KTM Unveils Their 2017 Range of Enduro Machines

Another 12 months, another round of off-road motorcycle upgrades. Despite only being five months into 2016, KTM is kicking things of first with their range of enduro machines. It’s a big range of updates too with KTM claiming a massive 90 per cent of the 2017 range’s components being brand new. Notable weight reductions of up to five kilograms have been realized throughout the model range, with improved mass centralization resulting in increased performance and better handling.

For MY2017 the line-up has been changed to include the 125 XC-W and 150 XC-W (replacing the 125 and 200 EXC), which are specifically designed for closed course racing, as well as the more traditional, fully homologated powerhouses with the 250 EXC and 300 EXC in the 2-stroke range. In the 4-stroke range KTM continues with its completely updated versions of the 250 EXC-F, 350 EXC-F models, as well as modifying the name of the higher capacity models to fall in line with the typical 4-stroke name to 450 EXC-F and 500 EXC-F.

Not only does each machine receive a new chassis with new suspension including the WP XPlor 48 upside-down split fork by WP, the R&D team in Mattighofen, Austria combined with its network of test riders, factory racing teams and input from KTM North America R&D, has worked tirelessly to deliver new engines at the same time with improved performance, reduced weight and a more compact size to assist with better machine handling.

KTM-MY17-EXC-06 KTM-MY17-EXC-04 KTM-MY17-EXC-01-2

With refinements from the frame and bodywork, down to the smaller details in the dashboard of these READY TO RACE machines, KTM has utilized the latest technology to consider every improvement possible for the amateur rider right up-to the professional world championship racer.

Following a tried and tested tradition, the specially finished SIX DAYS models stand side by side with the legendary, new generation EXC bikes. Available as 2- and 4-stroke bikes and equipped with several performance-enhancing and useful technical parts, the new “Six Days Spain” bikes, designed with sophisticated special graphics, top the latest KTM EXC model range.

Joachim Sauer (KTM Offroad Product Manager): “As the saying goes, after the race is before the race. According to our understanding in state-of-the-art development, the brand new line-up of our offroad competition Enduros are proof of KTM`s ongoing commitment to our core discipline. We believe this Endurosportmotorcycle range will push the excitement and satisfaction of any rider to a new level.”

KTM-MY17-EXC-01 KTM-MY17-EXC-07 KTM-MY17-EXC-05

SWM RS 650 R Review

The RS 650 R is the first bike under the Speedy Working Motors (SWM) name to come out in over 30 years. It enters an incredibly competitive off-road market and while the 600 cc dualsport isn’t going to break any records or transform the category as we know it, it’s an extremely solid and competent motorcycle that offers incredible value for money.

SWM was founded back in 1971 and had a great reputation among trials and enduro riders. Despite early successes, the company shut its doors in 1984. So how is it that the name now has been resurrected? Well, it’s complicated. The man behind the reborn SWM is Ampelio Macchi, a legend of the industry who has been behind brands such as Cagiva, Husqvarna and Aprilia. Upon BMW selling Husqvarna to KTM, he saw an opportunity and with backing by Chinese conglomerate Shineray purchased the Lombardia factory in Italy.

SWM RS 650 R

The Husqvarna factory wasn’t the only thing that Macchi got hold of though. The RS 650 R is essentially a Husqvarna TE630. Visually it appears identical save for the colour scheme. There’s been a few minor tweaks here and there but overall this is a bike that was released first in 2010. From a commercial point of view it’s a clever move. The TE630 was a reliable and capable machine and it lets SWM get to market quickly – saving years of developing a brand new bike. Those brand new bikes are coming – including 250 cc and 300 cc dualsports and motards, an adventure bike and some retro styled street bikes.

One of the advantages to being based on a discontinued bike is that the aftermarket support is already out there. Anything that fits the TE630 should bolt onto the RS 650 R without a hitch. That means you can get a safari tank that will double your fuel capacity, luggage racks, skid plate and more – something you wouldn’t normally get for a brand new bike, least not one from a newly established company.

