Claudio Mandalà talks about his passion for motorbikes and his last travel in Europe on his KTM 1290 Super Adventure R.
I was born in Palermo, a beautiful coastal city dominated by Monte Pellegrino, a mountain standing just 606 metres above sea level. When I was about 11, I decided to ride up it on my green Pininfarina bicycle that I’d got by collecting points at petrol stations, just to find out what was on top. It was a daunting challenge — that mountain felt like Everest to me.
One day, together with my best friend, I set off. It was a tough climb, but I managed to reach the top on my battered bike. I’d fitted it with an empty can bent just so and wedged between the frame and the rear wheel in such a way that as the wheel turned, it made a noise similar to a small-engined motorbike. I felt a bit like an adventurous version of Valentino Rossi!
Once I reached the top I remember I felt total elation — and I felt special.
That emotion has stayed with me. I still feel that same desire for adventure today that inspired me to climb that mountain. But now I enjoy my adventures on a real motorbike: my trusty KTM 1290 Super Adventure R.
In 2015, I got my motorbike licence. It had been a dream of mine for a long time. When I got on a motorbike for the first time, I knew straight off that motorcycling was something I’d do for the rest of my life. I’ve experienced such strong emotions with my beloved motorbikes, first in Iceland, climbing volcanoes and crossing glaciers, I’ve forded rivers and crossed massive deserts, breathed in sand and felt the biting cold of the Greenland Sea. Then I toured Corsica, Abruzzo, and Tuscany. And there was no shortage of thrills along the odd spills!
But I always got back up with a big grin on my face!
Last summer my desire for adventure led me across the Adriatic Sea to discover two countries close to home: Croatia and Slovenia. Both countries are magnificent. Croatia is famous for its beautiful coastline, archipelagos,and pristine sea, while Slovenia is renowned for its stunning mountain scenery.
I spent a long time planning this trip, and I decided to visit the area twice just a few months apart, and in two completely different ways. The first trip I did with two travel companions of mine. Each of us had our own bike, and we planned a route that followed entirely off-road trails. The second time I went with Valeria, who is both my life partner and travel companion. This time we rode together on one bike and stayed on paved roads.
We disembarked in Split in Croatia and headed inland, which has a totally different appearance to the coast. The terrain is quite hilly and remote — a rocky, dusty landscape; the riding is challenging and the scenery and route spectacular. You can still feel the sadness caused by the recent war: seized villages and locals who are hungry for peace and equality. Croats are a warm and welcoming people, a little less so towards the Croatian-Bosnian border. Remote trails miles from anywhere and everyone, dotted with minefields, and a landscape that is to say the least surreal and exciting.
To ensure you can tackle any mechanical problems, it’s essential you know your motorcycle inside and out. In many places you don’t always have the opportunity to take your motorcycle to a mechanic or contact roadside assistance, so it’s very important to pack a workshop manual, some spare parts, and some specific tools for your bike. But what’s most important is to practise carrying out basic routine maintenance and repair jobs at home in your garage so you’re ready to deal with the unexpected mechanical problems in isolated places like for example the Croatian-Bosnian border area.
Before leaving, I always make sure my bike is in tip-top condition; I check everything, from tightening the bolts to checking the timing system.
It’s also vitally important to change all filters and engine oil before setting off. Whether you’re planning a 15,000 km or 2,500 km road trip it makes no difference: starting with fresh engine oil is always a solid foundation.
For this trip I mounted Alpina rims, Mitas e07+ tyres and an HpCorse exhaust, and averaged around 250 km per day depending on the stage. I took a chain lube kit with me — the Pakelo Chain Lube MBK Off-Road — a puncture repair kit and a special tool kit for my bike, along with a jump starter for emergency starts and a compressor.
I used Krypton MBK 15W — 50 engine oil.
For me, my motorbike means happiness. It’s a form of transport that lets me rediscover that feeling I had as an 11-year-old. Each trip is always a new emotion, a new discovery, a new adventure, and a new me. Travelling the world on two wheels is a universal panacea.