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WESTWARD HO!

Here's the complete and unexpurgated original version of the story I wrote on the KTM Adventure for TBM back in '97. Can't believe it was so long ago! Enjoy! PNB
WESTWARD HO!
WEST COUNTRY ADVENTURES ON A KTM ADVENTURE İ Paul Blezard '97 Originally written for TBM
Blez was the first Brit to give KTMıs Monster Trailie a serious test back in the summer of '97
With that huge bright orange tank-cum-fairing, KTMıs new Œrally tourerı is certainly an eye-catcher and no mistake. When it comes to street-cred and pose-ability itıs right up there with the most ostentatious of the Mega Trailies: SuperTen, Africa Twin, RGS1100BMW and Triumph Tiger. But appearances can be very deceptive, and the truth is that this Austrian single has virtually nothing in common with the aforementioned monsters except Œpresenceı on the street. For the first couple of days, just tooling around London, I was constantly aware of how un-user friendly the Adventure was compared to something like an Africa Twin. I kept thinking how disappointed anyone would be if theyıd been seduced by the KTMıs gorgeous good looks and bought one just for showing off in Soho or cruising down the Kingıs Road. The fact is that any poseur sensible enough to insist on a test ride before whacking out their American Express Gold Card would probably be put off the idea before theyıd even got around the block.

Mounting Problems.....
Most people will be looking for a ladder just to climb aboard unless theyıre already used to stirrups, reins and jodhpurs . Then,when their crotch hits the plank-like seat, theyıll be calling for a cushion, in a very high voice. At least you donıt have to worry about mastering the traditional left-side kick-start because unlike the pukka (and much more expensive) rally model on which itıs based, the Adventure is also fitted with an electric start. Thereıs not much else in the way of creature comforts though. There is a Œbalancerı in the 609cc single-cylinder motor, but youıd never guess it unless youıve experienced the eyeball-rattling vibration of the balancer-less KTM620SC - or a Norton P11 Sixties Desert Sled. Compared to an Aprilia Pegaso or even an XR600, (let alone the smooth V in an Africa Twin) the Adventure is still seriously vibratory - enough to blur the mirrors at most speeds and send an extraordinary throbbing through your knees via the massive tank. ŒVibration reducerı would be a more accurate description than Œbalancerı. Very tall ladies might love it.....

Parking Pergatory
Parking the thing in central London was a major headache, thanks to the combination of horse-high seat and crappy side-stand. Let me explain. The ŒSolo Motorcycles Onlyı bays in the West End are invariably well filled so you always have to squeeze into a tight space, often after moving mopeds and scooters to make enough room. So Iıd back the KTM carefully into the tight space, sat astride it, and then try to put the stand down. Often this in itself would be difficult enough, but as I stood up on the pegs and my weight transferred from seat to ground via the stand, the back would come up, the bike would go vertical and start to tip over onto the right while I frantically tried to get my right foot back onto the ground before we skittled an entire bay-full of bikes in a domino disaster. Safe parking required much cursing and swearing, shifting the back and bars around and making maximum use of any road camber. To be fair to KTM UK their man in the workshop, John Pocklington, had already warned me that theyThe dip beam had blown in the first few miles so I returned to KTMıs HQ to get the miniature Halogen bulb replaced and while there got them to put the shock back to the standard setting. There was an immediate improvement in the behaviour of the sidestand, but itıs still a long way from ideal. And unlike the rally bikes (and the 620EGS) thereıs no chance of swapping it for a centre stand due to the Adventureıs extraordinary 2-1-2 stainless steel exhaust system. I could go on for pages about KTM and their infernal stands; letıs just say they ought to allow their stand designer out of his Mattighofen hideaway to look at the oppositionıs efforts. Then he might appreciate that it is not beyond the wit of man to fit both a sidestand and a centre stand to one bike simultaneously!!! {[The dual stands on the Africa Twin, the F650 and even the dear old Army Armstrong ferchrissakes, come immediately to mind.
Talking of the MT and the F650, I had occasion to ride examples of both back to back with the Adventure before I left town. The Armstrongıs ancient air-cooled Rotax unit was a lot smoother than the supposedly more sophisticated engine in the KTM while the watercooled Rotax in the Funduro was not only smoother but felt considerably more powerful, as did the front brake, although I was astonished to discover that the huge-looking Adventure is actually lighter than the little BMW, (with an empty tank anyway - 166kg dry vs 170kg dry). Iıd be amazed if the KTM actually puts out more than about 40bhp at the rear wheel, which makes itıs lack of smoothness all the harder to understand - and to forgive. ]}