My initial time on the RS 650 R was mainly some twisty mountains, country roads and a bit of gravel as well. The bike carved up the corners without any problems and given how the dynamics of the bike felt, the supermoto version of this bike (the SM 650 R) should be brilliant. The tires on the bike are Korean ‘Goldentyre’- rubber I’ve never heard of before and from the tread pattern look to be an 80/20 or 90/10 design for road/off-road use. They seemed to offer plenty of grip and I didn’t once feel unsettled on them though I’m sure most people would switch to a more known brand as soon as needed.

SWM RS 650 R

Being a thumper, vibrations are usually a given but they’re really not too noticeable on this bike. In fact, the lack of vibrations for the most part were very impressive considering I was the first person to ride this bike save for SWM’s sales rep who bolted it together a week earlier. Only 200 clicks had been put on it before I was handed the keys so after a few weeks of solid riding the bike will no doubt loosen up nicely. Vibrations really only become apparent above 5,000 rpm but given that in sixth gear on the highway speed limit you’re only sitting on around 4,650 rpm, it’s really not an issue.

There’s a definite truck like quality to the engine, both in its sound (a rough grumble) as well as how much torque it has down low. It’s definitely a highlight of the single cylinder 600 cc unit – even as high as third gear it briskly responds when you need some extra speed without any hesitation – great for when you’re tackling tricky terrain and don’t want to have to change gears.

Front and rear brakes both feature Brembo callipers with a single 300mm disc up front and a 240 mm one at the back. Brake response at the front was very good with excellent feel as you squeeze the lever in. The back brake I felt locked up a little too easily on bitumen with just a small push of the lever seeing you put down a strip of rubber on the road.

SWM RS 650 R

After spending a few hours on the black stuff I finally arrived at the off-road part of my journey. It would be an hour long trip of Duck Creek Road, a public road that meanders through private properties and up to the summit of a national park.

As I hit the dirt I realised I hadn’t brought my tyre pump with me. So in addition to the road biased tyres, I also had to deal with higher than ideal tyre pressures. The RS 650 R performed flawlessly though. The road wasn’t just easy to ride hard packed dirt either – there was ruts, potholes full of water and plenty of rocks – both rough and smooth – and the bike performed effortlessly. A set of knobbies and proper tyre pressures would probably see this machine capable of tackling all but the most technical of terrain.

That’s no doubt thanks to the weight of the SWM RS 650 R. At 147kg fully fueled (claimed), it’s a mere 10 kg more than Yamaha’s benchmark WR250R dual sport – but with plenty more horsepower and oodles more torque. It even feels lighter than it is too – comparing it to our KLX250S project bike (which weighs slightly less), the Kawasaki feels frumpy. SWM must be using some of that magic dust Honda has access to that makes its bikes feel lighter than they are. They’d be able to shave a few more kilograms off the total too if they did away with the dual exhaust cans…

SWM RS 650 R

The great handling is also down to the quality suspension that the bike comes with. Though you could spend a couple of thousand dollars on aftermarket fork and shock upgrades, only the most hardcore of riders will really need it. The 45mm upside down Marzocchi forks up front and the Sachs rear shock to a very good job given the price point of this bike with plenty of room to customise your setup but even out of the box the handling was great.

It’s a huge advantage that this bike has – the agility (or very close to it) of a small dual sport but with the power of a mid-capacity machine. It makes overtaking on highways a breeze with acceleration that while not sportsbike quick is nevertheless still very rapid.

The standard gearing of the bike is a pretty good compromise between off and on road applications. As mentioned before there’s plenty of torque so tootling around the trickier stuff in second gear is for the most part fine. On the terrain where first gear is required it’s generally happy to putter along without any clutch input until the inclines start to get steep – not bad for a bike that will sit at 100 kph in sixth gear with plenty in reserve.

