In past versions of the tech tips column I have concentrated on maintenance and repair tips for select areas of the motorcycle. This issue, if I may, I would like to diverge a little from the usual format. Sometimes a little change is a good thing, isn’t it? Call it a project if you like. This instalment will be part one, call it “The Beginning.”
The whole idea for this “project” started with a simple phone call. The phone rang; I picked it up and said “hello.” The voice on the other end of the line simply said, “Send me your motor.” I thought it was a prank phone call at first but soon realized it was Siert from Orange Motorsports. It seems that Siert had put a KTM Hard Parts 280 big bore kit on his KTM 250-SXF. He figured it was so good that I needed one too. After about three milliseconds of thought I was running for the garage to get my motor out. Within an hour and a half the bike was stripped to the frame and the motor was ready to go out the door.
My bike is an ’08 KTM 250 XC-F with about 45 hours on it. After a few seasons of use and abuse, the old girl was looking a little beat up, although mechanically the bike is still rock solid. I change the oil every ride, the oil filter every other oil change and am very careful with my air filter maintenance. The valve clearance is checked every five hours and they have never needed to be shimmed a single time. While the heart and lungs were still in good shape, the exterior wasn’t as shinny as I would have liked. The paint on the frame was dull, the plastic was scratched, there was a tear in the seat cover and the chain and sprockets were wasted.
I figured since the motor was gone for its check-up and displacement augmentation I would make a list of wear items that needed to be changed. The “must do” list wasn’t really that long, but the “want to do” list was much longer. Now, you need to realize, just as this whole project was getting off the ground, KTM had the nerve to release the details and pictures of the 2011 KTM 350 SX. That’s where I lost all self-control and took the program from a “freshen up” to a ground up rebuild. The new 350 has an orange frame, black skid plate and a cool new look. Why not try and make an ’08 look like a modern 2011? It was all over but the spending at this point!
Orange Motorsports technician Greg Smith was in charge of the motor work – the same Greg Smith who was Michael Willard’s mechanic in 2005 when they won the CMRC East Coast National Championship by the way. Greg performed a leak down test and did a thorough inspection of the whole motor. While everything looked good in his opinion, he suggested changing a few parts “just because.” With 45 hours on the motor there was no use risking a catastrophe down the road for a few inexpensive things. A new cam chain, valve springs, valve keeper and valve seals where the only parts replaced in the top end. He also replaced the shift shaft that was bent as a result of a rather goofy crash on my part. Greg set the head down long enough for Siert to grab it and deliver it to Bondi Engines for a little porting work. Can you feel the pain I deal with in a day? After the head work, everything was buttoned up with the new 280 cylinder and piston and then returned to me for install.
While the motor was gone I had some time to map out the rest of the project. The main hurdle was to find a powder coater to do my frame in the KTM orange. After an Internet search I found a company in Detroit called Custom Concepts. I spoke with owner Curt Czerniak at length about what I wanted and the colour I was looking for. Curt knew exactly what I needed and is an ex-motocrosser himself. He explained in detail the preparation and coating procedure. Everything needed to be removed from the frame before handing it over to him. That means bearing races, rubber grommets, bolts and anything else that is attached. The frame goes in an oven and is baked to burn off all the dirt, grease and other contamination. Another benefit of the baking is that the existing paint is charred and cracks apart. After the piece comes out of the oven, it goes to the sandblasting booth to have all the remaining paint removed. Only when the frame is down to its virgin metal does it get coated. As you can see in the photos, the frame turned out incredible. Since I was in the “coating mood” I had my Flatland Racing aluminum skid plate powder coated black.
The next thing in line was to figure out what parts needed replacing, either because they were worn out or had suffered impact trauma of varying degree. After two seasons the stock o-ring chain and sprockets were in bad shape as well as the brake rotors that had met a few rocks along the trail. Rick Kotecki from Magnum Distributing told me about their line of sprockets, brake rotors and brake pads. The sprockets are aluminum and available in an assortment of colours for all makes and models. The brake parts are made in Europe and the brake pad are available in either semi-metallic for regular conditions and full metallic for extreme mud.
The stock handlebars were still straight after two years on the bike and that is some sort of new record for me. I have never tried Pro-Taper bars so I figured it was as good a time as any to give their new EVO bar a try along with a set of their grips. All the other controls were in good shape and simply needed a good cleaning.
Speaking of cleaning, this has to be the most tedious part of any bike rebuild. There are a lot of little things that need to be cleaned. Triple clamps, shifter, brake pedal and kick-starter all had to be polished. The swing arm needed to have the bearings cleaned and inspected. While I was working with the swing arm I polished it a little with an angle grinder spinning a Scotch-Brite pad. You can spend hours cleaning just bolts if you want to do it right. You need to be patient and take your time because the effort put in at this point of the project will really pay off in the end.
Since my wheels had seen their share of hard knocks they got a good truing and a new set of All Balls wheel bearings. The All Balls bearing comes with new wheel seals as well so it’s a nice way to freshen up your wheels. KTM Hard Parts offers a special set of hardened wheel spacers that replaced some banged up stockers. I have been running the TUbliss system in my wheels for a while now and honestly can’t say enough good things about them. You can see a full test on them elsewhere in this issue. Since it was time for a new set of tires I went with the Scorpion MX Extra from Pirelli. I had very good luck with the Pirelli XC Mid-Soft I tested last year so I wanted to try a little different compound this time.
Since my bike has electric start, I have a start button on the throttle side of the bars with a kill switch on the left. While the buttons are compact it is sometimes a pain to have wires running up both sides of the bars. Enter Sicass Racing. They make a switch centre that has both the start and the kill button on one small pod. It is mounted on the throttle side of the bars and plugs right into the stock wiring harness.
As you can see, there is a lot of work involved in doing a complete bike build up. You need to do a little soul searching before starting a project like this. Is your bike in good enough shape to invest all the time and money into it? If you have a bike with a motor that needs a complete rebuild it might not make sense to go to this much work. You would be better off selling it and getting a new one. Since my bike was in excellent mechanical shape I figured I could build it up the way wanted for less than what it would have cost to buy a new bike. Come back next time to see the completed project and a review on some of the products.