Nutty Lock Stop
I was irritated by the bikeıs lack of steering lock so I wound the lock-stop bolts several turns back into the bottom yoke. Nothing catches, so why donıt the factory set them like that in the first place? Talking of steering, itıs good to see Acerbis bark busters fitted as standard to the brace-less Magura bars although the combination of the two is so wide that if it were my own machine Iıd saw at least an inch off the bar ends.
The brakes were initially rather unbalanced, with the front lever feeling rather spongy and coming a long way back as the disc squealed like a stuck pig, while the back brake was ridiculously fierce and locked at the merest touch of the pedal. I couldnıt do anything about the sqealing but I reduced the free play on the front lever and increased it on the foot pedal which improved things all round. One up and empty, the brakes were powerful enough, but I think if I was using the Adventureıs full 350kg payload Iıd like a second front disc. Wo sind die schoene boxen? (Where are those lovely boxes?) There was just one thing missing before I went way out west - something to put my gear in. Those low twin exhausts have deliberately been designed to allow hard luggage to be fitted without making the bike as wide as a small car (a serious problem on other big trailies) Most of you will have seen the large colour-matched panniers in the KTM advert thatıs been running in TBM all year, but someone at the Austrian factory decided to swap the shapely orange numbers with a pair of large aluminium boxes, as beloved by overlanding Germans. KTM UK boss Raja Narayan reckons they have about as much aesthetic and sales appeal as Quasimodoıs hump, and has banished them from Blighty (and reduced the price accordingly). The bikeıs still ideal for throwovers of course, but I decided to fit a more elegant hump of my own - a Givi Maxia top box. The rack which comes as standard on the Adventure is the same spindly-looking thing fitted throughout the KTM range, but itıs solidly made and the Givi base rack slotted onto it

Trip-meter Tribulations
My first out-of town rendez-vous was down in Wiltshire with Neil ŒDust Trailsı Pidduck, to get some shots of the beast in action on the dirt. Bowling down the M3 I was surprised to discover that the big thumper was actually much smoother at 7,000rpm (100mph) than it is between 4,000 and 5,000. But at Fleet Services I had a frustrating time with the snazzy multiple-function digital speedometer. It can instantly switch from miles to kilometres, for both speed and trip and you can even make minute adjustments for different front tyre outer diameters, or for road book reading discrepancies, but all I wanted to do was zero the trip. Instead of a simple push of a button, I had to go through a whole range of parameters as if I were trying to pre-programme a bloody video {[and, as any teenager will tell you, no-one over the age of 29 is capable of doing that.]} When, by trial and error, I finally managed to get the trip zeroed, the digital clock told me that I had wasted five whole minutes on this simple task Whilst the tall screen certainly keeps the worst of the wind blast off you, it too could be better. Its narrowness ensures that your shoulders are left a bit exposed and the appalling optical quality means that you canıt safely crouch down and look through it, even on the motorway. I also noticed when I switched my Arai Dual Sport helmet from visor mode to peak that the wind noise and turbulence, which was already significant, increased dramatically. Ear plugs were essential out of town. {[Again, check out the Africa Twin for a shining example of how good a Big Trailie screen can be]}.