Fifth and sixth gear are definite overdrive gears and if I had my way, I’d probably go up a couple of teeth on the rear sprocket just to make the bike easier to use on tighter trails. That would also potentially make second gear more useful at slower speeds too – something of a personal preference of mine as I sometimes find the engine braking when in first gear a little too abrupt.

SWM RS 650 R

The ergonomics of the bike are fairly standard, with the bars low enough to encourage an attack position when standing. That might not suite some taller riders who prefer higher bars when riding more casual trails but it is good for higher speed cornering. The seat is fairly flat and gives you plenty of room to move back and forward depending on your preference. Being essentially a dirtbike, the pew is hardly comfortable but on the flip-side I’ve sat on plenty worse.

Annoyingly, the sides of the petrol tank are not only wide, the lip of them has a slightly exposed edge at the seam where your legs sit. By the end of my first day of riding the RS 650 R, my nylons had caught on this countless times and my knee braces (despite being under my pants) had scuffed up the plastics pretty badly. I’d hate to see what it would look like after a few months of riding.

Two other quibbles I had were that the brake lines are positioned in such a way that when you’re sitting down they partially block the view of the diminutive display and depending on your height will mean you either can’t see the speedo or the tacho – or both. The kickstand is also a pain in the rear. It’s too long by a good inch and a half meaning you need to tilt the bike to the right in order to properly extend it. It’s also on a spring and automatically pops back up – that will no doubt cause a few drops for new owners.

SWM RS 650 R

Strangely, later in the day as I was returning home on the freeway in moderate traffic, the bike had some speed wobbles – it became apparent at around 110 kph and saw the front end shimmy from side to side – not uncontrollable but not nice either. I didn’t notice any shimmy at the front earlier in the day but I hadn’t taken the bike up to those speeds, either. Searching Google to see if the issue appeared for owners of the Husqvanra TE630, it seemed that the main culprits of the speed wobbles were incorrect rear sag and unbalanced tyres. After adjusting the rear sag for my weight and taking the bike back out on the freeway, the problem was gone.

From my week of riding the RS 650 R, I really enjoyed it. It was a blast on the trails with great low down torque, plus its extra power made merging and overtaking on the highway a breeze. It has a few design quirks which detract from the bike but you can perhaps overlook those when you see the price. In Australia the bike sells for $9,490. By way of comparison, the new Husqvarna 701 Enduro’s asking price is $15,995. That’s a massive difference for what is in essence a Husqvarna in many respects anyway. In the UK it’s a similar story with the SWM going for £5,699 while the Husqvarna will set you back £7,999. That is nothing short of amazing value for a tried and tested platform that already has plenty of aftermarket support.

SWM RS 650 R SWM RS 650 R

SWM RS 650 R

IMG_7889 SWM RS 650 R SWM RS 650 R

Riding the Trails of Bali

The island province of Bali, Indonesia might be a hugely popular tourist destination but it’s hardly renowned for its trails. But perhaps it should be because when you have access to hundreds of kilometres of world class trails across a wide range of locations less than an hour from your hotel door you know you’re somewhere special.

Disclaimer: We paid full price for our day with Bali Dirt Bike Tours in order to maintain journalistic independence and because they do such a damn good job they deserve every dollar.

The company was founded five years ago and was the first such enterprise in Bali – perhaps all of Indonesia. Gede Wirawan is a native of the island who has been riding since a very young age. He founded Bali Dirt BIke Tours in 2010 after returning from a five year stint working in Australia. Gede, his business partner Panu and the guides are all Balinese, meaning all the money stays in the country – a positive for those who are socially conscious about these things.

After being collected from our hotel in Seminyak, we arrive at the home base of Bali Dirt Bike Adventure Tours, located in the Gadungan Jungle of Tabanan. Not only is this where most of their tours originate from, it’s also home of their motocross track where everyone does a few laps of for the tour guides to assess each riders’ competency. As you can imagine for a place like Bali that attracts many young tourists, the group gets a lot of fairly inexperienced riders through. Some (such as myself) have plenty of road experience but little on the dirt while others have never ridden on anything more complicated than a scooter.

