Why the 525 EXC?
525 Dual Sport Product Reviews
Baja Designs Dual Sport Kit
KTM Cooling Fan (and important battery info)
Designs Auxiliary Rear Tank
606 tires from SWmototires.com
Corbin Dual Sport Saddle
HT-Racing Oil Reservoir/Cooler
Baja Designs Dual Sport Kit
For those of us who
aren't particularly adept at working on electrical components on a
vehicle, the Baja Designs dual sport kit can look a little daunting when
you first take everything out of the package. Fortunately, the kit comes
with some of the best instructions I've ever seen. With detailed
step-by-step directions and a lot of pictures, even those who aren't the
sharpest tool in the fender bag can install the kit with ease.
(While the first line of the instructions reads, "Step 1: Get a degree
in mechanical and electrical engineering..." that's obviously a joke to
lighten the mood before you begin.)
Installing the kit
requires you to remove the seat, tank and rear fender/tail piece.
Hooking up all the wires for the brake light and rear turn signals is
relatively easy, and it didn't take long before I was working on the
headlight unit. The front components are even easier than the
rear, because everything is pre-fitted within the headlight shell.
It's basically plug-and-play.
What impressed me
most was the all-in-one control unit that mounts on the handlebar.
It really gives the kit a from-the-factory feel. The only downside is
that the clutch handle comes in contact with the control unit when fully
depressed. This only happens at the end of the pull, however, and
doesn't seem to interfere at all with clutch operation.
While riding on the
trail, you'll never even notice that the kit is even on the bike.
It's light and unobtrusive, so it doesn't interfere with the off-road
capabilities of the 525.
The only thing really
missing from the kit is an indicator letting you know when the turn
signals are activated (aka, an idiot light). Because you can't
readily see the flashers while riding the bike in broad daylight, there
have been a few times when I didn't realize that the turn signals were
flashing away. But again, that comes down to the operator simply
not paying attention.
For night riding, the
low-beam setting on the headlight is pretty dim. However, the high-beam
is a nice, bright white light, and is more than adequate to light up the
trail ahead. But there's definitely a noticeable difference
between bright and dim. There's even a blue high-beam indicator
built into the control unit.
In States like
Arizona, the dual-sport requirement laws are pretty lax, so you can get
away without turn signals and a proper horn (a bicycle horn suffices).
That can save you a lot of money if you simply piece-meal the necessary
components, but sometimes it's just nice to have that equipment on your
bike. For example, at one point during the Ouray ride, I had to signal
to another rider to pull over. The horn that came with the Baja
Designs kit really made it easy to get the other rider's attention.
Overall, the Baja
Designs dual sport kit is a great product. At $450, it's not
exactly cheap, but the quality of the components and the ease of
installation makes it really worth it.
Where to buy:
KTM Cooling Fan (and important battery info)
Because trail riding
often involves slow riding through technical spots, it's important to
maximize your bike's cooling ability. KTM makes a nice little fan that
literally takes less than 10 minutes to install. And at about $75,
it's definitely one of the first things one should buy for the 525.
riding my 525 in Ouray, the fan had a tendency to run for a while after
I shut off the bike. Eventually, this led to the fan draining the
skimpy little battery that comes with the bike. Fortunately, there
are a couple easy fixes.
First off, I'm going
to install a shut-off switch to the fan motor. That way, I can
manually shut off the fan after turning off the engine. That will
still allow for adequate cooling while the engine is running, but will
save undue wear on the battery.
Secondly, your should
replace the stock battery on the 525. The unit that comes with
this bike is set up for minimal use in stock form only. Once you
start adding components like the cooling fan and the dual sport kit, the
battery just can't keep up.
(Here's a great
example of a dealer being proactive about taking care of customers...
the two other 525 riders that joined us in Ouray both bought their bikes
from a dealer who changed out the battery before they took delivery of
their bikes, without them even asking. Now that's looking out for your
customers. The battery the dealer used as a replacement is the
With dual sport riding, there are often
times when you and your buddies will be out in the middle of nowhere.
That means you need to be prepared for when things go wrong.
Therefore, packing spare tubes, tools, tire irons, etc. are essential.
You also need to be prepared for things like changing weather
conditions. So packing a jacket liner is also advisable.
You could easily
stuff all this into a backpack, but I find that a heavy pack tires me
out much more quickly. So I prefer to pack as much on the bike as
I can. That's where the bags from Dirt-Bike-Gear come into play.
They make very functional rear fender, number plate and front fender
bags made of tough ballistic fabric that will stand up to a lot of
There are a lot of
manufacturers who supply these types of bags, so there's no shortage of
options. But what drew me to the Dirt-bike-gear products is how
they really seem to put a lot of thought into the design of their
products. Here's a description of each in turn:
Rear Fender Bag
($47 plus the liner*)
- Dirt-bike-gear.com makes the rear fender bags in two sizes - medium
and large. I went with the large, just to try and maximize storage
capabilities on the bike. What I like about these fender bags is
that they have built-in compression straps on the outside of the bag.
