OBS F350 aluminum topper & Phase 1 & 2 exo cage from lumber rack

Lumber Rack

Started sourcing major components by finding an uncommon Rack-It long bed lumber rack, specifically designed with additional width to fit over a truck topper (also known as a camper shell).

One popped up locally on FB marketplace, and I jumped on it despite the upper tubes being mangled and sitting in a field of weeds.

It was originally designed for a crew cab long bed truck, so while cutting/welding/straightening the upper 1″ tube of the lumber rack, I also lopped off 3 feet from the cab-over extension to match my single cab’s length.

Then, instead of reusing the forward section of 2″ OD tubing, I bridged the cut with a lower profile 1″ OD tube to reduce frontal area.

The lumber rack had large, 5/16″ thick footer plates intended to bolt to the top surface of the bedsides, so I trimmed them down to roughly 2″ wide to match the OD of the upright tubing, and welded and bolted them to my bed rails, which are capped and framed with angle iron.

Then, positioned the rack uprights at the very forward edge of the box to form a headache rack and halo over the cab.

Ran the rack for the time being with the fullwidth 2′ thick Weatherguard toolbox, while on the hunt for a topper.

Topper / Camper Shell

Craigslist saved search with keywords: long bed + topper, produced a local hit for a used, aluminum contractor unit, with a single passenger-side flip-up panel, and rear swing-out double doors.

Jumped on it right away because the seller had it on a likewise long bed OBS Ford pickup, so no questions about fitment. Pulled off the toolbox, my tailgate, brought along c-clamps and straps, and did the deal.

For reference, the following fullsize 8′ long bed topper accessories are compatible with an OBS Ford pickup:

  • 67-96 Ford 8′ beds, 97 F250HD and F350 8′ bed
  • 73-87 GM 8′ beds and up to 91 3500 8′ bed
  • 72-93 Dodge 8′ beds

Also for reference, the following long bed topper accessories are NOT compatible:

  • 97-newer F150
  • 99-newer Ford Superduty
  • 94-newer Dodge (due to subtle dovetail and narrower rear box width)
  • 88-newer GM

Upon taking delivery of the aluminum topper, was surprised by how lightweight the unit is even with doors and panel attached. It slid right into place.

Topper / Camper Shell build out

The topper is constructed of 1×1″ square aluminum skeleton ribs, skinned with painted aluminum sheet, and interior lined with thin speaker box carpet.

Once home, took the opportunity to cut and apply thick neoprene strips (intended to line a toolbox) between the bedrails and shell, then bolted it down with a dozen M8 fasteners.

The topper also has a dual slider window for access to the cab, but my single cab has fixed glass and something to address in case of emergency or to access the cab from inside the camper, which cannot be locked from the inside, nor can it be opened from the inside if latched closed from the outside.

With the tight fitting lumber rack, i had a vision to add triangulated tubes and build an exo cage around the shell.

With several 20′ sticks of 1.75″ OD, 0.120″ wall HREW steel tubing left over from a Jeep build, and an Affordable Bender (Model ab105 with 1.75″ mandrels @7″ bend radius up to 90*), started on the asymmetrical exo cage first on the driver’s side with no opening panel.

Phase 1 Exo Cage Build

Started cutting full length rock slider tubes spanning front and rear wheel wells.

Kinked slightly with an apex between the cab and bed to follow the body lines and transition between cab and body.

Next, cut and notched another tube to tie the slider to the truck frame.

Then, a vertical tube with multiple kinks to follow the bedside while continuing the line of the halo down to the slider tube.

Lastly, added triangulated tubes from the mounting point nodes to the upper longitudinal tube on the driver’s side.

The cage is intended to be asymmetric right/left, by creating a tube node further back that center to support the rear crossbar that is still the pinned, removeable piece as opposed to notched and welded.

When bending and positioning the HREW, the welded seam is put towards where it will likely make contact with rocks and obstacles, and should be tougher to dent than plain wall; otherwise, bends are clocked 90* from the seam as to not stretch or buckle the weld. Again, all tube bends shown here done with a manual hydraulic bottle jack in an Affordable Bender (Model ab105 with 1.75″ mandrels @7″ bend radius up to 90*) .

