Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bar stuff: Mirrors, Instruments and Hand Guards: KTM 350 EXC-F

The stock mirrors are just uncool. Big, heavy and prone to breakage. So I make my own! A bicycle mirror and some hardware store parts:

And a nice little mirror is made!

Mounted up:
 These mirrors actually work pretty well for me. But I'll note my riding is 99% off road, so I don't need them much!

For my riding in the desert I use a Garmin Dakota 20. Usually I map a track out ahead of time with the Basecamp software and then just use the Garmin to follow the track. For me that it works pretty well. But if you don't have a pre-made track it can be pretty hard to use with the small screen. I use a RAM bicycle handlebar mount and it works great. This mount has an easy off feature (for the mount, not the Garmin) that I epoxied in place. I think this is so you can use the mount on different vehicles or bikes but no accidental "easy off" mount for me! But the Dakota still installs and removes from the mount easily.
Also, I really like having a tachometer. Being a long time street rider I can't tell my RPM by ear on the dirt bike. I used a Trail Tech meter and bar mount. (Interestingly, the Trail Tech doesn't keep in synch with the KTM meter, it reads higher.)

You can't tell from these pics, but the Garmin and tach do not block the stock instruments.

I just wrapped the tach wire to the spark plug lead. Works fine:

On hand guards: I really like the Cycra guards. So I ordered up a set with the CRM (Center Reach Mount) system. This system uses a clamp that abuts the bar clamps. Seems like a good idea because the bar is a constant diameter at the center. But... I really wasn't happy with how the clutch line is forced to bend around the mount. I worried a crash could move the mount and damage the clutch line. I also found this interference limited the position I could place the clutch lever and the guard:

I should add that this might also be a problem with some of the mounting systems that are integrated into the handle bar top clamps. Check that out out carefully before you buy.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I immediately had a big smash and actually bent the guards. I used this as an excuse to change to the original style Cycra guards and mount. In this next pic you can see the bar mount for the original style installed to the left of the CRM mount. The original style mount goes right around the clutch line without any interference:

Much better! I also had a bunch of guards at this point so I went for an asymmetrical look:

And of course, I'm always ready for a Zombie attack... so I appropriately stickered the bike!

Radiator Fan Install, but no Guards: KTM 350 EXC-F

As usual, E-Ticket has done a great job showing how to install the radiator fan:

I can only add a few tips of my own.
Since I'm running the big KTM 13 liter tank, the sides of my radiators are pretty well protected. And the places I ride, mostly the desert, I haven't had any concerns about getting the radiator speared.  Another thing about riding in the desert, you want to maximize your cooling. And I've already mentioned I don't like excess weight... well, so no radiator guards for me. Hopefully I won't get taught a bad lesson for that choice later...

I also endorse E-Ticket's choice of Engine Ice coolant. These bikes don't have catch tanks and Engine Ice is MUCH more environmentally friendly in case of an overflow.

I used the stock thermostat that comes with the kit. Seemed fine. I have heard it go on while waiting for a stop light once.

The rubber boot that covers the thermostat has a small drain hole in the bottom to let water out. But I'd rather not let much in so I zip tied the wire entry tightly closed and filled it with some sensor safe RTV. Some silicones use a acetic acid ingredient to cure... and that acid is bad for electronics and wiring. Be sure to avoid that kind of RTV!  (Good tip from ChasM).

I'll also note that that the wiring was a PITA. The connectors were buried in the harness and had to be dug out. And then getting the bits of wiring and fuse carefully tucked away took some trial and error. I ended up fitting the fuse on the other side of the bike like this:

It's critical that all the wiring be tucked away so there is no rubbing or interference with the gas tank. I don't want a wiring failure way out on the trail somewhere!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blinkers and Tail Pack: KTM 350 EXC-F

