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Scotts Performance Steering Stabilizer
First off, I would like to express my huge pet peeve with people who
refer to these as "dampeners."  Folks, read the Scotts web site. Does
it say "dampener" anywhere?  Try damper.  DAMPER!! Or, to avoid
my complete and total wrath, how about
steering stabilizer?

By now I think most motorcycle-inclined individuals understand the
concept of a steering damper.  These small but pricey gadgets
prevent the handlebars from being yanked out of your hands when
you hit an unseen object. This smoothing effect also helps reduce
arm fatigue.  Everything people say about the advantages of these
devices is right on.  The damper is a valuable safety tool and has
improved my speed (or lack thereof) in rocky terrain.

Three basic steering damper designs are on the market today:

  • Handlebar mounted. This includes the Scotts and GPR
    dampers, both of which attach to the handlebar clamps. These
    offer on-the-fly adjustability, but in certain unfortunate
    situations can sometimes imprint a damper shape onto your
    chest protector or helmet.
  • Front mounted. W.E.R. was at one time the exclusive owner of
    this type of fender-mounted damper design, but Scotts is now
    offering a special front mount version. The advantage of a
    front mount is that it's unlikely your body will ever make contact
    with the damper (if so, you've got worse problems to deal with).
    Also, the center of your handlebars is less cluttered without a
    damper located there. The downside is that adjustments have
    to be made when you're off the bike, more or less. And the way
    it sits on the front fender always makes me wonder how many
    of those have been sheared off by trees or other close
    encounters.
  • Triple clamp integrated. RTT Motorsports developed this
    innovative damper in the early 2000's that is contained within a
    specially designed upper triple clamp. You pretty much have to
    see it to believe it. The mounting location disadvantages of the
    Scotts, GPR, and W.E.R. dampers are nonexistent. However,
    upper triple clamp choices are limited to whatever RTT decides
    to provide.

I chose the Scotts mainly because of its features and its ability to be
used with just about any upper triple clamp. However, up until I
bought my 2009 KTM 250XC, the Scotts involved a fair amount of
time and expense to make workable with most dirt bikes. Most of this
was due to the use of "standard" sized handlebars that come with
crossbars. The crossbar would usually get in the way of the damper.
Back when I bought my first damper, I had to replace the whole upper
triple clamp and switch to oversized bars (the kind with no crossbar)
to make the thing compatible. My first two KTM's and both KX250's
required this.

Today there are better options that don't require a different triple
clamp. Part of the reason why Scotts-style dampers can be mounted
more easily is that manufacturers are finally selling bikes with
oversized, crossbar-less handlebars. For these bikes, a different
handlebar clamp is about all that's needed. For those still stuck with
standard-sized stock handlebars, various aftermarket companies now
sell handlebar mounts that raise the handlebars high enough that the
damper can fit under the bars
like this.

My toughest challenge with the Scotts dampers has been the
damper
towers. The simplest form is the clamp-on version, which attaches
itself to the steering head. Prior to my 2009 KTM 250XC, I had very
limited success in making them work. The bolt-on tower for my 2003
KX250 required modifications to fit properly and never did stay in
place (I finally welded it to the frame). A bolt-on tower I attempted to
use on my KTM 300MXC interfered with the upper triple clamp
whenever I turned the handlebars. Weld-on towers are an option, but
they must be carefully centered and the steering head bearing kept
cool during the welding process.  The Scotts instructions are very
detailed, so as long as you follow them and have average or better
welding skills, it's not that hard.

Enduro Engineering came to the rescue with a clamp-on tower that
actually works pretty well on my 250XC. It did loosen once during a
race, but a once-a-year cleaning seems to be enough to keep the
tower in place.

Emig Racing Upper Triple Clamp
I became a big fan of the Emig clamp for one simple reason:
handguards can be mounted directly to the clamp. Early in my off-
roading years, I became frustrated with handguards rotating around
the handlebars. When I bought my 300MXC, I had to replace the
upper triple clamp anyway (due to the Scotts damper and upgrade to
oversized handlebars), so I tried out an Emig upper triple clamp with
handguard mounts. This wasn't the first time I'd used handguard
clamps that mounted directly to the triple clamp. Aftermarket
companies had developed special mounts that could be used in
conjunction with the pinch bolts on the upper triple clamp. However,
that only worked if the pinch bolt heads were on the front or sides of
the triple clamps. In 2002, the KTM's used triple clamps with pinch
bolts on the inside of the clamps. The aftermarket clamp adapters
would not work.

