Why the 500?

The KTM 500 EXC seems to me like the perfect bike for ultra light adventure enduro expeditions. After over 40.000 km on the KTM 690 Enduro R, I realized that the limits of what I could do on that bike had been reached. To be perfectly honest, I actually had been toying with the idea of a different type of bike since Eastern Dirt 14, where we’d been through some pretty rough terrain on our 690’s. There were four issues that I felt were definite advantages of the KTM 500 EXC.

Weight

The energy a rider spends on a difficult trail is directly proportional to the weight of the bike. The weight of the bike similarly affects the probability of spills and the energy spent on recovering from them and continuing the journey. Picking up bikes is energy consuming. Even with the 690, there were two or three instances, when I couldn’t pick up the bike by myself after a spill. All cases involved the bike being on a muddy trail. I was tired and could find no purchase for my MX boots on the slippery surface. I felt utterly helpless and embarrassed having to be helped with my “light bike”. The stock 500 EXC weighs around 112 kg without fuel, which is around 27 kg less than the 690.

Suspension

The 500 EXC has great suspension already in stock form. It needs very little modification to work well in adventure enduro. The PDS design is very simple and has a minimal amount of bearings down low in harms way. The bikes with linkage suspension have many more bearings prone to dirt and water, which results in more maintenance and more spare parts to carry.

Engine

The 500 EXC has a good engine, producing enough power for adventure enduro. It has plenty of bottom end grunt for cruising and explosive power higher up for when you need it for obstacles and whatever. What’s best is that the engine doesn’t seem to be prone to stalling even with lower revs.

Gearbox

The 500 has an enduro gearbox, so the first gear is nice and short. It makes life a lot easier with tricky starts on steep technical terrain. The sixth gear is tall enough to keep a nice marching pace on transits, even with an enduro final drive gearing.

Design fundamentals

The two main fundaments for the design of the build are intertwined. One affects the other and vice versa. The final build is a delicate balance of terror between the two.

Go light

The obvious and easy goal was to keep the bike as light as possible. This fundament of course also spilled over to equipment and gear selection. It’s been an interesting journey of rethinking and tweaking everything over and over again. I always fancied myself as going light on the 690, and compared to many it was true. However, looking back now reveals a completely different reality.

Keep rolling

The bike should be able to survive up to 20.000 km rides, and not just one. This is the interesting challenge, as there is very little real world data about this. I’m hoping that with the correct build and maintenance schedule it can be done. Time will tell.

The Build

Here’s the story so far.

Handlebars

I prefer to use aluminium rail hand guards, instead of the OEM ones that are mounted from a single point. It’s not only for hand protection, but the rail also does a great job of protecting the handlebar, levers and throttle tube from damage in falls. The handlebar vibrates a lot, so instead of using the supplied sheet metal screws, I prefer to drill the mounting rail and bolt the deflector right through. Even then I use Nyloc nuts or thread locker to make sure they don’t roll open in the vibration. I just cut the original closed grips to fit the rails, but a better option is to get a pair of dual compound open grips from KTM. I always use grip donuts, to avoid blisters on the outside of the thumb joints.

Pedals

I have a pretty narrow skid plate, which doesn’t offer much protection to the pedals. To give them a better chance of surviving small tumbles, I went with Hammerhead Designs, which seem very sturdy pedals. The shifter is mounted on the engine with a single bolt, so it’s a good idea to make sure it doesn’t loosen and rotate off. Hammerhead produces a handy lock wire bolt for the shifter pedal which works like a charm. The brake pedal has the tendency to scoop trail debris between itself and the clutch cover. At worst, the jammed debris could break off the pedal. A security wire from the pedal to the frame will significantly reduce the risk of that happening .

Clutch

Apparently the brake lever tip teeth have a tendency of puncturing the clutch cover in falls. The P3 carbon clutch cover protector will prevent this from happening and also protects the cover from boots scratching it. Further back, the clutch slave cylinder guard should keep the clutch in working order after a snapped chain whiplashes though the front sprocket.

Throttle cables

The throttle cables are somewhat exposed on the top of the handlebar, and the KTM metal protector will give them a better chance of surviving a beating. To make sure the cables stay where they’re supposed to while fitting the tank, a set of bungees will do the trick. I run a strip of inner tube on both sides of the frame, from the tank’s top mount to its side supports.

Skid plate

I originally decided to go the same route as I did with the 690; to carry engine oil in the skid plate for impromptu oil changes. The tank plate and oil added 6 kg to the bike, so it clashed heavily with one of the main design principles. Ergo the P3 Carbon skid plate. Not only is it light and strong, but it has to be the most beautiful skid plate I’ve ever seen.

Exhaust

The factory slip on silencer worked fine, but I decided to go with the FMF Competition silencer. It’s a little lighter, which will make a difference as it sits high on the bike. It also adds a little torque and power throughout the entire rev range. To be honest, I somewhat regret not spending the extra coin on an Akrapovic, as their build quality is superior to the FMF.
To keep my riding pants from melting, I fitted an SXS carbon exhaust guard. It was pretty small, so I upgraded to a P3 Carbon pipe guard, which is much longer and also protects the header section in addition to the pants. In the other end of the pipe I have a Giant Loop Hot Springs heat shield to keep my luggage from melting on the silencer.

Radiator

The 2016 KTM 500 EXC had a radiator fan already fitted from stock. If it hadn’t, I would definitely have installed one. I run a Trailtech engine temperature gauge on the radiator with the EZ-Install fin sensor, and the reduction in temperature is dramatic when the fan kicks in. It’s a good idea to lock wire the radiator protector shrouds or they might fall off in the heat of things. With the 19 litre tank there’s no need for rigid radiator protectors, but the tank actually needs protection from the radiator tabs. Bolting some tank rubber bungs on the tabs will do.

