Sunday 11 September 2022

Nine months of ramblings to catch up on...

OMG is it really that long since I last posted any ramblings!

I originally titled this episode of the blog 'Six Months of Ramblings to catch up on' but it's been another three months to finish as I keen adding stuff. So Nine months of ramblings it is!

So what’s been going on?

Well not a lot really, looks like I’m becoming a fair weather rider! But seriously, life has been very busy, work is keeping me very busy with a big project to introduce our new risk management system. And weekends seem to be chock full of catching up with friends and family after the Covid restrictions were lifted at the beginning of this year. For example we only got together with GrĂ¡inne’s family for “Christmas” in April. 

Snowboarding & Helicopters 

We managed to get away for a weeks snowboarding in Cervinia in Italy in March. Unfortunately GrĂ¡inne got caught out by the ‘first day curse’ again and got taken out on the slope by another snowboarder. This resulted in a ride in an ambulance and a helicopter to hospital in Aosta (a one hour drive by road). Luckily it only resulted in a few bumps and bruises but did rather spoil her holiday. 

I had some great lessons which helped my technique no end. I’m still nowhere near competent but improving slowly from 'complete idiot, out of control on the slope' status.

Rallymoto Part I

On the event front there have been some huge frustrations for Rallymoto trying to fix dates and the Wales 500 ended up having to be combined with the Welsh Dark Skies Rally last month. It all went well but for logistical reasons we couldn't run a separate night stage (too light in August and the nearest decent forest trails are too far from Llandovery). Mind you that didn't stop some riders returning after dark on Saturday after a mammoth day's riding.

I planned a few routes earlier in the year with the Hertfordshire and Cotswolds Adventure Cannonballs (albeit with a slight problem on the day on the Cotswold run, see photo below) and the Wales Extreme Adventure Cannonball running successfully earlier this year.

The Ice Breaker Challenge went well now all digital and I plotted three of the eight routes available. 


I’ve also been working for the Vintage Motor Cycle Club (VMCC) producing route descriptions (road books) for their “Train Robbers Run” which visited the site of the 1962 Great Train Robbery. Then following the gang’s getaway route to their hideaway at Leatherfield Farm, only a couple of miles from where I live. 

Then I was asked to do the same for the VMCC Banbury Run. This event has run since 1949 for motorcycles manufactured before 1st January 1931. Starting from the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire and covering three different routes up to 62 miles through minor roads through Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, visiting Banbury on the way (obviously). I went and recce’d the three routes on the 390, having first fitted the original cast wheels with the road biased Continental TKC70 tyres. Five hours in the saddle and amazingly I felt comfortable throughout, for reasons explained below.

On the day I helped out calculating the results, there were some amazing bikes especially as you realise the 'youngest' bike that qualifies is still going to be at least Ninety One years old .

Upgrading the 390 Adventure

On the KTM 390 I have been continuing to try and change it from an Adventure to a sort of Adventure R.

To clarify, KTM often offer their Adventure bikes in two versions, the Adventure and the Adventure R, the former usually having a 17"/19" wheel set, cast wheels, road tyres and short travel non (or limited) adjustable suspension, being more road orientated.

And that's exactly what the 390 Adventure is (and doesn't get an R version from the factory) although the shorter travel suspension is still fully adjustable. 

The 390 Adventure after all, is effectively the same frame and engine as the 390 Duke road bike, fitted with different wheels, suspension, subframe and bodywork. As a result the ergonomics are still road oriented but more on that below.

The R versions of Adventure bikes have 18"/21" spoked wheels, fitted with more knobbly tyres, longer travel and fully adjustable suspension. 

So how to make the 390 more R like?

Well the obvious step was already done, fitting the spoked wheels and some more aggressive tyres, although these are still in the original 17"/19" diameters.

The next obvious step would be the suspension but to be honest the standard suspension works so well, I can't see much reason to change it just yet. 

