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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)
Pro Circuit "Dog
Bones"
Fredette chain guide
on the 300MXC
Product Reviews