CHECKING OUT THE 2020 KTM 300XC TPI: THE WRAP

KTM & HUSQVARNA 2020 MODELS

Both KTM and Husqvarna announced their competition models for 2020 this week. Most of it was what we expected: minimal changes. We get a preview of the 450 motocross models each year at the start of the Supercross season when the KTM Factory Edition and the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition are released. These are essentially early release version of the upcoming year. The only surprises so far are the KTM 300XC TPI, the KTM 250XC TPI and the Husqvarna TX300i. These are the first fuel-injected two-strokes aimed at competition.

The frames will be the same as the 2018 models (aside from the blue color for the Husqvarna. ) These models got the stiffer motocross-based frame last year, whereas the trail versions  (The KTM XC-W models and the Husky TE models), had an earlier chassis. The trail models will probably get the new fame for 2020, but they will be announced later in the month.

Husqvarna off-road models will continue to come with Magura brakes.

The 2020 XC and TX models will get the mild suspension upgrades that we saw on the Factory Edition. The front still has an air fork, but it has a number of mechanical changes and a new name. It’s now called the Xact AER 48. All that is as expected. What we didn’t think was coming so soon was the move away from carburetors. In 2018, the first TPI bikes from KTM and Husky were also offered with Mikuni carburetors, more or less as an option. That changed in 2019. The TE300i, the tE250i the 300XC-W and the 250XC-W were TPI-only. No carbs. If you didn’t want injection, you could turn to the more aggressive TX and XC models. Now that alternative is gone. It’s injection only unless you want the kickstarter-only motocross two-strokes. If the pattern continues, by 2021 there will be no carbs on large displacement KTM and Husky two-strokes.

Is that such a bad thing?  This time last year, the notion would have worried us. In the course of the year, though, the TPI system has come a long way. GET now offers tuning options that weren’t available previously. The glitches that we used to complain about about have all but vanished. The performance has always been comparable to carburetion, at least in terms of power. The injected system has a different feel; it’s smoother with less hit.  Another factor is that KTM fans have never really warmed up to the Mikuni carburetor on the 2018 and 2019 XCs. Many riders replaced it with a Keihin or Lectron. That issue has been eliminated.

The  TPI system weighs more than a carburetor. It’s worth about 6 or 7 additional pounds. To compensate, KTM and Husky have eliminated the back-up kickstarter. That recovers maybe 2 pounds, placing the 2020 300XC at 224 pounds without fuel. The Husky is usually a pound to a half pound more. The pipe has an interesting look on the new models. It has ribs for strength. That’s a great idea. As for the remainder of the KTM and Husqvarna lines, we have heard rumors that the dual-sports will have big changes. There are also hints that off-road four-strokes might be back on the table. We will have to wait a few weeks to find out. For more on 2020 models, click here.

ALFREDO GOMEZ TO RACE IN U.S.

The guys in the Prairie Dogs MC have confirmed that Alfredo Gomez of the Rockstar Husky team will ride at the Last Dog Standing on June 8. It will be fun to see if he has anything for Cody Webb, Kyle Redmond and the regular U.S. guys. This year the event will have a Sprint Enduro as a qualifier for the non-pro riders the day before.

VIRGINIA CITY GP

Believe it or not, a BMW R1250GS can get around the course at Virginia City. You just gotta have a different mindset.

I rode the VCGP last week , but I had to lie to my wife about it. Four weeks earlier I crashed, knocked myself out and broke two ribs. When I left for the event, I told her that I wouldn’t race and pointed at the bike I was taking as proof. Who would race a BMW R1250GS? I said I would just use it to get around and take photos.  In truth, I wanted to at least start the Adventure bike class on Sunday. I figured none of the big bikes would be able to get around the course. Much to my my surprise, I managed to do four laps, broken ribs and all. An even bigger surprise that was one guy on a KTM 990 did 8 laps! I finished in sixth! But it was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m not sure I’d do it again, though. I highly recommend the concept of racing Adventure bikes. I don’t, however, condone lying to your spouse. For coverage of the Virginia City GP, click here.

Virginia City will get you into shape and it costs less than a gym membership.
Dante Oliveira won this year after a race with VCGP veteran Zane Roberts.
It’s a funny place, Virginia City.
You can watch the race from a seat at the Bucket o’ Blood.

 

RANDOM COLUMN DEPARTMENT

The last time I rode the VCGP was in 1992. This was the column I wrote for the August, 1992 issue of Dirt Bike. Note, the photo in the column isn’t from the GP that year, where I rode a KTM 520. This photo, it appears , is from the ISDE in 1989.

