Dirt Rider - - Route Sheet - Story By Michael Allen • Photos By Mark Kariya

Does a 300 two-stroke need more power? Yes, the an­swer is al­ways yes.


rior to rid­ing the stock 2017 KTM 300 XC and XC-W (“Fra­ter­nal Twins,” Feb./march) I was ad­mit­tedly not a fan of 300cc two-strokes at all. But af­ter rid­ing the ’17 mod­els, my whole out­look of the big-bore two-stroke class has changed; with a smooth en­gine that has less vi­bra­tion than most 125cc bikes, the next gen­er­a­tion of two-strokes looks quite promis­ing. See­ing as how the new KTMS are on the top of my list of fa­vorite 2017 bikes, I was thrilled to get a text from Chris Blais ask­ing if Dirt Rider would be in­ter­ested in test­ing his 300 XC that he had built for up-and-com­ing off-road racer Kyle Mercier to con­test the WORCS se­ries and some NHHA events. We ham­mered out the de­tails, and the next thing I knew there was a gor­geous 300 XC sit­ting in my garage wait­ing to be rid­den.

If you aren’t fa­mil­iar with Chris Blais, do your­self a fa­vor and watch the movie Dust to Glory. Chris was a very ac­com­plished desert racer, Baja racer, and Dakar podium fin­isher in 2007 be­fore hav­ing a bad crash that left him par­a­lyzed. But that hasn’t slowed him down. Since his ac­ci­dent he has raced UTVS, as well as other four-wheeled ve­hi­cles, and he now runs a mo­tor­cy­cle re­pair shop and Ktm-based race team out of his Ap­ple Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, home help­ing up-and-com­ing rac­ers make a name for them­selves.

Chris started with the al­ready great KTM 300 XC and set out to make it com­pet­i­tive against the 450cc four-stroke ma­chines in the Open class of the WORCS and NHHA se­ries. The first step in a true bike build is to take the mo­tor­cy­cle all the way down to the frame and re­build it while im­prov­ing ex­ist­ing parts and re­plac­ing some OEM parts with bet­ter af­ter­mar­ket units. One prob­lem with the 2017 KTM two-strokes is that the new Mikuni car­bu­re­tors can be a bit finicky. Blais fixed this by re­plac­ing the stock carb with a 38mm Kei­hin PWK Air Striker unit with his spe­cific jet­ting set­tings. This, along with cus­tom cylin­der port­ing, Vforce reeds, cylin­der-head mod­i­fi­ca­tions, an FMF pipe and si­lencer combo, and a CDI up­grade made the 300 into a real fire-breather.

In the sus­pen­sion and chas­sis de­part­ment Blais didn’t pull any punches. Race Tech pro­vided all the in­ter­nal sus­pen­sion parts, which were then tuned for the de­mand­ing off-road cour­ses by ESR sus­pen­sion. When I rode the bike, it was on its third

Psus­pen­sion re­fine­ment, as the Race Tech folks had been work­ing on get­ting more plush­ness in the air fork. Fasst Com­pany Flexx Bars were in­stalled to soften the harsh blows of a choppy GP course, as well as a Fast­way steer­ing sta­bi­lizer, link­age guard, hand­guards, and its Air Ext foot­pegs. Bul­let Proof De­signs pro­vided the ra­di­a­tor guards, shark­fin, and swingarm guard to help pro­tect the ma­chine from rocks. New Ex­cel A60 rims were laced up to Tusk hubs with Buchanan’s HD spokes, and they were all wrapped up with Kenda Washou­gal tires front and rear. The fin­ish­ing touches in­cluded items like a Seat Con­cepts seat cover, IMS 3.2-gal­lon tank with dry-break re­ceiver, and Megla De­signs graph­ics kit.

I knew go­ing into this bike test that I was al­ready fond of the KTM 300 in stock form, so I was ex­cited to see what a full race ver­sion of an al­ready great bike would be like.