Phase 2

Tube along the rear quarter fenders tied to the rear bumper, and cage nodes.

I went with a triangulated tube in the front, to tie the far end of the rock sider along the body. It is right up to where the fender flare line starts.

needs mudflaps

Then another vertical tube from the rear pillar in the cage, to continue the line from the rack. It is terminated with a tube along the rear quarter panel, and welded to the rear bumper.

Crossbar spanning the rear of the rack is removeable with a pair of pins. There’s a rolled up awning bolted to the bar with fold out legs that can make a shade or rain cover.

Engine oil leak at cold start | OBS 7.3L Powerstroke oil cooler replacement

After a month of winter traveling at high elevation in Utah, truck developed a nasty oil leak at cold starts. Leak goes away after reaching operating temp, yet continues to weep oil after shutting down and cooling off.

Oil cooler exploded assembly

The 7.3L Powerstroke’s oil cooler is a tubular heat exchanger between engine oil and coolant along the driver’s side of the engine block, directly below the exhaust manifold. When it leaks, oil comes out past the O-rings at the tubular section between the front & rear mount (which is also where the oil filter spins onto), then drips on the driver’s side of the engine cradle crossmember.

View of oil cooler rear, and block heater cord.

Cold temps below water freezing point causes O-rings to shrink. These original units with 285k miles will not seal in the cold with Motorcraft 15W40 synthetic oil. (Not able to plug into a block heater while off-grid overlanding.)

California base and 200ft elevation, the motor doesn’t leak like that.

Parts to purchase for complete replacement

Requires draining motor oil and engine coolant.

Issues encountered

Ran into a rounded 10mm hex head on the upper mounting bolt, on the forward mount of the 7.3L’s oil cooler. Without taking any power steering or A/C compressor components off the engine, a 10mm ratcheting box-end wrench (12pt) can reach the bolt head with space to ratchet.

Left it in place and instead disassembled cooler while still on the truck. The assembly has 3 pieces pressed together from the interference fit of the 2x O-rings per side. The 2 ends are elbow bulkheads of motor oil and coolant, bolted to the engine block.

Starting from the rear, there are 3x 10mm bolts through the rear mount, which is shared with the spin-on oil filter mount.


1. Unplug the block heater cord & unbolt the heating element.

2. Unbolt the coolant drain plug. It will unload a bunch of coolant.

3. Remove the 3x 10mm bolts to unbolt the rear cooler mount.

4. Locate the pry tabs on the oil cooler cylinder, and pry against the casting of the rear cooler mount until it comes off.

5. Loop a ratcheting strap around the oil cooler cylinder with a slipknot held in place by the pry tabs; hook other end of the strap to the truck’s frame, and crank it off.

  • Upper left. Cooler’s rear mount and gasket.
  • Lower left. New gasket to the front cooler mount left on truck.

6. Assemble new heat exchanger and O-rings to the rear mount (smaller diameter O-ring outboard, larger diameter O-ring goes inboard), by squeezing them together between a floor jack and rear bumper or frame of the truck.

7. Grease the O-rings and sealing surfaces to prevent tearing or pinching or twisting; anti-seize on the mounting bolt threads.

8. Slip this subassembly under the truck and into the forward mount of the oil cooler. Use the exhaust manifold as a pry surface, and push the oil cooler into place and seat the forward O-rings.

9. Continue prying forward and parallel to the block until the 3x bolts line up.

10. Slip the new gasket between the engine block and rear oil cooler mount,

11. Refitted the coolant drain plug with RTV sealant,

12. Reinstall block heater element and cord.

To further mitigate winter cold starts, switched from Ford Motorcraft 15W-40 synthetic to Rotella Shell T6 synthetic 5W-40 (https://amzn.to/3mjktiq).

Since coolant was already drained, replaced thermostat with a Ford Motorcraft RT1201 190*F / 88*c thermostat (https://amzn.to/2VavAOB).