The motocross track gives you time to get used to the bike and show the tour guides what you're capable of.

The motocross track gives you time to get used to the bike and show the tour guides what you’re capable of.

“We often we get the question, ‘How far, what’s the distance we travel and how many hours?'” says Gede. “It all depends how you ride. If you’re good rider, you cover distance more. If you’re a less competent rider you cover less distance.” Once the team assesses your abilities on the bike they’ll lead you out, giving you a taste of what Bali has to offer and depending on how you’re going (or your levels of fatigue) they’ll continue to adjust the tour accordingly.

I was riding with a relative newbie, Vladamir, who has lived in Bali for the last six months. His experience was limited to scooters but also downhill mountain bike riding so he had an idea of what was in store – just at a higher rate of speed. We were put to the test on what our guides Kadek Wira & Yoga descried as medium difficulty trails – some slippery hills covered in leaf litter (which I failed at the first time), some winding and sloping single track that required heavy use of the rear brake, rocky creek crossings and some extremely patchy roads.

Vladimir almost made it across the creek. Almost.

The learning curve is high, as are the levels of fatigue – that’s a combination of the difficulty for someone with little experience in enduro riding plus the always warm and humid Balinese weather. The guides thankfully have plenty of drinking water on hand and ensure that after an hour or so of riding we can have a cool break at a local waterfall.

The scenery on offer is stunning. Jungle, farmland, rice fields, small villages and towns. It’s incredible the sheer variety on offer within what is only a few kilometres radius. And this tour we’re doing is only half a day long – I can only imagine what would be in store on multiple day stints.

Respite at the waterfall with our guides.

Respite at the waterfall with our guides,  Kadek Wira & Yoga

Noticing our tiredness, the guides give us some easier trails after our dip in the water. These were faster flowing trails instead of the more technical stuff we’d just encountered. It was capped off by a few minutes of riding on the beach – another highlight to what I can only describe as an amazing day.

There’s very little I can say in the negative about the day we had. Perhaps bring your own nylons or a long sleeved cotton shirt as the nylons they provide didn’t breathe very well. They do however provide excellent quality boots and good helmets, too. Elbow, knee and body armour is also all provided should you want it.

Terrain varied from jungle, to farmland, rice paddies, towns and dusty trails.

Terrain varied from jungle, to farmland, rice paddies, towns and dusty trails.

Bali Dirt Bike Tours offers half day, full day and multiple day tours and even do major events once or twice a year where they’ll do trans-island tours from Bali onto other islands. The price for our half-day tour was $100 US and included transfers to and from the hotel as well as lunch. When you cosnider the beatings these bikes take (plus the fact that dirt bikes aren’t exactly cheap in Indonesia) it’s brilliant value. Multiple day tours even include accommodation which thankfully also has a swimming pool to ease the muscle strain at the end of the day.

What I loved about the whole organisation is that they’re big on developing the bike culture in Bali. Every weekend they get hundreds of young riders together at their motocross track and go off on the trails. Every participant is encouraged to donate to the local farmers, thereby giving them something int he region of $500 each weekend to share among the locals to improve their lives.

Riding on the black sandy beach ended a perfect day of riding.

Riding on the black sandy beach ended a perfect day of riding.

 

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and 701 Enduro to be Released Simultaneously

We’ve received confirmation that both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and its knobby tired brother, the 701 Enduro will both be released at the same time. That means in November across Europe and Australia and in February in North America. And yes, both bikes will find their way to the US and Canada.

This has been confirmed to us by a number of dealerships around the world where Husqvarna has been doing product previews and demonstrations with sales staff in preparation for the upcoming release. We’re also hearing some additional information that might answer a puzzling question about these upcoming Husqvarna releases.