Green Lane Revelation
If you think Iım starting to sound like a whingeing old git ,then bear with me. My whole perception of the bike changed the instant I followed Neil off the tarmac and onto the first Wiltshire Green Lane. Whereas with an Africa Twin or a Super Ten, or even with a Transalp, Iıdıve had to back right off in deference to the road-biased tyres and heavy front end, with the Adventure it was a different story entirely. I had no trouble following Neil, riding a stripped-down XR650, along a deeply rutted and whoopy green lane. The massively meaty 50mm White Power Extreme forks were a revelation - they just soaked up everything that I threw at them and the faster we went, the better the suspension got. You canıt pick the front up on the throttle, at least not with four gallons of juice in the tank, but the bike was reassuringly stable, whether the wheels were on the ground or flying through the air off the top of a whoop.
KTMıs competition heritage shines through every moment that you spend on the dirt. They may be crap when it comes to side-stands and screens, but they sure know how to position a bikeıs weight and controls for dirt riding. I was equally comfortable and confident whether sitting down and bimbling or standing on the pegs and going for it, and the transition between the two positions was effortless. Mind you, when it came to turning the beast around in a narrow lane I was damn glad that Iıd adjusted the lock-stop bolts and I wished my legs were as long as Heinz Kinigadnerıs!
Obviously the bikeıs off-road ability has got as much to do with its relatively light weight as it does with the excellent WP suspension. This was particularly brought home to me when we were doing a series of shots of me hanging the back end out on one of the smooth dirt roads up on Salisbury Plain. As my confidence increased I got bolder and bolder (as you do!) until I finally pushed my luck too far and the front end let go. On any other monster trailie it would have been Œoops - bang crash wallopı, but with the KTM I just stuck my foot down and saved it, just as you would with an XR600, or whatever. It was the same when I hung the back end out on the brakes so far that it finally came round to meet me; again, I could just dab my way out of trouble instead of dropping the plot in an embarrassing heap. On the way back to Neilıs bijou billet we swapped bikes and took in a few more Green Lanes; he too came away impressed by the bikeıs off-road ability {[while I struggled to cope with the XRıs under-inflated and worn out knobbly tyres on the road, which made it feel distinctly unstable on tarmac and gave it the disconcerting habit of diving into corners like a shot dog]}...The KTM could pull away on the straights, but not by much, confirming my gut feeling that the engine is closer in output to an air-cooled XR mill than a watercooled Rotax, despite the optimistic Œ50bhpı claims.CHECK Back at the ranch, Neil said ³I was expecting a bit more oomph - itıs a bit flat in the middle isnıt it? but he was as impressed as me by its off-road ability. We also discovered that the dipped beam bulb had blown for the second time in less than 200 miles. Fortunately one of Neilıs mates runs a car repair business and he had one in stock, although fitting the replacement was a real fiddle - a flap in the inner fairing wo I continued westward as darkness fell, and my relief at finding a new bulb disappeared as the replacement stopped working just three miles down the road. After a quick check that it hadnıt just come loose I resigned myself to riding on to Devon with just a main beam and a sidelamp.
As I cruised down the A303, pondering on the pointlessness of fitting twin headlights if youıre only going to put one filament in each, the left hand (dipped beam) headlight suddenly burst back into life, then went out again a few seconds later. After a bit of experimentation I discovered that it would only stay lit if I kept my speed above 85mph - weird! The damn thing worked only intermittently for the rest of the journey. On the last few miles of the A38 to South Brent the heavens opened with a vengeance and seeing where the slippery and soaking wet road went as it snaked steeply downhill was a tad tricky with only a sidelight......In those circumstances, combined with a full tank, the bike felt rather top heavy, {[just as it had when I was chasing Neil down the narrow and twisting Wiltshire roads before we took to the dirt.]} Next morning I was awoken by the rhythmic beat of water on windows. Oh dear. Not ideal for a dayıs trail riding in South Devon. The sun had sneaked out but it was still drizzling when I arrived at Lee Mills Services for my 9am rendez-vous with Jeff Phelps of Adventure Tours. There were eight other riders, but no-one had anything bigger than a 400 and the least grippy tyre in sight was Pirelliıs MT21 which is still banned from most long distance trials for being too knobbly. Jeff looked at the smooth profile of the Metzeler Saharas, then looked at me as if I were deranged and said ŒLook at your tyres, man!ı I reckoned the Saharas would be OK if the going was dry, but after a night of torrential rain, I was starting to feel a bit nervous, especially since the bike was due to go on display at the Langrish motocross meeting the very next morning..... On the very first trail one of Jeffıs punters fell off his lightweight 125 right in front of me, for no good reason, but he was new to green laning. In fact the first few lanes were pretty straightforward and I was amazed at the grip I was getting from the Saharas. The trickiest lane of the morning was actually a tarmac road, one that dips in and out of the River Avon for nearly a mile to Aveton Gifford. The Adventurer came through the first few fords with flying colours despite its low-slung exhausts and a bow wave over the screen. I just made sure I kept it revving and it steamed through with no bother, while several of the lightweights conked out, thanks to either wet electrics or water in their low-slung cartbs. I hadnıt even got my feet wet when, half way across the very last ford, the water suddenly came up to the seat, the Adventure conked out and I had to get off and push with water up to my crotch. Curses! Mind you, most of the others conked out too, and while they were turning their bikes u It took over half an hour to revive a smelly KDX200 (doncha just hate riding behind pre-mix two-strokes?) but we eventually got it re-started and as I gained in confidence found I was able to stay feet up even on some of the muddy sections that had most of the others paddling like penguins. Towards the end of the morning we did a really overgrown lane with that most tiring of things, a really deep. narrow and slippery central rut which precludes anything but prolonged footing. About half way up it I was aware