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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)

This thread is devoted to my 1986 KTM MXC 500 2-stroke dirt bike. The thread includes everything in chronological order from the time I purchased it to upgrades that I've done to it and my adventures with it out in the mountains. My hope is that you'll get a small view into what life it is like to own a 1980's "widowmaker" open class 2-stroke dirt bike.

Enjoy!

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The old girl arrived safe and sound have been spending the past couple of days getting acquainted with it in the garage. I finally fired it up and took it for my first ride today. If you'd like to get a firsthand experience of what it's like, then you can read my review below after the pics.

I used UShip to have it transported up from California. Found a shipper with good feedback and had it shipped for less than what it would've costed in me in fuel to go pick it up myself.

























The Basics
When you first throw a leg over it you realize how light it is. Really light. If you're used to riding two strokes and the weight wasn't so noticeable, the hard and unforgiving seat instead will catch your attention. It is probably partly this way due to its age. The gas tank is large and sits up high in front of you, but is unusually quite narrow and slim on the sides like an MX bike. Flick the kick stand up and you wonder if you almost broke it because it feels very light by the way it went up. You definitely feel like you're on something that's retro by the lines of the tank and style of the plastics, but the ergonomics are not so far vintage that you feel like you're on something from the early 70's.

You work the controls a bit to get a acquainted with their positions. The bar is nice and flat (it's actually an aftermarket bar) with a very comfortable reach that doesn't feel anything out of the ordinary. The Magura throttle system is quite heavy in feel with strong return spring pressure. Magazine editors back in the day had complains that it and the front brake lever required too much muscle to operate and could cause fatigue after a while. The clutch lever on the other hand (literally) is light. You then attempt to work the rear brake but you find that your boot rolls off the peg instead as if the brake lever isn't even there. What? The rear brake lever is somewhat oddly mounted inboard with the bike so you have to actually position your boot up and to the left in order to fully activate it smoothly. It's not mounted directly in front of the peg like most bikes so you realize you better work it several times to become comfortable with its orientation.

Starting it
This is where it gets fun. Kicking this thing over is downright scary; plain and simple. The good news is that it does seem to want to start (some bikes just plain don't and will fight you until the end) but it seems to actually be working on your side to do so which is good. If the bike is dead cold, lean it all the way over to its side for a couple seconds until fuel drips out the bottom of the carb. The original Bing carb that had a tickler was replaced with a Keihin PWK flatside so this procedure is the alternative to priming the cylinder. You can either use your left leg, unnaturally, to kick while on the seat, or, kick it with your right leg standing off the bike which I've found is most comfortable. Whatever nonconformist style you chose produces a low and fierce sounding "glug glug" as you turn it over that growls through the exhaust like the echoes the clown in the movie "IT" makes in the sewer pipes. Stories you read of folks having their calves shattered in half or legs broken quickly dance in your mind. You ask yourself "what if" and question if the risk is worth the reward. You press on the lever about 1/4 of the revolution down just until it goes over compression. The feeling is like the kick starter all of a sudden engages what feels like a stuck rock that simply won't budge any further. I use the analogy of a rock because that's exactly what it feels like once the lever comes into compression. When you kick over a big 4 stroke and you reach compression stroke, it will still often feel somewhat "rubbery" with a tiny bit of give at that point. This... notta. Nothing. Zilch. The motor might as well be locked up solid. Even when you put your entire body weight onto the lever it still will not even budge a millimeter or give you any indication that it will. At this point you say a prayer, and jump on it as if your life depended on it with the hope that the lever doesn't spring back up with enough force that could land you on the moon. If your best Hulk impression still did not move the lever one or both of two things will have happened; you either put a nice gouge in the tread of your boot and/or the bike almost fell over.

If you think bump starting this thing is a second option, think again. I initially tried this but unless you are a heavy weight, it wants lock up the tire when you let the clutch out... even in 5th gear.

If you were successful with the kicker, the lever will have gone half way down its revolution and your ears all of a sudden begin bleeding with a very rewarding joy. I felt like I had just won a gold in the national Olympics when I fired it for the first time. The sound of it is VERY loud. POP POP POP, BANG BANG BANG, CRACKLE CRACKLE CRACKLE. You almost need ear protection standing next to it when it idles it is that loud.

What is it like to ride?
To be honest, I had naively been wondering just how "powerful" it was going to feel next to modern day machines and thus preparing myself that it may not be just exactly what I had been envisioning. I was just going to enjoy for what it is. Boy, could I have ever been more wrong.






