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Common Tread

Triple Threat: One man's obsession to build one motorcycle for all purposes

Nov 05, 2020

In showbiz parlance, a triple-threat is a performer who brings it all to the stage — the song, the dance, the act — and excels in each form.

Somewhere along the line, I started mulling the possibility of one production motorcycle that could do it all. And when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it. Many months, mods, and garage hours later, that machine is complete. I can finally introduce KTM 690 Tx3, a.k.a. Project Triple Threat: one bike for dirt, street and track.

Why Tx3?

I can’t trace the exact moment where this makeover became an obsession. An early motivation was finding a two-wheeler that would allow me to stay fresh for any riding scenario. Testing and writing about motorcycles isn’t my full-time gig, but rather something I swoop into when any number of opportunities arise. Over the past few years, that’s spanned track time in Spain, ADV tours in East Africa, and motocross in California.

I firmly believe that to be a great rider you have to treat motorcycling like a study — something you do and practice all the time across the full spectrum. So I started searching for one bike to keep me riding year around and ready for any situation. Sure, there are multi-bike options for staying fresh on dirt, street, and track, such as combining a less expensive dual-sport and a sport bike. But for my purposes, I wanted one motorcycle, one maintenance schedule, one DMV visit, and one insurance payment.

riding off-road on the Tx3
The goal: One motorcycle for all kinds of riding. Photo by Jake Bright.

Choosing one motorcycle to do it all

After scanning the production motorcycle landscape, there wasn’t anything out there that fit my vision. Dual-sport offerings would come up short for track days and performance street riding. Popular adventure-touring and scrambler options are just too heavy for off-road or motocross track riding (in my view).

After a ton of research, I concluded a custom dual-sport, supermoto conversion made the most sense. The goals for project triple-threat shaped up to these:

  • A solid performer on dirt, street, and track
  • Excellent power-to-weight ratio; no heavier than 300 pounds (dry)
  • A bike with daily-rider and ADV abilities
  • Something that looked and felt cool to ride; and
  • Something I could convert across modes in less than two hours

To get that all right in one bike, I needed a dual-sport that was in a spec sweet spot. For example, a KTM 500 EXC-F would be an awesome off-road performer, but with 41 horsepower and a two-digit top-speed, it would likely prove underpowered on the highway and underwhelming on track days. Another contender, Ducati’s 73-horsepower Desert Sled, has plenty of oomph, but at 460 pounds (wet), isn’t exactly what I’d want to jump on the motocross track or blast single-track on.

KTM 690 Enduro
The platform for project Tx3, a stock KTM 690 Enduro, pre-conversion. Photo by Jake Bright.

I chose a 2019 KTM 690 Enduro as the base bike for project triple threat because, spec-wise, it’s optimally positioned. At 75 horsepower and 322 pounds (dry), the motorcycle offers an excellent power-to-weight ratio without being so hefty you need to call a forklift if you lay it over.

The service intervals on the 690’s recently refined LC4 engine are much more favorable than the 450 cc and 500 cc options, which seem to need an oil change a month. In 2019, KTM also added a higher capacity gas tank and an excellent electronics package to the 690 Enduro with ride modes, cornering ABS, quickshifter and traction control.

Best of all, the 690 Enduro is already a proven supermoto platform. From the chassis to engine and electronics, the bike is nearly identical to KTM’s 690 SMCR. There are only a few distinct differences between the two: wheels and tires, a stronger front brake, a different fork and one degree of fork angle. So the KTM 690 Enduro became the choice for project triple threat. I began plotting mods and converting the bike this spring.

Mods and conversion

Like many a motorsport makeover project, I set overly ambitious expectations and then proceeded to add even more of them along the way. The original mod plan called for supermoto wheels, dropping the eyesore stock exhaust, and a shortlist of functional and farkle-ish items.

That turned into over 30 mods and getting a whole bunch of people engaged with this project, from KTM USA to sending questions to the Common Tread team to multiple parts suppliers across three continents.

converting the Tx3
To be able to swap the wheels and drivetrain on a motorcycle on a regular basis, I got the right tools, advice, and studied up. Photo by Jake Bright.

The process for this bike project was definitely something to take seriously. Sure, I wasn’t fabricating a frame or building an engine. But Tx3 entails (regularly) swapping the wheels and drive-train on a motorcycle I’ll jump, and wheelie, and hit three-digit speeds on. And instead of a professional mechanic or the pit crews that maintain OEM test bikes, each bolt spec, axle install, and drive-train swap would be entirely on me.

When Tx3 started, I hadn’t wrenched on bikes since college. As such, I made sure to get the right tools (including two digital torque-wrenches) and followed Lemmy’s RTFM axiom (operative words “read” and “manual”). I also consulted with a KTM mechanic — Mason Cruz over at Shelby Powersports — and created a spreadsheet with all the conversion steps and bolt specs to guide the mode swaps.

Tx3 in supermoto mode
Tx3 in track-day mode with no mirrors, signals or license plate. Photo by Jake Bright.

In choosing the mods, I added a couple goals to the project. The first was getting the 690 Enduro down around 300 pounds dry (which entailed dropping 20 pounds). This would be most important off-road, where extra weight can’t be masked. I also wanted a setup where the bike could be track ready (asphalt or dirt) in minutes.

With all that established, here’s the rundown of the main mods and tools selected to create KTM 690 Tx3.

Wheels and tires

The wheels are the most critical component of this project. For those I went with Warp 9 Racing, a Utah-based company that specializes in supermoto conversions. They built a pair of 17-inch aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot Power 2CT skins and added clean 300 mm rotors. Warp 9 CEO Kevin Tanis was generous with calls where I quizzed him on every part of the conversion process.

