Friday, February 24, 2017

Fairing Color and Graphics - A few more options

I keep playing with the paint program.  I made the high front fender disappear, but haven't figured out how to add a low fender, so imagination is still required.  The low fender is carbon fiber so it will read as mostly black like the tire.

The orange frame and black trim limit the color choices.  My sister thought the right blue would be a good accent to the orange.  I think 3 colors is already a lot, so I may have to play with blue instead of white.  Of course, white was a natural since the body is already white plastic and it is opposite black on the color wheel.

One thing is clear.  When I try to break up the shapes, it starts looking patchy very quickly.  I started with the idea that I would use graphics and stripes, but I now think that it will have to remain fairly simple.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KTM Update

 I have been working, a little at a time, trying to make the KTM mine.  One of the first tasks was to improve my fitting on the bike and build in some long distance comfort.  Below are the Knight Design footpegs I bought that are lowered a little more than 1 inch.  They help me in the fit department, but the "cleat" or traction surface looks like it would tear up my boot sole.  My boots don't have a hard rubber sole like dirt bike boots.

John C. came up with a great suggestion.  Why not just remove the cleat.  It's only attached by screws.  That would make the footpeg a little lower and I could have a better surface.  To his idea, I added some button head screws which will give me a little bit more traction without being so aggressive.

In the long distance comfort department, I sent my original seat into Bill Mayer Saddles for them to make me a wider and slightly higher seat.  The embossed seating surface and the KTM orange stitching are nice touches.   Also shown is the small Enduristan tank bag.  My goal is to put almost everything into panniers (Mosko) to keep the ability to swing my leg over the bike intact.  Of course, I still need a small place to put sunglasses, camera, gloves, etc.  So the Enduristan will serve for easy to get at items and keep everything dry.

Apparently, some 690 E riders have had holes punched in their radiator tank when they fall.  These little radiator protectors improve the toughness of the bottom of the tank and add practically nothing in weight.

Based on my experience with the KLR and forum chatter on the KTM, a high front fender (normal for a dirt bike and stock on the 690 E) is an aerodynamic lift and buffeting problem at highway speeds.  A low fender solves this problem and, I just like the way it looks.  This carbon fiber low fender is the same design as used in Dakar rally.  It took a bit of fiddling, but it fits properly now.

Naturally, I screwed up.  Since it was a race part, the surface wasn't perfect on arrival.  My mistake was thinking I could refinish it and improve those minor flaws.  Now, a couple of weeks work into it, I will be lucky if I can get to an acceptable appearance.  I'm pretty sure there will be more flaws than when I started.  Man that carbon fiber is stiff!

I have selected an aftermarket fairing and have it on order.  This one looks something like the most recent Dakar racers.  There were a few other options would have been very interesting, but I chose this one because it is a complete kit that is well thought out.  Also, my other options would have doubled the price.

These shots are of the prototype and have been downloaded from the Rade Garage website.

 Of course, the fairing isn't available yet, so I have been playing with color on the side view picture.  Notice that I removed the high front fender in the picture to give a better idea of how it would look with a low fender.  I've tried lots of idea, but the whole thing looks busy when you break up the shape with graphics.  At the moment, I am leaning toward a solid color with maybe an accent line or two.  Any thoughts?


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Charm School

In today's culture, charm school usually has a somewhat negative connotation.  It varies in meaning from something that a beauty queen might need to, in corporate lingo, something for a bad manager.  The second one is familiar from my experience.  When a boss is perceived as having poor people skills and may even be abusing the people working for him, then he is sent to charm school to learn the play acting required to seem like a good guy, even when he is not.

That's why I found this place so ironic.  In this case, the Charm School is exactly that, the local school in the village of Charm, Ohio.  Charm is a mixed Amish and Mennonite village that is bustling with activity and very traditional in appearance.   One assumes, looking from the outside at a community like this, that there are no beauty queens or bad executives.  And that the Charm School is just for learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

It is a very pretty valley and worth the side trip.  Finding places like this are a big part of my back roads wandering.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Mystery of Buying Used

I have had a little time with the KTM.  When you buy something, you always wonder what don't you know about it and why is this guy selling it.  In the case of the KTM, the fact that he was selling a 2 year old bike with only 765 miles made that question even more prominent.