 THE MEANING OF LIFE & GPs

Ted Hunnicutt just had his 28th birth­day at Virginia City, the day before the annual WSRA Grand Prix. Growing old became the topic of conversation there. What does it mean ? Are things going to get better or worse? The problem is that no one really knows until after they have done it, and then who cares?
Well, for the benefit of Ted and anyone else who might have a birthday coming up , I have figured out what the process of growing old is all about. In fact, I now understand how to understand the experi­ence well before it actually reaches its climax . How? Easy–just ride the Virginia City Grand Prix. You will live an entire lifetime before noon.
The four 30-mile laps of the GP are roughly equivalent to the four stages of life. Sound kind of weird? Of course it does, but it’s true. The first lap of the GP is just like infancy. You start off in a dust cloud absolutely blind. The few things that you can see make absolutely no sense. You are constantly soiling yourself (well, dusting yourself, anyway) . You drool uncontrollably. You have no real control over your own destiny. Even a good ten minutes into the race, I was operating on a pure-instinct level. Virginia City is a dusty city in a dusty state and it makes for a very dusty race. I just felt my way along the course in my little dust cocoon. I had no ambition, no plan of action, and when something felt good, I kept on doing it. In my stupid blindness I would make wretched errors that a mature , seeing , thinking adult would never make. At one point I wasn’t following the course or the trail or even the sky or the sun–I couldn’t see any of those things. I was following a massive disturbance in the dust zone in front of me . I assumed this fountain of dirt was being generated by another motorcycle that was on course. I was, just like a stupid infant, completely at the mercy of this individual. Of course, he was lost.
Gradually, near the end of the first lap, the dust began to clear. Suddenly things started making sense. I could see what was making my bike do those sudden jerks and swaps. They were things called rocks, things that I would try not to hit in the future. I was accumulating knowledge and learning how to use it.
By the second lap, I was full of energy and life. I knew everything. I was strong and aggressive. This was the Adolescence Lap. I would line up riders in my sights and vanquish them as quickly as possible. If a giant comet came down from outer space and crushed the guy in front of me, I wouldn’t have given it another thought as I rolled over the smoking debris. It just meant I would finish one spot higher. Did I consider that I was using up energy at an alarming rate? Did it mean anything to me that I would have to pay later for the kicks I was having now? No, of course not. The race was going to be five hours long, and the end was in the distant future. What did I care about the future?
Lap three was the Responsibility Lap. It felt kind of like middle age. I realized that I couldn’t ride at the same pace forever. I could still have fun, mind you, but the logic centers of my mind were clearly in control, and they told me to be more conservative . I worried about my rear tire–it was a sand tire and almost all of the knobs had been torn off by the brutal rocks. I asked myself over and over, “Why did I use a sand tire? Oh, foolish youth! If I could only go back in time and make those decisions more wisely … ”
I worried about finishing the race. “I don’t know if I can do four laps; what if I have to do five? What if they wave me around for another lap? I better conserve my strength.” I carefully thought out each decision. “Should I jump the rock or roll over it? If I jump it, it might be a tenth of a second faster, but it might use twice as much energy.” Usually I was far past the rock by the time I could make a decision. I also worried about my health. Every cramp was cause for more concern, every twitch and spasm warranted attention.
Then came the Golden Lap. My attitude changed again. I couldn’ t quite remember why it was so important that I go fast earlier. Going slow was fine. Every so often another rider with more energy would go by and I would watch in a detached sort of way. Instead of wondering about what jetting he was using or which tire, I generally wondered if he remembered to visit the bathroom during the last pit stop, or if his underwear, like mine, was working its way into uncomfortable places. While I was thinking about underwear I wondered if mine was clean enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I was in an accident and taken to the hospital.
As the lap continued , I would think back at laps past when I hit that berm really hard or wheelied over these whoops convincingly. That made me hap­py. For the rest of the race, I had a feeling of satisfaction. Having come this far, I knew I would make it to the finish. I did.
I rolled across the finish line. It seemed like I had been on the bike for a lifetime, even though only 5-1/2 hours had passed. Rodney Smith, I learned, had been the only rider to start a fifth lap before the checkered flag came out. Imagine that. Did that mean he was going to go through a phase that no one had ever seen before? Was he going to reveal what life in the hereafter was all about ? Would he be enlightened, having seen things that man wasn’t meant to see?
I crowded forward to the finish line when Smith finally came in. “What was out there?” I asked. “What did you see? ”
He looked at me and shrugged. Finally he spoke.
“Rocks.”

See you next time!

–Ron Lawson

 

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