My Baja Bike Build Project

Creating the perfect enduro for off-road exploration

My interest in exploring the trails of Baja Sur by motorcycle requires a bike that is light but powerful enough to comfortably explore the rugged terrain between my Sea of Cortez paradise on Bahía Concepción over the mountains to Scorpion Bay (San Juanico) on the Pacific side.

baja motorcycle posada-mulege-sanjuanico

 

I got a great deal on a 2009 KTM 450 EXC-R bought used with 3100 original miles for $4500. This bike sells new for over $9,000. (Search craigslist, cycletrader, or yakaz, which scrubs all online ads from all over the USA.)

Planned modifications are:

  • stability (steering stabilizer and footpegs)
  • durability (skid plates, foldable mirrors, tires and inner tubes)
  • ease of ride (lowering, custom seat, Rekluse clutch)
  • tourability (high-capacity fuel tank, cargo rack, duffel/pannier systems, auxiliary lighting)

Stay tuned on the status of this build and other Baja adventures by subscribing to my Baja Adventure updates via email.

baja motorcycle ktm-450-exc-r

 

[Update! See my one-year review of the mods in this December 2018 post.]

 

Why the KTM 450 EXC-R?

The KTM 450 EXC-R is a powerful 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, carbureted dual-sport motorcycle with 6-gear transmission. At 251 pounds dry the power-to-weight ratio is impressive. It’s light enough for me to throw around but powerful enough to get me out of (and, I guess, into) trouble.

Its seat height of 38 inches is more than intimidating. If you follow any kind of off-road motorcycle racing you’ll see guys leaping up onto the saddle without hesitation. They stop with one foot on the ground and one leg over but not even close to touching the earth on the other side. This is not me.

So the first thing I’m doing is lowering the seat height to 32 inches. At 5’8” with a 33” inseam and 130 pounds both feet should be on the ground once I sit down, more so when fully loaded with gas, water, and gear.

Mods are being installed by Wilsons CycleSports of Murrieta, a shiny new dealership in SoCal triangulated by Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs. They deal KTM, BMW, and Zero motorcycles in their large deluxe showrooms. Here I am with KTM Sales Specialist Danny Freeman.

[Update: This shop is now permanently closed. Waah!]

baja motorcycle ktmmurrieta

Now, onto the mods and other farkels.

  • Rekluse CoreEXP 3.0 clutch
  • Motoz Xtreme Hybrid natural rubber tires
  • Motoz Xtreme Uber inner tube
  • Scotts Performance Products steering stabilizer
  • Acerbis 4.1 gallon fuel tank
  • Baja Designs Squadron Pro LED lighting
  • Seat Concepts and Sicass custom seats
  • Double Take mirrors
  • Pro Moto Billet aluminum cargo rack
  • Skid plate to be decided
  • Pivot Pegz and Black Dog Cycle Works Footpegs
  • Mosko Moto Reckless 40 liter pannier/duffel system
  • Giant Loop Moto Sports tank, handlebar and tail bags, auxiliary fuel bag, and tow straps.

Rekluse Core EXP 3.0 clutch

This is the upgrade I’m most excited about. The Rekluse automatically engages and disengages based on RPM so you can concentrate on the task at hand without stalling out. You can even come to a complete stop while you’re in gear. This is a fantastic addition for beginners but professional motocross riders have been using them for years. $899|http://bit.ly/rekluseclutch

baja motorcycle rekluse

 

Tires are Motoz Xtreme Hybrid

This is a new brand from Australia. They’re made from natural rubber and constructed like a trials tire with the addition of reinforced sidewalls to allow for lower inflation pressure. They’re DOT approved and reversible to increase longevity. (Motoz also makes tires for the big adventure bikes.) $139.95 | motoz.com.au

baja motorcycle motoztire

 

MotoZ’s Uber heavy duty 4mm inner tube should protect against cactus spines, barbed wire fences, nails and other predators. Yes, we’re carrying extras and a repair kit. $37.99 | motoz.com.au

baja motorcycle motoz-uber-inner-tube

 

Steering stabilization

The steering stabilizer by Scotts Performance Products will minimize wobble and otherwise improve handling in the unstable sandy, rocky, hilly terrain. $489.95 | scottsonline.com

baja motorcycle scottssteering

 

Fuel tank

A 4.1 gallon large capacity Acerbis fuel tank replaces the stock 2.38 gallon stock tank. It will increase range but add weight (about 6 pounds per gallon) because there are no gas stations between Mulege and San Juanico. Though RotoPax are awesome, there’s just no room on this bike. $275.95 | http://bit.ly/41fueltank

baja motorcycle acerbisfueltank

Seat

Seat Concepts make a seemingly infinite array of custom seats for all kinds of bikes. Because stock seats on enduros are a pain in the butt. I’ve had a Seat Concepts custom on my 350 EXC for years and they also make several for the ever-popular KLR. It’s a huge improvement to the stock seat on any bike. $279.99 | seatconcepts.com

baja motorcycle seatconcepts

 

