I bought my first KTM, a 1999 KTM 300EXC, new in December 1998.  I
had wanted to "upgrade" my 1996 Suzuki RMX250 for some time and
finally made the trade at Surdyke Yamaha/KTM/BunchaOtherStuff in
Festus, Missouri.  KTM stands for something Austrian that I can't
pronounce, and although not exactly a mainstream motorcycle brand
at that time, they are very highly regarded as off-road racing
machines.  I had owned two RMX's prior to the KTM, and each one
required an aftermarket exhaust system and re-jetting of the
carburetor to "un-cork" the full performance potential.  I decided that I
was ready for an out-of-the-box race bike that I wouldn't have to mess
with to get the kind of performance I wanted.

Well, I still did plenty of "messing" with my KTM, as any
speed/power/performance freak (or guy in general) would do.  Check
out the
mods I did to both of my KTM's. Quite frankly, when I wrote
down all that stuff, it kind of shocked me.  But at the time I was single
and lived pretty frugally in most other ways, and I enjoyed the sport
more than any other. It was only money, I said...I'll make more.

The first year I owned the '99 EXC, we had a love-hate relationship.  I
loved the way it performed but I hated all the broken parts.  Part of the
problem was learning how to ride the rocks in Missouri after growing
up in Illinois and riding mostly mud.  My technique was not very
smooth, so I would hit rocks that the natives had learned to ride
around through years of practice.  In the first 6 months of 1999, I bent
two sets of handlebars, bent the upper and lower triple clamps, bent
both brake rotors, cracked a small piece off the rear hub, tore my seat
cover, and dented up the pipe so bad that it had to be replaced at the
end of the year.  Part of the problem, in my opinion, was KTM's use of
out-sourced parts.  All of the above items that had to be replaced were
manufactured outside the KTM factory.  And to be fair, the crash that
bent the triple clamps and a set of handlebars also knocked me
unconscious.  But KTM likes to make their bikes as lightweight as
possible, which often means using materials with less strength.  I
clearly put those materials to the test with my riding style and crashing
ability.

Our relationship slowly improved over time.  In November 1999 I
decided that if I was going to ride safely in the Missouri rocks, then I
needed a
Scotts steering stabilizer.  The stabilizer is like a shock
absorber for the steering.  When the front wheel makes contact with
an unseen object (rocks, tree roots, etc.), the wheel often deflects off
the object, rather than travel over the object.  When there's speed
involved, the deflection can rip the handlebars out of your hands and
send you crashing to the ground before you even know what hit you.  
That happened to me near the end of the
Lebanon, Missouri race in
1999 and after that I made the decision to purchase the Scotts
stabilizer.  At $400, it was a hefty investment, but during the 2000
season it made all the difference in the world.  Not only did it keep me
going straighter and keep me upright, it eliminated high speed
headshake.  When I sold the '99 EXC I kept the Scotts damper for the
'02 MXC and decided I'd never own a dirt bike without one.  Check out
the
setup I used on the '99 EXC. I had a similar setup on the '02 MXC.

Overall, the '99 EXC was one of the best all-around dirt bikes I've
owned, and the '02 MXC was more of the same.  At 300cc engine
displacement, it had enough power to keep up in the fast Missouri
Hare Scrambles Series, but was still light enough to work well in the
tight woods of Illinois and Indiana.

My second KTM, the aforementioned 2002 300MXC, was purchased in
July '02 from Fay Myers in Denver. Why Denver? Saw the bike on
eBay (it didn't sell) and negotiated a decent price with the dealer, and
was able to use a business trip as an excuse to pick it up. This bike
was very similar to the '99 EXC, with the exception of the front
suspension and the transmission. From 2000-02, KTM went back to
an "upside-down" 43mm fork. It was much lighter than the 50mm
conventional forks on the '99 EXC, but not nearly as plush. The upper
three gears on the MXC were lower than the EXC, which meant it
didn't have the top speed of the EXC but the transmission was more
usable in the woods.

If you've read this far, you're probably wondering why there's a bunch
of pages in this website dedicated to a certain green bike. I've fielded
many questions on why I switched to Kawasaki KX250s. Basically, it
came down to quality control at KTM....which improved drastically over
time, but back then it was an issue for me. Here's three things about
that old 300MXC that frustrated me enough to look elsewhere:

  1. Race Gas - why? I never was able to get rid of pre-detonation at
    1/4-throttle, no matter what jetting combination I used. On an
    internet discussion group, it was suggested that a 50/50 mix of
    pump and race gas might help, and that turned out to be correct.
    However, race gas is a pain to get and a pain to mix, and it's
    expensive. In September 2003, ktmtalk.com had a lengthy
    discussion on cylinder manufacturing intolerances as the root
    cause of inconsistent jetting from bike to bike, and pre-detonation
    problems. A small company called C&M Motorcycle Machineworks
    claimed that machining the cylinder head to the proper squish
    band parameters takes care of pre-detonation problems. I tried it,
    and it worked. For $40, it was an economical method to fix a
    chronic KTM problem. Since then, KTM got its engine
    manufacturing figured out, and the 2009 250XC had no such
    problems and was jetted perfectly.
  2. Brembo front brakes were not good. At that time, anyway. They,
    too, have improved greatly over time. But back then, I tried
    everything. The front brake was still mushy. Again, quality control
    appeared to be the issue. Some front brakes of that era were
    great, others were like mine.
  3. Got Loc-Tite? Sometimes the KTM factory guys don't. Less than
    30 hours into its life, the shift drum bolt on the 300MXC's
    transmission came loose, costing me 4 weeks and $250 to fix. No
    evidence of thread lock on the bolt, even though the factory parts
    guide indicates thread locker must be used.

So obviously I was swayed back into the Orange club in 2009. Major
improvements made that bike pretty much fantastic.
Click on the photo for a larger view of the cylinder and head,
machined by C&M Motorcycle Machineworks.  It certainly came
black clean.
When Orange Came Calling