Photos at bottom

My KTM had been out of action for about 5 weeks. That ride down to Big Sky, through all the mud, got dirt in the fork seal, and it sprung a big leak. I shipped the fork tubes off to a KTM shop in Indiana that advertises expertise in suspensions. Five weeks and $350 later, I got them back and on the bike.

I was anxious to go dual sporting, not only because of my hiatus from it, but also this is the time of year when the water fowl migrate through the region. It has turned cold here a bit early this year, too, so I wanted to get out before it was too late.

Saturday was COLD. My handlebar thermometer read 25-30 deg. I had Full Winter Gear on, but I was still cold. I discovered later that a wire had
pulled out of my electric hook up, so my vest and gloves weren't working. Burrr. I had to cut the ride short because my fingers were too cold to work the controls. Painful.

Still, it was a Great ride. I just putted up to Benton Lake Wildlife Preserve, about 30 miles north. The lake was not quite frozen - the small
areas in the middle were open water, and the waterfowl were concentrated on these areas. Hundreds or thousands of ducks, snow geese, and swans were hanging around. One bald eagle. Some deer. I felt bad disturbing them, but it was
pretty to watch then all take flight. The road through the preserve is perfect - right along the edge of the water, gives a great front row view of the wildlife.

Sunday was warmer, in the high 40's. The vest was working, so I was comfy. I just decided to cruise around and enjoy the KTM's performance. I headed east of town, and picked some roads that went up and down the foot hills. I even
discovered a new road. Pretty day, though a bit hazy, I took some pictures of Helga with her new fork gators.

The fork rebuild gave a nice improvement in handling. The front end feels more plush, but the feel for the front tire is just as good. I tweaked the rear shock just a bit to balance the front and rear suspension, so now it has nearly perfect handling. Very cool. I was zipping over washboard, potholes, ruts, and I could barely tell, as the bike was so smooth and stable. It was weird, almost, like I was flying over the road, rather than riding on it. That's especially true given how high off the ground the KTM. Flying. Even my Suzuki was not that smooth.

And stable - even though I am on dirt and gravel, the KTM feels planted. Sure, I can break the tires loose. When doing so, the feed back keeps me on top of things. Even though I am floating over the bumps, the feel for the traction that the tires have is remarkable.

Of course, I practiced trail braking. Smooth braking into the turn, then ease on the gas while leaving - both processes simultaneously.
Once, after glancing at the GPS, I overshot a turn. I slid sideways into the turn, then, with the brakes still on, and the bike still sliding, I eased on the power, then released the brakes. The bike transitioned perfectly from a braking slide to a power slide. It was cool. Not the smoothest way to go around a curve, but still cool.

Lest you misunderstand, I don't do that every turn. But I do try and test the edge of the bike's traction around every turn. Why not? There is little traffic, the turns usually have clear visibility, there are no police with in miles. Well, for one thing, if I slide off the road, I would probably
fall a few hundred feet, or more likely get sliced and diced by the barbed wire fence just a few feet away. It is fun, dual sporting in Montana.

I have had the KTM 4 years, about 16,000 miles. It has been fun, tweaking it little by little. First, the DelOrto carb, properly jetted, and the engine
runs perfectly. Then knobbie tires gave a vast improvement in performance. And finally getting the suspension dialed in so that the bike floats over the bumps. It just gets better and better.

The pictures are of the KTM - notice the fork gators - meant to keep dirt and mud out of the tender fork seals. The Benton Lake Preserve - frozen (like I was) - look for ducks on the ice to the left. And, at the end of that long straight, Great Falls in the distance.

Tom Warr

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