Letter Of The Week: Dual-Sport Disappointment

DBT,

I’m an 63 year old whose been riding since ’68. I’ve been shopping for a new, lightweight dual sport. After checking out the KTM’s, I’ve become frustrated that they require so much work and additional dollars to run like they should. Even been considering just getting a strictly off road model. Why is it that automobile’s can get the horsepower and drivability meeting all the EPA requirements and the dual sport manufacturers can’t?  My Dad had a ’75 GMC pickup with a 350 4 barrel engine rated at 150 hp while my ’18 Colorado V-6 is rated at over 300 hp. The corked up KTM 250 doesn’t have all that much more hp than a XR250 air cooled Honda and also less low end. Am I missing something or is the technology still not there yet for getting the power out of a modern single four stroke that meets EPA standards?

Thanks, Jeff

Jeff,

The advantage an automobile has is all the space in the car to house the emissions components, the use of a multi-cylinder engine and no need to worry that much about weight of these parts. A significant amount of the regulations also center on sound and that is the killer for a dual-sport machine.  On a motorcycle space is the biggest concern and a lot of the components would work so much better if they were bigger, specifically the muffler. Since the tune of the engine has to work with the muffler, hence your issues with the power overall. 
The current 250cc bikes do make more low end power than the air-cooled Honda you are speaking of, they just do not have the flywheel inertia. I’d be willing to bet the power level you are referring to isn’t actually power but the ability of the bike to not stall when off the throttle (or mis-timed throttle and clutch use where a heavy flywheel effect will “power” past that). And for sure the new bikes make more peak power even in the corked-up state even. Regulations have changed and become more stringent but manufacturers update technology to meet them as much as they are forced to.
I’m curious, have you ridden the new KTM bike? We have and it is very acceptable stock and can be ridden just about anyplace without much needing  modification. I think where everyone goes off the deep end is in falling down the rabbit hole of reading too much on the internet and knowing how much more potential is in these bikes–then thinking they need that. Then the stock bike sucks. Yes, a stock KTM 250EXC-F likely could put out 40% more power with proper mods. Not cheap and not necessarily easy. For about $400 I could easily get 20% more power across the range in about 30 minutes of work. Now you have to ask yourself, do you need that power? If you are stretching the throttle cable and making your shifts at peak RPM, yes you do. But when most riders are short shifting and doing big throttle openings in the wrong gear, I’d suggest going to an engine displacement that might accommodate that style of riding. Rider’s complain about power levels but never use what is available. Because at the relatively small weight increase (KTM 500 vs KTM 250 weight difference is four pounds) you can have that extra power but guess what comes with it? Weight feel increase. More power and heavier spinning parts mean the bike will feel heavier and act heavier to the rider, defeating the original premise of your plan. And I dare you to ride the older Honda and compare the weight feel when riding to a current four-stroke. 
Hope this explains some things.The technology is there and they are using it as much as they can. Truthfully sound is the power killer.
JIMMY

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