Photos: Neil Johnston Words: Neil Johnston and Kevin Miklossy
Approximately 20,000 kilometers ago, Touratech USA offered to kit out OWD Photographer Kevin Miklossy’s KTM 990 Adventure Dakar. Much slab, highway, twisties, dirt, gravel and Baja sand later, here’s how the company’s offerings have stood up.
1. Windscreen Spoiler KTM LC8 Adv 950 and 990
We’ll admit to a bit of a cheat here, we’re using the Windscreen Spoiler in conjunction with KTM’s Touring Screen for the 990, but the results are phenomenal. If you’re under 6-feet tall for example, you can ride in an open faced helmet… while eating cheezy-poofs at 80mph. Not that we’d recommend such behavior, but clipped atop the touring screen the air pocket is calm enough and the buffeting directed over your head far enough that smokers and junk food connoisseurs will rejoice. Long distance riders will too, because the lack of buffeting reduces fatigue.
When it comes time for the off-road portions, the Spoiler removes quickly un-cluttering your field of vision. Which is the point where some caveats creep in. First, the clipping mechanism places a large distracting plate of metal right in your field of vision. Second, the Macrolon of the spoiler is easily scratched and prone to hazing, so be careful where and how you store this little marvel of ergonomics.
Even those points considered the calming of the 990’s somewhat tempestuous airflow makes the Windscreen Spoiler a welcome addition on any long and fast pavement haul.
2. Touratech GPS Mount Support for for KTM LC8
Ok, I’m a sucker for the 990’s Rally inspired looks, so navigation in the tower? Hell yes! First step in that direction is the Touratech GPS Mount Support, which places the GPS front and center right in your line of sight, when used in conjunction with the Handlebar Mount (http://www.touratech-usa.com/shop/show.lasso?sku=065-0523). There’s no arguing with the placement, but reading the instructions I balked a little at the sentence, “Drill two 12mm holes in positions shown in photo 5 or cut them out.” No harm or foul, the experience wasn’t scarring.
The only issue to this otherwise well thought out mount is that it’s only affixed by two mount points at the rear of the assembly, allowing it to vibrate at the front. Some double-sided carpet tape is in order.
3. Touratech Zumo 660 / 665 Handlebar Mount V2.0, Locking
Generally I’m a fan of simplicity in design, and then you press a button and watch your GPS mount elegantly release and that falls by the wayside. There must be a hundred little moving parts in this mount, all waiting to fall prey to being gummed up by dust, and yet after 20,000 kms they haven’t.
Nor, despite being parked in some fairly dubious places, has my Zumo 660 gone missing while locked in place. That is either a testament to the lock, or the “how the hell do I get this out” look of the mount, one way or another it’s a deterrent. So far the mount has survived a good turn though the Baja, a lot of dirt road and tons of twists, so counts as living proof that it’s up to real world use.
4. Brake Cylinder Guard, KTM 990 & 950 Adventure / Super Enduro LC8
Much like the Folding Brake Pedal Kit (http://www.touratech-usa.com/shop/show.lasso?sku=370-0270) a brake cylinder guard is a good bit of insurance. Especially when KTM’s design leaves the reservoir hanging out there begging for off-road damage. Riding without a rear brake isn’t necessarily a day-ender on a small bike, but big bikes push a lot more under front braking and most days we can do without that challenge.
5. Folding Brake Pedal Kit LC8
I’m not mechanically inclined, so it’s a sign of faith when someone hands me a screwdriver and says, “Go to it… carefully.” That’s a good measure of the ease of the Folding Brake Pedal Kit’s install. Above and beyond that, the lever does what it should and folds out of the way preventing breakage when the bike hits the ground, rocks, trees, stumps, rocks hidden in sand… you get the idea. For those who make a practice of ricocheting off solid objects, it’s very comforting to have a rear brake lever after the bump, whack, or thud.
6. ZegaPro Pannier System 38L Anod-BLK KTM LC8 Adv
GRRRRRRrrrr… Just dead sexy. Yep, I know that these boxes are rugged, waterproof, well designed and good quality, but they give your bike that proper ’round the world airs too. I went with the 38L option, as I’ve the 41L Zega cases (http://www.touratech-usa.com/Store/1802/PN-050-0020/ZEGA-Case-Touring-Pannier-41L-BLANK) on my KTM 640 Adventure and they are forever bouncing off rocks and trees, which while a testament to durability is a bit jarring.
