KTM Tall/Step Seat
Being in my late 30s, helping raise two young children and working a demanding job all add up to not enough exercise and a decided lack of “therapy,” or seat time. And not enough “therapy” means arm-pump and a huge lack of stamina when I am able to ride. It doesn’t help that bikes are faster than ever. It’s really tiring holding the throttle wide open, so lately I noticed myself taking the path of least resistance and twisting three-quarters or short-shifting. Or both. Not good.Enter the Guts Tall/Step Seat; my feeble attempt to replace lost fitness. And soooo much easier than getting up at 5 a.m. to pound out a 45-minute run before diapers, breakfast, day care and commuting. Guts is the only manufacturer in North America that offers a tall/step seat and by far has more options than anybody else. Installation was straightforward-for $79.90, you get the foam step, cover and easy-to-follow instructions. If you need a new “standard” foam, it runs an additional $54.90. I chose medium-density tall foam to replace the stock KTM brick, and the density and feel were perfect for my tastes. It had been a while since I had done one of these, and with a standard staple gun, it felt like I had just done two 45-minute motos at Southwick! After the fact, Jimmy said an air stapler is the only way to go, but I burned more calories my way.Let me tell you, this seat works. Besides using less energy going from sitting to standing (a major benefit of tall seats), I was amazed at how well the step held me forward on the bike under acceleration. I barely had to hold on-just concentrate on throttle inputs, line choice and, of course, not crashing. The seat is unique looking-take that any way you like. But my only true beef with the kit is that I wish it was not a kit. For example, someone else builds it and then I buy it. Guts is working on a program where you buy the seat ready-to-go and simply ship the company your stock pan in exchange. This program is already up and running for KTM models, with other makes soon to follow. The price is around $155 premade for the tall ($125 for standard), with a core charge of $100. As part of the deal, Guts provides a prepaid shipping label for your stock seat pan return.Pro-Action
’07 KTM 250 SX Suspension Mods
The stock suspension on the ’07 KTM 250 SX simply didn’t work for my 205 pounds. For lighter riders, the balance is at least in the ballpark. But for me, it was hopeless. Clearly undersprung and underdamped, the shock would blow right through its travel. In contrast, the fork was punishing and scary at times. And because the balance was so far off, handling was poor and confidence in the bike was nil.With a call to Pro-Action, some thoughtful packing and less than a three-week-long wait, I had my revalved shock and fork ready to go, plus the old parts (stock springs, internals, etc.). The complete job ran $775, which included new front and rear springs and a bladder kit for the shock. Pro-Action provides truly excellent step-by-step set-up instructions with recommended settings.
Once bolted on, it immediately felt as if I could leap tall buildings with nary a worry of ever bottoming out. Chassis balance was a huge improvement. Still, the fork was transmitting more chop to the bar than I like and not quite settling into turns as it should. Significant, to-the-stops clicker twisting didn’t alleviate the problem enough, so a call to Pro-Action produced some quick answers. The ’07 WP units are the first to feature small bladders at the top of each fork, and they have a pretty dramatic effect near the top of the stroke. On early ’07 WP revalves (mine included), Pro-Action was using 40 psi per bladder but has since changed the recommended level to 30 psi.Luckily, I have a friend with the special needle tool for the job, and we headed out for a quick “before and after.” Prior to this ride I had actually taken the time to read the instructions, correctly set the sag (duh!) and switched every clicker back to Pro-Action’s recommended settings. After a moto with the original 40 psi, we moved the bar out of the way and lowered the bladder pressure-a 10-minute job. The difference was immediate and impressive. The fork now settled into the stroke perfectly and the bike cornered more predictably, especially on flat, slippery sweepers. I felt fast and confident and didn’t change a thing for the rest of the day. Best of all, the bike was no longer tiring to ride and I could concentrate on line choice rather than just holding on. I have ridden many KTMs since 2000 and have needed to revalve each and every one for my weight and skill. This is some of the best WP stuff I have tested.Arai
In its previous version, the Arai VX has been at the top of our helmet list. This, the company’s newest off-road helmet, is full of updates, innovative features and new styling. We’ve been testing and racing in the new VX-Pro3 for months. Here’s what we really think.The VX-Pro3 is a premium piece (MSRPs of $473.95-$587.95) and features a list of modifications. Starting inside, Arai developed quick-release cheek pads which can be easily removed by medical staff to aid helmet removal off an injured rider. It’s a little change that could make a big difference. The cheek pads don’t work better or worse than before while riding and the overall fit of the helmet seems unchanged. Not one of our test riders has ever complained about the fit of an Arai.The rest of the new highlights are found outside the shell. The short chin bar keeps its smooth, rounded shape, but the nose piece is tilted out 11 degrees to give more room in front of your face. This doesn’t extend the chin bar out. Arai is adamant about keeping the shape and size of its helmet oval and smooth (including the chin bar). The philosophy is this: the less there is for the ground to grab, the less your head and neck will move. Therefore, the overall egg shape is smartly retained in the new VX.On top of the shell, a few bolt-ons have been added. Top-mount diffusers are now in place over the rear exhaust vents. These add style and keep the vents a bit cleaner, but that’s about it. Even with these additional bumps, Arai is still the cleanest helmet out there. Nevertheless, we hope the external additions stop here.
