GO­ING BIG

MIKE LAFFERTY RACES KTM’S 1090 AD­VEN­TURE R AT THE RAT­TLESNAKE NA­TIONAL EN­DURO

Dirt Rider - - Gear Bag - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY SHAN MOORE

It’s five days un­til the Rat­tlesnake Na­tional En­duro in Penn­syl­va­nia, and Mike Lafferty is des­per­ately try­ing to get in touch with Quinn Cody, KTM’S rally ace and newly ap­pointed “Ad­ven­ture Am­bas­sador.” Mike is get­ting ready to com­pete in na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since re­tir­ing from pro­fes­sional rac­ing at the end of the 2014 sea­son, and the eight-time Na­tional En­duro Cham­pion is get­ting ner­vous. The catch? He’ll be rid­ing one of the most tech­ni­cal cour­ses of the Na­tional En­duro cir­cuit on KTM’S 1090 Ad­ven­ture R model—a big V-twin that’s some 250 pounds heav­ier and has twice the cylin­ders as the fac­tory 400 Mike last raced at a na­tional, and Quinn has in­for­ma­tion Mike is look­ing for. Quinn and New Zealan­der Chris Birch were both prepar­ing iden­ti­cal 1090Rs to ride in the Iron Man class at the up­com­ing Ro­ma­ni­acs Hard En­duro (Birch had re­cently com­peted on a sim­i­lar 1090 Ad­ven­ture R model in the Hel­las Rally in Greece), and Mike is hop­ing to glean what­ever in­for­ma­tion he can on mod­i­fi­ca­tions the two had made to adapt the 1090R to tighter, more tech­ni­cal trail.

A few days later, Mike was able to talk to Quinn, and he got the in­for­ma­tion he needed.

“I knew Quinn and Chris were rac­ing Ro­ma­ni­acs on the 1090, and I’ve been rid­ing it in some pretty ex­treme con­di­tions at some of the dual-sport rides I do, so I just de­cided to take it to the next level and race it in a Na­tional En­duro,” Lafferty said when he re­vealed his plan to Dirt Rider over the phone. “I’m a lit­tle ner­vous, but it’s that nor­mal ner­vous­ness you get be­fore a race and I haven’t felt that in a long time. The 1090 is a big bike, but now that I’ve set it up for rac­ing, it’s not

GO­ING BIG go­ing to be as dif­fi­cult as I thought. The num­ber one thing I’ve got to keep telling my­self is I want to get to the fin­ish. I def­i­nitely want to get to the end.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mike, the pur­pose for KTM’S Am­bas­sador Pro­gram that he’s also a part of is to en­cour­age peo­ple to be more ad­ven­tur­ous with the Ad­ven­ture bikes. “Right now, it seems it’s such a West Coast-based thing, and that’s why I picked Penn­syl­va­nia. I wanted to ride some­thing back East,” Mike told us. “I want peo­ple to see what you can do with one of th­ese. It’s an ad­ven­ture bike, and there isn’t a place I have found that I can’t take it. That’s what I’m try­ing to prove.”

When we met up with Mike at the race, he went over the ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tions with us.

“The main things we did were we beefed up the fork, soft­ened the shock, changed muf­flers, and put on a smaller wheelset with nar­rower rims on so I could run Dun­lop AT81S with mousses,” Mike said. “The guys at WP in Cal­i­for­nia stiff­ened up the sus­pen­sion a lit­tle bit for me be­fore they shipped it, just be­cause of the con­di­tions I was go­ing to be rid­ing and the speed. We went one size stiffer with the spring rate in the fork and added a bit more oil. They also made a few valv­ing changes, just to give it a lit­tle bit more con­trol. On the rear shock the spring is the same. They just changed up the valv­ing a lit­tle. It’s a lit­tle stiff in stock trim, so they loos­ened it up a lit­tle bit more so it’s a lit­tle softer.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, I re­moved a few things like the buddy pegs and the brack­ets for the sad­dle­bags, but the other big change was switch­ing to the Akrapovic ex­haust from the Su­per Duke 1290, which is smaller and lighter.

“Also, I’m afraid of punc­tures so I wanted to run a mousse, which is why I went with a nar­rower wheelset so I could run a Dun­lop AT81 [Mike ran an AT81 RC on the rear, which has a tougher car­cass]. The wheelsets are avail­able through KTM Power Parts, as are most of the things I added.