Fuel

The bike has a single 19 litre KTM Powerparts fuel tank. It’s large enough for most of the time, but for sections where fuel is scarce, I’ll carry a collapsible bladder for the extra fuel. Having a single tank has its risks though, and destroying it somewhere far off would  potentially have catastrophic consequences. So I’d prefer the fuel load spread into at least two tanks, but have yet to find a system that is solid in terms of design and within my budget. So I suppose I will work on some way of protecting the most damage prone sections of the tank instead for now.

I didn’t bother with putting an extra fuel filter or replacing the standard micro filter with a Golan or equivalent. Instead, I’ll keep an eye on the in-tank filter and do frequent changes of the micro filter. Every time the quick release is opened, the O-ring should be lubed with silicone grease before closing. If it gets too dry, the female connector will potentially catch on the O-ring an tear it, resulting in a fuel leak. I protected the the fuel tank quick release with a section of MTB inner tube. It’s tied in at the bottom, to prevent crud flying up into it. I left a small hole for draining water though.

Air filter

The air filter cover comes fitted with quick release pins. It’s handy for quick maintenance but also carries the risk of the cover coming accidentally dislodged by a boot or something else that catches on it. So I prefer it screwed on instead. I’ve also upgraded the standard air filter bracket stud to the factory version to avoid any malfunctions on the trail.
I use the standard TwinAir pre-oiled air filters. They can be washed out with normal dish washing liquid and then re-oiled. However, I prefer to carry several filters instead of washing and oiling one or two on the trail. This is because the weight of the liquids alone will be more than three filters. The preoiled filters are light and can easily be carried compressed into small ziplock bags.
The airbox and intake sit very low on the bike, which will be a problem in deep water crossings. The airbox actually has a drain hole in the bottom, which will let water enter through it freely. I have yet to solve this puzzle, but I suppose the answer will be somewhere between waterproofing the airbox and building a temporary snorkel for the intake.

Final drive

I prefer to run the standard enduro 13:50 gearing with SuperSprox Stealth sprockets. I also experimented with 14:50, and while it tops out at 150 km/h fully open, I found the first gear too tall for technical stuff. The 13:50 is fantastic on first gear technical ground and will still roll nicely at highway speeds up to 110 km/h. I suppose for rides with long sections of tarmac, carrying a 13T and 14T front sprockets might seem appealing, but I find it a little counter-productive. I’d rather not carry the extra weight for weeks if I only need it for one or two days. Also, with the standard chain, the 14:50 gearing will bring some rear tyres too close to the swing arm and start wearing out the mud flap. I run the chain with a quick link, and a TMD chain guide with replaceable bottom slide. I lube the chain with an OSCO chain oiler, and use whatever oil I have a t hand; mostly engine oil.

Suspension

The stock suspension is really nice, and all I needed was a stiffer 80 N/mm spring in the shock to compensate for the luggage. Once the static and riding sags were set, the suspension seemed to work very well with a bit of trail tweaking. I will most likely add a preload adjuster collar on the shock, as the OEM plastic adjuster rings will probably get eventually damaged if used frequently, which is the case with loaded/unloaded riding. The forks are still completely stock, but I added a set of fork bleeders.

Wheels

In stock form, the 500 has the rear sprocket bolted directly onto the hub. It’s fine in dirt, but on tarmac it may have serious consequences due to the lack of natural damping. The front sprocket may start to wear out the countershaft, causing it to eventually fail. A damped rear hub will counter this problem and also ease out the impact throughout transmission in general. I originally had a KTM damped rear wheel, which works fine. However, I splurged on a set of Haan Wheels hubs with a damped rear and Excel 18/21 A60 rims. They should be stronger and lighter than the originals.
I still mostly run Mitas C-02 rears, and have been really happy with the Maxxis OEM front tyre. Both seem to last forever under the 500. I still use standard tubes that can be patched up, and aluminium valve caps with integrated valve core tools.

Brakes

I love a clean office and modified the front brake to run rally style between the headlight mask and front fender. It does not interfere with navigation equipment and thus far has never caught on anything on the trail. The modification can be done with the OEM brake hose, and needs nothing more than patience and a few zip ties.
The rear brake is fitted with a cylinder extender. It should cool down the brake fluid and extend its life, but the jury’s still out on that one. Another modification to the rear brake is fitting a thicker closed brake disk, to reduce wear on the rear brake pads. With the standard open brake disks, I’ve gone through brake pads in a single day of riding in wet and sandy conditions.

Engine oil

I replaced the standard oil plug with the factory version, for extra durability and a smaller chance of the plug loosening and falling out. Theoretically the factory oil pump cover cools the oil a little, but it’s in fact there because it looks cool. Guilty as charged.
The oil volume of the 500EXC has been debated until exhaustion, with different volume expansion methods from high volume clutch covers to external oil coolers. In fact I have a Twin Air oil cooler sitting in my garage, and despite the fact that it will add oil volume and reduce temperature, I never got around to fitting it. The reason I left it out is that it adds weight and four wet connections i.e. fail points. It requires special oil filters that are hard to find even in Europe. Additionally, it adds complexity to the oil change procedure and requires verification of oil flow, which seems close to impossible to do with the 19 litre tank on. So in my view that’s a lot of extra hassle and risks for a little bit more of oil. I’d rather just do oil changes more frequently.

Ignition map switch

The ignition map switch is there to facilitate the change between standard and soft ignition maps. Most of the time I run on standard, but the soft map may be useful in technical terrain and if fuel quality is dubious or low octane.

Steering damper

I’d never used a steering damper before now, and running with the Öhlins/Scott was quite a revelation. It does make the bike track really nicely on soft or rocky terrain.