Build quality is very good, and the matte black anodized coating is beautiful and tough. Hard plastic edges attached along the bottom prevent scratching when taking the bags off. The latches allow for hinged opening of the lid, a nice improvement over the standard Zega. Also, the tie-down anchor loops on the lids are lower and stronger (and won’t jam in your butt if you use the box as a camp chair!). The optional locks allow for easy opening without the key when unlocked, considerably nicer than other systems that require the key regardless, a needless annoyance.
The 38L Zega Pros though are just narrow enough to allow lane splitting in California, and avoid tree splitting in BC. That’s for the better, because there’s a philosophical difference between these and other bags on the market, namely they act as crumple zones.
The Zega Pros tend to deform a bit under a hit or drop, absorbing the impact. While that’s not a bad thing for your bike, or its subframe, it’s so hot for the fit of the lids. The tight tolerance of the seal around the top of the case are easily disrupted, until you find a stump, board, hammer or metal shop to pound things back into shape – an relatively achievable task. On the up side, any concerns over popping a rivet were dismissed and the bag held together solidly. The mounting system isn’t immune to the effects either, and once the bag has been deformed it tends to rattle – the silver lining here is that you can easily bore out the groove for the retaining clip in the mount’s plastic puck to regain a tight secure fit. Never has this set-up let go. For those who have the occasional unplanned dismount, you can strengthen the bags with a “pannier doubler” piece that fits between the two upper mounting pucks. Now that we’ve straightened the bag, we expect to be testing the doubler’s reinforcement in the near future.
The only other small niggle is that the safety leads attaching the removable lids to the bags are slightly short, meaning that if you’ve propped the lid open using the latch-hinge at one end, the lid tends to drop closed with no provocation. So mind the fingers.
Keep the bike upright, or stop by the local hardware store for a rubber mallet, and these bags do the job. Plus, you can use them as a seat at the campfire, so there’s one less thing to pack.
7. Skid Plate KTM LC8
Yes, yes, KTM, we know you were trying to save weight with the stock skid plate, but an easily shattered thin alloy? Really? Which is why, if you’ve dirt or gravel adventure fever, the first stock piece to replace on your 990 or 950 is the Skid Plate. Nothing will end a trip or engine faster than all the oil draining out after a rock’s gone through the sump. So this skid plate is better insurance, that you’ll get out of any plan touted by a gecko.
The plate is a hearty piece of industrial kit composed of 4mm aluminum, mounted on a tubular frame to help spread the force of any impacts, which mean’s it has survived a Baja outing. Also compared to other brands out there, and we’ve done our comparative homework outfitting separate 990, this skid plate provides higher side coverage; preventing branches grabbing the wiring or reg/rec in your KTM’s tender underbelly. That said, the installation is a bit fiddly as it requires the relocation of the positive terminal block, and we found the relocation bracket needed to be angled additionally to achieve a proper fit. Still, better a little extra work that your 990 spilling its innards all over the trail. A nice and convenient touch is, once installed, the tubular frame pivots it quickly out of the way for oil changes.
8. Front Axle Pull-Handle by Zip Ty
I’m hard on wheels, not just tires and tubes, but my track record for bending rims off-road is definitively hard luck. So it’s a never ending story of removing wheels, repairing flats, or pounding rims into shape(‘ish) and remounting them, and anything that makes the process easier is a boon. Especially on KTMs with their difficult front axle which is easily damaged by trying to pound it out. I’ve already replaced one axle with mangled threads.
Making removal so much quicker, easier and potentially less disastrous, the Zip Ty Front Axle Pull-Handle surely qualifies as a must-have convenience, remaining in the axle, or easily removed to share with a less-fortunate friend. Now I don’t have to pound away in an attempt or fish out the axle, meaning I can get back to bending my rims that much faster.
Oil plug kit magnetic KTM LC8 950 990 Zip Ty
With all 5 of our KTM’s predilections for shedding tiny metal shavings into the oil, these seem more a necessity than an optional accessory. The plugs went into the new 990’s right away, and they pull lots of the nasty bits out of the oil. The rare earth magnets in them are extra strong. At 20,000 kms, there’s no deleterious effects, and there’s comfort in seeing extra filings being pulled out with each oil change. Likely, that should translate to longer engine life.
Klim Vented Sock, Large
“That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet”, wrote the Bard, but not so much my feet after a good long off-road ride. After two weeks of riding the Baja and the Anza-Borrego area, I’m sold on the comfort, breathability, wicking and general non-stinkiness of these socks. As an added perk, they dry quickly after you’ve washed them out in the motel sink.