“We are introducing the concept of performance machines to Myanmar. Our motto is ‘Read to Race’ and every single component of our motorcycles is developed through competition”

Parth Krisha, Business Development Manager of KTM Asia.

Susan Bailey checks out Slovenian stunt rider Rok Bagoroš as he thrills the crowd in Mandalay.

On a cool January evening in Mandalay, more than a thousand fans gathered in a parking lot on the outskirts of the city. Mostly clad in black and representing a younger slice of the city’s population, it would be easy to assume the crowd was waiting for a rock concert to begin. But this time it was not Iron Cross or Idiots band luring the crowd to the venue. This time it was all about KTM motorbikes.

The star of the show was Rok Bagoroš, an award-winning stunt ride from Slovenia. Over the years, Rok has garnered a large fan base of KTM enthusiasts around the world, yet this was his first time performing in Myanmar. At the start of the evening the invite-only crowd was relaxed, looking at the display bikes and sipping cold beers. But as the music grew louder and the announcer came on the mic, the Mandalay crowd exploded in to loud cheers and rushed toward the safety barriers.

Over the next few hours, Rok put on three sets of blistering stunts. He started by warming up the crowd with wheelies and hardcore ‘stoppies’, speeding down the street before screeching to a halt just inches from the fans. As the night went on, the stunts became more and more remarkable. He did donuts around terrified-looking volunteers, stood on the seat and steered the bike with his feet and capped it all off with a fire-inducing ‘one o’clock wheelie’. The crowd was clearly enjoying it, with chants of ‘Rok, Rok, Rok’ interspersed with collective gasps as he pulled off another remarkable trick.

‘We didn’t know what to expect. We have seen stunts on TV and the internet but seeing it in person was completely different. Rok is so talented and I couldn’t believe the tricks he could pull off on a KTM’, said Moe Hnaung, who attended the show.

 

As Myanmar continues to modernize, the motorbike scene has also evolved. Reminiscent of Vietnam in the early 2000s, Myanmar residents are now buying motorbikes that reflect their personalities rather than simply as a mode of transport. “Five years ago, I’d say 99% of motorbikes on the streets of Mandalay were cheap Chinese-made step-throughs or Honda Cub-style bikes”, explained Parth Krisha, Business Development Manager of KTM Asia. A weekend night in the city these days paints an entirely different picture: brightly coloured Scoopys, customised choppers and luxury cruisers are easily spotted.

Yet although a few residents are experimenting with stunt riding, the sport-aspect of motorbike riding is a relatively unknown concept. Parth explained, “We are introducing the concept of performance machines to Myanmar. Our motto is ‘Read to Race’ and every single component of our motorcycles is developed through competition.” By hosting the show, the KTM team wanted to showcase the versatility of their bikes and also to help catalyze the growth of stunt street sport in Myanmar.

Beyond just the stunt show, the KTM team organized other public events with Rok. More than 50 local KTM riders joined Rok for a ride around Mandalay’s palace and downtown streets. The sounds of the engines roaring through the streets attracted a crowd, so a few token stunts were pulled off for the curious onlookers.

AWAITING QUOTE FROM ROK ABOUT THE FANS//KTM SCENE or MANDALAY

Then, keen to make the most of his time in Myanmar, Rok and his photographer Dominque headed down to Inwa to capture images in the rural villages near the old capital. This unannounced visit turned out to be a highlight of the trip. After visiting local workshops making cheroots (local cigars) and monks’ alms bowls, Rok fired up his bike for an impromptu show. It didn’t take long for an audience to gather on the dusty village lanes.

Word caught on and by the time he moved to his second venue, the grassy pitch in front of a crumbling old monastic library, the crowd had tripled in size. Despite the cheers of the audience, or perhaps because of, the authorities soon intervened. But as Rok later posted on his blog, this is part-and- parcel of the job, “As usual for a stuntrider, we were kicked out by the local police”, he mused, adding a smiley-faced emoticon at the end.

With Ducati soon opening a shop in Mandalay and KTM firmly planted in the motorbike scene, fans can only hope that there are more similar events planned for the future.

MORE INFORMATION:

KTM MANDALAY- www.ktm.com/mm
Address – Block 5, Unit 9 at Mingalar Mandalay plaza

Rok Baragoš- http://www.rokbagoros.com

For Rok’s blog about his Myanmar experience check out:
http://www.rokbagoros.com/blog/article/myanmar-the- golden-adventure

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