Engine temperature

I fitted a Trailtech temperature gauge with the EZ-Install fin sensor. It’s really handy for keeping an eye on how the engine is doing in steep, technical and slow terrain. It continuously shows the current engine temperature and regularly flashes the highest reached temperature from the last few minutes.

Wiring and components

While the bike is new and clean for the last time, it’s a good idea to add little extra protection to the wiring. Dirt combined with vibration will quickly start eating away any two surfaces that move across each other. Especially so with the insulation of electrical wires, which in turn creates shorts which may turn out to be plentiful and hard to find. So it’s a good idea to make sure as little dirt as possible reaches the wires and that they remain immobile. Copious use of electrical tape and zip ties will work fine with a section of mountain bike inner tube for extra protection in high abrasion areas.
All wire housings are cut a little before the connectors to ensure efficient water drainage. I usually tape over the housings and connectors if they are mostly dry. If there is a risk of the connectors being submerged, I leave them open to avoid trapping water in the housing, which will eventually slowly seep to the connectors and corrode them. I spray all connectors with contact cleaner regularly to avoid any problems. The starter and fuel pump relays in the back of the bike should be secured to their sockets with zip ties as they can fall out when the going gets rough.

Auxiliary wiring harness

KTM manufactures a handy auxiliary wiring harness, which I use for all extra instruments and power supplies. It’s wired directly to the battery and has a 7.5A fuse. I use it to power my navigators, LED high beam and 12V accessory power supply. I’ve added a main switch for it to kill power to the navigators and accessories when necessary. I used to connect all the accessories with connectors, but they’re bulky and prone to failure in the tight space of the headlight mask. So now I solder everything instead and the rats nest is gone. Instead the cables now tuck in nicely.

Accessory power supply

I currently use a dual supply unit with a 12V cigarette lighter socket and USB socket. It’s mounted on the navigation clamps. I will most likely change it to a single USB as I have no need for the cigarette lighter socket any more.

Indicators

The stock bike came without indicators installed. It was an easy plug and play job essentially, but after already the first ride, half of the the exhaust side indicator was gone. So I went with some tiny LED indicators and a soldered LED indicator relay for the correct timing of the blink. I’ve extended the cable on the turn signal warning light to have it nice and high on the instrument panel. Otherwise I’d just ride along all day with the indicator blinking.

Ignition switch

The 500 only has a steering lock, but no ignition switch. It seemed rather risky, so I fitted a general ignition switch with closing loops in both key positions. When the key is on the on position, the switch closes the ignition loop and the bike starts and runs. In the off position, the switch closes the kill switch loop and bike stops and will not run. The ignition switch is mounted on my ghetto instrument panel.

 

Headlight

The Baja Designs SII LED spot is a beast for its size and weight. It’s also very reliable and packs enough power for my use. I will wire an extra switching relay into one of the accessory switches on the instrument panel to have control over whether to use the OEM head light or the Baja Designs SII LED spot from the original handlebar headlight switch.

Mirrors

The 500 came with two static mirrors. I prefer a clean cockpit when riding offroad, so I replaced the mirrors with a single Acerbic left hand side folding mirror. It’s mostly tucked away behind the hand guard.

Side stand

The stock side stand is configured to pop up automatically when the weight of the bike is off it. I found it to be rather risky and luckily there was a replacement bolt in the bike’s accessory kit that sorted it out. I also tried the KTM big side stand foot, but found it impossible to fit onto the side stand. It’s just as well, though as it’s not really necessary.

Navigation

The bike has two Garmin Montana 600 navigators. There’s two because I ride solo a lot and like to have a backup in case something goes wrong. I lock the top navigator in portrait and have it tracking up with a static track on the map. The bottom navigator is locked in landscape and tracks north with a topographic overview of the area. Both navigators are locked into powered Garmin cradles, which are held on the RMS Universal Navigation Clamps with RAM mounts. I keep the RAM mount of the top navigator loose enough to be easily swung back and forth between seated and attack positions without needing to adjust the tension bolt.

Instrument panel

The handlebar was starting to look like a Christmas tree, so I devised a ghetto instrument panel from 4 mm aluminium sheet. The mounting surface is roughly 120 x 50 mm and has holes for mounting the ignition switch, two waterproof accessory switches, the turn signal warning light and the engine temperature gauge. It’s all very Mad Max in it’s functional design, but cleaner, as my buddy Rafal noted.

Luggage

I currently run with 2 x 15 litre XCountry Hobo version panniers and a 3.4 litre XCountry Hobo version mask bag. So a total volume of 33.4 litres for luggage. I used to also run a Giant Loop Fandango tank bag, but found it too disruptive for body position and also to interfere with the venting of the fuel tank. So I ditched it and couldn’t be happier with the current setup.
The XCountry panniers mount on the bike without a rack, but need a tail mount point. I bolted some D-rings right on the tail fender with large washers, and so far they’ve been holding nicely. In the front the panniers are strapped right onto the frame. Even with the front and back connection points they still seemed to swing too much to my liking, so I fitted an extra D-ring on the side panels and run a strap from there to the top of the subframe. They’re now stable enough.
After looking into several different pannier setups, I must say that the XCountry panniers tick all the essential boxes for me. They’re light, waterproof, quick to open and close and sturdy. They are also easily expandable with the handy zigzag bungees on the outside. I regularly carry two 1.5 litre water bottles in the back at the end of the day before hitting camp.

Bolts

Many of the aftermarket stuff such as skid plates have different bolt head and types than the rest of the bike. I usually replace all after market bolts with high quality stainless steel hardware. I make sure the head is a Torx key size that I need to carry in my toolkit anyway.

