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 Why the 525 EXC?

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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.”)

So 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. 

In 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). 

A 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.