of unusual resistance but didnıt actually realise that Iıd got a nail in the back tyre till we got back onto terra tarmac. (Iıd left both tyres at about 30psi). Jeff said there was an ideal spot to have lunch and repair the flat not much further on, so I gently rode two more lanes standing up and leaning forward to keep as much weight off the back as possible. . By the time we got to the Watermanıs Arms at Bow, the lack of a security bolt meant that the tyre had well and truly spun on the rim, ripping the valve out and tearing the rubber rim tape asunder, but fortunately Jeff had a spare tube. With one man balancing the bike on its sidestand and two working on the wheel, Iıd barely had time to get the beers in before theyıd got the old tube out and the new one in. Thatıs my idea of painless puncture repair! (Thanks lads!) Talking of spannering, the Adventureıs toolkit is an exemplary collection of high quality, minimalist equipment and if it didnıt cost over £50 Iıd buy one for myself, although tea leaves can easily help themselves because thereıs no frigginı lock on the box, just as thereıs no lock on the cap of that 6 gallon tank - talk about spoiling the ship for a haıporth of tar!
The closest I came to dropping the bike was when I rashly rode it through the picturesque ford outside the pub - the stones in the water were covered with ice-like green stuff. I did a precautionary recce on Jeffıs 400 (which felt like a 125 after the bigıun) so I knew what to expect, but even so I had to foot and paddle desperately to get across. Again, with any other monster trailie Iıd have dropped the plot for sure.
After a splendid outdoor luncheon in beautiful sunshine we went on to have one of the most enjoyable afternoons of trail riding that Iıve ever had, despite being hampered by two more punctures on other machines. Highlights included storming up several rocky climbs non-stop and feet up, including the famous Corkscrew Hill. while the less experienced punters frantically pushed and paddled on their lightweight 125s. The Adventure was absolutely in its element in those conditions, the massive White Power forks just swallowing up even the most massive boulders - no matter how hard I hit them the KTM always stayed on line. Some of the descents were pretty tricky, especially those with deep narrow gullies but although I kept expecting the wide-looking twin downpipes to ground on the right, or even to get wedged in, somehow they never did. I vividly remember one incident in which I lost the front on some really slippery mud and went into a full-bore, feet-up front wheel drift which lasted for several seconds, but somehow managed to regain control without even taking a dab. I came out of that one with a big smile on my face feeling like Stephane Peterhansel, and by the end of the day I was ready to tackle just about anything short of a Welsh bog - and I wouldıve willingly had a crack at one of them if Iıd had knobblies! Jeff pronounced himself ŒF***ing amazedı at the bikeıs off-road ability. I was riding Œpathfinderı on the last trail which was so overgrown that I was glad of the protection provided by the screen and fairing, yet I was able to creep down it at walking pace, clutch home and feet up all the way.
I took my leave of the others at 5.30 when one of the 125s mysteriously conked out, because I needed time to clean the bike before it got dark. Back in South Brent, with the help of my friend Robert,we soon had the bike sparkling clean again. (Thanks, mate).{[ Rob owns an immaculate BMW GS100 ŒBumblebeeı and seeing the two machines parked side by side I was struck by how spindly the Beemerıs forks looked alongside the 50mm WP ŒExtremesı fitted to the KTM. They are just so meaty - and better in my opinion than the 45mm Upside-downies fitted to the 620EGS.]}
I headed back up the A38 and the A303 in the gathering gloom and this time the dip beam had gone on strike completely and the computer-like speedometer screen had mysteriously gone blank. In less than an hour and a half I was at another friendıs place near Warminster. Once more I awoke to the pitter patter of rain and as I set off towards Petersfield it was absolutely hissing down. Within ten minutes I could feel the water coming through the arms of my ultra-expensive Rukka Goretex jacket, but there was light relief to be had even in those conditions. Cruising at about 85-90 I was passing virtually all the four-wheeled traffic and quite a few bikes. I shot past two 916s and a Triumph 595 that were creeping along at about 65, their riders hunched over their tank bags looking absolutely miserable. Had to smile. I also caught and passed a BMW R1100RT, a bike whose fairing provides more protection from the elements than just about anything else on two wheels, but itıs still over 200lbs heavier than the KTM As I turned into the paddock at Langrish I was faced with my toughest Œtrailı yet. The torrential rain had made the grassy slope as slippery as ice, and a tractor was towing trucks and cars hither and thither. I got right through the paddock without mishap and could see my objective - the KTM stand - on the other side of the motocross track. The crossing point had been turned into a quagmire by both bikes and pedestrians, and it was uphill to boot. When practice ended and the gates were opened , punters instantly swarmed across so I had no chanace of a run up. I slipped and slithered across the first half, and got three quarters of the way across the second but on the steep climb out the Saharas just spun wildly and the bike started to tip...going, going, gone! Fortunately willing hands helped me pick up my fallen steed and there was no damage whatsoever - just a dollop of mud on the bottom of the tank and the right hand barkbuster. But the bike had got dirtier riding the last 50 yards than it had in After watching an excellent dayıs racing at Langrish I had another great thrash back along the A272, catching and passing another pair of sports bikes on the way. As I motored back up the M3 I reflected on the KTMıs good and bad points. For all its little annoyances -the stand, the speedo, the rock hard seat, this was a bike that I could definitely get attached to. A bike that would literally take you through hell and high water - or across the desert - and come out the other side unscathed. Yeah, it would be nice if it were smoother and more comfortable and had a bit more poke, but I can think of no other machine that combines such mile-munching open road cruise-ability with such awesome ability to soak up whatever rough terrain you care to throw at it. Besides, you can forgive a lot of a bike that can make you feel like Stephane Peterhansel! Donıt buy a KTM Adventure just for posing because youıll only be disappointed - buy one to have some serious adventures on, because thatıs what it was designed for.

