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KTM Builds a Custom Motorcycle Just for Me (And 80,000 of My Buddies)

According to Rolls Royce executives, no two Phantom models leave the Goodwood factory remotely alike. Thanks to their “bespoke” program,  customers can choose from a limitless array of colors, fabrics, woods and other interior appointments.  For the fortunate few rich enough to engage Rolls Royce to build them a bespoke Phantom, that must be quite an ego boost.

But most of us work for a living, and will never own (or likely even set eyes upon) a bespoke Rolls Royce Phantom.  But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t entitled to have things our own way.  Above and beyond a visit to Burger King, us regular folks deserve some love too.

Alas, very few of the things we mortals can afford turn out to be as great as we hoped.   Since the Sea Monkeys or X-Ray glasses purchased from a comic book, we’ve grown accustomed to let down.  Those Sea Monkeys turned out to be little more than Mosquito larvae, and ultimately delivered far less faithful companionship and frisky fun than promised.    Similarly, the X-Ray goggles proved totally ineffectual at breaching those impenetrable junior high cotton blouses and tartan skirts.  

Astute readers may recall that I’m a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast with a passion for vintage Hondas and off road bikes.  And the recent history of my dirt bike ownership has been something of a frustration too.  Like Goldilocks, few of my recent off road motorcycles have been quite right, or as expected:

Yamaha TTR 250.  After a long hiatus from the hobby,  the TTR proved a good machine for  jumping back in.  It's an aircooled, electric start playbike, and the TTR is blessed with the most wonderful DOHC engine – extremely torquey, with surprising top end pull and anvil-like reliability.  In the chassis department, the TTR isn’t so wonderful - with a heavy steel frame, lazy geometry and the mushiest possible suspension. It’s a faithful and reliable trail bike, but very quickly reveals its limitations when pushed.   And the extreme (265 lb) weight is just exhausting over a long day of riding.

Yamaha WR 450F.  Once uncorked and jetted, this bike was an absolute animal, with limitless torque and arm-straightening pull.  But it too was obscenely heavy (240 lbs),  and not much more nimble than the TTR.  On New England single track - riding the WR450 was like parallel parking a Top Fuel dragster.  Technically possible, yes, but awkward, a little dangerous and extremely ill-advised.   Again, I was always eager to park the WR at the end of the ride – because it wanted to kill me, and tried hard to do so every time I saddled up.  In two short seasons my initial enthusiasm morphed into disdain and then hatred.  I couldn't wait to see it go.

I needed something light and fast yet unapologetically trail oriented.  Japan was once committed to bikes like this, and produced such jewels as the Suzuki PE-175, Yamaha IT-175 and the Kawasaki KDX-200 and 220.  But lately it seems that Japan offers but two types of dirt bikes – all out 4 stroke competition machines and heavy, dull playbikes.  This market strategy leaves riders like me in compromise hell.

Just when I’d given up on a dirt bike that was “just right” for my age and riding style came the latest issue of Dirt Rider magazine.  Thumbing through, my eyes were drawn to the strange orange two strokes from KTM of Austria.  At 105, 125, 150, 200, 250 and 300 cc’s, what weird displacements!   SX, XC, XC-w variants too.  But what really captured my attention were the impossibly low dry weights.  I simply had to take a look!

What we discovered, is that for the same price of a mass produced Japanese 250F, a KTM buyer can come darn close to the benefits of a factory bespoke program.  With such an incredible array of off-road motorcycles, one or more KTMs is sure to fit the rider with practically ZERO compromise.

For me, that choice was a 2010 200 XC-w.  The ergos were perfect, and at 209 pounds it’s feather light.  My past experience with 2 strokes had me leery, but the KTM smoker is a total jewel.   It’s flexible and torquey down low, and the super short first gear makes steep, technical terrain a snap.  Despite the small 193cc displacement, the KTM is an absolute rocket when you’re on the pipe – every bit as fast as the WR450.  

Unlike my other bikes, you ride the KTM, it doesn’t ride you.  It goes where you point it, holds whatever line you desire and skips over rough terrain with ease.  You ride it hard all day and NEVER want to park it

MMM Good....

And god, the 200 XC-w is gorgeous to look at too.  Every detail beautifully executed.  Every lightweight component painstakingly machined or die cast for strength and light weight.  Renthal bars, Takasago Excel rims, Brembo brakes, Akrapovic muffler, WP forks and shock.  The nicest stuff, all included at no extra charge..


Caution - These Pictures Are Considered Pornographic In 11 US States....

It seems that  I'm not alone in my passion for the KTM.  Browsing quickly reveals that KTM has a following bordering on obsession.  Like me, many KTM riders grew tired of bikes that just didn’t fit their needs, and found a revelation in the KTM showroom.

Maybe KTM didn’t make their 200 XC-w exactly to my custom specification, but every time I ride it and look at it, it seems that they did.

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