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 Why the 525 EXC?

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Why choose the KTM 525 EXC?         

In today's dual sport market, there are several options for riders who prefer a good mix of dirt/street riding. (KTM 950, 640 Adventure, KLR650 and BMW GS bikes are all outstanding choices.)  But for riders who want to spend more of their time on rougher jeep trails and single track, the options start to thin out. 

When the going gets rough, bikes like the Honda XR650L and KTM 640 Adventure models can handle the task.  But at 324 and 339 lbs. respectively, these bikes can quickly become a handful in technical areas.  Then there's the DRZ400, weighing in at a more respectable 291 lbs.  But for a lot of avid off-roaders, the stock DRZ is underpowered and undersprung for true trail riding. 

Thus the search for a dual sport bike with enough power to handle 90+ mph desert runs while being able to truly attack the trails and not beat up the rider in the process. It also has to have some serious suspension out of the box.  (Because the hooligan in us wants to get a little air under the thing every now and then.)

Given all this criteria, only a few bikes are in the running -- namely, the Honda XR650R and the KTM 525 EXC.  The XR650R has more than proved itself in Baja, but lacks one crucial element: the "magic button" (a.k.a., electric start), especially for those of us no longer in our 20's. Add in the fact that the EXC is 28 lbs. lighter than the XR and has six gears (vs. five on the XR), and the KTM starts pulling ahead pretty quickly.

And let's not forget power... the EXC is one of the most powerful big-bore thumpers you can buy.  This is one of the few bikes where 3rd and 4th gear wheelies are a piece of cake.  Just roll on the throttle and the front wheel comes up.  You definitely have to respect this power, however, as it can be too much for novice riders to handle. Throttle control comes into play big time.  But one thing's for sure -- chances are you'll never need more power than this bike can deliver.

So basically, there are three main reasons why we chose the 525:

  • Light

  • Extremely off-road capable

  • FUN!!!

However, there's one critical thing keeping the EXC from being a good dual sport bike -- it's limited oil capacity (only 1200 cc's, or 1.27 quarts).  When doing stretches of highway miles in 5th and 6th gear, the oil temperature can quickly get to the point where the oil starts burning off, leaving the transmission and engine in desperate need of lubrication.  So the first thing one must do to make the EXC a reasonable dual sport is add an oil cooler with extra capacity. 

Fortunately, HT-Racing offers exactly that -- an easy-to-install oil cooler that reduces oil temperature by as much as 30 degrees while adding 800 cc of oil to total capacity. By adding this product to a stock EXC, the total oil capacity reaches 2000 cc, or 2.1 quarts.  (By comparison, most XR650R bikes have an oil capacity of 1.65 quarts.) This simple and cost-effective option instantly transforms the EXC into a reasonable dual sport machine.

Now that we've explained why we chose the 525 EXC for our project bike, let's look at what it takes to turn this trail blazer into a true dual sporter...  NEXT