Haul loops

The tail can be easily moved around from the luggage straps or just by grabbing the tail, so I only fit a haul loop in the front. It’s another ghetto edition, made from 25 mm webbing and some hardware. It does what it’s supposed to and tucks away nicely behind the headlight mask

Full service history


0 KM - 0 H / BEFORE BREAK IN

Check spoke tension F+R
Check rim lock tension F+R
Check valve nut F+R
Check coolant
Mark master link
Wiring for indicators
Install indicator relay
Install indicators
Grease steering stem bearings
Move handlebar to forward position
LocTite handlebar bolts
Grease axles
Anti seize in triple clamp bolts
Align forks
Protect and stabilize wiring
Rear sprocket 50-T
Anti seize brake pad pins front
Throttle cable protection CPL
Check steering limiters
Weigh bike – FR 55.3 kg / R 58.0 kg w. fuel 1kg, Total 112.3

32 KM - 1.2 H / BREAK IN SERVICE

Anti seize chain adjuster bolts
Grease countershaft
Front sprocket 13-T
Grease rear axle
Grease kickstand bolts and spacers
Hand guard mounting kit
Hand guard deflectors, white
Anti seize brake pad pins rear
Clutch slave cylinder case guard
Ignition map switch
Stabilize throttle cables to frame with seat bungs and rubber bands
SXS Carbon exhaust guard
Change oil and filter 1, oil ok, but milky after start. Condensation in valve cover?
Change oil and filter 2, oil clears after operation temperature.
Check valve clearances, OK
Valve shim size IN Right 2.04
Valve shim size IN Left 2.04
Valve shim size EX Right 2.12
Valve shim size EX Left 2.12
Check radiator hose clamps
Secure starter relay with ziptie
Secure fuel pump relay with ziptie
Bungee cords for throttle wires
Air filter bracket CPL
Flip up mirror LS
Factory oil plug
FMF competition silencer
Lube fuel tank quick release o-ring

90 KM - 3.0 H / BIKE BUILD

Check radiator fan
Change prefilter
Adjust idle speed
Navigation clamps
Loctite kickstarter bolt
PDS hem joint heavy grease
Chain guide TMD
Loctite chain guide bolts
Tank bag (Camera and charging) GL Fandango
Check cone point dimensions on naviclamps
Grease swing arm bearing outside only (teflon)
Drill hand guard rails and secure with through bolts
Hammerhead shifter pedal
Hammerhead brake pedal
Change kickstand spring bolt
Front sprocket 14-T
Green Loctite sprocket bolt
Green Loctite shock bottom bolt
Headlight alignment
Extra high beam Baja Designs S2 LED spot
Front brake rally routing
Brake pedal back bolt Loctite
Skid plate with oil tank
Navigation clamp => RAM adapter
Extra wiring harness
Ignition switch
Wire Montana cradles
Connector for LED high beam
Switch for LED high beam
Auxiliary wiring harness
Replace bashplate front screws
Top navigator long arm
Electrical spray on all connectors
Tape up and secure wiring
RAM mount for secondary navigator
Tighten shift pedal
Tighten brake pedal
Rear brake cylinder extender
Carbon clutch cover protector
SXS oil pump cover
Steering damper, Öhlins
Soft luggage strap rack
Silencer heat shield, Giant Loop
Grip Doughnuts KTM
Brake pedal safety wire
Front fender, white
Rear fender, white
Head light mask, white
Air box cover, right, white
Air box cover, left, white
Radiator shrouds, orange
Damped rear wheel, KTM
Mitas C-02 rear
Full bolt check
Heat shield on D-ring bolt
Protect frame abrasion areas & recheck wiring stability
Check fairing screws
Tank protector rollers to radiator shroud tabs
Fuel tank, 19 litres
MTB inner tube over tank quick release
12V supply to tank bag
Replace shock spring to 80N/mm
Align forks
Chain Oiler, OSCO
Haul loop front
Set sag, rider 105-115mm / free 33-35 mm
Indicator dash light

1012 KM - 18.8 H / PREPARATION FOR CRIMSON TRAIL 2

Replace Hammerhead brake pedal tip bolts
12V/USB outlet
Accessory wiring
LED indicators back
Headlight beam adjustment
Oil and filter change, looking good
Air filter change
LED indicator relay, solder
XCountry mask bag
XCountry panniers 2 x 15 litres
Replace bashplate bracket screws, nuts and washers
Weigh bike, FR 61 kg / R 64 kg without fuel, Total 125 kg

2416 KM - 46.4 H / TRAIL SERVICE, CRIMSON TRAIL 2, ČADCA, SLOVAKIA

Replace air filter

3261 KM - 59.6 H / PREPARATION FOR CRIMSON TRAIL 3

Fork bleeder valve set
Remove tank bag, it’s too disruptive for body position
Baja LED to higher position for more clearance of mask bag
Baja LED beam height adjustment
Change oil and filter, Oil black. Sieves and magnet OK. Oil mixed CrossPower + PowerSynt (20 cc)
Check valve clearance IN Left 2.04, 0.15 loose / OK
Check valve clearance IN Right 2.04, 0.15 tight / OK
Check valve clearance EX Lefy 2.12, 0.15 loose 0.2 no go / OK
Check valve clearance EX Right 2.12, 0.2 loose / ADJUST
Replace valve shim EX Right, old 2.12 mm / new 2.16 mm
Check valve clearance EX Right 2.16, 0.15 ok, 0.2 very tight / OK
Replace fuel prefilter, looking good
Replace air filter, looking good
Pannier tail D-rings
Pannier bottom D-ring straps

3290 KM - 60.4 H / PREPARATION FOR CRIMSON TRAIL 3

Adjust idle lower
Remove rally skid plate
P3 Carbon skid plate
P3 Carbon pipe guard
Check power leech => LED spot handlebar switch
White deflectors
Orange radiator shrouds
Nyloc hand guard bolts
Front sprocket 13-T
Hammerhead shifter pedal bolt, lock wire
Fix ignition switch wiring
On/off switch for accessory wiring
New LED switch for LED high beam
Navigation panel, 4 mm aluminium plate
Engine temp gauge, Trailtech w. EZ Install fin sensor
12V + USB sockets
Indicator light to bracket
Extend indicator light wiring
Extend ignition switch wiring
Remove connectors and solder all accessory wiring
Secure wiring to frame in mask
Tail fender D-rings support with large washers
Secure rad guards with lock wire
Loctite luggage strap bolts
Loctite panel bolts
Replace XCountry pannier bottom cam straps with D-rings

4689 KM - 78 H / TRAIL SERVICE, CRIMSON TRAIL 3, CLUJ NAPOCA, ROMANIA

Change oil and filter, looking good after 1428 km / 18.4 h
Change tyres to Metzeler Unicross. They suck BTW.