Reused the relatively fresh diesel engine formulated Zerex coolant (7 gallons, https://amzn.to/2JOlNvq) by pouring it back into the truck’s coolant reservoir through a 100 micron filtration sock.

Fire up motor and check for oil or coolant leaks.

Broken down on White Rim Trail | Buckled steering tie rod on Ford hp balljoint Dana 60 axle

Making good time on an anticlockwise loop of White Rim Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Then, on a trail squeeze section buckled a brand new tie rod on the Dana 60 with all new inverted-Y steering components.

15:00 broken down steering, truck is undriveable through switchbacks.

With a buckled tierod, the wheels can be turned in one direction but not the other.

Steering looks like it is smiling. The tie rod connects the pitman arm to the axle.

No pickle fork in the onboard tool bag. Only basic hand tools.


  1. Start by removing the tie rod in order to straighten it out.
  2. Insert key in ignition and unlock steering column.
  3. Loosen the adjusting collar pinch bolts in order to turn the sleeve all the way out.
  4. Droop the tie rod; undo the cotter pin and castle nut of the connecting ball joint.
  5. Hammer strike the tie rod from behind the rod and not the ball joint (which damages threads).

Anneal the tie rod before bending it straight by using propane camp stove heat.

Use ratchet straps hooked over the ball joint and looped around the tire, to pry straight against the front bumper.

Straighten as much as possible; if possible, sleeve rod with a break bar tube or Hi-Lift jack handle.

Use box end wrench leverage on ball joint taper, not threads.

17:10 Truck is ready to roll again

OBS F350 7.3L SCLB 4×4 on White Rim Trail, Canyonlands NP Utah

Dropped into Canyonlands NP on a 2-day permit. Original plan was to enter from Mineral Bottom Road on arrival Day 1, explore that corner of the park on Day 2, then come out the same way.

Instead, would run the entire White Rim Trail in the anticlockwise direction, overcoming a trail breakdown with a clever self recovery, and connecting via Potash Road back to Moab in the dark.

From Island in the Sky visitor center, after picking up permits and topping off drinking water, exited the park and headed north back to Horsethief Road turnout.

Ran the dirt road (BLM129) which crosses Mineral Canyon Road and then reaches the top of the switchbacks, and descend to the banks of the Green River at Horsethief Bottom.

Top of the switchbacks

This section of trail is wide enough to be mostly doubletrack with turnouts for 2 way traffic.

White Rim Trail is a loop that follows the northern edges of the Green and Colorado Rivers, where they meet in the middle of the park. It’s in the Island in the Sky section of the park, where Needles is to the east, the Maze to the west, and lastly the rivers themselves.

Day 1

From top of the switchbacks

Entered Canyonlands again after continuing past Mineral Bottom Road onto federal land, where it turns into the White Rim Trail and begins to trace the Green River.

The sun at this point is about 4 fingers above the horizon, which at river bank level, the horizon becomes the tops of the canyon walls.

The search also begins for a boondocking campsite outside of the park, starting from the bottom of the switchbacks to the upcoming park entrance.

Entering Canyonlands on the rim trail at only late afternoon, drove into a squeeze section along the Green River just inside of the park. Very narrow, barely enough width for my rig alone between rock cliff and falling into the river. 

Hustled back over the squeeze section as to minimize chance of getting caught along with another vehicle coming in the opposite direction.

Made camp at a site with lots of bikepacker tire tracks about. Would come across several groups pedaling the trail with a chase rig.

Tribute to the 2020 Burning Man void

In years prior at precisely this time, would be on the road to Burning Man. It is being held in spirit and in the digital realm this year because of COVID-19. There are still several ways to participate:

Black Rock City Virtual Reality (BCRvr): http://www.brcvr.org/ and their Facebook page.

Tribute from the 2018 Burn from one of my favorite art cars:

Welcome to stream Monolink in the background as i reflect on prior Burn experiences.

The Burn becomes an annual reminder, a hyperfocus on the experience of disconnecting for over a week from the default world. It’s a time to reflect, to collectively let go of emotional baggage, and to test self resilience once again in the desert.

