Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a long way from Austria, but there’s a strong bond that transcends physical distance, a bond that even some hard-core dirt riders might find amazing. There, a 73-year-old spends his days riding or planning his next ride and more often than not, it’ll be on a KTM.Though he’s never been a KTM employee or factory-sponsored racer, Len Faltyn is probably one of the most die-hard KTM enthusiasts in the country, if not the world. You see, the 30-year Homelite employee has purchased at least one new KTM every year since the early Penton days, his first being a ’73 Penton 175 Jackpiner.Now, he’s eyeing an ’11 300 XC-W for year 38, the next goal being 40 years of KTM purchases to coincide with reaching 75 years of age. He hasn’t bought every single model KTM’s ever produced (he was just a a regular working guy, after all), nor has he kept them all, having never intended in the first place to take his orange obsession this far.Faltyn’s became a dirt rider on doctor’s orders-sort of. “There was a point in time there at the end of [my six years with] McCulloch where I think I had a panic attack or whatever,” he recalls. “I had a doctor tell me that there was nothing wrong with me, and I thought I was going to die.
“There was a park nearby and he said, ‘Tell you what-if you’re going to die, you might as well get it over with. Run around the park and see if you fall down and die.”So I did that, didn’t fall down and got into dirt biking. I started with a borrowed Zundapp that I would ride back and forth to work-a little street-legal two-stroke [while] working for McCulloch, [which was a] two-stroke-only [chain saw manufacturer] so I guess I’m a two-stroke guy all the way.”After a time, I decided to get into off-road riding…and I never looked back.”Faltyn didn’t start off with KTMs or Pentons; he tried a variety of bikes from a Greeves Challenger to a Yamaha DT-1 to a Malcolm Smith-replica Husqvarna.”But there was a 1973 Penton  Jackpiner sitting at the shop in Albuquerque-it was Joe Turley Motorcycles. I saw that bike and I just couldn’t get over the way it looked!”
So he bought it and loved it. At that time, his job with Homelite took him all over the Texas Panhandle, where he found Penton Central and began racing the Texas enduro circuit as well as in his native New Mexico. “I had the first 250 Penton that the tank was kind of a pumpkin orange…so I had the first one of those in New Mexico and that was the ’74 model.”The next year, I think I got a 400 or whatever they came out with.”Thus started the streak.”I’ve tried a lot of [other bikes],” he says. “I was on a Honda kick there for a while [during his KTM streak], but through it all I kept my KTMs. When it came down to long and tough and are you going to make it, it was KTM [for me].”One conversation in particular always stuck with Faltyn and helped influence his choice of bikes: “I talked to John Penton one time and he said the world’s best motorcycle is about 175cc, and you want to ride it 80 percent of the time in third, fourth and fifth. If you’re doing it in first, second and third, you’ve got the wrong bike. All the other bikes have too much power so I kept climbing the ladder as far as what [Penton] made and I’d come back down again to the smaller bikes. I’ve probably had six or eight 200s. While it’s 37 [model years] in a row, it’s probably closer to 60 bikes!”There was the time when he was a national sales manager for Homelite, focusing on West Coast sales. “At one point in time, I had three KTMs,” he shares. “I had one in California, one in Oregon and one in New Mexico.”
He tried to base himself in Oregon during that time and rode a lot with members of the Trask Mountain Motorcycle Club, which put on the famous Trask Mountain Two-day Qualifier. “I had a pretty good ‘career’ as an Oregon racer,” he points out proudly. “I ran the Qualifiers in Oregon [and] I did the enduros in Washington. The entire time I did all that, I never finished less than third in anything I ever did.”As he grew older, he slowed down, though age failed to curb his enthusiasm for riding. “I’ve worked my way back from an ‘A’ rider to a pretend rider, I guess, but I don’t care, as long as I can ride.”Nowadays, Faltyn does mostly recreational trail riding and has taken part in the Colorado 500 several times, though he’ll use almost any excuse to get out in the dirt. “I’m 73 now and I still try to ride the KTM Demo Days [like] last Tuesday [in Texas]. I went out and rode those and locked the keys in my car and the locksmith was going to be three hours late so I got to talking to the guys from KTM. After [unsuccessfully] trying a coat hanger, the only thing to do was ride bikes ’til the guy got there!”Asked about his favorite model, he can’t pin it down to just one and answers, “Obviously, the ’73 Jackpiner. That probably stayed with me for about four years, but I was still buying a new bike every year, sometimes even two of the same model.
“And I would say in 1976 when they made the orange tank–and that was a Penton 175–that was a pretty magic bike. For some reason, that sticks in my memory.”I always liked the 250s because they were so smooth, then they came out with the 300s. They were the lazy man’s two-stroke because you could be in the wrong gear or be tired and they’d pull you through.”The electric-start bikes-[both two- and four-stroke]-were quite a boon, but before those came out I got on the 200 series and like I said, I’ve had six or eight 200s and they’ve always been a magic bike to me. They defy the laws of physics for what they can do!”I’ve been kind of jumping back and forth pretty much for the last five or six years–I’ve been a 450, a 300, a 450, a 300.”In ’07 I bought a 250, an XC-FW model. They don’t really run at altitude [like when I go to Colorado]; you have to ride ‘em like you stole ‘em so that didn’t work out too good for me.”The bike I’m looking at this year-which is my four-stroke year-is a 450.” But he adds, “What I think I’m going to do, with all the changes in the XC [two-stroke] models, I’m probably going to do a 250 XC [as well].”Actually, I need two bikes here-I guess that’s the problem.
“I like to ride them, I like to talk about them, I like to work on them.”In hindsight, of course, Faltyn has some regrets: “I’ve had so many and I wish I was a collector because I had some wonderful bikes in time.” But there are a few things he does hold onto, like the 30-year award presented to him in 2002 by the late Rod Bush, who was president of KTM North America at the time.Part of the reason for not collecting things is that he treasures something far more: The people he’s met through riding. “I would say that motorcycles are what I use to meet the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Basically, all my friends are somehow linked to a motorcycle.”Even if they aren’t like him and linked to KTM.