That question is why is Husqvarna making such a big deal about the 701 Supermoto (and no doubt the enduro version when it’s released) when they’re both pretty similar (if not identical) to the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 Enduro R? Well, some – but not all – of the dealerships that we’ve spoken to say that those two models won’t be released in 2016 by KTM – effectively leaving the bikes as Husqvarna exclusive models.

That would make sense as there isn’t a big enough a market for the two companies to cannibalise each others sales. It also gives the two brands greater differentiation as they continue to branch off in direct ways.

Both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and Enduro will feature a 690cc thumper producing 67bhp, ABS brakes, WP suspension and multiple engine modes. The supermoto features a slipper clutch which is something we’d assume is deleted for the enduro model, along with slightly modified suspension and geometry.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

 

KTM 2016 ISDE Special Editions

Each year KTM competes in (and usually quite successfully) the International Six Day Enduro event, or ISDE. And each year KTM commemorates the event with a range of special edition motorcycles. These aren’t just some pretty stickers slapped on, the ISDE upgrades focus on performance as well as aesthetics.

For the last few years, ISDE editions have focused mainly KMT’s off road only offerings but this year KTM is also giving the ISDE treatment to the KTM 500 EXC which is a 510 cc dual sport – effectively a purpose built enduro bike that you can legally ride on the street. Also on the receiving end of updates is the 300 XC-W two-stroke and 350 XCF-W four stroke.

All three models get closed-cartridge 4CS forks, modified valving, a lighter aluminium rear sprocket, a Camel seat which is said to be more comfortable as well as a solid rear brake rotor for minimised pad wear. Visual changes to all three include orange radiator shrouds, orange chain guide and ‘Six Days’ graphics.

Both the 350XCF-W and 500 EXC get a radiator fan while the 300 XC-W is fitted with a carbon fibre pipe guard and charcoal grey coloured silencer.

All models are available for ordering now and will be available worldwide.

Gas Gas Motorcycles To Be Liquidated

It sadly looks like the end of the road for Spanish trials and enduro manufacturer Gas Gas. Those following the story will probably be aware that the company entered into bankruptcy proceedings last month due to being unable to service its debts. It was hoped that this would buy the company time to enter further negotiations with creditors or find a wealthy suitor to take the company over.

That appears to have failed and now the assets will be sold off in an attempt to repay creditors what they’re owed. It would therefore appear that Gas Gas will not be thrown any lifelines and it’s the end of another niche motorcycle manufacturer.

The following is a statement from Gas Gas:

Dear customers, partners and friends,

 

We will contact you to give you news about the current situation of the company.

 

As you know, in recent months the company of renegotiating its debt several times in order to continue production. Unfortunately, despite the efforts made ​​to achieve this goal, it was impossible to find an agreement and finally the decision was made ​​to put the company Gas Gas Motos SA in bankruptcy.

 

In this process, management, accounts receivable and trade unions working together to get all the necessary information to proceed as soon as the sale of the factory and quickly reach agreement with potential buyers.

The purpose of the sale of the plant is to revive the brand in a way that will allow us to continue to produce our enduro and trial in the future, but also to ensure stability and sustainability.

 

During the sales process, we will join our efforts to ensure the services in spare parts and after-sales department in order to avoid penalizing our customers.

Gas Gas sincerely thank you for your support during these difficult months and hope you share his total conviction of a positive outcome in the process of selling the plant.

Gas Gas Motos Files for Bankruptcy

Husqvarna Announces 2016 Enduro Range

Husqvarna has announced their 2016 enduro model range with a host of minor to moderate changes to their bikes. Engine, chassis and suspension upgrades focused on improving off-road performance along with a cosmetic changes have been made across the board. This follows on from announcements by all the Japanese manufacturers of their updated offroad lineups for 2016.

