Why the 525 EXC?
525 Project Bike - Riding Impressions
Right out of the box
The bulk of my experience
with new motorcycles has been with larger dual-sport bikes that were
built to be ridden (at least part of the time) on the street. As such,
they tend to come from the factory slightly de-tuned. The typical goals
in doing so are to help A) pass emissions and B) satisfy safety
concerns. But if you want to tap into the true potential of the bike,
you usually have to do some carb work. (Ask any XR650R owner, “what was
the first thing you did to your new bike?“ and the typical response will
be… “I opened that baby up.”)
when I jumped on the new 525 for the first time, I was more than pleased
to find that the throttle response and overall power were amazingly
strong right out of the box. In fact, from the time I first let the
clutch out to the time I rolled back onto the driveway, I had a
permanent grin plastered on my face. THIS IS A FUN BIKE. You can be
strolling along in third gear, roll on the throttle, and the front end
comes up with ease.
the owner’s manual, KTM states several times that this is a race bike,
and should be treated as such. (Service intervals aren’t measured in
miles, but in hours.) There’s good and bad in that -- the bike has more
power than Shatner at a Star Trek convention; however, there will be
more maintenance involved. But that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.
The bottom line
is, we’re going to take a race-ready, kick-ass bike and greatly extend
the amount of time you can spend in the saddle (with that stupid grin on
your face the entire time.)
Phase I - With Baja Designs dual sport kit
After installing the Baja
Designs dual sport kit, I was eager to get out and test the feel of the
bike with the new parts installed. The only real noticeable difference
once on the bike, however, was the new all-in-one control unit sitting
next to the left grip. It was nice having blinkers, a horn and high
beams on the bike -- it really gave it a compete feel. Otherwise, I
hardly noticed the kit components on the bike (which is a good thing).
buddy and I blasted around some local trails for a few hours, where I
really started to get a feel for the bike. I was amazed at how easy it
is to tackle rougher sections of the trail. Technical spots that used
to leave me panting for air (and cursing) on the 640 Adventure are now a
breeze. Being able to throttle up and lift the front end over obstacles
(as opposed to climbing over them) makes a world of difference.
Toward the end of
the day, I found myself tackling steep, rocky inclines that I would
never considering doing previously. Given the capabilities of this
bike, I find that I’m having to recondition my perception of what is and
isn’t do-able on the trail. That‘s a very cool thing.
Phase II - With larger fuel tanks, skid plate and Dirt-Bike-Gear bags
In Phase I, the dual
sport EXC was a blast to ride. It was street legal, so you could
take stretches of pavement to your favorite trails. But with the
stock tank providing a range of less than 100 miles, I was constantly
worrying about running out of fuel. (Especially here in Arizona,
where the trails usually include long stretches of high-speed desert
riding.) Additionally, I'm the type of rider who likes to be
self-sufficient and fully prepared for trail-side maintenance. But
that means you've got to carry a lot of crap with you when you ride.
And I hate riding with heavy backpacks.
Both of these concerns
were alleviated in Phase II. The addition of a larger 3.2-gallon
Clarke tank, a 1.1-gallon rear auxiliary tank from Baja Designs and
three different storage options from Dirt-Bike-Gear have taken all the
great attributes of the 525 and extended the capabilities of the bike.
Phase III - With Corbin seat and Dunlop D606 tires
With Phase II, I was
able to ride a lot more miles in a day. However, my ass was
feeling it toward the end of the ride. The stock seat just plain
sucks. Thankfully Corbin makes a pretty darn good seat for this
bike. In fact, the Corbin is my favorite mod thus far. Hands
down. It has really transformed the bike into one that you can
literally ride all day and be longing for more.
The more time I put on
this bike, the more I like it. I mean really like it. It's
sad to say, but I've spent very little time on my 950 Adventure since
kitting out the 525. And I love the 950. It's just that with
the 525, I find myself having more fun out there. I'm truly having a
blast on this bike. It's like an addiction. In fact, I was
out cleaning the 525 the other night in the garage and said to myself,
"you know, I could take it out for just a few minutes..." It
was 11pm. That's how much I love riding this thing.