I don't think I could ever post enough of those "yikes" smilies to justify this bike. It is hands down the SCARIEST bike I have EVER ridden in my entire life. I used to review motorcycles for a part time job and have ridden varieties from all over the spectrum. Forget 1000cc+ liter bikes in terms of ferocity. The acceleration this thing has is pure insanity to the tenth degree. Violent. Pure i-n-s-a-n-i-t-y. I was shaking after my first ride on it as if I had just gotten out of a cold shower. I have not even gotten past a 1/4 throttle yet as the bike just wants to explode out from under you. I'd describe it like a stick of dynamite. Again, pure insanity. Insanity! You almost ride the clutch on this thing more than you're on the throttle. As you give it a hair of throttle input it takes off like you're going down a roller coaster. Basically if you give it any throttle it says "oh, you want a piece of me?" You let off the throttle but then you don't slow down at all because it has hardly any engine braking. You reach for the brakes and while the front works, you totally miss the rear because of the awkward positioning that you still haven't mastered yet. You've got a lot other things on your mind at the moment so you can forgive yourself for that.

As you're riding, you quickly begin to notice the heat from the expansion chamber on the left side begin getting hot so you have to swing your leg out to not burn yourself. It's hot, there's no heat shield, and it's easy to bump your leg on it which I seemed to repeatedly do. Eventually I'll get the picture. Surprisingly it is smooth in the low end, then as the revs build the vibes begin to come. Unlike some of the other 500 open classers of the time, this one came with a heavy flywheel which helps mask vibrations.

I go back to the noise because it is a lot louder than I expected it to be. The exhaust has a factory spark arrestor so it's not like it's running an open pipe either. I was even a little concerned this thing might sound a little too plugged up and already considering options of having a custom muffler made. Turns out you need ear plugs to ride it as the "BANG BANG BANG" makes you think there's bottle rockets going off inside your helmet. When it idles it's nearly as loud as a 4 stroke single that is running straight out of the manifold with no exhaust system. It's ridiculous, every part of it!

It is by far the most absurd and scariest machine I have ever experienced in my life. I can only wonder what the heck would happen if you were to fully open the throttle. The bike would probably shoot out from under you doing a zillion backwards somersaults until it eventually crashed into some trees in the next state. I now understand why these are called "widowmakers."

Now for the real question. Will I be able to start it again?
 

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Re: The widowmaker has arrived

nice looking bike, but it is too clean... had an xr 250 was a blast to ride... nice duc too but most of all cool tractor...ride safe.. c falcon
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

WOW!!

Thanks for that wonderful writeup.
Love the descriptions! Very vivid.
I almost feel like I was riding it!

That reminded me of my first trip on a 2 stroke...
I took my friends modified RZ400 for a quick trip on the highway...
Heading into a ramp I let off the throttle expecting some engine braking, but nothing!!
Hit the brakes and remembered that he told me the rear wasn't hooked up!!:eek:
Made it out ok with the front brakes and some quick downshifting, but what a ride!!

But back to your KTM...

WOW!!

( I was REALLY scared of the clown from "IT" as a child. Matter of fact I still am. Now I'm scared of your bike too. )
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Very nice review of the new toy, Austen. Do you still plan to register it for the street?

It sure is is nice condition for it's age, hope you can learn to enjoy it!
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Had a short ride on an Egli street bike in Germany and that ride came back to me as I was reading this! Nice bike hope you get a handle on it so it doesn't stay scary (although that's part of the fun).
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Great write-up. I read your initial thread of the KTM and the Factory sent out a Tech Service Bulletin Warning of just how to start it, You know if it's that dangerous to start it's got to be fun!!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Re: The widow maker has arrived

nice looking bike, but it is too clean... had an xr 250 was a blast to ride... nice duc too but most of all cool tractor...ride safe.. c falcon
Thanks! I'll bet you have some great memories on that XR.

WOW!!

Thanks for that wonderful writeup.
Love the descriptions! Very vivid.
I almost feel like I was riding it!

That reminded me of my first trip on a 2 stroke...
I took my friends modified RZ400 for a quick trip on the highway...
Heading into a ramp I let off the throttle expecting some engine braking, but nothing!!
Hit the brakes and remembered that he told me the rear wasn't hooked up!!
Made it out ok with the front brakes and some quick downshifting, but what a ride!!

But back to your KTM...

WOW!!

( I was REALLY scared of the clown from "IT" as a child. Matter of fact I still am. Now I'm scared of your bike too. )
Glad you could get a little sense of what it's like to operate!