Tx3 in motocross mode
Tx3 in MX mode. I don't expect to clear triples, but I wanted something track-worthy enough to kick up some berm dirt and grab a bit of air. Photo by Jake Bright.

For the bike’s MX and ADV mode, I swapped the KTM 690 Enduro’s stock tires for a more aggressive Dunlop D908RR rear and D606 on the front, a combo recommended by Dunlop USA.

Drive train

To get the most out of the bike in supermoto mode with the 17-inch wheels, I went with a different sprocket arrangement, choosing the 12-tooth and 46-tooth combination that's the standard ratio on KTM’s SMCR. To swap chains quickly, I needed two X-ring chains with different link counts and to move from a riveted to clip master link.

supermoto wheels, chain and sprocket setup
Tx3 with 17-inch wheels for asphalt use. Different setups use different chains and sprockets. Photo by Jake Bright.

Luckily, MotionPro sent me their all-in-one chain tool, master link clip pliers and chain alignment tool. All have proven to be big time-savers.

airbox modifications
An aftermarket exhaust, air filter kit, and slight fuel remapping were added to help KTM’s LC4 690 motor hit peak performance. Photo by Jake Bright.

Exhaust, airflow, EFI

My first impression of the 690 LC4 motor was that it screamed from mid-range to top-end (particularly for a single), but was hamstrung at low revs. It was almost as if first and second gear had a governor on them. Some input from Rottweiler Performance revealed this has to do with the EFI mapping on many KTMs, which basically gives the motorcycle an inefficient low-end air-fuel ratio. There are a lot of expensive ways to address this by fully remapping the motorcycle, but the quickest fix I found is Rottweiller’s $29.95 Fueling Dongle, which basically tricks the ECU into running a more optimal ratio. This 10-minute mod made the 690’s lethargic low-end power delivery disappear and allowed the LC4 motor’s inner tiger to roar from first through sixth.

I installed a Wings titanium exhaust, which dropped a lot of weight, added some horsepower, and gave the bike some braap. And to help Tx3 breathe even more, I installed a DNA air filter and box kit, which increased air flow from 96 to 146 cfm.

modifying the fork guard
The conversion created little challenges along the way, like fitting a wider supermoto tire on a dual-sport front fork. A dremel and an extra pair of fork guards solved it. Photo by Jake Bright.

Brakes

Brakes presented two challenges for this project. First, the KTM 690 Enduro has less stopping power up front than KTM’s SMCR, a two-piston versus four-piston Brembo caliper, which was less than optimal in supermoto mode. Another complication is running two sets of rotors on the same pads, which can create brake performance and bedding issues. After consulting with Brembo and Galfer, I matched pads for each mode — Galfer HH sintered pads for the supermoto wheels and Brembo SD sintered off-road pads for the rims with knobbies. I also switched the stock brake fluid for Motul RBF600 Racing Brake Fluid. These changes, along with weight reduction, have given Tx3 plenty of stopping power.

Controls and accessories

For foot controls I went with a grippier and lighter Raptor Titanium MX footpegs, upgraded to a Vanasche rear brake lever and switched to a Zeta Revolver shift lever. The Zeta has an adjustable tip, which can be quickly adjusted to accommodate different boot types.

For ADV mode, Tx3 got Nelson Rigg Dual Sport saddlebags, an Oxford S20R Adventure tank bag and a KTM touring windscreen.

To speed up the conversion to track use, I installed ClickNRide signals, which can be removed and attached in seconds.

ClickNRide removeable turn signals
ClickNRide removable indicators and a custom, removable tail-tidy make Tx3 track ready in minutes. Photo by Jake Bright.

I saved some additional weight with Warp 9 titanium sprocket and rotor bolts and Rottweiller’s canisterectomy kit. Switching to an EarthX lithium-ion battery saved nearly five pounds.

To top it all off and give Tx3 a clean and cool look, MotoProWorks Sweden created a custom graphics kit for the bike.

Rock on Tx3

I did the final mods and first mode swap on project triple threat last week. It’s too early for a full scorecard on how well Tx3 meets the original goals. Still, I have some initial impressions. So far, the bike’s a blast. It cruises comfortably on the open road in ADV form, and definitely inspires traffic violations of the fun kind in supermoto mode.

The goal was to be able to switch modes in less than two hours. The first swap from supermoto to ADV took well over three hours. I expect practice to bring that time down.

With the ClickNride signals and a tail-tidy I customized, the bike can be stripped of blinkers, mirrors, and license plate — for off-road or track use — in minutes, so that goal’s a win.

I’ve not gotten the motorcycle on a scale, but did weigh all mods versus stock parts and was able to drop 16 pounds off Tx3 in daily rider setup and 20 for supermoto and MX track mode. The latter should bring down the dry weight to around 301 pounds. The bike’s not been dyno’d but with estimated gains given by Wings and DNA air filters, a calculated guess on horsepower is somewhere near 80. This document provides a full list of mods and weight loss.

jumping the Tx3
Can one motorcycle do it all? I'll report back when Tx3 has more miles on it. Photo by Jake Bright.

Into next year, I plan to test the bike in all forms to see how it measures up to original expectations. I also plan to keep looking for ways that motorcycle manufacturers could produce something that's perhaps less intensive, and more out of the box, that meets these goals — something I didn’t find in any current production motorcycle.

All of this gives me a great excuse to ride a whole lot, from daily treks, to track days, to motocross. I’ll add some fall ADV touring in there, too. I hope the coming months prove all the wrenching, research, and work was worth it. That will depend on KTM 690 Tx3 proving itself as a worthy performer on dirt, street, and track. I'll let you know how it goes.