By Jim Bessette.
Starting in January, a couple of other guys and I discussed riding to Copper Canyon. I decided to go, and to ride the KTM (1998 620 RXC).
I thought about a number of modifications to make before the trip. Here's what I modified:
- Replaced the original tank with the 20 Liter tank.
- Replaced the modified Quicksilver carburetor with a 40mm Dellorto. Jetting and set-up took quite some time (this being the first time I ever have messed with a carb other then my R100GS).
- Put on Metzeler Sahara 3 tires.
- Had custom aluminum "bags" made by Happy Trails. I already have Touratech mounts that I use for Pelican bags.
- Had Bitchin' Stitchin' in Longmont CO customize my seat. I brought the bike to him and was there for most of the work. It was made wider and a gel insert was put in. Then a new vinyl cover (a little darker than stock).
- Added a Touratech tankbag
- Put an "O" ring in the space on the right grip to give me a "throttle lock" I tried an aftermarket throttle lock, but it made the grip too short for my hand. It was too annoying and would rub.
- Cranked the preload just about all the way down on the shock (I'm 6'4" and weigh 180-185lbs.
- Safety wired handgrips
- Stainless steel oil filters (both kinds) from Dual Star
- KTM toolbox added to rear fender.
- Aerostich (Rider Warehouse) tank panniers (which I already had).
- Added cigarette lighter adapters for my GPS and Valentine 1
- RAM mounts for the GPS and Valentine 1
- Brought a 14 tooth front sprocket with me and changed it out when I got to Creel (top of Copper Canyon), and switched back to 16 for the way home.
- Sidestand (I had only a centerstand)
Other things I had already modified/added on the bike:
- Headlight cover from Dual-Star
- Fender bag (for tube and levers) from Cycoactive
"Number plate" bag (I think from Cycoactive) (Holds a tube and pump, and some other small stuff)
- Added KTM rear rack
- Touratech bag mounts
- Removed passenger footpegs
- Acerbis handguards with turn signals integrated into them (removed original turn signals)
- Removed "horn" from airbox and the charcoal cannister
- Added metal KTM bash guard for the 620 - not the cool LC4 one that's wider
THE TRIP (in a very small nutshell):
Thursday evening Feb 28th - trailer to outside Santa Fe Friday - trailer to El Paso. Barnett Harley Davidson allowed me to leave my F250 and trailer in their parking lot for the week.
Saturday morning we left El Paso taking the Zaragosa (sp?) Bridge into Juarez. Made the required stop for Visa and Vehicle Permits and made it to Chihuahua before dark. One blip on the Valentine for a cop coming the other direction.
Sunday - Chihuahua to Creel. All paved.
Monday - Creel to Batlopilas - About 1/2 paved, 1/2 dirt.
Tuesday - Batopilas to Satevo (6 miles) and then some exploring on the road toward Tubares. Stayed in Batopilas another night.
Wednesday - Batopilas back to Creel via mostly dirt roads. No map shows the road we took and it was quite nice. We went up to about 7500 feet from down in the canyon in Batopilas. Very scenic.
Thurday - Creel to Urique, via the high road to Bahuichivo. Road to Urique from Bahichivo/Cerocahui was quite cool.
Friday - The plan was to go to Chinipas, but one of the guys was very sick, so we took the low road from Bahichivo to San Rafael and then onto Creel (again!).
Saturday - Creel to El Paso
Sunday - trailer home.
Briefly, we were both cold and hot. Elevation gain/loss was quite severe (into/out of Urique was 5000 ft in 10 miles). Creel was cold in the mornings (less than freezing), Batopilas was quite warm. Riding to/from Juarez (El Paso) from Chihuahua was cold at the ends of the day (morning/evening). No rain. Got some sunburn down in Batopilas. Water crossings were very shallow.
HOW WELL THINGS WORKED:
The bike performed very well. I had absolutely no problem with it at all. On the way from El Paso to Chihuahua on the very first day, I ran out of gas exactly as my odometer read 200 miles. This was not surprising. I had never run a tank full and since I had a brand new carb, I really didn't know what my mileage would be. So I hung on the side of the road while the 2 guys (on their KLR 650s) went to get me some gas). It was only about 8 miles away. So, the new 20L tank was great. Now that I new my range (at pretty fast highway speeds anyway), I knew when to fill up. The tank holds just over 5 US gallons, so at highway speeds (like 75-85 MPH) I was getting about 40 MPG.
The new carb was great. As has been said on the KTM list for quite some time, dump the Edlebrock Quicksilver.
The Metzeler Sahara tires were good. I used them once on my GS, but now use Avon Gripsters (for better mileage). Gripsters don't exist for my KTM.
Happy Trails bags - I had these custom made. The top was supposed to be attached with a hing, but in a mix up, the hinges didn't get installed. I used a stainless steel wire with loops and a lock to insure the lids did not go flying off if for some reason I didn't lock them down. This was an idea from Story Leavesly (with whom I was riding). Good thing I used this wire. The first day, I didn't get the lid latched properly, and Story waved me down to tell me my lid was flapping - but not LOST!
The bags themselves worked well. On one side I have almost nothing but my camera gear. They stayed tight the whole trip. I was concerned about breaking the mounts/bags on the roads we were riding. The left bag weighed 30 pounds, the right 34 pounds (loaded, including the bag). No problems.
The custom seat was great. NO WAY I could've made that trip without it.
Touratech tankbag - much like the BMW tankbag (zips on/off) was really great. I'm very happy with it. I can fill the tank without removing it and it doesn't interfere with the tank hose.
"O" ring as "throttle lock" - My hand got tired, probably because I had to continually "fight" the friction of this, but I think overall I'm glad I did it. I could remove my hand from the grip for highway riding.
Suspension: the bike felt great at all times. I was impressed with the suspension.
Stainless steel oil filters (both kinds) from Dual Star - who knows. I haven't changed the oil yet.
KTM toolbox added to rear fender - never really had to get to them, but I like them back there. (I had move tools in a Dual-Star roll in my tank panniers).
Aerostich (Rider Warehouse) tank panniers - Having a 40 inch inseam makes reaching the ground from this tall bike EASY. However, my knees also push on the tank panniers all the time. I would use them again if I need the space.
Valentine 1 - The V1 caught only one signal the whole trip which may have saved us a ticket. We were going probabaly 70 MPH in a 50 zone. I didn't use it off the highways at all. I like the RAM mount.
Garmin GPS III+ - I've had this unit for a few years now. It's always performed well, as it did for most of this trip. I think I vibrated the crap out of it though, as for some reason, it kept turning itself off on the last day. Since then, it's doing the same thing. No, I didn't use batteries at all in it. I like the RAM mount.
Sprocket - Used the 16 only for the long days of highway droning. The 14 tooth was GREAT for the rest of the trip. In the dirt, the 16 is miserable, as I always had trouble between 1st and 2nd - 1st would be too low, 2nd too high. With the 14, I stayed in second on the dirt most of the time, going to third sometimes. First was for climbing and steep descents (both of which there was plenty).
Lastly, the sidestand was invaluable. Sure glad I didn't have to put that thing on the centerstand all the time.