Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Two Bike the Same/Different

One of the things that surprised me most was how different in feeling the KLR and KTM were for handling.  Just looking at the bikes, you would think they were pretty similar.  Yet they are so different that I have needed 9000 miles and most of two riding seasons to learn how to ride the KTM, at least on twisty roads with good pavement.

The way that I think of it, you rode the KLR a little bit like a dirt bike, even on pavement.  The bike wanted a lot of lean angle to initiate the corner, so I would lean the bike without leaning my body to start the corner, then lean my body to balance the bike as the lateral acceleration required.  This is very different from the way sport bike riders are taught to enter a corner, but it worked on the KLR and I rode the KLR for almost 15 years, so it became my riding "style".

Using this riding style, I had great confidence in the front end and, because I didn't have much horsepower, I was able to enter corners at higher speeds and keep my momentum up.

Needless to say, this didn't work on the KTM.  Over the two years and 9k miles, I tried many different ideas, including the traditional approach of moving your body center of gravity to the inside of the curve before beginning entry and then keeping the bike as vertical as possible to stay on the middle of the tire.  In the end, it took a combination of the sports bike technique with the addition of leaning/moving my weight forward before the corner.  Without adding a bit of weight to the front end, I just didn't have any confidence in the front end on corner entry.

That got me to wondering, what was different between the bikes.  Looking at the specs, the difference remains a big question to me.

Lets start with rake and trail.  This diagram was borrowed from Motorcycle Cruiser on line and I thank them.

You might say, feeling the front end should have a lot to do with rake and trail.  Let's see;

KLR rake 28 deg., KTM rake 27 deg.  Not much difference there.
KLR trail 111 mm, KTM trail 112 mm

Wheelbase can have a big effect on handling and the feeling of responsiveness.  Maybe the KTM has a shorter, more responsive wheelbase.

KLR 1490 mm, KTM 1504 mm

Seat height, the KTM is 3/4" higher
Suspension travel, KTM has 3/4" more travel at both ends
Dry weight - finally a real difference - the KTM is 40 pounds or about 10% lighter without fuel.

Still, I can't see any of these specs explaining the differences in handling I see between the two bikes.  I still have a lot to learn about bikes and what makes them work.

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