Several days ago I posted an update to the modifications I’ve made to my 2016 KTM 350 EXC-F in anticipation of using this bike on the next leg (3) of our TAT adventure in July this year. This past weekend (26-27 May) I had the opportunity to try out the KTM in real world riding conditions and this post will summarize the pros/cons of the modifications I have made and the status of my KTM for the TAT leg-3.
Four of the five core TAT riders decided to do a 300 mile overnight ride in the Ozark Mountains of Western Arkansas. The riders were:
- Mike on his highly modified 2016 KTM 350 EXC-F (moderately loaded)
- Jeff on his heavily loaded Yamaha WR250R (several years old and the same bike used on Legs 1 & 2)
- Steve on his recently purchased used KTM 690 (also heavily loaded) (he’s still trying to decide between this bike and his trustworthy WR250R for Leg-3)
- Woodrow on his reliable 2015 Honda CRF 250L (lightly loaded) (same bike used on Legs 1 & 2)
- New rider Matty (Woodrow’s son who just graduated from High School). He was riding my 2015 Honda CRF 250L (lightly loaded) that I used on Legs 1 & 2 and recently sold to Woodrow for this purpose. Matty is joining us on Leg-3 so this was his first real experience on dirt, rocks, mud, hill climbing/descending and switchbacks.
Terry couldn’t join us on this ride because fishing took priority (crazy talk I know).
BTW – Mike, Jeff and Steve camped on the trip while Woodrow and Matty elected to ride to a motel. As a result the campers had to carry camping gear while the motel crowd were traveling lightly loaded.
Our route started and ended at Clarksville, AR because this was centrally located between Tulsa and Little Rock where the 5 riders were living. We trailered 4 of the bikes and riders from Little Rock and Jeff drove his truck with the WR in the back from Tulsa. We all met at the local Wal-Mart early on Friday 26 May, unloaded, geared up and were on the road around 9 am. Because we were making a big circle to return to the trucks, this meant about half of the trip was on secondary 2-lane paved roads. This was also a test to see how the bikes dealt with 55+ mph travel for extended stretches. The map below shows our route. The red line is our actual track while the dark blue line is our originally planned route. We had to deviate several times from our planned route due to closed roads and a deep water crossing we elected not to try. In addition we did cut some of the route off due to time constraints.
I had planned the route based on a Dual-Sport route I had found on an Arkansas State Web Page. The directions were not very clear and I made the route using detailed Topo maps and my best guess in some cases. The ride west to the start of the track near Natural Dam, AR was uneventful and we made good time with no traffic to deal with. At Natural Dam we refueled and started on the track heading back east to our destination of Ponca, AR where we would then take highways back to Clarksville. My computations using Garmin Base Camp said this would be 150 miles of dirt with about 150 miles of highway to/from the start/finish. Our mid-trip camping site would be Turner Bend, AR on the Mulberry River about halfway on the total trip.
Our actual first days ride turned out to be 174 miles due to back tracking due to closed roads and side trips to see some of the local points of interest. We had to cut off one section of the dirt track in order to get to Turner Bend by 4 pm which was our goal.
Day two started from Turner Bend and would have ended at Ponca per the original plan. I knew this would be the more difficult stretch due to some pretty steep inclines on poor roads plus a water crossing near the end. We reached the water crossing early afternoon and it looked deep with very poor exit road conditions. Several of the riders walked out into the water up to boot height and they weren’t even close to the middle with the water depth was unknown due to the murkiness of the water. The shore line on entry was river rock and would have worked ok but the exit side was steep with what looked like a shelf that had to be climbed from deep water. We all decided it wasn’t worth the chance of dropping one of the bikes, especially with a new rider in our group. We backtracked to the highway and headed to Clarksville.
I got several pics of some of the local attractions which are provided below.
We had a number of dropped bikes (except for me!). No injuries and minor bike damage (always carry a spare shift lever is the lesson learned). The dirt track was very steep in some sections with switchbacks and deep ruts due to recent heavy rainfall. Matty got a good sampling of it all and did very well considering this was his real first taste (but he’s young so that helps). The CRF 250L is a great bike but you have to keep it in the power band on climbs and he would let it bog down with the expected results of stalled engine and drop. Even with this he managed to maneuver through some pretty intense rutted climbs/descents.
My opinion of the KTM modifications have been finalized based on this ride.
- Replaced stock 2.25 gal tank with KTM OEM 3.45 gal tank
- Must have modification. I’m getting at least 50 mpg and maybe more but fuel for me was never a worry.
- Removed all environmental control hardware
- I’m glad I got rid of all the junk but the bike pops and backfires excessively. Not sure if this is part of the reason but it is VERY annoying.
- Installed new end cap on muffler
- This is my first guess for all the popping and backfiring. I will fix this one way or another.
- Installed new exhaust port
- See #3
- Installed airflow vanes in intake
- See #3
- Installed new fuel rail on throttle body
- See #3
- Installed wheel weights, front and back
- Must have mod. The bike can do highway speeds with no indication of out of balance wheels.
- Installed heavy weight springs in struts and shock
- Must have mod for any rider over 175 lbs. My suspension handled great and never seemed to be close to bottoming out.
- Re-valved struts and shock
- See #8
- Lowered suspension by 2”
- Love this mod. I have no problems with the bike seat height now.
- Installed Low Boy Seat
- Rode 174 miles on day 1 and although had a sore butt, it was not that bad and I got up the next day ready for another 150 miles.
- Adjusted Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) with electronic meter
- See #3. I’m already higher that I had expected on the setting but will go one more step to see if it stops the popping. If not I’m removing some of the other mods to get it to stop.
- Installed Scott Steering Dampener
- LOVE THIS MOD!! We rode lots of gravel, mud, rocky climbs/descents, etc. and this bike rides true through it all.
- Installed ReKluse Auto Clutch
- REALLY LOVE THIS MOD!! The reason I didn’t drop my bike was I always had full control of the engine power during climbs. It will creep along at 5 mph while I maneuvered through the rutted roads and I never worried about stalling the engine. It was also a dream while turning around on narrow roads while the other guys stalled several times.
- Installed ReKluse Left Hand rear Brake
- Still undecided on this mod. It works but not sure I would spend the money again for the added control it provides.
- Full hand guards (KTM)
- Must have mod for this type of riding.
- Handlebar end weights to reduce vibration
- I like this mod only because my hands never felt like they were buzzing due to vibration.
- Metal skid plate
- Must have mod for this type of riding.
In my next post I’ll describe our Leg-3 plans. Only 6 weeks to go before launch and I still need to order and install new tires and have the bike serviced.