In the en­gine de­part­ment it was no sur­prise the Blais-built bike had more than enough horse­power to run with 450cc bikes. Be­ing that the bike was built for pure per­for­mance and fast-pace rac­ing, some of the very smooth stock roll-on power off the bot­tom was miss­ing from the full racebike. That’s not to say there was no bot­tom-end; it was just not quite as smooth and friendly as the stock bike’s. Once into the mid to top, I quickly learned to hold on tight be­cause the power came on hard, and if I wasn’t care­ful, ei­ther the front end was com­ing up or the rear end was power slid­ing. The Blais bike, when rid­den in the higher part of the midrange, was at its happy place where power was avail­able at any time. The fully built en­gine also had more over-rev than the stock en­gine and didn’t sign off in the power-mak­ing de­part­ment like stock 300s; in­stead it pulled for much longer, sound­ing like an an­gry bum­ble­bee.

I was con­cerned be­fore the ride that a fully built racebike might vi­brate more than the but­tery smooth stock bike, but to my sur­prise Blais’ bike was just as smooth.

Keep­ing in mind what this bike was built for, the sus­pen­sion was flat-out im­pres­sive. WP has, in my opin­ion, the best air fork on the mar­ket, and ev­ery time I ride one I’m sur­prised at how well air can work. The stock 300 XC fork has good set­tings but is a lit­tle springy (or fast) feel­ing and lacks ini­tial plush­ness when in rock sec­tions. Be­ing that Blais’ bike was built for fast GP and





desert rac­ing, the bot­tom­ing re­sis­tance when land­ing into a G-out or large jump is fan­tas­tic and doesn’t de­flect like the stock fork would. For me, the fork is a tad on the stiff side when it comes to brak­ing bumps or rock gar­dens, but then again, let’s be real, I’m no longer a 20-year-old kid pin­ning it across the desert.

Out back the shock has a very pos­i­tive, pro­gres­sive feel­ing that never seems to skip around or bot­tom harshly. Both ends of the ma­chine truly sur­prised me when it came to bot­tom­ing re­sis­tance. It seemed that no mat­ter how hard I landed, the last few inches of travel were so pro­gres­sive that there was never a harsh bot­tom-out.

The steer­ing on the bike had the best of both worlds—feel­ing nim­ble at slow speeds when the trails were tight and also re­main­ing sta­ble when the trails opened up. I think the com­bi­na­tion of good sus­pen­sion set­tings as well as the Fast­way steer­ing sta­bi­lizer helped keep the front end in line. An­other place I felt the 300 was com­fort­able and pre­dictable was in flat turns, which is not com­mon for two-strokes. It seemed that once I broke the rear wheel loose, with a lit­tle mod­u­la­tion of the throt­tle I could keep a per­fect slide through­out flat, slip­pery cor­ners.

The Blais 300 XC was def­i­nitely more at home at speed than in tight, rocky ar­eas. The power and sus­pen­sion were both a lit­tle ag­gres­sive to be com­fort­ably lugged through ex­treme en­durotype ter­rain. But when it came time to be opened up across val­leys and on mo­tocross-style tracks, the Blais ma­chine showed its true col­ors. Some peo­ple think that 300cc two-strokes are only meant for tight, snotty, nasty con­di­tions, but Chris Blais has proven that a well-built 300 XC is a force to be reck­oned with. Blais’ the­ory on build­ing two-stroke race­bikes is that they are cheaper to main­tain through­out a sea­son than most four-strokes. Don’t get me wrong; this 300 was no cheap build, and re­plac­ing two-stroke pipes isn’t cheap ei­ther, but now that it’s built, top ends are cheap to re­place when com­pared to top ends on fourstrokes, in both time and money. And let’s be hon­est, who doesn’t en­joy smelling two-stroke race gas while hear­ing a crisp 300 rac­ing wide open across the desert?

This mod­i­fied 300 has more abrupt power down low and much longer, stronger power up on top.

Fast­way’s link­age guard pro­tects and helps slide over ob­sta­cles.

The Fast­way Air Ext foot­pegs have the an­kle­saver ex­ten­sion.

The blue Tusk hubs were a nice touch to a sharp-look­ing racebike.

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