So became my introduction to the Emig triple clamp, a finely
manufactured piece of art. The clamp had a couple of different
handlebar positions to choose from and could accommodate the
Scotts damper in any of those positions. One downside to the
handguard mounts of this type is that they must be twisted to a shape
that fits the mounting point on the clamp. Overall, the Emig clamps I
owned worked very well, and I never had to worry about the
handguards rotating around the handlebars.

Enduro Engineering Hand Guards
These guards are about as essential to woods riding as helmets.
Enduro Engineering has filled my needs with solid aluminum guards
that do their job. They come with various clamp options, including the
style that is machined to stay out of the way of the hydraulic lines of
the clutch and front brake. I've lost count of the number of pairs I've
bought over the years.

Emig Racing Hand Guard Threaded Inserts
After many years of using Emig triple clamps with handguard mounts,
I decided to try something different with my 2009 KTM 250XC. Instead
of replacing the triple clamp, I bought a pair of
threaded inserts.
These allow the handguards to be bolted right into the end of the
bars, without the use of a
taper-lock thingy. The inserts tend to hold
the handguards in place better and reduce rotation around the
handlebars. As of March 2011, I've put these to use for about a year
and a half and have had very little rotating of the handguards. Good
little product.

Flatland Racing Radiator Guards
I installed these on my 2002 KTM 300MXC. Up to that point, I'd never
punctured a radiator, but I didn't like the radiators getting slightly out
of shape after a few hard crashes. The Flatland guards had both
front and a certain amount of side protection via a brace that ran
from one radiator to the other (the brace passed through an opening
in the frame). Protection was substantial, but there were a couple of
tradeoffs. Most KTM off-roaders of that era were relocating the CDI
box under the tank by way of a relocator kit, but the Flatland brace
got in the way of the kit. However, there were other places to mount
the CDI under the tank that don't require the relocator kit at all, so it
wasn't a major issue. Also, the radiators had much less flex with the
Flatland guards. When trail junk would grab at the shrouds, they
tended to crack because there was less "give."

Contrary to popular belief (o.k., my belief), the guards did not keep
the radiators from getting slightly out of shape from side impacts. The
radiator shrouds still bolted directly into the bottom part of the
radiator, so a side impact still pushed in the bolt and made the lower
part of the radiator get a bit curvy. The Flatland guards were more
like catastrophic protection to keep you from getting stranded on the
trail. Even so, the guards were, at the time, some of the strongest
made and they were a good addition to the bike. After I bought these
in 2002, the KTM Hard Parts catalog, as well as Enduro Engineering,
has offered a design that braces the radiators from both front and
side impacts.

Devol Engineering Radiator Guards
I put these on after destroying my right radiator on the 2003 KX250. I
had been using Works Connection braces, but they didn't offer the
kind of protection I was looking for (not that any brace would have
saved my radiator). Like many guards, the
Works Connection version
connected partly to the radiator itself, didn't offer much side
protection and had no frontal protection (they were cheap on eBay,
what can I say). The Devol's are not quite as sturdy as Flatland's but
the key difference is they mount entirely to the frame. It doesn't have
the cross brace that the Flatland guard has, but it does have a rear
brace that replaces the smaller stock brace. This brace keeps the
radiator from being pushed backwards if it takes a direct frontal
assault. Installation was a bit easier than the Flatland guards, mostly
because I could use a 1/4" drive socket with long extensions to get at
the inside frame bolts. It's still a little tricky, but not bad once I figured
out the proper technique. Took me about 45 minutes to install, but if I
had to do it again, I could probably do it in about 15 minutes. The fit
was very good and quality was excellent (good instructions, too).

Enduro Engineering Radiator Guards
The holy grail of radiator guards was almost achieved with the
Enduro Engineering
radiator guards that I mounted to my 2009 KTM
250XC.
Almost. The only thing missing is frontal protection, but on a
positive note, these guards do allow use of the stock plastic radiator
louvers. A common complaint with the Flatland and Devol guards is
they tend to pack up with mud and cause overheating. Evidently,
Enduro Engineering felt this was too much of an issue to risk, so they
designed them the way they did. However, gone are the days of
bending radiators from falling over. The guards form a perfect
rectangle around with radiators, with all mounts directly to the frame.
This does require removal of the radiators to assemble the guards,
but it's worth it. Totally.