It starts with a period of preparation, “getting ready to get ready”, and the physical form of acquiring a ticket (or at will-call), and a separate vehicle pass. (Important to mention there is a sky diver and pilot entry at Black Rock City Airport [88NV], but cannot personally comment on any further details.)

Then there’s the actual miles traveled to reach Nevada, and the formal entry through the gates into the city once a scanned ticket is granted access; what a relief when this happens. Logistics is always such a key element to the Burn, often being difficult from the very beginning; no two journeys nor caravans to reach and depart the playa are ever the same.

Last year’s 2019 Metamorphosis would be the first experience gaining early access on build crew with a theme camp, to help build a part of the city and contribute to it coming up around us. Doors open for this phase on Thursday 00:01, a minute after midnight, and a full 72 hours ahead of general admission. We rolled in and landed on playa at sunrise.

Joining a theme camp is rad, there’s infrastructure and campmates, but keep in mind you’re still on your own for event tickets and transportation. For the general population, there’s 3 phases of direct ticket sales to get in on. As far as how it looks on the calendar, the Burn occurs the entire final week of August, with the Man burning on Saturday night and the Temple on Sunday, with the festival officially coming to a close at Monday noon, on Labor Day.

FOMO tickets (early bird) first go on sale in mid-March, then there’s the main ticket sale online in mid-April, and lastly the OMG sale towards the end of July. After that, available tickets must come out of the secondary market (or transferred to will-call) as the published list of voided tickets grows. You can probably imagine the supply and demand curve leading up to the opening, where tickets are not available at the door, and how rife with shenanigans the secondary market becomes during the countdown.

FOMO tickets are the closest to surefire a method of having ticket in hand without stressing the remaining sales. There is of course a price, and limit 2 per transaction: 2019 was on the order of $1000USD/ea, plus fees. 2020 which was sold at $1500/ea, but refunded after it was announced the Burn would be cancelled due to COVID-19 cancellation.

Main ticket sale goess live globally at noon PST timezone, meaning the rest of the world is up at odd hours, smashing the refresh button in attempts to confirm their place in the digital queue. All ticket purchasing must be done with a Burner account, which requires prior registration, and then an invite is sent to participate in the ticket sale; this secondary authentication ends up delaying those that attempt to register and purchase tickets on the same day (and possibly buying up already limited tickets).

The same limit exists for main sale tickets, 2 tickets + 1 vehicle pass per transaction. Payments are processed online and charged right away. The physical tickets and vehicle pass sticker are put in the mail sometime in July, and come as a care package including BRC map, survival guide, various flyers, and a gift of hard candy.

KTM 530 EXC-R | Supermoto build for the twisties

Brilliant. Take a plated dirt bike, swap in some street wheels & tires, and now the 530 EXC chassis is transformed into an entirely different machine. The build deserves its own introduction, derived from the bike’s Adventure Build for TAT.

It starts with a 17″ wheelset in order to run modern tubeless street tires. In other words, sticky sport tires, 300mm of front suspension travel & 335mm in the rear, and a single cylinder dedicated to dropping the hammer.

After searching the local secondary market, found a complete set of used wheels, mounted tires, rear sprocket, brake rotors, and chain off a late model KTM 350 EXC. They are a custom build of Excel rims laced to Talon hubs, shod with Continental Tires at 120/70R17 front and 160/60R17 rear.

The rear fit with without a fuss despite the 160/60R17 back tire, and am now dealing with fitting the front hub. 350’s use a smaller diameter axle at 22mm, while the 530 uses a larger 26mm. Dubya, the distributor of Excel hubs and wheel spacers, hasn’t had the proper wheel spacer adapters in stock for weeks, and it’s mildly irritating that a couple of aluminum spacers are preventing the entire bike from being ridden in supermoto format; admittedly, the mod tends to never be straight forward when going from bike to bike.

Decided to call around and sent the spacers out to a local machine shop to be bored out to a 26mm ID while the proper adapters come into stock. After coming back for a test fit, the spacers appear to need some slight width offset toward the rotor side, which can be temporarily resolved by a short stack of washers under the caliper to reposition its centerline.

