Photo from the DR Archives
A former professional off-road racer and motocross mechanic, and current prankster and good storyteller, Bill Berroth recalls the Incas Rally that’s on display in these photos.
THE EVENT: “This is the Incas rally in 1990, that year was the only year it went from Lima, Peru all the way across the continent to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In prior years, since I was an employee of Acerbis, I also worked in the [promoting] organization laying out the course or taking care of the press guys; I had a number of different jobs over the years. But when it came to that rally, which was going to be the last Incas Rally, and it was going across the continent, I told my boss I didn’t want to work, I wanted to ride. And he let me ride, and in years prior I had had support from KTM so KTM helped me. I just got one of the standard rental bikes, a KTM 350 single two-stroke. They had like 15 or 20 down there, and I got one of them and raced across the continent. For me, I had a few different issues with that particular bike – at the time, there was no GPS, there was just kind of old-school navigation equipment, and the front tire sucked the odometer cable off of that bike within the first day or two. There aren’t any KTM dealers down there, so there aren’t any spare parts, and I couldn’t fix it, so I ended up either following the track or following my nose to figure out where the race course went; because it’s unmarked, it’s only by road book or map where to go. In Peru I was okay because I’d been down there so many years I knew where I was going, but once it got into the jungle and started to cross Brazil – at some times it was anyone’s guess, at other times it was pretty much follow the main track. A couple of times I’d come to “Y”s in the middle of the Amazon and get off the bike and go walking forward like Cochise trying to look at the tracks of where everybody went and find my way… When the race started in Lima we were close to the ocean, and I was down there photo shooting some stuff, and I picked up some shells from the Pacific, and I told myself, ‘If I’m lucky enough to get all the way over to the Atlantic, the first time I see the ocean I’m going right to the beach to grab some more shells.’ So I’d have shells from the Pacific and the Atlantic. Well, when I got over there, we came into some town, actually some nice little town in Brazil, came over this hill, I see the water, there’s the beach, I’ve got to keep my promise to myself. Well, there was a town park with kids playsets and people on the beach and everything going on. At that point I’ve been riding for two weeks through the jungle eating only bananas and potatos, and kind of suffering to survive the rally, and I didn’t really care who was on the beach. I rode through the children’s playground, through the people laying out on the beach, threw the bike down, dug around in the surf, got some shells, shoved them in my fanny pack, got back on the bike, went back through the beach, back through the park, back onto the race course and on my way. I’ve got the shells here, they’re still in my office. I’ve got the front number plate off that bike, still covered with mud.”
THE BIKE: “The KTM 350 was, as I recall, a sleeved down or smaller version of their open class bike. It was a 350 two-stroke, it was made as an enduro bike, and it was really great for that. It was really torquey, had tons of power, and at the rallies it was good because you could run any kind of crap fuel that you had and the thing would keep going. It was a good, reliable, solid bike that everybody was able to use without any difficulty… They had massive gas tanks on them, they were five or six gallon tanks…”
TODAY: “I run Motonation. We’re the Sidi boot, Vemar Helmet, and AGV Sport road apparel exclusive importer for USA, Canada and Mexico. I’m just running the company and trying to make a living in this tough economy… I worked at Acerbis for many, many years, and at the end of that Acerbis was making some changes, and – it was a time of change. Acerbis was making changes, Sidi was making changes, I really didn’t feel comfortable with what was going on at the time and decided to leave Acerbis. And after I did so, I saw how the dust was settling amongst these brands and I thought there might be an opportunity at Sidi. I bought an airline ticked and went to Sidi [In Italy] and camped out on their doorstep until they’d listen to me. I pitched them the idea of creating a company like Motonation. We sell wholesale, we don’t sell directly to riders, and our whole business plan on a wholesale point of view is very different than most everybody else in America, but the folks at Sidi listened to me, they gave me 90 days to show them a certain dollar amount in a bank account, and if I showed them that bank statement they said I could have the brand [in North America]. So I came back home, I didn’t have that much money. I hocked the house and cashed in the 401K and did everything I could, but I was still short, so I went to some of my friends, among them is Don Emler, the owner of FMF, and Danny LaPorte, who works with Don at FMF, and a couple of other guys and we pooled our money and started Motonation. And at the time Don at FMF wanted to make some changes in his sales department. I told him, okay, we’re starting this Motonation thing as well, I’ll do both with the idea being that I’ll help Don kind of recreate his sales department while we’re trying to grow Motonation. And then as Motonation gets larger, hopefully I finish my job with FMF, I’ll hire my own replacement, and I’ll leave FMF and switch over to Motonation. I don’t remember which year but I think it was ’04 or ’05 that I voluntarily left FMF. I did the job I was asked to do, it was kind of a contract job even though we didn’t have a written contract but it was that sort of a job, and came over and have been at Motonation full time ever since.” www.motonation.com.