2023 KTM 300 XC-W – HARD ENDURO MEDIA BIKE BUILD
As the Media Director for the US Hard Enduro Series, I wanted to build out a new 2023 KTM XC-W, incorporating everything I have learned over the past year of riding hard enduro. I’ve been riding singletrack my whole life, but riding hard enduro is a totally new style of riding to me, and the ideal bike setup is very different than for desert racing, GNCC, hare scrambles, etc. I needed a bike that could handle accessing the toughest race terrain while also transporting my camera gear to remote locations on the course. For the 2023 season, I am directing and producing a six-part docuseries called “Hard Enduro Heroes” delving into the race craft of America’s best hard enduro competitors. For each race and episode, I spend several days scouting the course with Media Specialist Max Gerston and Course Director Josh Schaecher to identify our film locations at key obstacles. The bike needed to be suited for technical rocky ledges, large hill climbs, rock gardens and traction-less terrain. The hardest to reach areas that aren’t seen by spectators are often where we get the best footage.
Drawing inspiration from professional hard enduro racer Max Gerston, and with expertise from Madjack Racing, a factory level dual sport, adventure, MX, and off-road race shop that does high profile bike builds, we incorporated a mix of aftermarket parts that enhance the bike's performance in a variety of terrain. Madjack Racing is a top-tier moto shop located in Moorpark, California where no detail is overlooked. We were in good hands.
From a high level view, we adjusted the controls on the bike to mesh with the body position and riding style best suited for hard enduro. Ride the bike from the pegs. Drop your heels to drive traction to the rear tire. Flat and pushed in brake and clutch levers to create a straight line from wrist to shoulder to engage more muscles. All of these techniques shaped our build list of parts. Our plan was to build a beast of a hard enduro specific dirt bike that could handle the big hits, slides and splatters and help me access more terrain…. and I’d say mission accomplished. Now on to the details….
First, South Bay Moto Performance, the exclusive TSP North American distributor, provided a Two-Stroke Performance Injector Relocation Kit which improves fuel injection delivery for better performance and throttle response. The kit moves the fuel injector from the throttle body to the intake boot, providing a more direct path for fuel to enter the cylinder. Additionally, a high compression head increases power and torque while maintaining reliability. This combination allows for better acceleration, traction, and control in hard enduro terrain. While a medium or low compression head might have also been a great option for a smoother power band, I’m a sucker for having endless power up massive hill climbs, so I couldn’t pass up the high comp head.
The Fastway Evo lowered pegs provide a better grip and control for the rider's feet. The pegs are a 5mm drop and 5mm back from the stock position, which lowers the center of gravity and improves balance on the bike. These pegs are critical not only for someone of my height (6’7”), but also anyone who understands the value of riding the bike from the pegs and being able to drive traction to the rear tire by weighting and unweighting the pegs at the right moments.
The entire Bulletproof Designs suite of hard parts offers superior protection for the bike's critical components, including the radiator guards, chain guide, and front and rear disc guards and TPI guard. These parts are made from aircraft-grade aluminum and have a sleek design that doesn't compromise the bike's performance. The company offers a lifetime warranty on their products. Anyone who rides hard enduro knows that their bike has to be ready to take a beating. The learning curve is steep, and nobody wants to be buying replacement parts every time they ride.
Fork tube protection shouldn’t be overlooked, and the Protech Fork Guards are the ticket. With a larger wrap around design and thick durable plastic, these guards will protect your forks from impacts and hits. The company is based in the UK and will be a no-brainer to include in every bike build I do going forward. It’s not worth leaving your forks unprotected in nasty hard enduro terrain.
Choosing the right tire and mousse combination for front and rear is critical to finding traction. For the rear tire, the IRC JX8 gummy with a Nitromousse Plushie Mousse provides exceptional traction and durability in hard enduro terrain. The tires are designed with a soft rubber compound and aggressive tread pattern that offers better grip on rocks, roots, and loose terrain. You have to adjust your riding style to increase the lifespan of the tire though- no unnecessary spinning. This reinforces good habits anyway so it’s a win-win. [MOU1] For the front tire I went with a VX30 and Nitromousse Plushie Mousse. While it’s still considered a soft mousse, the tire mousse fit is a lot stiffer than I’ve been running lately and it contributes to a lot more cornering control and confidence. Having too soft of a front tire will not help you with traction in the rocks and will only contribute to sidewall roll and less confidence when cornering. The wide spacing of the lugs of the VX30 has a lot of bite for rugged terrainYou have to adjust your riding style to increase the lifespan of the tire though- no unnecessary spinning. This reinforces good habits anyway so it’s a win-win. [MOU1] For the front tire I went with a VX30 and Nitromousse Plushie Mousse. While it’s still considered a soft mousse, the tire mousse fit is a lot stiffer than I’ve been running lately and it contributes to a lot more cornercontrol and confidence. Having too soft of a front tire will not help you with traction in the rocks and will only contribute to sidewall roll and less confidence when cornering. The wide spacing of the lugs of the VX30 has a lot of bite for rugged terrain.