It sounds like you know from firsthand experience what big bore 2 stroke engine braking is... none! Thanks for sharing that experience, I'll bet it got your adrenaline going for sure. I can only imagine the heart dropping feeling when you reached for the brake and it wasn't there!

Ha ha, I was definitely the same way about the clown. I usually had to pull the covers over my eyes during his parts in the movie.

Very nice review of the new toy, Austen. Do you still plan to register it for the street?

It sure is is nice condition for it's age, hope you can learn to enjoy it!
Thanks Mike! I'd like to eventually make it legal for times when you need to hit some blacktop in between trail heads. I'm honestly not sure how well it do riding in city traffic due to the character of the engine performance but out in the open would be alright. I'm currently exploring ideas for a headlight and taillight that would look acceptable.

Had a short ride on an Egli street bike in Germany and that ride came back to me as I was reading this! Nice bike hope you get a handle on it so it doesn't stay scary (although that's part of the fun).
I'll bet that was a memorable ride!

It is definitely part of the fun. I'm looking forward to getting it out into its element in the mountains this spring and summer when we get dry weather again to become accustomed to it.

Great write-up. I read your initial thread of the KTM and the Factory sent out a Tech Service Bulletin Warning of just how to start it, You know if it's that dangerous to start it's got to be fun!!
No kidding! It certainly adds to the experience and makes it even more thrilling.
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Man, what a great thread to read on a frigid January evening!

The Yamaha RZ400 was a twin, Austen. I don't know much about them but my buddy loved em.
That was the first and last time I rode that thing.
The biggest single 2 stroke I've been on is a 125.
Never been on a BIG bore, I can only imagine...

I had a 400cc single snowmobile engine on a gokart I built long ago, and let me tell you, THAT was scary! (mostly because I built the gokart)
That was the first 2 stroke that really put the fear in me and most likely the reason I went for 4 strokes when I got into dirtbikes.

The engine had been sitting a while before I got it. Brought it to shop class at high school where I was building the gokart.
First time I went to start it up it ran wide open with no throttle control.
Pulled the plug wire off and it wouldn't stop!!:eek:
Gokart was shaking so hard the tack welds were breaking and parts were banging all over the floor.
Sounded like the world was ending.
Half the class cleared out and half the class came over to see what was happening (general level shop class, remember)
Finally died when we pulled the fuel line.
Teacher said the crankseals were leaking and it was firing off compression.
That was the lesson of the day!


But now, the only real bike I own is a 2 stroke. (hope you don't mind me adding a link to my bike thread)

http://www.mytractorforum.com/113-motorcycles/819338-not-tractor-but-has-lo-range.html

:fing32:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Re: The widow maker has arrived

Man, what a great thread to read on a frigid January evening!

The Yamaha RZ400 was a twin, Austen. I don't know much about them but my buddy loved em.
That was the first and last time I rode that thing.
The biggest single 2 stroke I've been on is a 125.
Never been on a BIG bore, I can only imagine...

I had a 400cc single snowmobile engine on a gokart I built long ago, and let me tell you, THAT was scary! (mostly because I built the gokart)
That was the first 2 stroke that really put the fear in me and most likely the reason I went for 4 strokes when I got into dirtbikes.

The engine had been sitting a while before I got it. Brought it to shop class at high school where I was building the gokart.
First time I went to start it up it ran wide open with no throttle control.
Pulled the plug wire off and it wouldn't stop!!:eek:
Gokart was shaking so hard the tack welds were breaking and parts were banging all over the floor.
Sounded like the world was ending.
Half the class cleared out and half the class came over to see what was happening (general level shop class, remember)
Finally died when we pulled the fuel line.
Teacher said the crankseals were leaking and it was firing off compression.
That was the lesson of the day!


But now, the only real bike I own is a 2 stroke. (hope you don't mind me adding a link to my bike thread)

http://www.mytractorforum.com/113-motorcycles/819338-not-tractor-but-has-lo-range.html

:fing32:
:)

I agree!

What a terrifying story about the go kart project! :eek: I'll bet the world DID sound like it was ending!! Blown cranks seals and running off compression, wow... almost the same thing as a diesel running away. I'll bet you were concerned the engine might explode without any control of the throttle!

I'm like you and mainly have experience with 4 strokes when it comes to motorcycles. My family really never had any 2 strokes bikes, they were all 4. After owning this it kind of makes me wish I had ridden more of them earlier in my life. I think growing up during our father/son trail riding days my dad just thought 2 strokes were too impractical.
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

:)

I agree!