The rest of the VX-Pro3 is relatively unchanged. The liner is superb in fit and dismantling for easy cleaning. There are, however, some permanent pads inside that take a bit of effort to clean around. All external visor screws remain plastic which, by design, break when the visor is pulled or pushed upon impact-an extremely good thing. This year, with its expanded rider replicas, the company is stepping up its game in the looks department, too.What we really think about when we put on a helmet are safety and confidence. And every one of us feels that when wearing an Arai, we’re wearing the Cadillac of helmets. -Jesse ZieglerAMP
If there is one thing on my truck that I can’t live without, it’s my AMP Bed X-Tender. OK, I need my loading ramp, too, but the Bed X-Tender makes it a cinch to fit two or three dirt bikes, a cooler, gas cans, chairs and overloaded gear bags into my truck as if I had a long bed, without worries about having things fall out the back. AMP (www.amp-research.com; 888.983.2206) makes them to fit about every truck known to man, and it’s not only functional in the bed, either. It is lightweight and sturdy, and in years of use we haven’t seen a failure from it yet. Mine has seen plenty of service as a make-shift chair or a bench. I have a small sheet of plywood in the back of the truck at all times, and the bed extender can safely play the legs of my plywood table. Often it is used as a step into the bed of the truck. And when I’m running errands with the tailgate closed, it is a nice partition to keep stuff from tumbling around the bed of the truck, especially during spirited driving.The extender takes about an hour or so to install, and the standard latching method involves dropping in the X-Tender into its pivot points and clipping a retaining strap into the tailgate latch. One of the new improvements is a lever release at the pivot point attachments at the side of the bed that allows installation or removal from any angle, unlike the older version that had to be at nearly 90 degrees to slide into the catch. Now the side posts will drop and clip in easily, especially handy if the bike’s rear fender or license plate is in the way of getting the X-Tender up to 90 degrees to install. In reality, $374.03 isn’t much to pay for an upgrade to a long-bed truck ($415.64 for Ford applications that use a special bracket kit), especially when it can be shortened back up to a regular bed instantly. -Jimmy LewisF2 Racing
KTM EXC PowerBack Kit
If you have attempted four-stroke jetting, you know why riders will pay to dodge that bullet, especially riders aiming at closed-course competition with their off-road or dual-sport bikes. The PowerBack kit from F2 Racing is complete and well developed through extensive on-bike testing with multiple computerized sensors aboard. The complete KTM EXC kit for both the 450 and 525 come with jets, a custom needle, a vent-hose check valve, carb-side and radiator-bottom heat reflecting tape and instructions to relocate the horn! F2′s testing showed an 11-degree drop in coolant temps. The suggested jet sizes are another sign that this is not simply a copycat jet kit.
An ’07 450 EXC has a 42 pilot jet and a 178 main jet. For lower altitudes, the F2 kit uses the 42 but opts for a 145 main with the F2 needle! For warm riding between 4000 and 9000 feet, we used a 40 pilot and 140 main! Our bike started easily, was warm-blooded, had perfect throttle response, boasted ample power and provided approximately 15 percent better fuel economy than the stock bike. The kit recommends the stock exhaust but also includes instructions on modifying the end-cap to essentially ’06 EXC specs. That spec keeps the bike under the 96-decibel mark, but not far under. The kit also includes a threaded plug to allow routing the crankcase vent with the carburetor overflow lines. Frankly, we were amazed at the performance increase. The price tag is $99.95 for the full kit with the jets for 0-9000 feet, fuel screw and the complete directions. Just the jets are $59.95, and the fuel screw is $28.95, but getting the full directions is worth the extra few dollars. This kit is worth the money and the time required for installation. -Karel KramerTroy Lee Designs
Lopes 55 Knee Pads
Brian Lopes churns, pounds, pedals and hucks things on mountain bikes I wouldn’t do in my dreams. So when the dudes and dudettes over at TLD dropped these Lopes 55 pads on my lap and told me to beat them up, I got on my dirt bike to even out the playing field. I figured with the assistance of a motor, I could put his signature pads to the test.The uniqueness about this set is in its two parts (four if you count both legs). First, there is a neoprene sleeve that slides up over your knee. Then, the hard shell, standard-style knee cup and shin guard go over it. The two are held together via hook-and-loop fasteners.The $80 pads stay put, sliding less than regular, non-Lopes units. However, I did catch the fastening strips on the liner of my moto pants every time I pulled them on or off. After some hands-down-the-pants adjustments I was ready to rock. And rock I did.I’ve taken plenty of direct hits to these babies and they’re holding up great. I really like the narrow profile of the shin section. They’re slim and easy to stick into boots. After 30 hours of riding time or so, the fabric connecting the knee cup to the shin pad-which doubles as the hinge-is starting to wear. They’re still a ways from tearing, but I guarantee this will be the first spot to give out.These are great all-around pads and I use them a lot when I hit trails on my pedal dirt bike, too. Plus, I can throw the liners in the wash with my shorts and socks and save my friends from the perils of my stinky knees. Brilliant. -Jesse Ziegler
Storm MX Chest Protector
I wear my chest protector under my jersey. It’s mostly a vanity issue, but I also think the protection is more likely to do its job if the jersey can help hold it in place. Most underprotectors are more under than protector, but the $129.95 Storm has full front, rear and collarbone protection, as well as removable shoulder cups. After I tried one I haven’t ridden without it.The Storm has a unique pivot in the center for comfort and mobility. Something’s working, because the protector does not pinch, bind or rub. I wear it against my skin and haven’t been irritated once. I can feel an edge when taking off my jersey but otherwise feel no hard plastic. On a recent, long off-road ride, I wore it with a backpack drink system over it. The drink system’s weight pulled the lower rear rivets out of the foam. Off-roaders beware. MX pilots will love this.At 5 feet 10 inches and 155 pounds, the medium is perfect for me. It does slightly give that “Euro look” if you wear it under with the shoulder cups but isn’t as noticeable if you remove them. Wanna be smart or vain? The Storm comes in clear/red, clear/blue and clear/black in sizes S-XL. Try it on before you buy-the jump from medium to large is significant. -Pete Peterson