By Carla King
Last year I upgraded my 2009 KTM 450 EXC-R and now I wanted to report back on the mods and how I like them. Go take a look at the original article for details on the mods or just read on for my impressions of these installed products:
- Stability (steering stabilizer and footpegs)
- Durability (skid plate, disc brake guards, foldable mirrors, tires, and inner tubes)
- Comfort (suspension, custom seat, Rekluse clutch)
- Fuel (high-capacity fuel tank)
- Auxiliary lighting
- Luggage and accessories (cargo rack, duffel/pannier systems, straps, tank bag, hand guards, etc.)
Why the KTM 450 EXC-R?
The KTM 450 EXC-R is a single-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, carbureted enduro motorcycle with a six-gear transmission that weighs 251 pounds dry. It’s big enough to ride on the road yet light enough to handle serious trail riding and it’s popular with Baja racers.
As a long-distance motorcycle traveler, I have always appreciated the older bike models because they’re carbureted and more easily repaired than modern, fuel-injected models.
My other bikes include a 350 EXC that’s great for Baja but would need to be trailered longer distances as it’s uncomfortable and underpowered for highway speeds. I love riding my KLR 650 in Baja but it’s difficult to manage on single-trail. Ditto with the BMW GS 100 Bumblebee. What can I say… I love them all!
I hear some riders say they’re prejudiced against KTM because they have a reputation for being persnickety. It’s true that you can’t abuse them like KLRs or GSs, both of which keep running for a long time even if you neglect them. Just keep your KTM tuned and it’ll treat you nicely.
The important thing to consider when choosing an off-road bike, besides reliability, of course, is the power-to-weight ratio. KTMs are lighter and more powerful than any other bike. Rock walls and sand washes are so much easier. This bike gives me confidence and makes me a better rider.
As a woman rider with less muscle power than the average guy my size (5″8′, 130 pounds) I feel I am on equal footing. Or would be if I had more cajones. Arguably, women are more interested in self-preservation than men.
With that potentially inflammatory statement, here are the mods I chose and my impressions one year later.
Scotts Performance Products steering stabilizer: This mod was totally worth the price tag. The front tire goes where I point it (for better or for worse) without any argument or biceps workout. No more wobble. Love it! $489.95 (Revzilla)
Pivot Pegz or Black Dog Cycle Works Footpegs: Actually I have not done this yet, but I will.
Here’s a shot of my KTM factory pegs.
Compare the above stock pegs with these obviously much more substantial Black Dog Cycle Works pegs, in KTM orange, of course. ($219 | https://blackdogcw.com/bdcw-footpegs-platform-ktm2l/).
And here are the PivotPegz, which are designed to keep your feet level, even when you’re not. Fans of these pegs swear they offer better stability and say it’s also easier on the ankles. You can get PivotPegz for many bikes. ($169.99)
KTM skid plate: A couple of times the skid plate has hit hard on hidden rocks and, wow, was I glad for the upgrade! ($105.99 – $149.99 | ktm-parts.com) There are some gnarly tracks in Baja and a skid plate can prevent getting stuck with a wrecked engine, which is both inconvenient and expensive. Worth it! (The Acerbis plate is also a contender.)
Even so, I plan to upgrade to Black Dog Cycle Works Ultimate skid plate. ($225) You can see the difference in durability.
Double Take mirrors: I put Double Takes on my KLR, too. No more falling over and breaking the mirrors off, yay! The mirror assembly with ball stud base and arm costs under $45. You can replace any part, even the mirror itself. On single-track you can just fold them in out of the way. doubletakemirror.com
Tires and tubes: I put a Motoz Xtreme Hybrid natural rubber tire on the back along with the Motoz Xtreme Uber inner tube (4mm). This natural rubber tire is 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
The tire is sticky on rocks, handles sand washes well, and doesn’t make too much noise on asphalt. I’ve been able to climb rock walls I didn’t think I could manage. Wear is surprisingly good.
