Bike-urious does the Baja 1000 – Part 2

In Travel by Abhi5 Comments

In which we join Team Orange.

Before you can ride, you need a bike. And seeing as the most dirt-capable bike owned by Nathan or I was a BMW R1150GS, we were going to have to add to our respective stables.

Pictured: not a bike I’d want to take in deep sand (though it was great for my trip to the top of Alaska):
Bike-urious Alaska

Nathan got to work quickly – within a day or two of our decision he was online scouring for his desert steed. Apparently he found something he liked, because that weekend I got a call:

“Let’s go check out 3 Brothers in Costa Mesa, they’ve got a KTM 525 MXC I want to check out.”

I’ve never bought a used bike from a dealership (I prefer negotiating with a private party), but this made a lot of sense. 3 Brothers is known for supporting amateur racing and many of the employees have some serious expertise – especially Kelly Barbosa, it seems like half the dealership is covered in her trophies over the years! It made sense to start picking some brains while we learned more about what KTM had to offer. MXC, EXC, XC-F, SXF…WTF! Name a KTM street bike and I understand it, but all the models for the enduro models were just alphabet soup to me. Time to straighten that out.

Plus, that weekend 3 Brothers had a tent sale going on with the opportunity to test ride some bikes. Can anyone say RC 390? Consider me sold on a visit to 3 Brothers!
3 Brothers Front

We spent some time with Kelly, who was gracious enough to let us try a couple of bikes. Nathan and I decided we had to try the RC 390 and the 390 Duke. After a little bit of quality time with both bikes, we came to similar opinions – the Duke was more fun at first, but the short gearing was grating over time. In gears 1-3, it seemed like you’d hit the redline before you really got to have some fun.
RC390 Moving

Still, a little bit of tuck never hurts your aerodynamic profile:
RC390 Tuck

On the other hand, the RC was slower off the line due to the taller gearing (very noticeable with only 390cc of displacement), which made it feel a little dead at slow speeds. I believe this is where Nathan and I differed, as I much preferred the riding position and pep of the Duke and he’d rather own the RC. But I’m writing this post and he isn’t, so let’s all just assume he’s misguided. My only real gripe with the bike was the flimsy clutch lever, but it made me think a Duke 690 would be an amazing bike. That’ll be something to verify later.
KTM 390s

We got back from our test ride and got a chance to look the 2004 MXC over. I have to say, Nathan found himself quite a pristine bike – just 39 hours with around 1,500 miles – and barely any cosmetic wear. I couldn’t help myself and had to give it a quick ride:
Nathan's Bike Goodies

It was well spec’d, with a suspension redone by Provalve, Enduro Engineering hand guards, brake guards, and some other goodies. It stretched the budget laid out in our first post a bit, but it was rather immaculate. I could tell Nathan was tempted…
Nathan Test Ride

…and I was right. After a quick test ride of the KTM, Nathan had done a little negotiating:
Nathan Negotiating

He was quickly the proud new owner of a 525 MXC.

I immediately felt under the gun! We had come up with this goofy idea on Sunday, and within 6 days Nathan had his bike. I was still only in the research phase.

A few days passed and I was still deliberating. Do I get something old and quirky in the Bike-urious spirit, and pray it was capable enough to keep up with Nathan’s new desert steed? Or should I get something modern and less charming? For a whole bunch of reasons (mainly performance and ease of acquisition) I was leaning towards the latter, but even then I wasn’t sure what to buy. I had narrowed it down to a few options:

Yamaha WR250R – to me, this seemed like the perfect balance of easy maintenance intervals, manageable power, and capability in the dirt. In fact, I’m tempted to pick one up after all this is over as a mini-ADV alternative to my GS to try something like the TAT or CDR. Only problem is, it’s impossible to find one for even close to the $3,000~ish budget I laid out for my first dirt bike. Honda and Kawi have cheaper (and slightly worse) 250cc competitors that could also fit the bill.
BMW G450X/G650X – If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ve probably noticed I’m a bit of a BMW fanboy. I thought getting a BMW to duel against Nathan’s KTM would be a great blue versus orange story, but the 450 is nearly impossible to find because they barely sold any. Plus I wasn’t too excited about the maintenance intervals. The 650 XChallenge is a bike I’ve always wanted to own, but again – too pricey.
KTM anything – As made clear above, I don’t know enough about KTM’s off-road offerings. I expected frequent maintenance and outrageous performance. Was this the off-road version of “Don’t start riding on a literbike supersport?”
Honda CRF450X – Barely stretches the budget, Honda reliability, proven in Baja, I’d get to make fun of Nathan for buying the wrong bike…it was perfect! Except, finding one that’s plated in California is tough (and sellers know it, it’s not rare to see a plated bike with an asking price of up to $1,500 more than a 450X without a plate).

A week after Nathan had put down his deposit, we went back to 3 Brothers to pick up his bike. First, we bought a rack and attached it to the back of his truck:

The next morning we went back to 3 Brothers, and Nathan picked up his new baby:

While we had his truck with the bike rack, I thought we should check out another KTM – a 450 XC that I had seen on Craigslist. Like Nathan’s bike, it had been well set up: Trail Tricks suspension, Enduro Engineering protection, aftermarket light kit, and it was plated…all for $3,200.

I have to admit, I screwed up here. I don’t really have any photos of the bike as we found it because I was so distracted by the fact that the seller had a farm on his property! Nathan had made a new best friend:
Nathan's new best friend

When it comes to motorcycles, I know I can get impulsive. When I see something I like, I lose objectivity and feel like I have to have it immediately. Normally I try to avoid this by sleeping on the decision for a night, but this time I couldn’t help myself. I blame Nathan for being an enabler! The bike generally looked to be in good shape, so we went back home, dropped off Nathan’s bike, then came back with our girlfriends to pick up my new acquisition.

Abhi's Bike

So, within two weeks of having the idea, we had both picked up bikes on the same day. Next up? Learning how to use them!

On to learning how to ride – click here to go to Part 3!

Missed Part 1? Click here to go back.