The stock blinkers and license plate holder on the KTM are fine. Well, the blinkers do stick pretty far out and the license plate holder does hang pretty far down...
Putting smaller turn signals on makes them much less vulnerable. A lot of guys use flush mount signals, but that looks too "outlaw" to me, so I just use little LED ones. I found mine on e-Bay and bought a Sicass racing blinker relay (necessary or the LED signals won't blink correctly.) I'll note the first eBay blinkers I bought had some LEDs out in them and I had to buy some more. You might want to test cheap blinkers before mounting them.
For the fender, you can get the under fender and brake light from the KTM XCF-W and they bolt right on. So that was my plan.
While installing the fender and the blinker stuff, I also put a tail bag on the bike. Putting weight way out the back isn't a great idea, but I carry a good amount of tools and safety equipment and like it permanently attached to the bike. I've had good results with the Moose Racing Rear Fender Pack. Note they make two versions of this, one that straps on and one that bolts on. I'm a fan of the bolt on one. Installation was finicky, as you want to put the bolts in just the right place. I got different bolts and washers at the hardware store and carefully marked stuff before drilling any holes. Also note that I bolted mine to the orange upper part of the fender before installing the under fender, I did not drill through to the under fender. But as I said, it is a finicky job to avoid the wires and find a spot for the bolts to go that won't interfere with the fit of the underfender. It took a while.
Here's a pic of the new rear end:

I've had trouble with the blinkers getting water in them when I wash the bike... but a little silicone sealant solves that. I suggest putting it in and letting it dry before mounting the signals.

Here is a pic of the front with the little signals:
The pic above also shows Cyra guards with athe CRM mount. I don't recommend that mount... more on that later.

Moving the Horn: KTM 350 EXC-F

As usual, E-Ticket has a great writeup on moving the horn to a "safer" location:

I looked around a bit and couldn't find a better place than he did. However, I didn't bend the bracket, I cut it a bit shorter and put in a new hole. I think shorter is better and the angle worked out well that way. Here's a pic of the cut, drilled and painted bracket along with the removed part:

And here is a pic of the horn installed:

Almost Bling: KTM 350 EXC-F

Pipe guard
I had Pirie guards on my Husky and loved them. But I wasn't willing to wait for them again. KTM had this one and it seems to be fine. Actually, the hardware seemed the same as my old pirie. The big difference is that this one doesn't have an aluminized reflective back coating. So far it hasn't melted. ;-)

Bling: KTM 350 EXC-F

I don't really believe in bling... but! I saw this cool oil cap on eBay. On my old bikes I found the oil cap often seemed to be hard to remove. This one has a 6mm hex socket built in, so removal should be easy with the standard KTM wrench. Also has holes for safety wire should I want to do that.

Skid Plate Fix: KTM 350 EXC-F

The EXC-F doesn't come with a skid plate, so I ordered the KTM one. I noticed this is fastened with only a single zsus fastener. My dealer recommended I drill another hole in in and to use a zip tie to be sure it doesn't fall off.
Hmm... it was easy enough to order a 6mm U nut fairing clip (extruded U nut fastener). Here is a pic of the original zsus and the new u nut:

Here it is installed... slides right on:

And finished with a handy panel bolt. I added a captive washer to the back of this bolt so it stays on the skid plate even when it is removed from the bike:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Big KTM Tank: KTM 350 EXC-F

One of the main reasons I went from Husky to KTM was the great availability of aftermarket parts. Most critically, I wanted a big tank. My old Husky had a total range of only about 50 miles... that just wasn't working for exploring. So the same day I bought the KTM I also ordered a big tank. I actually negotiated it as part of the purchase deal.
I bought the Orange 13L (3.4g) KTM tank, as it was bigger, but not way bigger than I needed. I should note that I don't think this tank is compatible with the smog canister.
I should also say I'm not sure this tank will fit properly on the new 2014 bikes. You can see the plastic at the junction of the side panel and tank is different on the '14. It may only be a cosmetic issue. But regardless those concerns were one of the reason's I pulled the trigger and bought a 2013.
Here are a few pics:

Mounting it was pretty straightforward.  You do need to use new hardware on the tank as the fittings from the original tank won't fit. That hardware came with my tank. Also note the radiator mounting tabs are unused.
 This confused me for a moment as I thought those tabs might endanger the tank in a fall. But the hardware kit come with rubber bumpers to install in those tabs so all is good! Note the stock horn mount location is on one of these tabs. I moved my horn... more on that in a later post.