The guy did a really good job of cleaning the exterior, but even lifting the seat showed dirt covering everything.  There were other clues.  For example, replacing handguards, brake and clutch levers, the muffler, the skid plate, and missing graphics on the rear fender might suggest some light damage from an accident.  It also could mean nothing more than these are parts the guy wanted to upgrade, as the replacements are all premium quality parts.

Sidebar - The replacement muffler is quiet light and is made of titanium with carbon fiber ends.  Do you know the correct procedure for "washing" titanium?  I didn't.  The manufacturer recommends you use a cloth and WD-40.  And it works.  Apparently, solvents, even soap, can react with the surface of the titanium and damage it.

As I have dug deeper into the bike, I found a layer of stubborn NY dirt on everything.  This stuff is so tough that even Dawn dishwashing soap won't cut it.  The only way I have found to clean this stuff is using Simple Green.  Everything was coated.  Both sides of the fan blades.  The cloth wrapping the wiring harness.  Truly everything. 

I also found up to 1/4" of caked mud in the strangest places.  For example, the rear fender sits directly on the fuel tank and all the gaps between were filled with mud.  The area around the fuel filler on the top of the rear had mud caked around it.  The radiator still had mud in the fins.

I have finally gotten the thing cleaned up and have guessed at a reason for him to sell.  I think he was way out in the woods somewhere and got it totally stuck in the mud.  I think that when he finally got it out, he decided that this bike was too heavy for real offroad use.  And I concur.

Working on fitting the new low fender and will post some pictures when that is done.  Boy, carbon fiber is truly stiff stuff.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Recently, there was an article in Racecar Engineering magazine about a 1964 Mini from New Zealand setting speed records in class I, 750 - 1000 cc engine displacement.  Their fastest record was 166 mph which is pretty good with some body modifications and a blown engine, free fuel class.  I was surprised how much modification they had to do for 166 mph.  The engine has a highly modified block, the head from a BMW K bike, and a billet crank.  They claim 370 hp on methanol.  That is both impressive from what started out as an A series block amazing to me how much extra horsepower is needed to get the speed.

I guess I'm comparing from a project I was part of back in 1988/89.  A bunch of guys at Subaru got together to go for the 1 liter production class which allows no body changes and a modified, but production based engine.  Our little Justy was so square that it makes the Mini look like a streamliner.  Even slammed, it must have had significantly more frontal area than the Mini.  In production class, we were allowed to change internal engine parts and carbs, exhaust, etc.  The engine head, and block had to remain production based.  So our 1 liter, 3 cylinder engine had motorcycle carbs, titanium intake valves, porting, and high compression.  Some mods were done on site at Bonneville, for example, a cowl induction air box was made of a Huggies diaper box and lots of duct tape.

The end result was an I class production record of 123 miles per hour that still stands today.  Not bad for pushing an origami body with a little 3 cylinder engine.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trailer Queen

It's kind of strange, but the KTM has more miles riding behind me in a trailer than it has on it's odometer.  I bought the bike in Buffalo, which is 400 miles away.  That would have been close to the sale odo miles.  But I couldn't tell very much about the bike's character from riding around a parking lot on knobby tires set at off-road pressures.  You could tell that the bike hadn't been bent, but that's about all.

So rather than go home or try to ride the thing in Buffalo with snow in the forecast, I headed south.  To Charlottesville, Va., to be exact.  From the weather forecast, it looked like my best chance to see some warm, dry roads.  And it's near the Blue Ridge, so there are small twisty roads about.

I had planned this, so I was carrying on-road tires that fit the KTM and I arranged with a local motorcycle shop to swap out my knobbies and put on the road tires.  That took the morning of Dec 1.  So in the afternoon, I got to ride in the foothills for about an hour and a half and put 57 miles on the bike.

Since the tow from Buffalo to Charlottesville to home was a little over 1000 miles, the 731 miles on the odometer makes this a true trailer queen.  Of course, I hope to change that this spring.  My thanks go out to John Chamberlin who so graciously lent me his lease car and trailer for this little expedition.  I feel so much more confident in making the changes that I need to the bike having actually gotten to ride it and know it will work well for me.

