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 Why the 525 EXC?

 Parts list

 Project Status

 Product Reviews

 Riding
 impressions

 

 


525 Dual Sport Product Reviews    

Baja Designs Dual Sport Kit

KTM Cooling Fan (and important battery info)

Dirt-Bike-Gear Bags

Clarke Desert Tank

Baja Designs Auxiliary Rear Tank

Dunlop 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.

Riding Impressions

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: www.bajadesigns.com

   

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. 

However... while 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 Yuasa YTX5L-BS.)

 

Dirt-bike-gear.com Bags

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 abuse. 

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 change.)

Where to buy: www.dirt-bike-gear.com
 

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 breeze.

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: www.clarkemfg.com
 

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: www.bajadesigns.com
 


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 choice. 

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: www.swmototires.com

 

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 bike. 

After initially 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: www.corbin.com

 

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: www.ht-racing.com