Upon fitment to the 530, the rear went on surprisingly without a fuss. Wheel spacers, offsets, and axle sizes all fit up. The brake caliper and lower chain guide indeed need to come off to make room for wheel fitment, but it’s a manageable swap that won’t prevent frequent wheel changes. (This becomes an addition to the basecamp project list for a wheelbox to store the other set, and perhaps also the 19″ dedicated rear paddle for the sand.)

On the rear drive side, the previous owner had experienced chain rub against the leftmost edge of the tire, because squeezing a 160mm wide rear into the swing-arm about maxes out any static lateral clearance. It’s when the chain is whipping at high rpm, under sag and compression does it slacken enough to twist and contact the tire. And of course, KTM’s are known for their notoriously loose appearing chain tension. My take on this characteristic is the distance and ride height angle between the countershaft axis, swing arm axis, and finally the rear wheel axis. It’s a dynamic angle yet will always be longest when they are all in a straight line.

To check chain tension, KTM typically has a procedure to take a measurement from a reference on the swing arm. It’s best to use this as a guideline, then actually sit on the bike and load the suspension by bouncing up and down on it to check chain tension through the travel of the rear wheel. Keep in mind, there is a huge difference in chain tension between the bike at full suspension droop off a workstand, and under compression when the rear wheel travels. Folks that mistakenly run a chain too tight put excessive wear on the machine, and in some cases catastrophic failures like chains snapping or shafts breaking off, in particular on a landing that yanks the chain.

At first, I’m seeing bits of rubber getting flung up into the fender along with moisture from the manually soaked air filter and chain lube. It’s a bit of a hot mess right now that i’m not sure how i feel about it all yet (but can clearly see why pre-oiled air filters are brilliant), especially because i do like stuffing the widest tire possible. There is an ability to perhaps further dish the wheel but it’s on the order of millimetres of clearance toward the rotor side. Can also swap out the o-ring chain for an even thinner street chain.

My solution at the moment after the first handful of tuning rides, is to bolt up a piece of angle iron under the rearmost M6 mounting bolt of the upper chain guide, and screw in a block of engineering plastic and over-hanging piece to help guide the chain.

The front swap proved to also be an indirect fit attempting to hop from bike to bike. The late model KTM 350 uses a smaller axle at 22mm, while the larger 530 has a 26mm through axle. The wheel spacers from the OEM dirt front hub do not carry over because the Dubya is designed with a smaller ID hub sleeve between its bearings. While we wait on parts to come in to stock at Dubya, i sent the original spacers off the supermoto wheelset out to a local machine shop to be bored to 26mm. They now fit the hub and axle, but the widths need shortening toward the rotor side in order to retain the brake caliper centerline without using a stack of washers.

Also in the front, the fork guards need notching on both inward sides to clear the point of the tire where the tread ends and sidewall begins. The 530 already had some clearance holes at the correct height that i slightly enlarged, so perhaps it very well was a supermoto under a former pilot. The street front wheel also came with a magnet so the 530’s speedometer functions at the dash, and can be re-calibrated to a 1880mm tire circumference.

The procedure to recalibrate a KTM speedometer is as follows: unplug the 3wire connector wiring harness leading into the dash, behind the number plate. Use the Mode button to cycle into the dashboard computer units, scroll over to WS -wheelsize- and manually use the +/- keys to increase/decrease the stored tire circumference in units of millimetres. (For reference: 2205mm circumference for a 21″ dirt front tire, 1880mm for a 17″ street front tire; measure actual tire for accuracy.) Reattach the 3wire harness behind the dash, and reattach number plate.

To date, am still shaking down the supermoto format and have since been up and down Highway 9, which the upper half to Skyline Boulevard was repaved last year and is incredibly smooth. The bike handles exceptionally well without even getting to suspension tuning yet, it eats up the 15 mile an hour hairpins in both up and downhill directions, and the XC4’s torque rolling on the throttle is sensational. =)

Couple of details still being addressed. The kickstand needs to be swapped out for a shorter unit after the supermotor wheels really dropped the stand-over height of the bike. As is with the dirt kickstand, it is very tipsy on flat ground, and simply turning the bars to the right and attempting to park it will tip the bike. Sourced a supermoto specific kickstand from Warp 9, along with their front and rear axle sliders. In the meantime to park, i’ll first pull the bike over on to the kickstand so the rear tire comes off the ground (like a dog taking a leak), then kick a 2×4 under the rear tire before setting it back down.

