2019 Factory Off-Road Bikes—Caleb Tate’s KTM 65 SX

KTM never thought its 65 would end up racing a 10-hour event.

Caleb Tate’s KTM 65 SX on dirt track.
Born for the motocross track, the KTM 65 SX can be adept at off-road racing and even long endurance races like the 3 Bros. 10-hour at Glen Helen with a few modifications and regular maintenance.Mark Kariya

KTM never envisioned that its 65 SX mini would be pressed into service as an off-road racer, but it's proven a viable option despite a dearth of aftermarket accessories targeted for that task.

So what Justin Tate came up with for 11-year-old son Caleb and teammate Brennen Watson to use in the 3 Bros. 10-hour Endurance Race at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino, California, was not much different than what rolled off the dealer floor. And without a full machine shop, 3-D printers, and whatnot at his disposal, there was a limit to what he could do.

Caleb Tate’s KTM 65 SX on dirt track.
The most crucial modification is suspension, Tate using Factory Connection to address their unique needs. Clearly visible here is the Mika Metals handlebar and KTM Hard Parts hand guards. A Nihilo Concepts skid plate protects the cases and frame tubes.Mark Kariya

Still, what Caleb and Brennen enjoyed racing for 10 challenging hours on a diverse course of just under 8 miles proved to be both quick and reliable as well as aesthetically pleasing.

“I didn’t really modify it much—just [tightened nuts and bolts], Loctite, go through it, and go through it again,” Justin admits. One of the items he added was a Nihilo Concepts polymer skid plate, since case-destroying rocks are a fact of life in the desert as well as many SoCal trails.

Factory Connection massaged the suspension, deeming a lighter-rate rear spring suitable for long races. Both fork and shock were also revalved to preference with some juggling of oil height in front and running 35 psi in the WP AER fork. Referring to his notebook, Tate reveals, “We run the sag between 85 and 90 millimeters.”

Lighter-rate shock spring with stock brakes and pads, and Pro Circuit pipe and silencer.
Factory Connection spec’d a lighter-rate shock spring for greater compliance and comfort over the long haul. The brakes and pads are stock at both ends. Also visible here are the Pro Circuit pipe and silencer, which together comprise the extent of engine mods.Mark Kariya

For controls, a Mika Metals handlebar (Mini Narrow bend) sits atop the stock triple clamp, and KTM hand guards ward off brush. While the seat foam is stock, the traction-ribbed cover is from Thrill Seekers.

Tate runs Dunlop Geomax MX52s front and rear, and though no commercially available foam inserts are available for the small stock wheels, he makes his own. He laughs, “There are mousses in that bike! We take the front [ones] from the big bikes and then we cut them down and we make them fit. Ty Davis from Zip-Ty Racing helped us with that.”

Dunlop Geomax MX52s with “custom-made” foam inserts.
Dunlop Geomax MX52s with “custom-made” foam inserts provide traction and practically eliminate the potential for flats. A non-O-ring ProTaper chain drives the 14/40 gearing.Mark Kariya

Stock 14/40 gearing suffices for their needs, though he adds a non-O-ring ProTaper chain.

The engine remains very stock with the exception of a Pro Circuit expansion chamber and silencer. Blud Lubricants provides all the lubrication needs including the engine oil, which is mixed 60:1 with premium pump gas; the cooling system holds Engine Ice coolant.

Small engines demand more frequent maintenance and Tate’s 65 SX is no exception: “Every couple rides we change [transmission oil]. Every time we ride, we change the air filter. [The] top end gets done at 15 about hours; we do a full top end [job] on it just to save on maintenance down the road. The sprockets and chain, we just keep an eye on it, and when we see the wear in them, we change it. I nut and bolt it all the time! We check jetting in the carburetor—just clean the jets out and stuff like that. Basic maintenance is keeping up on it and it keeps running!”

Caleb Tate’s KTM 65 SX in front of mountain.
Tate’s 65 SX exudes a clean look with its Elusive Graphics package and Thrill Seekers seat cover, and it goes as well as it looks.Mark Kariya

During the race, they simply tightened the chain once, replaced the air filter, and poured gas (a total of about 11 gallons over the 10 hours)—nothing else. Although a larger-capacity fuel tank would be nice, they’ve found nothing available, so they make do with the stock setup. Elusive Graphics provided the visually pleasing aesthetics for the 3 Bros. KTM/Kilmartin Racing machine.

The boys did well, starting off third and quickly working into second where they stayed the rest of the day. Ultimately, they finished second, about five minutes behind a team on a bike similar to theirs.