[Originally posted January 12, 2008]
[Remember this was copied out of my blog, which is read by many non-riders - I know nobody here needs KTM explained!]
My partner in this journey is a 2007 KTM 640 Adventure. Never heard of it? Neither has anyone else down here. KTM is an Austrian maker of racing dirt bikes, but in recent years they've moved into dual-sport and street bikes. They usually come in only one color: bright orange.
My bike, the 640 Adv, is the redheaded stepchild of an already rare breed. 2007 is the last model year, the last of the Mohicans. The bike didn't sell well and KTM didn't import many into the US, probably around 500. It occupies a niche that has never been popular with Norteamericanos, the rally bike. It is a big-bore single, carbureted, kickstartable (as backup), weighs in at 350 lbs (almost 100 less than my BMW F650), and has over a foot of suspension travel. A seven gallon tank gives the bike about a 300 mile range on just about any crud that vaguely resembles gasoline - with a switch, it will run on sub-80 octane. A variant of this particular model is what won the Paris-Dakar rally for the last seven years in a row and it has a cult following among the more extreme RTW motorcycle crowd.
On the downside, the LC4 engine vibrates... a lot. This is by no means a comfortable freeway cruiser, and long stretches of highway are grueling. I plan to stick to nice, twisty, choppy, un-or-barely-paved backroads as much as possible. So far Baja has been great.
Another downside is that the bike is obscure, so knowledgeable mechanics (and parts) will be very hard to find. There are KTM dealers in the major cities along my route (Mexico City, Guatemala City, etc) but I'm counting on the bike being brand new and (cross my fingers) reliable. If I have a breakdown that I can't fix myself I'll be trucking the bike a considerable distance.
My original plan was to ride my '99 BMW F650 with 30k miles; not necessarily the most reliable bike but it's cheap, effectively disposable, and I can fix just about anything on it. Unfortunately a few months ago the 2nd gear shift fork bent and the repair would cost more than the bike is worth. It was either ride without 2nd gear or buy a new bike. I just needed the excuse.
I bought my KTM "slightly used" with 474 miles on it from a guy on advrider.com. I was flying to LAX to buy the last brand new 640A on a showroom floor in California (I called them all) when, checking my mail on the plane, I finally got (weeks later) a return email from a guy selling his in Marina Del Rey. Good timing and a quick phone call saved me over $2k, including the 5-year warrantee, and even got me a ride from the airport.
Modifications made by the first owner:
* Initial 600 mile service.
* Carb rejetted and KTM high-flow airbox cover added. This is a very common procedure and apparently it runs far better than it did stock. I get about 40mpg.
* Heated grips + gel grips.
* Touratech rear luggage rack
* Two extra electrical ports; an additional BMW socket in the dash and a long molex-type power connector coiled on the dash.
Modifications made by me:
* Renazco Racing seat. I didn't get a chance to do any long rides with this seat before the trip, so it was a bit of a leap of faith. Honestly I'm not sure I love it much more (if at all) than the stock seat.
* Barend weights from Stenhouse Racing. These dramatically reduced handlebar vibration at speed. 90mph is comfortable now.
* Garmin Zumo 550 hardmounted in the dash and wired to unkeyed power. Don't make the mistake of hooking up to keyed power, it's highly annoying. This is the Best Motorcycle Toy Ever. I will elaborate later.
* SW-Motech sidestand. It's amazing that this bike only came with a centerstand; it's *really* hard to find a flat enough place to use it when you're riding muddy mountain roads.
* Luggage mounts are from Happytrails. I'm not sure I love the design. I've already had one precariously-long bolt shear off in the subframe from a *very* gentle parkinglot spill. However, they work.
* The panniers are Pelican 1550 cases modified by Caribou with locks, lid lanyards, and retention straps. I drilled them for the Happytrails mounting kit. The cases are pretty much indestructible, but the downside is that they are side-loading instead of top-loading. So far I have no major complaints. You can read my luggage research
. All-told the racks and cases cost about $500, half what the KTM hardparts (aka Touratech) mounts and cases cost. I mounted one lid-in and one lid-out so that stuff doesn't fall out when the cases are opened on the sidestand:
* RKA 9-liter tankbag. I wanted something small and easy to carry around. I don't need a lot of gear on this trip. My only complaint is that the small mapcase requires odd folds of a map, but this simply attaches with velcro so I will replace it with a larger one. Other than that the bag is perfect. It doesn't get in the way when I stand on the pegs.
* Random cheapie paper fuel filter added just aft of the petcock.
* Bent subframe, from a slow get-off on a very wet Usal Road a couple months ago. You can see it in the pic; the license plate doesn't point exactly straight at the tire.