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Tune-up: How to get your MX bike like the world champ’s

Encounter KTM and you’ll likely to find the slogan ‘Ready to Race’ and it’s not a gimmick. Tony Cairoli is one of the most recognisable off-road motorcycle racers on the planet and the Sicilian has taken the last three premier class MX1 FIM World Championships on his four-stroke 350SX-F. Tony is ‘factory’ but exactly what would it take to have the same motorcycle as ‘222’? We grabbed five minutes with team technical chief Dirk Gruebel to find out what we’d need…

DG: The first obvious thing is to change the suspension and you can do that quite easily by contacting WP. It will cost some money! But the material is available and the satellite KTM teams in the GP paddock use it. For a factory fork and shock you’re looking at around 7500 euros but then you can also upgrade with some components. Buying is the easy part. You also need triple clamps to put that stuff in!

DG: We use different wheels and the stuff in the Powerparts catalogue is exactly what we race. We change the production ones mainly because the hub is a bit stronger and the whole thing is a bit lighter. The rims are actually the same as the OEM.

DG: Starting with the engine you can buy the kit parts, which means piston, conrod, camshafts and cylinder head and throttle body as well as mappings. You can come quite close to Tony’s bike with these parts but what you will be missing are the factory gearbox and cranks. These elements require fine-tuning and are really rider-specific. The kit improves the engine power in pretty much every respect though. It is stronger at the bottom and through the whole range.

DG: Tony’s gearbox is different basically through the materials; they are a bit stronger and a bit lighter and we swap them purely for quality and reliability because of the level we are racing, however the ratios are the same as the production bike. Tony’s race bike is really strong and torquey for a 350, especially compared to when we first started with the project in 2010. It is a completely different story and we have made upgrades every year to get more rideability and a bit more power on the uphill tracks like St Jean or Sevlievo. Tony’s bike is high level but it is also high maintenance. The closer you come to the peak of the material then the lifespan is affected. What parts? The valve-train with the springs, cams and the head needs to be reworked a couple of times. The piston can suffer quite a bit because of the speed.

The fuel tank is the same but we use a different cap because the OEM caused one or two problems in the past. So we use another one with a wire on the outside. The sub-frame is titanium for weight saving, so that is a bit of money you can invest but it is hard to get it; it’s not exactly on general sale.

DG: The plastics are the same as the production bike. He has a special seat because Tony likes to ride more towards the back of the saddle sometimes and with the OEM there wasn’t too much foam there. Now he has something that I tell him looks a bit like a chopper! The foam is also lighter and we use it for one or two races before changing. The handlebars and grips (grey, soft compound) from Renthal are in the shops and the footpegs are titanium but also available around.

DG: We have a full Ti bolt kit, which is quite pricey but saves weight because each one is the half of a steel bolt. You can even get them on ebay now. Whether the quality is the same as ours however I’m not sure. I think we save about 3.5 kilos in total over the production bike.

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