54 comments

  • greg fuller September 22, 2016   Reply →

    wow wish i could figure out how to do half of that stuff. my 500 has 12000miles on it an i think i could do 25000 in mostly stock use i ride dirtmostly as dual sport. these things further enlarged my understanding of what to expect sometimes.thanks for4 the info

    • The Rolling Hobo September 22, 2016   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Greg, thanks for the info. Very good to hear there are people doing high mileage on the 500! Keep rolling!

  • Richard Parker September 22, 2016   Reply →

    What a fantastic build. I’ve just bought a 2015 500 and like you I am trying to turn it into a lightweight adventure bike. I’ve still got my 690 with Rally Raid kit but if it all works out with the 500 I will sell the 690. I’ve got a couple of questions if you don’t mind: can you remember which wire/circuit you used for a switched 12 volt? I am using a separate fuse box for my heated grips and road book but I’m not sure which wire to connect a relay to. Second question is do you carry engine oil in the panniers or externally? I use a Giant Loop Coyote but I’m a bit wary of oil leaking into the rest of my kit – maybe i should attach a small bag just for the oil onto the loop? Whilst I’m on the subject of oil I am hopefully shipping the bike over to the US next year to ride the Continental Divide trail – I was hoping to do the trip (approx 4500 – 5000 km) with just one oil change around halfway, do you think that is too far? Cheers Richard

    • The Rolling Hobo September 22, 2016   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Richard, congrats on the bike! Looking forward to seeing what you build.

      I used the auxiliary wiring harness (KTM 77711979000) for all accessories with a Y-distributor (KTM 77711979010) in the end of it. The auxiliary wiring harness is wired directly to the battery terminals and has a 7.5 A fuse. I just added a switch at the end of it and distributed from there.

      As for fluids, I would never carry large quantities inside panniers. The only exception is minimal stuff like Loctite, and even that is triple packed into zip lock bags. IMHO the risk of getting camping gear or spare parts covered in oil or water is too risky. So I carry all fluids on the outside. I’d do the same with oil too.

      The truth is that I don’t really carry any oil with me. Instead I try to organize it beforehand to locations or buy it on the way. In the end finding the oil is usually not the problem, but in fact what to do with the used oil. So oil changes are not really convenient to do in the field. And where you can buy oil, you will probably also find a place where to change it too.

      It’s not so much the mileage as the hours. My oil was looking very good after 1400 km / 18 h and very dubious after 2200 km / 40 h. So I’ll be looking to do oil changes at around thirty hours and not worry too much about the mileage. But I’d imagine on the Continental divide ride I’d do two oil changes on the way.

      Keep safe, keep rolling!

    • Charles Mitford Cust January 26, 2017   Reply →

      Richard, a tip mate. Don’t even think of shipping your bike to the USA it will cost at least 50% more than you have bee told by the time you take into account all the extra expenses involved. I took a 690 over in 14 and it was a nightmare, especially dealing with US customs, the nastiest bunch of tossers on this planet. Far far better is to do what I did in 15 which is to fly WITH your bike on Air Canada from Heathrow. It cost £1200 me and the bike to Montreal ( in your case it would be Calgary right at the top of the Continental Divide) but only £800 back from Vancouver.

      Literally by the time I had collected my luggage from the carousel my bike was waiting for me in the cargo area a short taxi ride away. All I had to do was pay a 5 minute visit to the charming ladies in Canada Customs (OMG what a difference to the anal US bastards) and I was on my way . Strangely when you reach the US border because you have come by land the US Customs don’t even look at the fact you are on a UK bike, they just stamp your passport.

      I promise you that to get to the USA and back with your bike will cost at least as much by ship with massive extra hassle when you take all the REAL costs like extra nights in motels waiting for it to released, Customs charges, port charges, taxi fares to the ports which are miles away from the Customs offices etc etc. Ships are often delayed for weeks.

      Lastly don’t forget to get your EPA exemption certificate from the States in case the Cops stop you. It is easy to get online just Google it. Have a great trip. BTW have you considered doing the real Trans America Trail which only become a trail in Mississippi then crossing the rockies and dropping down to the bottom of the CD trail and back up to Calgary to fly home with your bike? You could fly into Montreal with road tyres and cut down through the Smoky mountains like I did in 15?

  • Richard Parker September 23, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Thanks for the reply. I don’t really want to keep oil inside the luggage, another option is this: http://scheffelmeier-metall.de/KTM-EXC-450-500/Rally-bash-plate-with-bolt-on-tool-box-for-KTM-450-500-EXC::116.html , he will make a bottle that bolts to the bash plate instead of the tool box. I’ve got a collapsible bowl that I can drain the oil into and then transfer to the empty bottle to dispose of at a later date. Or like you suggest try and plan places to stop along the way.
    I should get my suspension back today, I have adjusted for my weight and the weight of luggage – hopefully I can get out this weekend to see how it is. The Haan wheel should be here next week, then I might get a Highway Dirt Bikes Rallye light tower and fairing and a Globtrottin’ lightweight rack – depends how much money is left!
    Cheers

  • Benjamin McWilliams September 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thanks so much for the thread! A lot of people post blogs that simply inspire and inspiration is great motivation but it doesn’t get people any closer to their goals. This post has gone further by educating and enabling! I’ve been saving for a 500 exc and have pages of research and amature plans on what I’ll do to make it a light adv but this information has taken my planning so much further.