What a terrifying story about the go kart project! :eek: I'll bet the world DID sound like it was ending!! Blown cranks seals and running off compression, wow... almost the same thing as a diesel running away. I'll bet you were concerned the engine might explode without any control of the throttle!

I'm like you and mainly have experience with 4 strokes when it comes to motorcycles. My family really never had any 2 strokes bikes, they were all 4. After owning this it kind of makes me wish I had ridden more of them earlier in my life. I think growing up during our father/son trail riding days my dad just thought 2 strokes were too impractical.
I was concerned for the engine, but more so for my life!
I had to fight the urge to run.
After all, I started it, it was up to me to stop it.
And like the captain of a sinking ship, I stuck it out till the bitter end.

That was the first time I heard the term "dieseling" which is how the teacher explained it.
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Gotta say.......it even looks vicious! Enjoy it and thanks for the write up, Austen.

Oh, and from one "toy" guy to another, you're building quite the arsenal for a man your age. My compliments :fing32:
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

You know, hearing that review it reminds me of the guys talking about the old TZ750 from the 70's, and the late 80's 500cc GP bikes. Just WAY over the top HP, that gave rideablity a razor sharp edge that only the best of the best could hope to master! Be safe and learn your limits!
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Nice!! You gotta give it to the guys that rode these things all out in the day!!!
No kidding!!

Awesome old Dirt bike.

I miss my CR250.

Good Luck and safe riding.

MU
Thanks! I'll bet the CR was fun.

I was concerned for the engine, but more so for my life!
I'll bet!!

That was the first time I heard the term "dieseling" which is how the teacher explained it.
That was certainly a great example of it.

Gotta say.......it even looks vicious! Enjoy it and thanks for the write up, Austen.

Oh, and from one "toy" guy to another, you're building quite the arsenal for a man your age. My compliments
Thanks Ellis! I have a problem falling in love with this kind of thing.

You know, hearing that review it reminds me of the guys talking about the old TZ750 from the 70's, and the late 80's 500cc GP bikes. Just WAY over the top HP, that gave rideablity a razor sharp edge that only the best of the best could hope to master! Be safe and learn your limits!
You certainly would need to be pretty fearless to race one of these things. If they are still powerful in a high HP day and age as we are currently, I can't imagine how they felt back then when they were new.

Thanks!
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Those big bore 2 stroke singles are a handful, once the revs come up the rider best be hanging on. I started out wrenching in a Suzuki shop, I remember scaring myself silly on a modified RM400. That thing was far more than I could handle.
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Nice looking machine you got there. I can imagine the ride. Had a Honda CR480R back in the day. PURE BRUTE POWER. Bike would just stand straight up in any gear at the first crack of the throttle. 1st day on it ended with a week long hospital stay. Did get back on her though. Nowadays it's just my H.D. bagger.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Re: The widow maker has arrived

Those big bore 2 stroke singles are a handful, once the revs come up the rider best be hanging on. I started out wrenching in a Suzuki shop, I remember scaring myself silly on a modified RM400. That thing was far more than I could handle.
You're so right! It sounds like the RM left an impression!

Nice looking machine you got there. I can imagine the ride. Had a Honda CR480R back in the day. PURE BRUTE POWER. Bike would just stand straight up in any gear at the first crack of the throttle. 1st day on it ended with a week long hospital stay. Did get back on her though. Nowadays it's just my H.D. bagger.
Thanks!

Ohh, a 480, the precursor to the CR500. I'll bet that was an exciting bike. I'm sure another one will land in the stable at some point and a vintage Honda like yours might be the one. :fing32:

There's nothing like the instant power of a big bore 2 stroke.
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

You're so right! It sounds like the RM left an impression!



Thanks!

Ohh, a 480, the precursor to the CR500. I'll bet that was an exciting bike. I'm sure another one will land in the stable at some point and a vintage Honda like yours might be the one. :fing32:

There's nothing like the instant power of a big bore 2 stroke.
For the time it was the "big dog". Didn't have the power band of the smaller 125's and 250's of the day. The 480 was just all power. I was talking with the owner of a KTM last week. He told me it was a 450 as I was looking at it. I know KTM makes a serious dirt bike. He described the ride as "insane". I'll take his word on that. I would like to jump on one, but at my age now I don't think it would be a wise choice. (still want too!)
 

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Re: The widow maker has arrived

Back in the day.... I spent some time with a 505 Maco... And a Husqvarna 450 WR...

Between them, a 1967 Harley Sportster, and a few other wrecked cars, trucks, airplanes, one each gun shot and stabbing... That is why I have limped like this for so long...

That's all I'm going to say about that...
Keep safe... Enjoy...
 
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