MotoNomad: Riding a KTM 500 to the pyramids

Videographer and MotoNomad Adam Riemann dishes on his 7000km adventure from Austria to the pyramids.
MotoNomad From Austria to Egypt © Motology Films
By Jerry Bernardo

Sydney resident Adam Riemann is a racer, a moto-journalist and a man on a mission. Riemann’s job title slots into a unique demographic niche: pro-level racer-turned-videographer hell bent on chronicling all of the unseen places one can access on a dirt bike. Always one to challenge himself, Riemann concocted yet another plan to gather some of the greatest off-road footage ever obtained and offer it for consumption by the true hardcore enthusiast of the genre.

This time the basic plan was to get two KTM 500 EXC motorbikes from the KTM factory in Mattighofen, Austria, and ride them to the most significant landmark that they could find. In Riemann’s mind, that meant the destination would be a UNESCO World Heritage site: the pyramids in Giza, Egypt.

MotoNomad From Austria to Egypt © Motology Films

Not really your usual suspects

Motology Films is Riemann’s business, which has a 60’000-strong subscriber base on Youtube. He literally makes moto films using only a backpack of camera gear and a dirt bike. On this occasion, he invited one of his many mates to accompany him on the once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Former pro racer Mark Portbury was enlisted based solely on one criteria: He had to be as good as a rider as Riemann. [Riemann once placed 31st outright at the 2007 Erzberg Rodeo]
With no formal training in photography or filmmaking Mark was soon in for a quick lesson on the fly. Portbury is certainly no Martin Scorsese; up until this trip he had never filmed anything with a camera in his life other than taking some decent shots with his iPhone.

MotoNomad Featured © Motology Films

Bigger is always better

Having been a magazine test rider for years, Riemann has saddled up on almost every bike around. He decided that the KTM was the bike for this adventure as it was, in his opinion, the most enduro-capable machine that could also easily cruise at 100 kilometers per hour on a motorway. The bikes were more or less stock, other than the 19-litre KTM PowerParts tanks fitted to carry extra fuel. These tanks offered them up to 400 kilometers of travel distance per tank.

And this was crucial. There were no support trucks, nor did the bikes receive any extra spares outside of what they carried themselves. The minute these two dirt bikers-turned-aspiring film makers rode away with a wave from the KTM factory in Austria, they were on their own.

“If ever in my life I ride through Egypt again, it will be too soon!”

“The extreme terrain and endless, rocky, single-track that we rode on in the Sinai Mountains was some of the most amazing stuff, both visually and extreme in how it challenged us,” Riemann shares.

“At the same time, we can tick that location off and will never seek to go there ever again [given the ongoing terrorism and the volatile political climate]. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have set one foot in the place.

“If you were to look at the film, one would think that we targeted the location because of all of the drama. Not the case. We just wanted to ride some dirt bikes to the Pyramids, and just three weeks out from the trip the massacre happened in Cairo. I learned even more about the dangers of that area after we left it. It was shocking.”

MotoNomad From Austria to Egypt © Motology Films

Look at the GPS, not the internet

“The dangers of that region--let alone the possibility of crashing badly--did not loom in our minds,” Riemann insists. “What distracted us from all of that was the goal of making the film MotoNomad. For me it was all about the pressure of getting the footage that I needed; it was more or less a 30-day action shoot. That task was a major distraction for us. I wasn’t thinking that the five soldiers standing before us were going to detain us or even shoot us; I was thinking that they would possibly stop us from filming in some way.

“The act of charging around on the KTM 500s was the least of our worries. We’re racers, and, because we were riding every day, it all was just happening organically. If push came to shove, I don’t think anyone was going to catch us on the move--we were probably the fastest off-road vehicles in that terrain. We were only really vulnerable when we were stopped to set up the camera gear or build the drone. For safety sake, we were geared up like we were racing, but in actuality we were just pissing around making a movie. We’re just extremely lucky we didn’t cross paths with the wrong people

MotoNomad From Austria to Egypt © Motology Films

The coolest profile picture on social media

“The shot of me doing a wheelie in front of the pyramids shouldn’t even have happened really,” he admits. “We somehow slipped thought the cracks during all of the turmoil. When we got to the pyramids, we were just strangers in a strange land; there was not one Western tourist there. On our way to Giza we stayed in a multi-level hotel and had the whole floor to ourselves. The tourism industry in Giza was decimated because of all the problems in the region.

“When we rocked up, the main gates to the pyramids themselves were blocked with rolls of barbed wire and a tank. Suddenly, we were mobbed by desperate tour guides all offering to take us around the pyramids on camels and carts, all the while I was ignorantly thinking we could ride into the ancient grounds. Not a chance. Anyway, we had money, the guides were desperate, one thing led to another and we struck a bargain with an elderly guide to get one bike into the pyramid compound -- that’s how we got the money shot.

“I wasn’t even allowed to ride my KTM 500 through the gates. They put a little punk in sandals on my bike and he took off like a madman up the road. I was freaking out!

MotoNomad From Austria to Egypt © Motology Films

“The tour guides took me in through the scanners and when I came out at the other side I was standing there finally looking at the Sphinx. In that moment I didn’t even care about this great historic icon; all I wanted was to get my bike back. The soldiers are all staring at us and my camera gear is stashed in a bag on a camel that Mark had to ride in on.

“All of a sudden all you could hear was my big 500 going through the gears coming up over the rise with the small Egyptian kid on it boasting a huge grin.

“Now I’m inside the ancient compound. That’s not really a place you go into with a dirt bike. The guides inform us that we have around an hour to get what we wanted. I did that wheelie three times before Mark even got it in focus. Security was onto us by then and telling the tour guides to get us out of there. The tension and stress that I was experiencing trying to get the shot detracted from the experience of being in that magical place.

“In the end we pulled it all off against the odds though…and to me, that picture will forever symbolize Motonomad. We reached our ultimate destination and I got to leave my mark…albeit on the back wheel in front of the Great Pyramid! (laughs)

“Prior to all this we had to stash Mark’s motorbike in a fruit shop. He chained it up so no one would steal it. We came back to get it and the bike was over on its side in a heap. It turns out some kid had gotten onto the bike and hit the starter button. The bike lurched forward into a shelf full of product and smashed over onto its side; that’s how we found it.”
Riemann chuckles over the phone as he says, “It was just another day in the life of a MotoNomad.”

You can see the Theatrical Trailer of this epic film here:

Want to experience the best of on the move? Get the app at

read more about