The time has come! The Baker sits unwanted in the shop, never sees the light of day and so
Austria’s finest must leave us for newer pastures. She was a good friend, never threw me off
and was generally well mannered everywhere we went. So, the gorgeous 2001 KTM 520 EXC
is going.

When it first arrived it came with the usual federal stickers saying “Competition use Only” does
not comply with etc, etc. However for some reason MVD licence it for the road without any qualms!
Originally equipped with just an odometer I needed some extra work done on it so I had an all
singing, all dancing computor fitted which does an amazing array of things but essentially gave me
a speedo. Also had a substantial bash plate made, some rear footrests put on for local
adventures and a steering damper as with the “upside-down forks” and knobbly tires it tends
to start “tank slapping” at around 65 mph on the highway.

Only other thing to change was the oil filters from the standard paper cartridge to washable
stainless steel.

My standard “fun” ride was up the Bradshaws to Crown King, a remote little fun village at
around 5900′ a single store selling hand pumped gas, recently on electricity, and 2 bars, one with
a hitch rail and “bat wing” doors. This was a favorite haunt of all the ATV and 4-Wheeling
wannabee fraternity, and the equally unwise clowns who had ventured up the mountain road
in their bog standard car!

Two routes to the place which I will call the “Back Way” and the “Cleator Way”. Normal plan of
action for solo riding was to leave the house and go about 35 miles on the highway to the back
of Lake Pleasant then set off on the cross country and uphill run of about 30 miles. Initially about
5 miles of fastish track on dirt and loose rocks and gravel with all the standard potholes and
water splashes then the track became narrower with some great climbs and descents and after
another 10 miles it brought you into a pleasant shady clearing where I would always stop and
have a drink and a smoke before setting off on the last 15 miles on the slower but more arduous
part of the run.

Most of the run is now through the trees and the gradient is increasing and the rocks are
becoming larger too! There are a couple of stretches where the 4 wheel drive guys take their
jeeps and then haul themselves up and over the rocks using winches, and the look on their faces
is something else as you bounce by them in true trials rider fashion. Still further up and you burst
back out of the trees for a couple of miles on a goat track with a huge drop off….. don’t want to
meet anyone going the other way on this bit! then it’s back into the trees to follow an upward
river course through, round and over some really big boulders. Finally amid the pines you come
out on a standard forest track for the last 2 miles downhill to the village center…….and checking
the watch it’s definitely time for a refreshing beer.

Depending on where the “fun meter” is the return route is normally down the hill hi-speed with
the run down to Cleator. This is a single track path of rubble and gravel, graded once or twice a
year and with a 3000′ descent in 17 miles.

Some nice hairpin bends and an assortment of conditions that change all the way down.
It never ceases to amaze me where some preople will take an ordinary car or in some cases a
road bike! this track is for serious 4 wheelers and dual sport/enduro bikes.

Coming into Cleator there is a sign “Cleator population 7” but they do have a bar and it’s fairly
traditional to stop there and have yet another beer. Out of Cleator and then the track widens to
2 lanes and is fast dirt and graded and I think it must have been on this stretch that the KTM
recorded it’s fastest ever time and speed. For some reason it records the “fastest speed of the
last trip” and I just happened to be showing someone the functions and there it was 96 mph….
now thats travelling in the dirt whoever you are.

After the wide dirt road as you approach Black Canyon City there are a series of blind bends
and big, big dips and these are super fun and a bike that is engineered for this makes nothing
of it and then it’s back to metalled roads with some fierce bends leading back up to the freeway.

A quick stop for gas and as I’m about to pull out I manage to get a ****ing nail in the rear tire!!
I repair same, but not in the 4 mins…… must be losing my touch!


Tony Down

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