No bike build is complete without Dirt Tricks sprockets all the way around, with the toughest and most durable construction. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten wedged between two rocks and the rear sprocket and chain become a chain saw as I grind my way through the pinch. These sprockets are proudly made in the USA and are backed by a one-year warranty. Unheard of!
The Clean Speed Near Rear Brake Pedal improves braking performance and control, but it’s so much more than that. This seemingly small piece of aluminum reduces the distance between the pedal and the foot peg, allowing the rider to move their foot position further back to drive more traction to the bike while applying more pressure to the brake pedal with less effort. The pedal also has a wider platform that provides more grip and control in wet and muddy conditions. This pedal is a game changer. One of the single best add ons yet.
The FMF Pipe and Silencer combo improves exhaust flow and increases power and torque. The pipe and silencer are made in the USA from high quality materials and are a must-have for a rider looking for more power for long hard enduro hill climbs. Having a pipe that has a spark arrestor is required, but it doesn’t have to compromise power delivery when you choose FMF.
I never plan to be out riding in the dark, but sometimes it’s a necessity when we have GPS navigational or an issue out on the course, and the job still has to get done. The Baja Designs XL-80 is a beast of an LED light and makes the stock bulb look like a candlelight. There’s no reason to settle for anything less. When you need it, you need it. No if, ands, or buts about it.
The Seat Concepts tall seat provides better comfort and durability than the stock seat. The seat features a wider and flatter seating surface that reduces pressure points and fatigue during long rides. Being 6’7”, I was looking to have a taller seat to decrease the sharp angle created by my knee while sitting on the stock seat. If my knees are bent at extreme angles, it makes it hard to easily access the rear brake from that foot position when sitting. For those not-so-tall riders, the company offers a range of seat heights and foam densities to accommodate different rider sizes and preferences.
While out on course I’m constantly marking and building GPS tracks to identify our film locations. Having a bar-mounted phone mount was critical. Over the years I have tried a bunch of different GPS and phone mount options. Nothing holds a candle to the Hondo Garage Perfect Squeeze phone mount. This mount allows the rider to securely attach their phone for GPS navigation in the lowest profile but bulletproof way in a horizontal position. I’m never a fan of having a portrait mounted phone way up high on the bars that is basically a javelin to the gut when you crash.
When it comes to hauling my camera gear to film a race, mounting the heavy camera batteries and some of the less fragile equipment on the bike and off my back is crucial. I’m often carrying 30+ pounds of equipment to film a race! The Mosko Moto Saddle Bags (Reckless 10L, Gnome and Pico Tank Bag) provide ample storage space for camera gear and other essentials. The bags are made from waterproof and durable materials and attach to the bike with straps around the frame for easy use and removal. While adding weight to the bike is obviously not ideal for riding technical hard enduro terrain, it comes with the territory of my job with the series, and I do whatever I need to do to get the job done.
Having proper skid plate and hand guard protection is essential in hard enduro. The SXSLIDEPLATE is leagues better design-wise than any other skid plate out there. Made from thick UHMW plastic, it deflects energy and reduces the impact on big rock hits. Metal skid plates are out, and these are in.
For this bike build I wanted a flag style hand guard to protect the hands from tree and ground impacts, but everyone knows that stock hand guards are a joke. Flimsy and cheap, and not going to do anything when the going gets tough. The SXS Burly Hand Guards marry the strength of a full wraparound guard with the flexibility of a flag style guard. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most common guards ran in the series.
Rule Number One in hard enduro is keeping the bike cool. A Trail Tech fan is a must-have aftermarket part to combat all the excessive heat created when slipping the clutch and loading of the flywheel to get up ledges and hill climbs.
As a bonus to replace a poor stock kickstand design, the Trail Tech aftermarket kickstand replacement is a stronger, lighter and overall better design compared to stock. The last thing I want is for my bike to tip over on course from a broken stock kickstand bolt. Believe me, it’s happened one too many times to count on previous bikes!
Lastly, no hard enduro build is complete without Trailbound leather pull straps for those times when you just need to employ the help of your buddies to get up that massive ledge. That (let’s be honest) is why I’m on the film crew and not racing! “Up is up” as they say… no matter how you get there!
Overall, I hope this blog post is informative on how to set up your bike for hard enduro riding. These aftermarket parts have transformed my 2023 KTM 300 XC-W into a hard enduro beast of a bike capable of handling the toughest terrain and hauling camera gear for filming the races. It is a purpose-built unit that has blown away my expectations. I have to give props to Max Gerston for investing a lot of time coaching me over the past year on hard enduro techniques and helping change my riding style from the ground up. I’ve noticed some massive improvements. I also have to thank Matt Musgrove and the US Hard Enduro Series for the opportunity to direct and produce the “Hard Enduro Heroes” six-part webisode series, as hard enduro has become a real big passion of mine. Follow along the 2023 season as we delve into the minds of these riders as they take on the most challenging terrain, we can throw at them.