Also note you will probably need new hose clamps for your fuel line:

Also, on the first fill I carefully marked the gallons on both sides of the tank.  That often helps to let you know if you can make it to the next gas stop!

Desmog: KTM 350 EXC-F

This is the infamous smog canister:

E-Ticket’s description of this process is great. You can find it here:

Why desmog? The can is known to fill with fuel if your tank is filled all the way and it can make starting hard. Magazines noted this in their reviews. What do you need to do if the canister  fills with gas and causes problems? You have to take the canister off and empty the gas in it... and you shouldn’t pour this dirty gas back in your bike... so if you are wilderness somewhere what are you going to do? No, no that doesn’t sound very good!
The smog stuff also gets in the way of servicing the bike. Many of the larger fuel tanks won’t fit on the bike with this cannister in the way. It’s heavy. And... well thats enough for me.
A couple other points on desmogging:
There is a vent on the cam cover that goes to the airbox. Some people remove that stuff as they don’t want any oil from the airbox getting into the intake of the engine. Personally, I note the XCF-W also has this same venting arrangement to the intake, so I kept it that way. Other people choose to vent the cam cover to the atmosphere, but I personally see no big advantage there.
Also, you need a bolt to plug the hole where the SAS mounting spigot. I don’t see this in the XCF-W parts book and my bike didn’t come with one. I've since heard in might be in the 500s parts book? You can find bolts that fit (like some oil drain plugs might be the right size). There are vendors who sell a desmog kit with a nice aluminum bolt, but they are expensive. I ended up going that route, but I was unhappy with the kit and thus won’t mention it here.

Fork Bleeders: KTM 350 EXC-F

Then what? Well I started easy. I wanted some fork bleeders. I truck the bike to the trails and I like letting the pressure out of the forks while the bike is tied down. And of course zeroing the pressure after unloading and before riding is important.
I wanted some low profile bleeders, as some that I’ve seen stick up pretty high. Surfing a bit I found these by System Tech Racing, STR.
Installation is simple, and here they are on my bike. You can see the bleeder is nice and low. And they come with a sweet orange top.


I bought a 2013 KTM 350 EXC-F about 3 months ago, after selling my 2010 Husqvarna TE 250. I had the Husky set up just as I wanted and I knew that I would do most of the same mods to my new KTM right away.
Fortunately, E-Ticket has written a GREAT guide on for most of the great mods for the 350. He deserves most of the credit as much of what I ended up wanting to do had been done by him first and it made it easy to read his directions. Thank you E-Ticket!
That said, sometimes I have my own take I things and I’ll show them here. For instance, I’m short and light, so some of the mods are focused on helping me reach the ground. And I’ve very careful to try and keep things as light as possible.
Here is the bike when I started:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cutting the Seat, Lowering the Bike: KTM 350 EXC-F



One of the best ways to lower the height of a motorcycle is to cut the seat. It's cheap, fairly easy if you are patient and even if you blow it it's not to expensive to fix (on my KTM a new replacement seat is about $100).

I have pretty short legs (a 28" inseam) so I decided to cut the seat on my KTM as low as it could go. Obviously, you can cut your seat much less than this.

What do you need
- a pneumatic staple gun. You can't do this with a hand held stapler, don't even try. Alternatively, you can do everything else, and then bring the seat to your local upholstery shop and ask them to staple the cover on for you. I've done this and its very quick and easy for a pro, maybe 15 minutes!
- stainless steel staples (no rusting!) I use 1/4 deep. You want them short so they don't go through the foam.
- a LONG bread knife. The longer the better. I use a 10" one.
- a Surform flat file. Get one, it's worth it. I've heard guys do the final shaping with sand paper... that must take forever! The Surform makes it easy.
- a vacuum cleaner to clean up all the foam bits and dust
- a day without wind (or a well lit garage)

Step one: Photos
Take pictures of your existing seat for reverence. Particularly take shots of the existing staple work so you can reference them when you put your staple on. The bottom of most seats is irregular, and seeing how the factory placed the staples can help.