    Thanks for helping me complete my build plan! Time for me to draft up the final budge, finish saving, learn to modify a few of the things I’m too inexperienced to do and then pull the trigger. Still about a year off from getting where I need to be but I feel like I finally have the road map on how to get there.

    Seriously, thanks
    Ben

  • Sergio September 24, 2016   Reply →

    Excellent post.
    Thanks!

    Sergio.

  • Mark Lafferty October 13, 2016   Reply →

    Thanks for all the great information.
    I adventurized my 2016 500EXC and did the Continental Divide Ride north to south at the end of July. I started from my home in Surrey BC Canada and rode 2 days of paved highways to the start of the ride in Whitefish Montana. Rode 11 days of the CDR to Antelope Wells New Mexico. Then 3 days of Interstate highways via LA back to Surrey. Kept highway speed to 120 km/h. The weather coming back was HOT!!!.
    The CDR ride was fantastic. Bike performed perfectly. No issues at all. Three oil and oil filter changes on the way (Whitefish, Colorado, then at the end of the CDR before heading home). No air filter service was needed. I was at the front of the pack!!!!
    Both new tires at start. The rear tire was replaced in Colorado. The front tire replaced in Arizona on the way back home not because it was worn but because of the noise produced by the cupping wear pattern from all the highway miles. Extremely loud on the highway.
    I didn’t carry tires or oil. Lots of motorcycle service locations along this route.
    I brought my camping gear but only camped once. Next time I will skip the camping gear and run a little lighter.
    Used a custom wider firmer seat to make the highway miles bearable. Lynx II fairing for highway comfort and fantastic lighting.
    The interstate miles were pretty hard on the bike’s drive train. Next ride I will consider one-way U-Haul rentals to get the bike to the start and back from the finish. I used stock sprockets and chain. Rear sprocket is aluminum and wore quickly on the interstate. The chain guard and chain guides were all worn through by the end. The sprockets and chain were also worn out from the highway miles and speeds. I kept chain well oiled.
    On my first pre-trip test ride the stock side stand collapsed. I replaced it with an aftermarket one that is much stronger.
    The 500EXC is the perfect bike for the CDR; fast and light.

    • The Rolling Hobo November 7, 2016   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Mark, sorry for not replying earlier! I appreciate you taking the time to write extensively of your experience with the 500.

      I’ve noticed the same wear issue on the standard sprockets on the 690; the Stealth Sprockets last much longer, and apparently the Ironman sprocket is the bomb! I would also recommend the TMD chain guides as they have replaceable bottom slides, which I replaced after 20.000 miles. Which side stand did you go with?

      • Mark Lafferty November 11, 2016   Reply →

        It’s from Promoto billet.
        It is made from aluminum and much stronger than stock, especially at the attachment point to the bike. My bike is lowered a bit and Promoto shortened their stock stand for me a little for an extra fee.

    • Rupert May 15, 2017   Reply →

      Hi Mark,

      Could you let me know the make and model of your wider seat and comment on whether you considered it value for money? Same for the aftermarket side stand?

      Cheers.

  • Richard Parker November 4, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Mark. I am hoping to ride the CDR next year so long as I can organise a reasonable fee for shipping the bikes from the UK to Calgary and San Francisco back to the UK. My main concern was oil changes whilst doing the trip but it sounds like there is no need to worry. Did you just use a decent quality oil or did you use the specific oil that KTM recommends? Cheers Richard

  • Mark Lafferty November 6, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Richard;
    To get to Calgary, try Air Canada, At one time they had a special deal where you could fly at a discount price on the same flight that your bike was on.
    I’ve always used the KTM recommended Motorex oil.
    You can email me at mdlafferty@shaw.ca if you want to talk about the CDR.
    Good luck on your ride!
    Mark

  • Jeff Marsh December 20, 2016   Reply →

    Just wanted to thank you for the great information. I sold my 690 3 years ago and miss the adventure side of things (3000 miles in 6 days West to East US coast), even though racing a KTM 300 has been a blast. I was getting the itch to go back to a 690 but loved your insight on the KTM 500. My only concern is the amount of highway miles it seems we have to do here in the states to get to the ‘good stuff’. Reading Mark Lafferty’s insight was good to hear as well. Gonna make a plan and hopefully the 500 will be close to a reality in a few months.

    Jeff – marshy19

    • The Rolling Hobo January 4, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Jeff, and sorry for not replying earlier. I seem to have missed your comment during the end of the year chaos at work and the holidays. Anyhow, many thanks for your kind words. I fully agree with the issue with highway miles. I somewhat suffer from the same thing here in Berlin, and will not do any more long tarmac transits unless I absolutely have to. IMHO the 500 is no less comfortable than a 690, but it just seems a waste to have to do a full service after a long transit before hitting dirt… Luckily there should be affordable road transport available. Have a great year and wishing you good luck with the 500!

  • David Beavers January 17, 2017   Reply →

    Thanks for your info on the build, I ordered the GPS holder from RMS , how difficult was it to reroute front brake cable and wiring ?

    • The Rolling Hobo January 18, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi David, the brake rerouting is really simple. You can use the original brake line, but you need to cut off the hard plastic sleeve. A utility knife will do, with about 1-2 mm of the blade out to avoid damaging the brake line inside the sleeve. Once you have the sleeve cut off, just add ziptie the brake line to the bottoms of the triple clamps, running the line below the headlight. It’s a good idea to add some protection between the brake line and the clamp to avoid abrasion damage. MTB inner tube works well. You’ll need to adjust the angle of the banjo on the master cylinder, but you can do this without having to bleed the brakes if you’re careful.

