I really know how capable KTM’s are especially the 1190 R – – unfortunately my current bike has been deemed a total write-off and it’s only 12 weeks old! I hit a kangaroo up near Charleville a few weeks ago at high speed.
I definitely have caught the bug though, with some big rides/trips planned as well as Finke, Cape York, Mongolia next year and some extreme adventure riding with Scott Brittnell.