On all 2016 enduro bikes a new lighter 22 mm front axle with optimised axle clamp dimensions replaces the previous 26 mm axle to offer improved stability and better front-end feel. Shorter axle clamp offset also helps improve fork function. The triple clamps on all bikes now feature a 22 mm offset which is designed to evenly distribute the clamping force on the fork leg, when combined with the new front axle and axle clamp geometry it ensures improved agility and stability. The triple clamps also allow for four handlebar positions to suit the needs of a wide variety of riders.

Complementing the front axle and triple clamp updates, the 4CS fork – now in its fourth year of production – has been further developed to improve damping, handling, plushness and rider comfort. Easy access clicker dials provide quick adjustments on the go. The high performance DCC (Dual Compression Control) rear link suspension made by WP has a revised setup perfectly matching the geometry and setup changes on the front-end.

An updated lightweight six-speed gearbox with enduro specific gearing has been fitted to all enduro models to ensure easy and precise shifting. Combined with the DDS clutch system and the premium Brembo hydraulic system means the MY16 enduro range delivers smoother shifting and consistent clutch action. For 2016 the FE450 and FE 501 clutch basket is now 80 grams lighter.

 

 

Is the Christini 450DS the Best Enduro Bike You Didn’t Even Know Existed?

There are some amazing niche products available for those that like to ride offroad such as AJP, Beta, Gas Gas – but potentially the Christini 450DS is the best yet. That so many people haven’t heard of it before (including dual sport aficionados) is a crying shame but let’s try and rectify that. The Christini 450DS is an all-wheel-drive(!) dual sport based upon a Honda CRF450X that you can road register – and it only costs $8,995.

Christini actually started out as a mountain bike company, developing AWD technology for bicycles back in the 90s before selling the first model in 2001. In 2007, Christini sold their first AWD motorcycle and now offers a range of two and four stroke bikes – both competition only and street legal. So good is the technology that the US military employs the technology on many of the motorcycles they use overseas.

Christini’s patented mechanical All Wheel Drive system delivers power from the motorcycle transmission to the front wheel through a series of chains and shafts. There is no energy-robbing hydraulics involved. It can be turned off at any stage, too – should you wish to show your dirt riding prowess without additional assistance.

The lightweight all-mechanical system works similar to that of AWD systems found on four wheeled vehicles. The AWD system (powering the front wheel) is driven at a slightly lower rate than the rear wheel (approximately 80%). Under optimum traction conditions, the rear wheel is actually driving faster than the front AWD system. One-way clutches within the front hub allow the front wheel to freewheel under these conditions. At this point, the AWD system is effectively passive. Though the front AWD system is turning, it is not actually transferring power to the front wheel. When the rear wheel loses traction, the drive ratio, relative to your forward speed, changes. The AWD system engages, transferring power to the front wheel until traction is reestablished at the rear wheel.

The way the front system works is like pedaling a bicycle down hill. You are pedaling, but because of gravity (acting like the rear drive) the bike is traveling faster than you are delivering power. When you get to the bottom of the hill and slow down (similar to what happens when the rear wheel spins), you will begin to power the bike again.

An added benefit of AWD is that the front wheel does not want to wash out. When a front end tucks, the wheel stalls, stops turning, and begins to push. With the AWD system, as soon as the wheel begins to stall, power is delivered to the front wheel, forcing it to turn. With the front wheel under power, it is nearly impossible to wash out the front end.

The 450DS chassis and frame is based on the Honda CRF450x, modified to accommodate the required components for powering the front wheel. The engine is also based on the Honda and built by AsiaWing motors in China. We’ve talked to a few owners of the bike and they say it’s rock solid, engine included. In fact, Christini has kept things so in line with Honda that if a Christini dealer isn’t nearby, you can get the bike serviced at a Honda dealership.

The AWD 450 Dual Sport is an EPA approved street legal bike and includes DOT tires, lights, turn signals and mirrors.  It uses the same motor and suspension as the off road, but is more geared towards adventure.  You can cruise the roads, hit the trails and explore.

We’ve been in contact with local Christini dealers and actually hope to ride and review much of their range in the very near future.