Step Two: Cover Removal
Remove the existing cover. In some cases you might not have to take it all the way off, like if you only want to trim the front of the seat. I use a pic to pry the staples up:

And then pliers to pull the staples out:

Step Three: Marking the Seat
This is the important part to get right. Mark a line down the middle of the seat from front to back with a fine point sharpie (felt tip pen).  Then mark a cut line on both sides of the seat. Measure down from the center line to be sure the lines on both side are symmetrical.  You can see I have all sorts of marks that I used to make my measurements. The black line is the "cut line" is where I want to cut. It is important to make another line a "reference line" (I used red) a bit below the cut line! Because after you cut and file a bit, your cut line will be gone, the red line below serves as a reference after the cut line is obliterated. (I learned to do this the hard way.)
You need to be very careful to look at the underside of the seat and to be sure you leave enough foam to protect your butt from the seat pan. This is the time to inspect, measure and mark carefully. And then to check it all twice more.

Step Four: Cover the Bike
Cover the bike and put the seat back on. I've done this without covering the bike and foam got everywhere... not good as you don't want foam bits to melt onto hot parts of your bike next time you run it. Cover the bike to prevent this problem. Also, do this on a day without any wind, otherwise the foam filings will blow everywhere!

Step Five: Cut!
Cut the seat. The picture below is from cutting my old Husky. Getting started can be hard, especially with a thin cut. It might be better to make the first cut in the middle where it is thickest. A long knife allows you to hold both ends and watch the cuts on both sides of the bike. An assistant can be helpful with this too... my wife was kind enough to watch the far side and warn me if I was heading off course. You really need a knife longer than the cut you are making. Note on this cut on the Husky seat I don't have the extra red line for a reference. It would have been easier with that.

Here is the slice I took out of the KTM seat. You can see I started in the middle where it was a thick cut  and did the front part and then I cut the rear. Frankly, it's easier to make a big cut like thin than a thin one! It's like cutting soft bread!

Step Six: File or Sand

This is a great shot. This is right as I started filing with the Surform. You can see the uneven cut marks from the bread knife. You can also see the red marking line that will help me keep the seat even after the other black line has been obliterated.

And here is the seat after I finished filing the flat top. You can see it's smooth but not perfect. Small imperfections will be invisible when you pull the seat cover tight over the foam.  Get the seat as good as you can but don't worry any small stuff.

The original KTM seat has a bevel, it's not a flat top like above. So I drew a new center line and two other lines parallel to it to mark where the bevel would end. I wanted the bevel to end crisply on the top. Some people might prefer it to be rounded but this was my choice. I also added some marks for the bottom edge of the bevel, but they aren't in this photo.

Here is a picture of me making the final bevel with the Surform file. I use the Surform to do all the final touches.

 Step Seven: Covering
I use a layer of thin plastic wrap from the kitchen over the seat. I'm not sure this is necessary, but I'm a bit concerned the raw seat from the cutting might be more likely to absorb water. Hopefully this thin plastic layer would prevent that. You can also see the sharp edges I made on the bevel and the remnants of the pen marks I made to guide that filing.
And here is a shot of the scotch tape I used to hold the plastic wrap in place while I covered the seat.

Now it's a time to stretch the cover on.  You saw earlier I removed a lot from this seat, so I had to work stretch the cover tight  Fit the ends over first and put a few staples on those ends to hold it in place if necessary. Then do the middle! The middle really has to be tight first before you can work back to the ends. You don't want to end up with loose material in the middle of the seat.
Here are some shots of all my stapling.

Here are my shots of the finished seat. This is just about as thin as this seat can be. Note how nicely the bevel came out and how nice and smooth the cover is. I'm really happy with it.

Another sample
These are shots of my Husky that I did about a year ago.
On this seat I removed much less foam. You can also se that I left this seat a bit rougher before covering it. The front foam was very thin and I was just hesitant to file too much away. The ridges in the foam ended up being invisible through the cover, but you could just feel them with your hand if you checked. So Ideally you would sand it a bit smoother than this. But you can how nicely even this thin cut came out!