Applied Racing Triple Clamps
Most people replace their triple clamps to switch to tapered
handlebars or because they look cool.  I replaced mine because I
bent the stock triple clamps on my 1999 KTM 300EXC.  Don't ask me
how...I was unconscious at the time.  Applied was having an Internet
special to help promote TAG handlebars (see below), so it was a
good time to try out their product.  The finish and workmanship were
excellent.  Installation wasn't too hard, but the bottom clamp required
a press (at least 12 tons) to remove the steering stem.  The clamps
did not come with instructions, but it wasn't too hard to figure out.  
The handlebar mounts had two positions, an improvement over the
stock upper clamp that was a one piece solid casting.  One side
benefit of the Applied clamps was that the forks don't twist as much
when I crashed, apparently because of a higher quality surface area.  
Overall, the product was good and the price was reasonable.

Back in 1999, CNC machines started becoming a lot more affordable
for small machine shops, and aftermarket triple clamps popped up
everywhere. Applied was at the forefront, though, and they gained my
business.

TAG Metals Tapered Handlebars
I bought a set of T2's in 1999 and have owned about 5 sets on 4
different bikes. They are very similar to Answer's Pro-taper
handlebars in both price and functionality.  I can describe their
performance in one word:  Strong.  After many hard crashes, I still
haven't been able to bend them significantly.  I typically cut them
down to about 30.5 inches for woods riding.  In combination with the
Applied or Emig triple clamps and a Scotts steering damper, the
TAG's have worked very well.

Fredette Racing Products Chain Guide
This is an aluminum guide that worked very well on my earlier KTM's
and my 2003 KX250. Over time the aluminum frame of the guides
would bend and cause the chain to rub against the edges of the
guide. The inner part of the guide was made of poly plastic, with
chain replacement blocks available when the originals wore out (the
blocks could even be reversed to get some extra life).  One downside
to these guides was that if the lower blocks wore too much, the chain
would dig into the bolts that hold the blocks in place.  Overall, this
was a pretty good guide that resisted bending, even in the rocks.

TM Designworks Chain Guide
This chain guide was a replacement for the stock guide on my 2004
KX250. This company was one of the first to finally figure out that
plastic is just fine for chain guides. That way, the guide could take
any amount of trail abuse and still spring back to its original position.
Most parts were replaceable, for when the chain eventually wore
down the plastic. Good product that I used for several years with no
problems at all.

Acerbis Frame Guards
These are an economical way to keep your boots from wearing off all
the paint where they rub against the frame.  The Acerbis guards
actually give more protection than the stock guards.  These are
plastic, but they hold up just as well as the fancy, expensive metal
guards and cost much less. They do have to be removed to take out
the swingarm bolt, but it's a small price to pay for protection.

Flatland Racing Odometer Spacer
Flatland is a great little company that puts out some very well-made
products for KTM, Gas Gas, and others.  Back in the days of
mechanical odometers, people like me didn't see much use in having
an odometer in a hare scramble, so Flatland came up with a
machined aluminum piece in place of the odometer drive at the
wheel. The spacer is billet aluminum and looks very cool.  It did a
really good job of sealing the wheel bearing on that side (it was the
only wheel bearing I never had to replace in the 4 years I owned the
1999 300 EXC).  I used these on both the 300EXC and 300MXC.

Pro Circuit Pull Rods
This was a cheap eBay buy for the 2003 KX250, and glad it was
because I never noticed any difference whatsoever when I replaced
the stock rear linkage pull rods with the Pro Circuit pull rods. The Pro
Circuit rods are supposed to be longer...or maybe shorter, who
knows. When Fred Andrews was riding for Kawasaki, he used them
and claimed they lowered the back end slightly to improve stability,
tracking, turning, whatever. They look kinda cool, though.
Scotts damper with
Emig clamp on the
KX250
Scotts damper and
Emig clamp on the
300MXC
Hardware
Threaded insert
for bolting hand
guards directly to
the bars
Finally - indisputable
proof that radiator
guards work (click on
picture for details)
Product Reviews
Pro Circuit "Dog
Bones"
Fredette chain guide
on the 300MXC