The reason for the Virginia leg of my trip was not only to discover the overall character of the bike, but to see if it was different than the KLR.  After all, I haven't ridden that many motorcycles and I have so many miles on the KLR, I have adapted my style to it's character.

The differences were there.  Some expected, others unexpected.  Of course, I haven't ridden the KTM very hard.  I'm still learning.

The first difference that shows immediately is the stiffness of the KTM.  With the KLR, you can feel the flex in the frame, in the forks, in all of the controls.  The result is the KTM is more direct, more immediate in it's response.  I can effectively feel the higher torsional stiffness of the frame by the responsiveness in changing direction.  I can even feel the stiffness in the shift lever.

The other way this shows up is in ride.  With the KLR, when you hit a bump, especially in a corner, it is forgiving but may flex a little after the fact.  With the KTM there is none of the aftershake.  Another ride difference is the amount of shock control.  The KLR is plush, but a little lazy.  With the KTM, I really felt connected to the road.

The KTM also has the rider sitting further forward on the bike.  With the KLR, the front wheel it pretty light.  I have developed a technique where I lean forward at the entrance of a corner to put a little extra weight on the front tire and sharpen the turn-in response.  The KTM already has that front end weight, so you don't need that forward lean.

An interesting point.  All these things I'm talking about make the KTM a better road bike and the flexibility of the KLR are said to be desirable on dirt.  Somehow, I never expected the KLR to be the more off-road oriented bike.

This theme continues in other ways.  For example, the KLR has only 5 gears to the KTM 6.  But the KLR gears are wide spaced ratios with 1st gear good for slow crawling in difficult off-road conditions.  In contrast, the KTM has close ratio gears with 1st gear quite tall for off-road use.  Get into something gnarly and you would have to be slipping the KTM clutch to go slow.

This is especially true because the KTM doesn't have much torque at low rpm.  The KLR has excellent torque from about 1200 rpm and "comes on cam" at 3000 rpm.  In contrast, the KTM has noticeably less torque than the KLR at low rpm, made worse by the tall 1st gear, and doesn't "come on cam" until 4000 rpm.  On-road, this is no problem.  There is enough torque to launch and close ratio gears to stay on cam, but off-road, this is interesting.

As far as peak horsepower, it is definitely a lot more in the KTM.  Rated 65 to the KLR's 40, it feels like even more.  But that brings another interesting point.  The KLR is tuned to run on any crappy octane fuel.  It just doesn't care.  That should be a good thing for adventure excursions.  The KTM is tuned for 93 octane premium.  It's fuel injection has a map that you can select if you get poor fuel, but the risk that you wouldn't change maps in time and that make the KTM modern but high strung.

Overall, I learned a lot in a short time.  Since I ride most of the time on-road and not that aggressively when off the pavement, I think these differences will all make for a better bike for my usage.  But it remains kind of interesting that the vaunted off-road brand of KTM has made such a road oriented enduro.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Something New

It was probably 3 to 4 years ago that I solved most of the problems that I could fix on the KLR.  New projects have been rare and I have mostly just been riding and maintaining the bike.  That may be one reason that I started thinking about something new. 

But then again, every time I came home from a multi-day ride on the KLR, I had a smile on my face, so I really didn't need a new motorcycle.  Need versus want, always an issue.

Because of my height, an adventure bike is the best choice for me.  Also, I don't like being limited to only pavement, so a bike capable of touring, enjoying the twisty bits, and a moderate level of dirt road/off road is what I need.  Unfortunately, I also like and believe in light weight.  This comes from an environmental viewpoint to some extent, but also because one uses body english to control a motorcycle and I feel that the lower weight bike is more responsive to my body english.  Naturally, that's not the only thing that matters, but it's high on my list, which explains why I am not enamored of these large, 1.3 liter, 180 HP, adventure bikes.  I want a little and light one.  And that has been hard to find.  So I keep on enjoying the KLR and keep on looking for that elusive better bike for me.

About 2 years ago, I thought I had found the right answer.  The CCM GP450 came out in England and offered just about everything I wanted in a motorcycle.  At a curb weight of about 320 pounds, it is the lightest mid-size adventure bike in production. They claimed they would come to the US, but no firm date was attached.

