Before we proceed, we need to realize that the KTM 390 is not a touring motorcycle; it is essentially a street motorcycle. However, we can make it tour-worthy.
I recently concluded a successful Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh) trip. Honestly, I was a victim of apprehension and a patient of anxiety. Spiti is revered as the ultimate test for a motorcyclist, a homage of sorts. Exciting proposition!!!
The prep-process was underlined by a few important functional mods
Point#1: Save your Crank
The KTM 390/200 comes with a fibre-plastic bash-plate—the mod is extremely minimalistic: reinforcing the stock fairing with a similar shaped steel plate works just fine. Remember to keep all mods as simple as they can be. I riveted the steel plate (less than 200gm) to the fairing straight up with a little hook detail in the front.
Point#2: Keep the back covered but do not forget to hold tight
KTM users know about the problems they face with the stock mirrors. I went scouting for the mirrors of the old Bajaj Boxer CT. They are solid, do not have a mind of their own and the vibrations are minimum. They also give a retro-enduro feel to your ride. The stock handle though sturdy and beautifully finished, feels the need for a crossbar. Fortunately I had a few cross-bars lying around.
Point#3: What shoes does she wear?
An unforgiving route deserves pragmatic shoes. I shod the KTM with a Michellin Sirac street 100/90-17(front) on the stock not-so-reliable alloys (though my wishlist had an 18″ spoked front wheel) and a Ralco Speedster 120/80-17 (rear) comes with a 150km/hr speed rating (I had a Metzeller Tourance on a 17″ spoked rim on the wishlist for this one).Though I can vouch for the tire set-up after completing the trip without a single puncture or the need for the foot-pump (that I carried all the way up and back), I did keep a close watch on the air-pressure each day.
Only complain: the front felt a little wobbly after crossing 135km/hr on the flat plains (without discounting the luggage on the back)
Motokraft Customs has a reputation of making usual things look beautiful. I did spend a few hours on the drawing board + computer to render and test a pannier-frame that replicates the pressure-science & design of the trellis frame of the KTM. The frame was built to carry weight on the higher side of 30kgs (almost 15kgs more than one would actually need on a 10-15day trip).I had tested the Rhynox Nomad saddle bags before and they sat beautifully on the frame taking care of the luggage department (remember: water-proofing is an art supported by intelligence, the Rhynox bags work fantastically if packed smartly). The frame was an additional 450gms built with hollow tubes without any structural mod on the KTM390. It stuck to the job it was given and never gave-up on the relentless tarmac-less stretches of mysterious Spiti-valley. I also had a strap-on gel seat to keep my behind from getting sore.
Point#5: Get the air off your chest
Though a few visors were up for the grabs in the market (online and on-shelf), I thought of bending one myself. Thin metal sheet was used to build the front visor that held-up like a rock deflecting all that wind-draft off my chest and shoulders. A little glove compartment in the set-up added functionality and a little drama to the street bike trying to dress-up like an enduro-moto. Also it made space for an extra go-pro mount for some interesting footage. The visor along with the stays weighed around 600gm.
Random trip ramble:
Keep the MOTUL chain-cleaner and lube handy – check the condition of the chain & sprocket almost every other day of hard-riding. Understand the function of ABS (I did turn it off for some added fun). Check engine-oil every day as a habit (keeping half a liter handy is good advice). Palm-rest on the accelerator does help your right hand to relax, if you really need it. Changing the grips to the KTM RC would be a good idea. Auxiliary-lights are not required, but they add to the character. The stretch from Kaza to Manali would need extra (3-4 ltr) fuel (depending on riding styles). Keep both winter and summer balaclavas handy. Keep one of those athletic big frame sunglasses to protect your eyes from burning. Sunscreen if you feel optimistic. By the way, your tan is your temporary natural tattoo, don’t let sunscreens ruin the new shade. Wind-cheater is a must. Waterproof/repellent riding pants and shoes. Waterproof warm riding-gloves. Riding jacket with water-proofing and thermal-liner is good enough to take you through this epic-route.
Mysterious Spiti – go before humans spoil the unspoiled. Have at least one truthful dialogue with yourself. Drink lot of water. Keep smiling, even when the going gets tougher than you imagined. Keep in mind, it is you who signed-up for this bit of unknown.