The riding position as mentioned is road oriented, so whilst perfect on tarmac, does suffer off of it. the bars sit very low, resulting in a forward crouch that is not best for control. I first added some 18mm spacers under the bar riser/clamps to see if this made a difference, it did but not enough. 

I combined this with trying to switch the odd handlebars with their unique 26mm diameter centre section for some 'proper' fat bars, the Renthall RC High bars I have always used on my rally bikes. This appeared quite simple as I just swapped the handlebar clamps for some from a KTM EXC. But unfortunately the Renthal bars are not the correct bend for the 390 and you cannot fit the controls on the shorter straight bar sections at the ends. Apparently there is a Pro Taper bar that works so I may explore further.

As noted above the 18mm risers were not high enough so I fitted some 30mm risers. However this meant changing the clutch cable to reach. Fortunately the stock clutch cable from a Royal Enfield Himalayan is identical apart from being about 25mm longer (and only £13 compared to £20 for a KTM one). The riding position is now much better! 

The problem of the front tyres available in 19" not being aggressive enough in the dirt was solved when someone on the KTM 390 Adventure UK FaceBook group discovered the Maxxis M7304 Maxxcross IT is available in a 70/100x19 (for bikes like the KTM SX85). Its much skinnier than the standard 100/90x19 but surprisingly fits really well, although a 2.75 skinny front tube is required (luckily I had a HD Michelin version in the right size sitting on the shelf).

Another recent addition was a set of Bark Busters handguards to replace the standard Plastic items that from experience are too flimsy to protect the levers very well.

The Maxxis M7304 is the same tyre as I have used (albeit in 21"/18") when racing on my KTM 525 EXC so I know they are good. 

It has transformed the bike on the trails, with excellent steering abilities in mud and ruts. Although to be honest for the last few months most trails have been rock hard. One unforeseen problem is reduced ground clearance. The stock 100/90 tyre is 90mm tall; 100 being the width in millimetres and 90 being the 'aspect ratio' which is the height of the tyre as a percentage of the width. So in this case 100mm x 90% = 90mm.

The Maxxis being a 70/100 means the width is 70mm and the height is 100% i.e. also 70mm and therein lies the problem, a 20mm reduction in ride height at the front wheel (90mm - 70mm = 20mm). It's a bit annoying but doesn't seem to be too much of a problem (but see photo of bash plate below).

On the comfort front I fitted a Cool Covers seat cover, this was essential on my old 1090 R as it chucked out so much heat from the rear cylinder straight into the seat. This is obviously not a problem on the 390 but it massively improves the comfort  as well as its original purpose..

The troublesome brake pedal that sticks out too far has not been satisfactorily resolved but after straightening it out, changing the foot plate for a Freeride one (about a third of the size and rounded, not pointed like the original so less likely to snag). Finally I fitted a 'brake snake' a short cable from brake pedal to bash plate to stop anything getting caught behind the pedal i.e. vegetation.

KTM 390 Adventure R or Gas Gas 400 Adventure to come?

Mind you after all this there have been spy shots published of what looks like a 390 Adventure R prototype, definitely using a 390 engine and frame but with different sub-frame, wheels, swing arm, suspension etc:

And then some more of a '400 Adventure bike" under the Gas Gas name (Gas Gas now being part of the KTM Empire) but this does not appear to use the current 390 engine. There are rumours this is a 400cc motor that will replace the current 372cc motor in the 390 range (Adventure, Duke & RC)... the plot thickens!

Rallymoto Part II

Back to riding real bikes and my latest event was the Rallymoto Adventure Cannonball Camp at Haggs Bank Bunkhouse near Alston in Cumbria (No not the Lake District, the bit of Cumbria on the other side of the Pennines). This one was non competitive and just for fun, with two routes each day Adventure and Extreme. A fantastic weekend especially as I got to ride my bike for a change. And a great opportunity to film some new green roads for my Byway Nomad project.

The lack of ground clearance showed itself on some of the very rocky trail but at least the Powerparts bash plate earned its keep. I'm not sure the standard plastic item would have fared too well...

That's it for now but hopefully the next edition won't take so long to write!