Not only does that allow you to secure the contents inside, but it also
lets you carry things like a jacket liner or a hand pump outside the bag
(by tucking them under the compression straps). I also like the
fact that they have an inner liner available for this bag. This
makes it very easy to pull out the contents (for example, when parking
for lunch) in one fell swoop.
The bag is pretty
simple to install, you just have to drill four small holes into the rear
fender. The rest takes just minutes to complete. (The bag comes
with all mounting hardware.)
For the recent ride
to Ouray, I packed a front tube, a rear tube and tire irons into the
rear fender bag. I also tucked a bicycle hand pump under the compression
straps. This seemed to work quite well, and the content stayed
nice and secure the entire time. However, while riding behind me
on the highway, one of the other riders commented that my rear fender
was bouncing up and down quite a bit. So I think I'll lighten the
load by taking out one of the tubes. (The 525 has no real
sub-frame under the rear fender, so you have to be a little careful
about how much weight you load there.)
Number Plate Bag
($30*) - When I first ordered this bag, I wasn't sure how well it
would work. I was concerned about it not being secure and interfering
with the headlight. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, this is one of the
accessories that has impressed me most. The bag uses three straps
on each side, each securing the load in a different way. So the bag is
very secure and doesn't move an inch while riding. And it doesn't
distort or interfere with the headlight unit at all. It's extremely easy
to get into, and holds quite a bit of stuff. This bag is where I
usually store lighter objects like a jacket liner, Powerbars, etc.
Front Fender Bag
($25*) - This is a great example of how the guys at Dirt-bike-gear
think a little differently about motorcycle accessories. Instead of
using small metal hooks that cling to the fender itself, this fender bag
mounts with straps to the fork tubes. The end result is a very
secure bag that doesn't put undue weight on the fender itself.
Best of all, it's a cinch to get on and off. This is where I'll
pack a spare tube.
Overall, I'm very
pleased with these bags. They're functional, tough and relatively
cheap. (*The prices listed include shipping. That's a nice
Where to buy:
Clarke 3.2 Gal Desert Tank
The stock tank on the
525 is obviously meant to get you through an enduro loop, and that's it.
At only 2.3 gallons, you'll barely get more that 80 miles out of a tank.
That just doesn't cut it for dual sport riding.
There are a couple of
options out there for larger tanks. Both Clarke and IMS make
desert tanks, but I went with the Clarke because it still allows you to
use the KTM cooling fan. At 3.2 gallons, this tank increases your range
by almost 50%.
Unlike bikes like the
640 Adventure and 950, removing the tank on the 525 is an absolute piece
of cake. Aside from the side shrouds, there's really only one bolt
securing the tank to the frame. This makes swapping out tanks a real
What I really like
about the Clarke is that you get extra capacity without the bike bulking
up in dimensions. Even though it gives you an extra gallon+, the Clarke
tank is still very slim and unobtrusive. That makes a huge difference
when riding in the tight stuff.
The only thing I was
a little disappointed in is that the recess under the right side of the
tank isn't quite high enough for the kickstarter to fully retract.
(You can see this at the bottom of the photo to the right.) On the
ride around Ouray, this didn't seem to ever get in the way while riding,
but it just looks a little off aesthetically.
Otherwise, the tank
performed flawlessly. I went with the natural color, and really like how
you can quickly see exactly how much gas you have left. (No more staring
down into the filler hole!)
Where to buy:
Baja Designs 1.1 Gal Rear Auxiliary Tank
While the Clarke 3.2
gallon tank provides much better range than the stock tank, sometimes
you just need more gas -- especially when doing a long dual sport loop
across the desert. Baja Designs offers an innovative solution... a
1.1 gallon rear tank tucked under the left rear number plate.
Mounting the tank is an
easy task, thanks again to Baja Designs' outstanding set of installation
instructions. Installing the rear tank requires you to drill two
holes through the air box, which allows the fuel line to easily reach
the front petcock. While it's at first a bit unsettling to be drilling
holes in your bike, the end result is such that it doesn't negatively
affect the air box.
Once installed, the tank
is well hidden behind the number plate. In fact, most casual
observers probably won't even notice it's there. The tank comes with
it's own petcock, which mounts next to the carburetor behind the front
petcock. The recommended usage for both tanks is first running the rear
tank dry (by shutting off the front petcock). Once the rear tank
is empty, you simply reach down, open the front petcock and shut off the
rear petcock. (If you leave both petcocks open, the front tank will
empty into the rear, eventually causing it to overflow.)