“For the gear­ing I went down one tooth in the front from 17/42 to a 16/45. But per­for­mance-wise, ev­ery­thing is stock ex­cept for the ex­haust. Lastly, I re­placed the stock seat with a nar­rower one from Seat Con­cepts, just to give the bike a nar­rower pro­file.”

Top­ping off the mod list are re­mov­ing the rear fender sec­tion, a BT skid plate, PHDS han­dle­bar clamps, and a lower Fat Bar plus hand guards from the Power Parts cat­a­log.

THE RACE

The all-day rain on Satur­day made an al­ready tough and tech­ni­cal course a very slip­pery one too. The fact that Mike was rid­ing from row 51 didn’t help, as the ruts would be pretty deep by the time he got to them. Slip­pery roots were get­ting ex­posed as well. Just to fin­ish this year’s Rat­tlesnake would be a ma­jor feat on an ad­ven­ture bike.

At the end of the day, Mike fin­ished 19th in the Pro divi­sion, and af­ter the race he as­sessed his per­for­mance.

“At the start, I made the mis­take of for­get­ting to turn off the trac­tion con­trol, so I wasn’t able to spin the rear wheel, so I had to stop and turn that off. And once I got go­ing, I kind of over-rode it a lit­tle bit too much. The first test wasn’t the great­est, just be­cause it was so hard to get into a rhythm with that thing, and the track was so beat up, so I’m like, ‘Man, this is go­ing to be a long day.’ But from there on out, it got bet­ter. I think the course got bet­ter and then I started to ride it a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently. You have to stand up and let it do its own thing and re­ally ex­ag­ger­ate your body mo­tions, for­ward and back­ward. From there on out, it got easy.”

Dur­ing the race, you could hear Mike com­ing from a dis­tance, not so much be­cause of the en­gine noise but be­cause of the crowds cheer­ing him on. It was re­ally a sight to see, and hear, though af­ter­ward he did ad­mit to a few close calls.

“I would charge pretty hard for a while, but then I would hit a big hole re­ally hard or a big rock and I could hear Quinn in the back of my head telling me, ‘This is a 500-pound mo­tor­cy­cle. Re­mem­ber that!’ I’m like, ‘I know, I know.’ So I’d back it down and it would tell you who was boss. I fell in the first test and that re­ally made me re­al­ize, ‘Man, I don’t want to do this all today.’ But I backed it down and the bike per­formed great. I bled the brakes just in

case, and I made lit­tle ad­just­ments to the fork and ac­tu­ally put some more preload on the spring to keep it up a lit­tle higher. I didn’t do much else. I put a lit­tle gas in it as we went, in­stead of car­ry­ing around all that fuel. It was sur­pris­ingly good. If I can do this again, I wouldn’t change any­thing. I would do the same thing. The tires and wheels were huge. I didn’t have to worry about get­ting flats. That was a big part of it too.”

MIKE LAFFERTY’S AD­VEN­TURE BIKE RID­ING TIPS

Af­ter the race, Mike gave us a few point­ers on rid­ing the ad­ven­ture bike in ex­treme con­di­tions.

“It takes a lot more fi­nesse—a lot more with your legs—than a reg­u­lar dirt bike,” Mike said. “You def­i­nitely need to use your knees to turn and to fi­nesse the bike from one di­rec­tion to the other. The other thing is it doesn’t have a nim­ble feel like a dirt bike. So you re­ally have to pay at­ten­tion with your lower body, your legs, and your stom­ach. I felt more com­fort­able when I was stand­ing. And it does take a lit­tle bit more in­put with your legs into the tank be­cause it’s so much big­ger and it’s a lot more weight up top. But it sur­prised me how well it han­dled in the tight stuff.

“I re­ally found my­self work­ing front to back a lot more, ex­ag­ger­at­ing the mo­tions.

That weight, when it dives down into a hole, you’ve re­ally got to push your­self back. Or when you’re climb­ing up a hill, you’ve re­ally got to put your weight for­ward. On a reg­u­lar dirt bike, you can just sit on it and let it do its thing, where on this you’ve re­ally got to use your body weight to coun­ter­bal­ance the bike a lot more and be more cen­tral­ized.”

Lafferty ran a lower bar with PHDS han­dle­bar clamps to soften the blow from the heavy hits.

Here’s the be­fore pic­ture. Mike was still smil­ing af­ter the race too.

Lafferty swapped out the stock ex­haust with a smaller Akrapovic sys­tem from a Su­per Duke.

WP made a few tweaks to the sus­pen­sion be­fore ship­ping the bike to Lafferty by stiff­en­ing up the fork springs and soft­en­ing the valv­ing on the rear shock.

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