After years of saying that the KLR's 40 HP was enough, I finally ran into situations this summer where it wasn't.  I was climbing a long and curvy grade in the mountains at highway speed.  The others in my ride group disappeared up the hill, while I had the KLR at full throttle in top gear and was unable to keep up, even accelerate.  So maybe the time for a little more horsepower had come at last.

EICMA Motorcycle Show

Following the rumors of new motorcycles, this November's Milan Motorcycle show promised to be interesting.  KTM, Ducati, and Yamaha all promised adventure bikes in the mid-size range (about 800 cc) and some of them were rumored to be 2017 models.

The KTM is a real project with an 800 cc parallel twin and a Duke (street bike) prototype shown in Milan.  If anyone is going to make a light bike to meet my ideas, it's likely to be KTM.  Unfortunately, no specs were available and timing looks like late 2017 at the earliest for the Duke.  2018 at the earliest for the Adventure bike to follow.  Seems like a long time to wait.

The Ducati is a real 2017 production bike, but it's curb weight is expected to be almost 500 pounds.  I guess catalytic converters, fuel injection, ABS/traction control, etc. are really adding the pounds.

The Yamaha T7 looks tasty.  It looks like a 2016 Dakar race bike.  But then again, this is only a concept.  I can't find out when the Yamaha production bike hits the streets, if at all, but it's hard to believe that it will be earlier than 2018 given the concept bike nature of the T7.

Guessing that the Yamaha production adventure bike would be based on the FZ-07 street bike and heavier due to bigger wheels, more body, more fuel, and more luggage capacity.  Considering that the curb weight of the naked FZ-07 is 400 pounds, the adventure version might be 450 which is better than most other mid-weight adventure bikes, but still on the heavy side.

Finally, I emailed the CCM people to get an idea of when the GP450 might make it to the US.  They were actually kind enough to reply and tell me it wouldn't be until 2018.

What to do?  What to do?  Clearly, I was itching for a new motorcycle. 

I have a million projects that take up my time.  I don't need a new motorcycle where I have to invent all the required mods.  That would take too much time and push back other projects.  It turns out that there are a small set of enduro bikes that people "convert" into travel/adventure bikes.  A little online research narrowed the field to one.  The KTM 690 Enduro is the best bike suited to travel/adventure and has the advantage of lots of aftermarket parts availability. 

The way I look at it, the 690 Enduro has a curb weight of 326 pounds with 65 HP.  It also has a trellis frame which I consider to be street oriented.  Of course, with extra fuel, a luggage rack, and a fairing, it would likely end up between 350 and 360 pounds, but that's 20 pounds less than the KLR and at least 100 pounds lighter than those promised 2018 bikes.

KTM 690 Enduro Issues

There are challenges.  The metal frame stops at the back of the engine.  All the weight of the rider on the seat and any rear luggage is supported by a plastic fuel tank.  That's a little scary.  But it turns out the tank is designed to carry two people and there are luggage racks that "help" support the weight of luggage.  Worth a try anyway.

The electrical system is maxed out at 224 W.  Unfortunately, there is no room for improvement within the existing alternator package, so I would have to work within the available power.  For contrast, the KTM 1290 Adventure has 450 W and the vaunted BMW GS has 600 W.  For those bikes, heated gear, GPS, etc are trivial.  The 690 Enduro will have to trade off efficiency for heated gear.  LED's anyone?

It turns out there are only 2 choices for street oriented tires that fit the 690 Enduro.  OK for now, but the risk is that I could have to convert to smaller wheels at a later date.  Happily, that only takes money as the Supermoto uses 17" wheels.

Fuel capacity is a challenge with only 3.2 gallons, but several aftermarket solutions are available.  Fairings, luggage racks, lowered foot pegs are all available to suit in the aftermarket.

Get ready, get set, .......

So here is the definition of the project.  Find a used KTM 690 Enduro.  Modify it with bolt-on parts to fit me and my kind of riding, and see if it's as good as I hope. 

As for the first step, I found one in Buffalo.  A 2014 with only 674 miles on it.  Time to order stuff on the internet.