      Best of luck!

      • Anonymous January 31, 2017   Reply →

        Thanks for the information, I will work on that tomorrow

  • Nicole Sterley January 18, 2017   Reply →

    Looks like a great build. I just found the site while thinking about ADV riding on my FE501. I did almost all the same mods you did already. Short of the wiring clean up. Might have to clean her up and do that. I am interested to read more about how the bags and packing works out. I find the FE a little finicky at high speeds. How does it ride with all the weight? Have you weighed the bike (maybe i missed that somewhere if listed). Cheers and thanks for the write up.

    • The Rolling Hobo January 18, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Nicole, and thanks for your input. The 501 is a really nice bike, although I do prefer the 500 EXC over it. One factor is the PDS on the KTM vs. the linkage on the Husky.

      As for the luggage, I’ve been very pleased with the Xcountry Hobo edition panniers so far. The tie into the bike nicely, but do need some D-rings on the tail fairing. I also added another set of D-rings on the side panels to prevent the bags from bouncing around too much. Seems to work and so far all the plastic fairings are holding up to the extra load. I only carry about 6 kg of gear per bag even on multi month expeditions, so the added mass is not huge. I can fit all my gear nicely into the double 15 litre panniers, and have a small mask bag for extra goggles, electronics and charging. I don’t use a tank bag as it restricts body position too much IMHO.

      The 500 is very stable at speed. Then again, I’ve only run it at 150 kmh on sandy roads and it seemed very nicely planted on the surface. I think this boils down to keeping luggage minimal and the centre of gravity low. The steering damper helps too. Not that I usually run it that fast though. In fact I’ve since changed the 14:50 final drive to a 13:50 to better suit the enduro type trails that I ride on. For rally type stuff it’s definitely too slow, but that’s not the riding I go for on the 500.

      The mass of the bike is currently as follows:

      Adventurized bike: 122 kg
      Panniers and mask bag: 2.5 kg
      Luggage: 13 kg
      19 litres fuel: 14.5 kg

      Fully fuelled expedition weight: 152 kg

  • David February 1, 2017   Reply →

    When you refer to the sleeve are you referring to the black sleeve that both the speedometer cable and brake line are in or the clear coating on the brake line?
    Sorry I just want to make sure

    • The Rolling Hobo February 1, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      No worries David, it’s better to be safe than sorry 😉

      You only remove the black plastic sleeve that’s on the brake line. Do NOT attempt to remove the sleeve from the speedo cable.

  • Clay February 11, 2017   Reply →

    Hello again,

    still moving towards my Africa trip and debating over 690, 701 and 500. I think the 500 would be great, but i’m a little worried about the low octane fuel I might come across. you have any thoughts on that?

    cheers,
    Clay D

    • The Rolling Hobo February 14, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hiya Clay, unfortunately I have no info on the 500’s reaction to low octane fuel. My strategy is to switch into the soft ignition map with dubious fuel. Also, I try not to run the fuel tank completely dry of higher octane stuff; instead try to blend it gradually and top up on high octane when you can. If it’s any consolation, the 690’s had zero issues with 80 octane fuel while running on the bad fuel ignition map. They felt sluggish of course, but no knocking or other mechanical issues.

  • Dave February 12, 2017   Reply →

    Hobo, is there any other place to purchase xcountry bags? I’ve tried contacting them via email and have been unsuccessful so far. Thanks.

    • The Rolling Hobo February 14, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Dave, I’m afraid not. They seem to be a rather rare delicacy. I’m working on trying to get a batch of the Hobo bags produced, if people are interested. I’ve been really happy with them and it would be nice to get them widely available…

  • Joakim Johansson February 25, 2017   Reply →

    Hi!
    Thank’s for your great blog, i have been following it for a good while.
    I’ve just ordered a 500 exc 6-D, and planning to do some adventurizing, a lot inspired from you! 🙂
    A silly question.. would you mind putting a link to those tiny led indicators and relay?.. I have searched, but keep ending up unsure of what fits or looks as nice as yours.
    Thank you and keep up blogging 🙂
    Regards, Jocke

  • Ian Scott March 5, 2017   Reply →

    Joakim. Biltema have some small, cheap and cheerful led indicators that don’t melt on the 500, but are cheap to replace when you break one off.

    http://www.biltema.se/sv/Bil—MC/MC/Belysning/LED-Miniblinkers-2-st-2000020855/

    Been doing fine on my 500 so far.

  • Bob March 6, 2017   Reply →

    Excellent write up and photography, as usual.

    Would you mind posting a close-up photo and description of how you mounted the S2 Pro driving light? I’m doing a KTM 500 bike build and would like to benefit from your experience.

    • The Rolling Hobo March 8, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Bob, please bear with me. I’ll send you a pic during the weekend.

  • Bob March 9, 2017   Reply →

    Thank you. Following your lead, I bought the same dash components as you and am anxious to learn how you assembled all the components on the Rally Management Services Universal Navigation Clamps, the handle bars, etc. I especially valye that you’ve made it work under heavy, prolonged vibration – vibration will kill nearly anything.

    I considered alternatives like those below but your solution may work better:

    https://www.highwaydirtbikes.com/index.php?app=ccp0&ns=catshow&ref=HDB_Rallye_Lite

    https://www.highwaydirtbikes.com/index.php?app=ccp0&ns=prodshow&ref=KTM_LC010

    https://www.motominded.com/collections/ktm-2016-xcf-2017-250cc/products/squadron-xl80-kit-2017-ktm

    • The Rolling Hobo March 12, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Bob, the clamps work very well with the 690 and 500. The clamps that connect to the handlebar are very sturdy and create a great connection, and I didn’t even bother with Loctite. The main issue to cover is adding Loctite to the threads of the minuscule needle head hex screws that prevent the mounting cross axle from rotating on the clamps.