Paul Blezard

Post Script: The last dipped beam had not blown, a bare wire was shorting it out. The speedo was working all the time, it was just that the contrast switch had been inadvertently adjusted.
KICK PROVIDES ŒBELT AND BRACESı - AND WILL EVEN START BIKE IF BATTERY IS COMPLETELY FLAT.
KTM OPTIONS INCLUDE A ROAD BOOK HOLDER AND GPS CONNECTION AND OF COURSE, THE DREADED PANNIERS. FRAME IS CROMOLY.
PRICE: (in '97) £7,000 PLUS ROAD TAX
£1,000 MORE THAN AN EGS620, BUT FOR THAT YOU GET MASSIVE TANK, FAIRING, PANNIER-FRIENDLY EXHAUSTS, BARK BUSTERS AND A THINNER, MORE UNCOMFORTABLE SEAT. ITıS STILL £3,000 CHEAPER THAN A PUKKA RALLY BIKE, AND THAT DOESNıT HAVE ELECTRIC START!
MAGURA BARS HAVE NO CROSS BRACE
ENGINE IS IDENTICAL 609CC UNIT TO THAT USED IN EGS620 ENOUGH FOR 100+MPH SMOOTH IT AINıT!
LONG, 60INCH WHEELBASE PROVIDES TREMENDOUS STABILITY ON AND OFF ROAD. 5 SPEED BOX IS WELL SPACED.
BACK OF BIKE IS BEAUTIFULLY NARROW -BARS ARE A BIT WIDE WITH BARK BUSTERS
TWIN HEADLIGHTS ONLY WORK ONE AT A (TIME IF AT ALL)- DOUBLE FILAMENTS WOULD BE BETTER PROTECTION AGAINST BLOWN BULBS AND VIBRATION IS SUSPECTED CULPRIT.
TOOLKIT IS GREAT - BUT THEREıS NO LOCK ON THAT CONTAINER. TWIN TAPS PROVIDE TWO RESERVE TANKS.
PASSENGER HANDLE HAS TO COME OFF TO REMOVE SIDE PANEL, BUT SEAT IS HELD ON WITH JUST ONE BOLT UNDERNEATH.
SHORT ARSES WOULD PROBABLY LIKE TO SEE A LOW SEAT VERSION AS PER THE 620LGS, WITH SMALLER WHEELS.
re; puncture; LACK OF CENTRE STAND IS NO PROBLEM WHEN YOUıRE MOB-HANDED!
BROKEN RIM TAPE WAS JUST KNOTTED BACK TOGETHER. SMALL NAIL DID THE DAMAGE. LUCKY SOMEONE ELSE HAD A TUBE AND LEVERS COS BLEZ CERTAINLY DIDNıT! THEREıS A HOLE IN THE RIM FOR A SECURITY BOLT, BUT NOTHING IN IT.
NYLON PLASTIC TANK IS VERY ROBUST AND HOLDS 28LITRES - VIBRATES AGAINST YOUR KNEES THOUGH.....
SEAT IS MARGINALLY MORE COMFORTABLE THAN A FAKIRıS BED OF NAILS.......

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