I kept my Scorpion MX MidSoft 32 on the front. I haven’t ridden with anything else but it feels good to me! We also installed a KTM front brake disc cover ($59.99) and “shark fin” rear brake disk guard ($79.99) to prevent damage from dirt and rocks.
With a Seat Concepts custom saddle and the stock KTM WP lowering kit the seat height is now about 31 inches. When it’s fully-loaded with gas, water, and luggage it hovers around 30 inches. $279.99 | seatconcepts.com
The lowering kit took the bike two inches lower with shorter springs and a 2′ spacer and the forks adjusted on the triple-clamp. This mod doesn’t affect the clearance or the balance.
The Seat Concepts KTM 11-14 Low shaved another 5/8 inch off, and it’s a heck of a lot more comfortable than the stock seat.
The Rekluse Core EXP 3.0 clutch is the best investment I’ve ever made on a motorcycle. When I’m rich enough to put one on every bike I own, I will.
The Rekluse automatically engages and disengages based on RPM so you never stall. You can even come to a complete stop while you’re in gear. (Find the Rekluse that fits your bike.)
I also love that I don’t have to pull in the clutch to shift. I have small hands and, even with lever adjustments, it takes some effort to reach and grab. During a long ride, my hands usually tire out before my body does, but no longer.
Recently, I choked on a frighteningly steep and rocky uphill trail on an uneven spot with no foothold on the cliff side of the trail. Falling meant a potential slide through cholla cacti, so it helped that I didn’t have to restart the bike and get it into a lower gear.
A bike with a Rekluse is a great learning platform, too. I handed my KTM to my brother Jeff who came to visit and rode the other 450 without a Rekluse or the suspension lowering. What a difference! Jeff is a mountain biker but not a motorcyclist yet he took off like a natural. In fact, I could barely catch up to him before he rode into a barbed wire fence I knew was ahead.
By the way, beware of barbed-wire fences off-trail in Baja. They’re invisible and can be deadly. Even if you’ve been on the trail before, realize that a rancher may have changed the grazing range of his livestock by moving his fence posts.
The nights are very dark in Baja and my Baja Designs Squadron Pro LED lighting is awesome, lighting up the road and the terrain all around it. I’ve needed it only once so far as I really try to avoid riding or driving at night. There are too many goats, cows, and mules on the road and vehicles that don’t run with their lights on. $219.95 | Find the lights for your bike.
I haven’t needed all the gas in my Acerbis 4.1 gallon fuel tank yet but I haven’t really toured with it, only taken day trips from home and round trips from towns with gas stations. I could have opted to carry Rotopax, fuel bottles, or a fuel bladder, instead, but felt the bigger tank was a better solution. $275.95 | Find the tank for your bike.
Luggage and accessories
I used to carry a one gallon Giant Loop Fuel Safe Bladder ($149.99) on my other bikes. It’s a sturdy collapsible bag with a ballistic nylon sleeve and looped webbing anchor points and handles. It comes in sizes up to three gallons.
Don’t skimp on the rear rack. It needs to carry a lot of weight on terrain designed to try to bump it off. The Pro Moto Billet aluminum cargo rack ($259.95 | fastwayperformance.com) creates a solid base for the panniers and duffel.
I love the Mosko Moto Reckless 40-liter pannier/duffel system. It’s the perfect size for this bike. It expands to accommodate enough gear and food for days of tent camping but if you’re not carrying a lot they strap down flat, as shown. Also note the aluminum heat guards. 40L pannier/duffel: $424.99 | moskomoto.com
On the front of the bike, the Giant Loop Moto Sports handlebar bag is a handy place to keep small necessaries. | Get it here.
I also carry Giant Loop’s tow strap and more Rok-straps than I need to help all the riders with bungled bungees and inadequate packing techniques. Rok-straps also make great gifts for local mechanics and ranchers. The Tracker Packer for Garmin InReach ($50)is a handy addition, too.
it! What are your mods? Let me know in the Comments below.
Meantime, other posts you might be interested in include:
Got opinions on these mods, want to share your own, or have questions about touring, trailering, renting, or riding in Baja? I’m here to help!
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.