      The Montana cradle connects to the crossbar with the RAM axle clamp mount, but it requires an adapter as the axle is too thin for a good connection. I made a ghetto version from 20 mm aluminium rod, but you can also buy a plastic one from RAM. I prefer the aluminium, as it allows for higher torque on the clamp bolts.

      The LED light is connected to either of the threads, exposed from the clamp bolts on the RAM mount. You can use the original Baja bracket:

      But I fabricated a longer version for more clearance between the bolt head and the wires. You may need to cut the exposed threads a little to make sure they don’t touch the light.

  • Bob March 14, 2017   Reply →

    Wow – thank you so very much! Extremely helpful!!! Thank you for taking to perfectly illustrate your implementation for me and others. This is exactly what I needed!

    Your commitment to quality work is always on display – even your “snapshots” are beautiful!

  • Dave March 15, 2017   Reply →

    Hi Hobo, Thanks for all the great information. Now that you have experience with both the 500 and 690, what rides will you utilize the 690 for? Thanks Dave

    • The Rolling Hobo April 5, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Dave, and sorry for the late reply. I’d say the 690 would be great for fast terrain, which doesn’t get too technical. Rally type stuff…

  • Marcel April 11, 2017   Reply →

    Awesome.
    Thanks for your review!
    I am just playing now more and more with the idea,
    to get a lighter bike for dirt tracks beside my 640ADV.

  • Jim June 3, 2017   Reply →

    What bash plate did you originally have before you switched over to the carbon? Do you still have it?

    • The Rolling Hobo June 6, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hiya Jim, it’s a Twalcom rally H20 tank / engine guard. Yes, I still have it but will most likely sell it.

      • Anonymous June 6, 2017   Reply →

        Let me know how much you’d want for it. I might be interested! You can email me at
        Fishing4adv@gmail.com

        • The Rolling Hobo June 7, 2017   Reply →
          The Rolling Hobo

          E-mail sent.

  • Andre Herculano June 6, 2017   Reply →

    Hi Hobo, living in Gerrmany, maybe this is a off-topic question but, living in Germany, does the annual inspection (TÜV) give you any kind of trouble because of the after-market parts and mods?

    • The Rolling Hobo June 6, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Andre, my bike is not registered in Germany, mainly due to the complex registration process and tight yearly inspection.

  • Dave Luke June 6, 2017   Reply →

    Do you always change the oil filter with the oil when on the road?

    • The Rolling Hobo June 6, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Dave, yes I do. I know some riders do it with every second oil change, but I prefer to change it every time if they’re available.

  • Dave Luke June 7, 2017   Reply →

    Thanks Hobo, I am also using a 2016 500 EXC for adventure riding and in the process of setting it up. I actually had 2 different 690’s starting with the first year they came out and came to the same conclusion that you did. I did the Colorado BDR on a 690 and am now going to do the rest of the BDR’s on the 500. I do not camp, so I am thinking of using Giant Loops Mojave bags with a backpack and a Wolfman Enduro light tank bag which is much smaller than a GL tank bag. I live in Bend where GL is headquartered. they are great guys! I read your tool post but i think it was focused on the 690. If yo have any updated tool lists for the 500, I would appreciate a link. Thanks!

    • The Rolling Hobo June 8, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Hi Dave, sounds good. Do you have the 19 litre tank? How does the WM enduro tank bag fit on it? Any restriction to body movement? I’ve had the GL Fandango and found it too restrictive for my taste. Plus I don’t need the extra space any more as I carry a mask bag…

      Here’s the list for my 500 EXC toolkit and consumables. There’s an update coming up soon though 😉

  • Dave Luke June 9, 2017   Reply →

    I have the Acerbis 3 gallon tank that allows you to keep the side panels. The WM fits on with a harness in the same manner as the Fandango. Around the steering head and back to the frame with quick release clips. It’s about 2 inches shorter and much thinner than the Fandango so it is less restrictive but if I am only riding for the day in more technical terrain, I prefer to have nothing. Thanks for toolkit link. I was specifically looking to see what you did for newer smaller 17mm front axle bolt and I see you have the ratchet adapter for the motion pro combo tire levers. Excellent kit. Thanks! Any spare parts you insist on?? Fuel Injector or ????

    • The Rolling Hobo June 12, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      Just as a note, I use 1/2″ socket on the 3/8″ Motion pro with an adapter. The adapter gives just enough clearance working comfortably on the axle or sprocket and there’s no need to carry an extender. As for spare parts, I do carry an injector, an extra pump and clutch plates among other things. The full article should be up before I leave on Thursday for the Crimson Trail.

  • Anonymous June 14, 2017   Reply →

    Thanks! I want to steal your idea of using the KTM Accessory Harness for my GPS. Can you explain what male connector you use for the KTM style 2-pin female connector?

    • The Rolling Hobo June 15, 2017   Reply →
      The Rolling Hobo

      You can either remove the connector and solder wires right onto the accessory wires or get a KTM Y-distributor and build from there. The Y-distributor part number is 77711979010.

  • Anonymous July 10, 2017   Reply →

    I’ll be using the Baja Designs lights in a similar setup.
    Any chance of writing some instructions for electrical idiots like me, on how to wire the lights/relay… and still use the stock high / low beam…?

    😉
    Ride: 2007 450 EXC
    California

  • robert smith July 14, 2017   Reply →

    pretty new to all this adventure riding so bare with me:
    Love this bike and the thought of owning one but have some worries as a newbie
    How many miles before oil and filter change? are there any other maintenance issues if i go on a multi day trip?

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