The tank functions well.
Even though the fuel line coming from the rear is lower than the
carburetor, it still feeds the system without a hiccup. My only
concern about the rear tank is that the chain rubs slightly against the
inside edge of the fuel tank when the suspension is fully compressed.
You can see where the chain is starting to leave wear marks on the
plastic tank. So far, this hasn't let to any real damage or
leakage on the tank, but I'll have to keep a careful watch on that.
Because the rear tank is
a compact, light unit, it doesn't get in the way of riding. This means
that on the local rides where you won't need extra fuel, you can simply
leave the rear empty to save weight. When you're heading out on a
longer ride, it's just nice to know that you have that extra range to
get you back home.
Where to buy:
In this shot, you can see the rear petcock
(silver box behind the frame)
Dunlop D606 Tires from swmototires.com
In stock form, the 525
EXC comes with non-DOT tires that hook up like crazy in the dirt, but
start chunking off knobs if you do any pavement. While there are a
lot of different dual sport tires to choose from, I narrowed my choice
to the Pirelli MT21 and the Dunlop D606. Both are DOT approved for
highway use, but still offer aggressive tread designs to provide decent
traction in the dirt.
After debating back
and forth on whether to go with the Pirelli or the Dunlop, the guys over
at SWmototires.com steered me toward the Dunlop. It was a wise
Before mounting the
Dunlops, I was a little concerned that going with a DOT tire would mean
losing a lot of the bite on dirt (i.e., making it more difficult to get
the front tire up in the loose stuff). Fortunately, that isn't an
issue with the Dunlop D606s. The bike still hooks up well in the dirt,
while feeling day and night better on pavement. The big question
will be how long the Dunlops last (while still providing decent bite).
We'll soon find out.
On a side note, I
highly recommend SWmototires.com as a place to pick up your motorcycle
tires. They carry all the brands, have excellent prices, and turn orders
around very quickly. They even pay for shipping if you order two
tires. You can't beat that.
Where to buy:
Corbin Dual Sport Saddle for the 525
If there's one thing KTM
can't seem to get right, it's making a comfortable seat. I've
owned a 640 Adventure, a 950 Adventure and the 525, and the seats on all
three bikes leave your backside crying in agony after any stretch of
time in the saddle. Thankfully, there are a few options out there to try
and remedy this.
The 525 dual sport
saddle by Corbin does a great job of making the seat wider without
compromising maneuverability. (A wider seat helps distribute weight more
evenly and alleviates those hot spots.)
Without question, the
Corbin saddle is way more comfortable than the stock seat. Hands
down. The seat design allows you to move back and forth on the
seat, which I've found to be the key to tackling longer stretches of
highway. The Corbin is much more "slippery" than the stock seat.
This makes it easy to change seating positions, but it also has a
tendency to slide you forward on the seat, even if you didn't intend to.
But this is easy to live with, considering the tortuous nature of the
stock seat. I was surprised at how well the Corbin functioned while
riding in tight single-track. The wider seat doesn't seem to interfere
at all with being able to throw the bike around and plant your feet
every now and then. They've done a great job of increasing the
comfort level without taking away from the the core competencies of the
installing the Corbin, I was a bit concerned about the seat blocking
airflow into the air box. (The stock seat purposely doesn't fit flush
with the rear fender, which allows air to be fed into the air box.)
However, the Corbin does sit flush with the fender. But after
riding the bike with the Corbin, it doesn't feel like the carburetor is
getting any less air. (The sides of the Corbin don't sit down as far as
the stock seat, and it appears that air is able to flow under the sides
of the seat.)
Overall, this single mod
will allow you to put a lot more miles on the bike in relative comfort.
And when it comes to dual sporting, that's critically important.
Where to buy:
HT-Racing Oil Cooler With Extra Capacity
The Oil Cooler mod is
something I've been wanting to add to this bike since day one.
Every time I had to do a stretch of pavement on the 525, I would always
be hesitant to keep it at highway speeds for very long. After all, 1.27
quarts of oil isn't a lot, and can heat up pretty quickly. And
when oil gets too hot, its effectiveness drops considerably. I
wanted to make sure I got the best unit for my bike, so I looked at all
the options out there, then looked again.
HT-racing.com is the
company I decided to go with. The problem was, they were in the
middle of redesigning their oil reservoir/cooler unit when I placed my
order, so it took MUCH longer to get the unit than I expected.
(Although, I have to give credit to the guys at HT-Racing. They
did keep me posted via e-mail as to order status. And I'm very
glad they waited to send me the new-and-improved unit that includes a
welded back plate to the reservoir.)
I just got the oil
cooler installed. (See the Project Status page for info on the
installation.) So I'll post more info about my review of the
product once I've put a few miles on it.
Where to buy: