Making a 500 EXC into my ultimate adventure bike

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by MasterMarine, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    I was never planning to buy a new bike. I have ridden my old 1995 Kawasaki KLX650C for many miles and planned to do so forever. I had so much money sunk into so many mods for the bike that I never thought I would sell it. I had started to save last summer to buy a newer bike for the long rides like a KTM 530 or something similar. But I never thought I would sell the old KLX.

    Dig it in its element!

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    Then, one day, I was riding the KLX in Odessa at the Desert 100. They put on a dual sport ride and I had gone over to have a fun day of riding on the KLX. It was fantastic. I skipped the course inside the private property (since I was due to go on another big Nevada ride in just a couple months and did not want to break anything) and headed out to run the roads. The Stumpjumpers surprised me with a nice bit of single track right off the bat. I was ripping along at my own pace, loving the ride. I had a minor wipeout in a deep silty rut but no big deal. Anyway, it was fantastic. I was loving the ride. Toward the end of the loop, there is a stop in Odessa at the brewery for lunch. I headed in and got myself a nice cool Gatorade. I decided to skip a big lunch since there was some more single track coming up and camp was just a few miles away. I headed out to my bike in the parking lot with a whole bunch of other bikes. I noticed the smell of gas. Weird. Someone must have a leaky needle. I noticed a wet streak across the bottom of my unobtanium Acerbis tank on my KLX. Uh oh. It looks like maybe my fuel valve is leaking. I looked up under there. Nope. Not coming from the valve. Not good! I decided to head directly back to camp and have a look at what was going on.

    So, I loaded the bike on the trailer and drained as much fuel as possible out of the tank. Still not sure what was wrong, I headed for dinner. After some more investigation, it became obvious the tank had sprung a leak. Here is where it was coming from:

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    So now what was I going to do. Just a couple months to get a new tank for my bike. Did I mention that I had to be involved in a group buy back in 2007 to get Acerbis to manufacture that tank?

    They are never for sale. This was no good! :cry

    I started looking for a 530. Then I ran across posts about the 500 EXC and XCW. I had seen a cool KTM 500 EXC at the D100. Once I started reading about the EXC, I knew that it was the machine I needed to buy. I started calling around for prices. Ouch! :eek1 I found some good deals. Now I had to talk to my financial advisor. She was not too keen on the idea of me spending all that money. I told her about how I could sell both of my bikes and then I would not spend so much. It seemed to work. It took a while but finally she said it was ok.

    So, I called the dealers back. I found out that Tyler at Experience Powersports in Moses Lake, WA could give me the best deal. This worked out well since my parents are in Moses Lake so I could do some work on the bike at their house. Tyler told me he had 2 2013 500 EXC bikes coming from the east coast right now. I told him I would be over to get one as soon as it arrived. As it worked out, Tyler was a fantastic guy to deal with. We had some minor issues but he always worked very hard to make sure everything was right.

    Things got really serious now. I was scanning thru huge threads online about the 500 trying to figure out what parts to buy for it. The bike has some weaknesses so I had to buy some goodies including:

    Seat Concepts Standard seat complete
    Acerbis 5.3 gallon natural tank
    Flatland Racing aluminum skid plate
    Flatland Racing aluminum pipe guard
    Enduro Engineering case saver
    Highway Dirt Bike Scotts holder, upper handlebar clamp, hand guards with integral turn signals, key switch relocator plate, anti-vibration inserts, and rear LED turn signals
    LED flasher
    RAM mounts on handlebar clamp bolts
    Scotts steering stabilizer
    Baja Designs Squadron LED headlight kit
    Trail Tech map switch
    Complete Acerbis white plastic kit
    Golan fuel filter
    KTM fuel fill sock filter for the stock tank
    Profill fuel fill sock filter for the Acerbis 5.3 gallon tank
    Dirt Tricks 14 front and 50 rear sprocket
    RK Gold X-Ring chain
    Neduro's Doubletake Mirrors (off my KLX)​

    I also bought some spare parts including a complete fuel line set, a recall set that included more tiny fuel filters and some hose clamps, a fuel injector, the screws and plugs to block off the smog stuff and a spark plug.

    Before installing the Golan filter, I took it apart to have a look inside. I found it was not assembled correctly. The filter media was in the wrong side which would lead to poor fuel flow. Here is a picture of the correct order of assembly.

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    And now here is how you should assemble the filter. Take the side without the o-ring

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    Drop in the filter media

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    Then the spring

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    And then take the side with the o-ring

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    And put it on. Tighten securely and install. Be sure to align the flow arrow with the direction of fuel flow.

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    Unfortunately, it took a long time for the bike to arrive. Most of the parts arrived before it did. When it finally did show up, I headed east. I picked it up in totally stock form and ran it. Then I de-smogged it and ran it. Then I got it mapped with the Euro map. It ran great. I was really impressed with the bike.

    I tore it apart and added all the pieces I could before I ran out of time and had to try to go to sleep.

    Here is how it looked when it was pretty stock. Wow. Look how clean it is!

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    On the way to visit the dealer. I had a really big smile when I was taking this picture! :D

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    A little later with white plastic and HDB stuff mounted.

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    HDB goodies

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    What a cool dash!

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    Rear blinker

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    Front blinker

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    Quality stuff

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    Tank comparison photos

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    I bought some Hitatchi connectors to wire into the stock electrical harness from Corsa Technic. They have a lot of good stuff! I wish I would have found them earlier so I could have bought the connectors for the turn signals from them too.

    Here is the more or less finished product before leaving to go on our latest Nevada ride.

    [​IMG]


    On the big ride, the kickstand broke off so I have replaced it with a Pro Moto Billet unit. I have not had a chance to ride the bike again yet so don’t have any thoughts on it. It is much more convenient than finding a solid fencepost to lean it up against!

    The seat was awesome. I try to stand as much as possible but over 8 days and 1300 miles, I sat on it a lot and it was nice! The bike was great. :clap Did not use any oil. Mileage ranged from 45 - 54 mpg. I loved it! It was so much easier to pick up when I dropped it! :evil

    The bike is too tall for me and I will have it lowered when it goes to see MotoPro for re-spring and re-valve. I dropped it too many times just trying to get on or off. I am considering one of those quick preload adjusters like this. Has anyone tried one?

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    #1
    vicvegas likes this.
  2. Off the grid

    Off the grid Big Meanie

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    Absolutely beautiful bike, mate.

    Well done, love the white....until it gets dirty. :lol3
    #2
  3. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    Thanks for the compliment. I knew the Giant Loop would totally destroy the factory graphics so went for a plastic kit. I could choose from white, black, and orange and thought the white would look better with the natural tank. I like how it has turned out with the white plastic and black frame and handguards.

    Looking at that also picture reminded me of something else I need to do. The rivnut holding the horn on loosened up during the ride and the horn was rattling. I had straightened it out several times from the brush hitting it too. So I took it off. I need to relocate it.

    The front fender is too weak for a fender bag with a tube in it.

    Also, I bent the port side radiator up so don't plan on the tank protecting the radiators. From comparing the PMB radiator guards on another bike to the space available, it looks like they would fit with the Acerbis tank but I did not try to fit any on to be sure.
    #3
  4. clapped_r6

    clapped_r6 The Spoad Warrior

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    :evil
    #4
  5. harcus

    harcus Long timer

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    MM
    The Quick Preload adjuster is interesting. Do you have a part number on that? :D
    #5
  6. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    It is in the KTM Hardparts book that came with the bike. Page 73. It looks like the KTM # is 772.04.905.000 for 2012 and 2013 500 EXC.

    It appears it is the same part as the X-Trig unit.

    I am curious about how well it would hold up to the large change in preload setting going from Trail to loaded Dual Sport riding. The plastic nut is already stuck on my shock now. I bought the KTM wrench to adjust the plastic nut and space is so tight, it is very difficult to use now that the nut is stuck. It worked great for my first adjustment.

    If you see any info or comments about the X-Trig or KTM unit, let me know. :ear
    #6
  7. cross-country

    cross-country .

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    I have one of the Xtrig adjusters, works fine but I only use it after the shock had been cleaned, as in while it is getting prepped for a ride or race in the garage after a bath from the pressure washer. I would not adjust it on the trail with sand, mud, grit, ect. on the shock body for fear of damaging the aluminium threads. BTW, this is not intended to adjust ride height it is to set sag by adjusting the amount of preload on the spring. If you adjust out enough preload to alow the rear of the bike to sit lower the shock will not be fuctioning as intended.
    #7
  8. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    Thanks for the input about the Xtrig.

    I am not planning to use it to adjust the ride height. I was planning to use it to adjust the preload from the light trail riding setting to the totally packed dual sport setting. The suspension tuner will take care of the ride height with some of his magic while he is re-springing and re-valving the shock. Apparently it is necessary to tear the shock apart to install the Xtrig as well so if I decide to get one, it will be put on then.
    #8
  9. wsmc831

    wsmc831 Been here awhile

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    You may want to take a look at all the wiring behind the headlight. At 2 hours some of mine started to wear through and would cut power to fuel pump when turned 12 degrees left of center. Ktm sure cheaped out on wiring/connectors....really pitiful.

    Did you buy it from the Moses lake dealership? I was about to drive up there to get one of the two they had before finding one in Hillsboro.

    I've been pleased with the MagicMod throttle body adjustment, works well with megabomb and Q exhaust. Waiting for noloss to make more of their throttle bodies as I've read some nice reviews on them. First bike I've had that I may leave the suspension valving oem, so far with proper springs and a bit of adjustment it works pretty well.
    #9
  10. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    I did get my bike in Moses Lake at Experience Powersports. Tyler treated me very well. :thumb We had a bit of a snafu with the Acerbis tank (actually a couple of snafus) and he handled them extraordinarily. I have been very happy to deal with someone who is interested in taking care of his customers in a fair manner. Derek in the partsroom there is great too.

    The bike was only at the dealership for a few hours before I drove over and picked it up. It was an exciting day for sure. I never purchased a new bike before so was really pumped. Plus I had a box of goodies at home that had accumulated before the bike arrived. As soon as he let me know it was there, I asked to get off work early and headed over to pick it up.

    I am not going to do anymore to try to get more horsepower from the bike. From my past experience as a mechanic, I have found that fooling with fuel systems, ignition, exhaust and making mechanical engine mods just lead to a shorter life span and a finicky powerplant. I am not going to race this bike and it has plenty of muscle for me for trail riding and dual sport riding. I will concentrate on improving the handling, suspension and other characteristics related to improving the usability and durability of the bike for me. I am all about making it a more solid platform for going way out into the middle of nowhere without worrying about it dying on me.

    I got my Pro Moto Billet kick stand mounted up and it looks fantastic. It seems strong. The bike is up to 1826 miles and 58.1 hours. Did an oil change, air filter cleaning, etc. Oil screens had hardly anything on them. Still running the Honda GN-4. I am just about out of it so will probably change to something synthetic at the next oil change.

    Put back on the Giant Loop and loaded it up. Heading out to do the Grip Twister Olympic Peninsula Loop on Wednesday night. :ricky
    #10
  11. swamp

    swamp Woods Junkie

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    thats a really cool set up. beautiful bike!

    just wondering if ktm has made these motors dependable enough to take on something like a ride from alaska to argentina? im not trying to be an asshole or anything. just wondering if you feel like the motor is as durable as your old bike ?


    im considering picking up a ktm

    thanks!
    #11
  12. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    My old bike (a 1995 Kawasaki KLX650C) came to me as a chassis with a box of engine parts. The cylinder head was damaged because the camshafts had low oil flow and had galled the bearing surfaces where the cam turned. The exhaust cam was the worst. There were no bearings. The cams rode right in the aluminum head in a bore that had been line-bored thru the head and camshaft retainer. I had it fixed by Jerry Leighton. I think that was at about 2500 miles on the Odometer. He just put some lapping compound in the holes and turned the cams into the holes. He told me it would run for a long time. I was very skeptical but had no other options as this issue is actually somewhat common for the KLX650 and I could not find another head. It did last a long time. Around 12000 miles before I finally swapped out the head. Anyway, the KTM has nice needle bearings on the camshaft. It has roller rockers. It holds almost as much oil as my KLX did (1.6L vs 1.8L). It is possible to clean the screen on the KTM (it actually has 2 plus an oil filter). On the KLX you had to split the case to get to the screens. I am sure the KTM has some part of the engine which will turn out to be a problem. It always happens.

    The thing that concerns me most about the 500EXC is the fuel injection. I like carburetors and using gravity and other physical principals to get the fuel and air mixed. It is easier to fix these things in the field. I remember when I first started working on outboards and stern drives that there were techs who were all concerned about CDI ignition systems. They wanted to keep the points. Later in my career, those same guys were all worried about FI. Then Direct Injection came along and they were really unhappy. Now I am one of those guys. :lol3 Anyway, I saw a lot of fuel pumps on sterndrives fail after being run out of fuel just one time. It did not necessarily happen right then but that fuel pump's days were numbered. I had one customer who kept a spare fuel pump in his glove box for his Cobalt. I spent a lot of Saturdays standing on my head in his engine compartment replacing the fuel pump since he could not pay attention to the fuel gauge! :eek1 The fuel pump is lubricated and cooled by the fuel running thru it. You know how things that are spinning fast like to be cool and have their bearings lubricated. Take that away and uh oh! I have read about several fuel pump failures on Ride Reports here on ADVRider. It seems likely that a motorcycle would be run out of gas at some point. I am also concerned by the injector and dirty fuel. Every fuel injection system I have worked on in the past had a water separating fuel filter in the system. Some of the marine systems even have an alarm to tell you when it is full. No water separator on this bike. The holes in the end of the injector are way way smaller than any carburetor jet. They are much easier to plug or even just alter which could lead to them leaking or a lean condition neither of which is good. I have the Golan filter added to mine. I have a fuel fill sock filter in my fuel tank. I pulled the fuel tank off the bike and rinsed it out before it was ever started to remove any debris that may have been in there. I have extras of the tiny filters in my tool bag. I also have a spare injector and fuel line set in my tool bag. And spare fuses. At some point, I will have an extra fuel pump too. And a fuel pump relay. All this stuff to replace gravity and Bernoulli's principle. :evil

    Currently I am interested in trail riding and self supported long dual sport rides. I am trying to be a minimalist but I still have not got there yet. I am not planning to do any transcontinental rides. If I was, I would have to really think about if I wanted to take the KTM. I have not read any RR where someone has taken a small bike like this on a perpetual trip. I am sure it would be possible but I have not considered if it would be a good idea yet. If you were only going to ride on dirt roads, then it would probably be ok. If you are planning to ride a bunch of highways, then there are better choices. Another limiting factor maybe how much you can haul on the bike. In the trans continental RRs I have read, the riders normally carry a ton of stuff. Lots of stuff I would never consider like a laptop. I am not sure how much you could pile on the subframe of the 500EXC.

    You never know until you try.

    All that said, it is a bad ass machine. I rode it down to West Seattle from Everett on Saturday. I was grinning big time when I pulled out of my driveway and lofted the front wheel effortlessly thru the first few gears. It was almost an accident. I then rode about 20 miles down I-5. No problems in traffic (other than my wheels need to be balanced!). Then another few miles thru busy citry streets. Same thing going back home. Had to fill up with fuel before getting back on I5. I had 220 miles on my "5.3" gallon tank. It took 4.8 gallons to fill it up.

    I love it! :lol3
    #12
  13. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    I noticed I do not have a picture of the Baja Designs Squadron LED headlight in this thread so I thought I would add one. Here it is:

    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    I also purchased a cool little rack from Globetrottin. It is the Mini Top Rack. I asked harcus if he could add on some passenger footpegs like he has on the larger rack so I can take my son for a ride and some attachment points for my Giant Loop Coyote to tie on to. He did and now he has that version for sale too. The rack weighs very little and was easy to install.

    I have taken my son for a couple rides with the rack on and he loved it. :clap I also used the rack to haul an extra set of 3-12v batteries for his OSET when we went trail riding. It worked great.

    I test fit my GL on it and it looks like it will work out ok. I liked how the GL worked on my bike in Nevada this summer and riding around the Olympics without the rack but I had some trouble with keeping the rear strap attached. It also tended to kind of sag over to one side because of the extra width of the exhaust on the starboard side. You can see how the back of my seat is flexed up from the GL being under it.

    Here it is. Try not to pay attention to the messy shop. :lol3

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    #14
  15. intrepid1

    intrepid1 n00b

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    Awesome bike setup! I'm so glad to see like minded people on t
    Here! I also have a 2012 500exc, dessmogged, fmf power parts exhaust, just got the asrebis 20L tank natural, double take mirrors, sicass taillight section, giant loop coyote and fandango tank bags ordered, Fastways bush guards and steering stabilizer 5 and I would like to get the seat concepts seat kit just haven't yet. I'm new to kTm bikes but so far I'm loving them! I plan to explore Saskatchewan this summer which will mean a lot of hours on grid roads. im just wondering what kind of distance trips are you guys doing on your 500's??
    #15
  16. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    Hi inrepid1! I need to update this thread a bit. Currently my bike is in singletrack mode with the stock fuel tank on and no rack. You might want to have a look at the new bags that Dave Wachs has designed for AltRider. They look to be even better than the current Coyote. I might have to try one myself.

    Have a look at my 2013 Nevada RR for some info on the distance I have covered with my 500 EXC. I also did about 700 miles up here in WA doing a loop around the Olympic NP. It is a great bike!
    #16
  17. ottercycler

    ottercycler n00b

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    This is the first time replying here.
    I have just acquired a 2014 500exc. I live in the Florida panhandle so sand, and a lot of it, is what this bike will be taking me through until we get used to each other. Thus far, engine heat is my only real concern. The bike is bone stock and I am still conflicted as to emissions issues and what I consider excessive engine temperature. I will loosen the suspension up a bit before I decide what, if anything, I should change. It is confidence inspiring to read that you have covered as many trouble free miles on your 500. One thing is for sure, coming from a drz (that I still have) this is a remarkable ride. A little out of shape in deep sand, grab a hand full of throttle, and the grin just keeps getting wider.
    I am all ears if you have any council. Baring that, I will enjoy your upcoming posts.
    #17
  18. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    Hi ottercycler,

    My bike ran very warm when I first started it up. The head pipe was excessively hot and the exhaust smelled really lean. It popped a lot when it was coming back down to idle. Mine is a 2013 and it sounds like KTM made some changes to the mapping in the ECU for 2014 models from reading the suggested mods on bestdualsportbikes.com . I have some reservations toward their version of performance enhancement but they do seem to have found the 2014 model responds differently to various tuning methods than the 2013 and prior.

    With that said, on my 2013, I removed the smog stuff and used the parts I looked up for a 500XCW to plug the holes. That made a difference. Less popping. Engine seemed happier.

    Then I had the bike remapped with the "Euro" map. I did not see which map was installed but it really helped the bike out. It doesn't pop much at all now and the engine does not smell lean or overly hot. It runs great. It is more responsive.

    Another real helpful thing to do is to change the gearing. The stock gearing is crazy high. 14:50 works great for me for most stuff. I change to 13:50 for super hairy, steep, switch back loaded trails in the mountains.

    I never had much of an issue with the flame out until I started trail riding. I think this issue is not really an issue. The problem is this engine with FI likes to idle high. According to my owners manual 1800-1900 RPM. This is higher than what most of us think it should. Most small engines idle much closer to 1000 rpm or even less. So lots of people lower the idle setting. Then, when I am going around a switch back, I tend to lug the engine down super slow. Often times it is lower than the idle speed is set for. And then it dies. When the bike dies, it does not coast a bit. It stops right now with the rear tire sliding and your legs hit the bars as you go out the front and then fall over on your side. So I think the real reason I have experienced this flameout is that my comfort zone in terms of low speed RPM for this bike needs to be adjusted up a bit. It needs to become more natural for me to use a little clutch to keep the engine revved up a bit more thru the switch back or I need to go faster to keep the RPMs up a bit more. The engine will chug right down but when it decides to stall, it happens instantly and often catches you off guard. I have less of an issue with this with the lower gearing on trails but I think it is totally my fault.

    I have some friends with other KTM four strokes and in the past they have had some issues with the temp switch at the radiator failing and then the fan does not come on. So I was a little concerned about this happening. When we went to Nevada last summer, part of my wiring plan was to install a relay in the fan circuit to make it so all the amperage to run the fan was not going thru the temp switch. I had a lot of other things to do to get ready so that did not happen. Instead what I did was to make a short jumper wire with male spade connectors on both ends. I wire tied it onto the fan wiring near the switch. My plan was to disconnect the wires if the switch was not working and then to use my jumper to connect the leads together to make the fan run all the time. I never had to do it. The jumper is still there in case I need it. I have since wired a lead to a switch on my HDB upper clamp that allows me to turn the fan on manually if I want to independent of what the switch on the radiator wants it to do. I think you should really be ok with the 500EXC in the sand since the 500XCW (the dirt bike version) has the same radiators and no fan. It appears the cooling capacity of these bikes is good enough. I have not ridden much in the sand but I was in some deep snow last Friday and my bike was warm. The fan was cycling on and off quite a bit as I chugged along thru it walking my feet along. I was happy to get down to a lower elevation to get out of it. Both the bike and I were working pretty hard. I never had any perceived cooling system issues while riding in NV.

    It is cool that you were inspired to write your first post in response to something I wrote.

    Enjoy your bike. It is an amazing, capable machine! :D
    #18
  19. ottercycler

    ottercycler n00b

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    The consensus is that the engine heat is not something to be concerned with, but should be monitored. It is reassuring that you have put your 500 through what appears to me to a rigorous test and it has flown colors. I have been so busy with adult life that my real life has taken a back seat so have had little seat time. I hope to remedy that tomorrow.
    I think the smog stuff feels like it is ready to fall off. I talked to the shop and there is no EU map in sight.
    The gearing change is something that is also on the horizon. With the extent of usable power, it will not hurt the road worthiness to make a change that would enhance the off-road manners significantly. I won’t be on any switchbacks in the near future, however the reason I chose the mount was the versatility to travel and explore so it’s not inconceivable in the next year or so.
    On a sourer note, I have heard some mention of ktm “lemons” and am hoping the issues that I have discovered don’t indicate I have purchased one. The left fork tube, when I pulled the rubber boot to insure compression was set equally, I noticed oil had leaked into the rubber and the adjuster was damp with oil. I noted it, and after a hours ride and letting it rest a few days, popped the plug and the oil was more noticeable. In addition, the shock rebound adjustment has only 11 clicks of range from stop to stop. The dealer is aware and I will take it the middle of the week to have them put their eyes on it. As helpful and honest as they have treated me, I have no doubt that they will make this right. My concern is that if the bike was shipped with that little quality control….. We shall see what the shop has to say when they see it.
    Thanks again for the shout back. I will keep you posted if you are interested. Hopefully I will soon be sharing riding adventures here rather than whining about minor mechanical woes.

    #19
  20. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    At first I tried to make due with the stock gearing but I had trouble controlling my speed with compression braking while going down loose rocky grades. So I changed it. It was costly since I had to replace the chain to add some links but it was definitely worth it.
    #20