Lighting

Baja Designs Squadron Pro LED lighting makes night into day. Because it’s inevitable that I’ll be caught out after dark, which is dangerous because of livestock (both alive and already dead), cacti, ravines, and vehicles running without lights. $219.95 | bajadesigns.com

baja motorcycle bajadesignsled

 

Mirrors

Double Take mirrors (in adventure and enduro styles) are practically indestructible. The mirrors mount on a stud and rotate to fold back when you’re off road and they give way without breaking in a crash. There’s a lifetime warranty on the housing and the glass is replaceable. The mirror assembly with ball stud base and arm costs under $45. doubletakemirror.com

baja motorcycle double-take-mirrors

 

Rear rack

The Pro Moto Billet aluminum cargo rack is sturdy yet lightweight, machined from a ½ inch thick plate of aluminum, anodized for durability, with stainless steel fasteners. Because you really do need a solid base when you’re bumping along loaded with gear, and it’s a bummer when your rack has to be held together with zip ties. $259.95 | fastwayperformance.com

baja motorcycle billetrack

Skid plate

A skid plate or engine guard protects your engine case, water pump, roto and clutch covers, and frame rail, and can save time stuck on the road waiting for a truck to go by not to mention thousands in repairs. There are lots of choices and I installed the KTM quick-disconnect poly resin quick-release plate. You can choose its 4mm aluminum counterpart, instead. $105.99 – $149.99 | ktm-parts.com

baja motorcycle skid-plates

 

Footpegs

Footpegs by PivotPegz and Black Dog. Stock footpegs are often too skinny or smooth to grip well as you’re bumping and sliding along the trail. Lots of people like Pivot Pegz (helps with ankle fatigue) but I’ll probably try the Black Dog pegs ($219 | http://bit.ly/bdcw-pegs-ktm-orange), as I’m not sure I like pivoting. Pivot Pegz keep your feet flat and your body stable on the peg while your bike is bumping and sliding. They’re made from high-quality stainless steel, are wider and beefier, and are serrated for grip. $161.47 | http://bit.ly/pivotpegz

baja motorcycle pivotpegz 

Touring gear

Mosko Moto’s Reckless 40L pannier/duffle system easily mounts on any motorcycle and is a flexible and very organized packing system. It’s large enough for hoteling it on big bikes or camping on small bikes. (Use their 80L system for big bike camping.) They also offer duffel and dry bags, camping gear, and they showed me an awesome tank bag-backpack prototype at Horizons Unlimited last month. 40L pannier/duffel: $424.99 | moskomoto.com

baja motorcycle 450-mods

Giant Loop bags and accessories: My kit includes the GL ballistic tow rope and lift strap, tank bag, tail pack, handlebar bag, and a collapsible fuel bladder. (I’ve used their Great Basin bag on a variety of big bikes for years.) http://bit.ly/giantloopbags

baja motorcycle giantloop

Do I really need all this stuff?

Do I really need all this stuff? Do you really need all this stuff? I don’t know. I’m an amateur rider. I am comfortable on most medium-level and even so-called advanced trails if I can go slowly. Still, I end up tossing the bike frequently, so it needs to stand up to that. But, unlike the Baja racers, my mishaps are at low speed.

Still, I am obviously choosing race-quality, best-of-breed, no-compromise products for this documented bike build. Plenty of people ride Baja on bikes held together with baling wire, duct tape, and zip ties—which are, by the way, three essential items for any backroads repair kit.

Some of these mods are arguably worth the price because they protect the bike (skid plate). Other mods protect me by providing a safer and more comfortable ride (Rekluse, steering stabilizer, lighting, tires).

Would you spend this much money on your ride? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

baja motorcycle carla-king_olympia-shot More posts by Carla King.

Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels since 1995. Read about her misadventures in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa, and current adventures in Baja at CarlaKing.com.

 

 

 

2 Responses to “My Baja Bike Build Project”

  1. Jon Carmack

    One way we have found that works good for carrying extra gas is MSR (mountain safety research) water bladders. These work great for holding gas and come in a bunch of different sizes and the collapse well when they are empty. We use them along with the Giant Loop Mojave saddle bags. I hope you have good luck in cutting in that trail. Love Baja Jon

    Reply
  2. Carla King

    Thanks, Jon! I’ve heard mixed reviews on using water bladders so it’s good to know what brand works. So many are flimsy. I like the Giant Loop because it’s rated and pressure tested for fuel (Fuel Safe brand), it’s got that layer of fabric over it with the molle loops and handles, and the kit comes with straps and disposable fuel funnels. Ready to explore! http://bit.ly/2ep9sgL

    Reply

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