Next, the dual sport flimsy plastic mirror needs to go. While making the bike street legal, it’s useless at speed and vibrates to the point the reflection is a complete ripple. Am opting for round bicycle concave mirrors to clip below the handlebar.

TAT route planning and building truck basecamp

Trans-America Trail route planning through northern Utah and central Idaho. Travel project has evolved into a domestic focus by building out the truck into a basecamp and minimalist camper (lessons learned from taking a hardsided camper 3 months through Baja Mexico), in order to carry the motorcycle, mountain bike, and whitewater kayak. A lot already, I can acknowledge.

The desire isn’t to traverse the TAT solely on a moto, rather to leisurely explore and adventure certain regions along the TAT, with a basecamp and many more modes of getting around to play. In the area of central Idaho in particular, there are some incredible rivers (Snake River, Lake Cascade) and waterways to play around. Having the ability to set up camp in a certain bend of a river, to fish it or paddle it, and ride spurs from basecamp, are in my opinion more enjoyable at the moment than blasting through making miles/km on a trip. However I do look forward to trail angeling those that are traveling that way and passing by.

A whitewater kayak and gear is in the process of being added to the fleet. It occurred to me how compact a freestyle whitewater kayak can be while still having a plastic hull for rocks (as opposed to inflatable). Am looking forward to learning how to roll in both directions by mastering the technique in a swimming pool.

Truck fitout has been in the middle of summer, and still haven’t figured out a shade system. 270* awnings strung off the lumber rack in the bed sounds rad, am on the hunt for one up to 8′, or may eventually build one based on a roller furler sailboat jib. Also, am looking to downsize the toolbox from the fire engine Weatherguard riding on the bedrails, to something like a Delta 807000 between the 64″ bedrails, or a gull wing box in that same width. The idea is to then skin the lumber rack with hinges and panels; the wide red box on it now already hits the rack when fully open.

On top, am looking into the wedge pop-up in favor of the the solid roof panel, with the opening angle pointing towards the cab. That opens up the area above the truck cab as a deck, likely with a solar panel in the floor or flexible units taped to the cab roof or hood. Over the cab would be the star gazing platform, sunrise/sunset tower, and general lookout point from top of the rig. Build inspiration comes from the Go Fast rooftop tent, however am opting to custom build rather than pay upwards of $4000 USD for a RTT.

The rack on the truck is intentionally designed with a wide, lower spreader clearance in order to fit a truck bed cap underneath. Since the baseplates stick out past the bedsides, am in the process of building an exo cage by tying more tubes into the lumber rack. Then down low along the cab and bed, adding an entire 8′ stick of tube as rocker rails, that stick out far enough to also be functional steps. Adding skate deck grip tape on top, and the rocker tubes shall tie directly to the truck frame with more welded tube. Keeping it low profile and even notching the cab in some areas; the rails will be braced enough to pick up the truck anywhere along its body line with the Hi-Lift jack.

Over in the rear, the bed is a full size 8′ box with a Reunel rear bumper class IV receiver hitch. I’ve recently put aside the reinforced tailgate for a 3rd party unit made for trucks hauling a 5th wheel, where a quarter of the top center is clearanced in the shape of a trapezoid. The idea for running this tailgate is to have clearance around the hitch-mounted moto carrier that i’ve always used, the 4-bar linkage lift with a hydraulic bottle jack. Now with this 5th wheel tailgate, it can fold down flat even with the moto carrier in the locked and loaded position. Before, with the regular tailgate and moto carrier, trying to fold it down would hit everything and quickly become a liability.

Up front, the custom front bumper is finally getting some progress again. First is adding a winch plate, which I tied into the reverse shackle swap crossmember that braces the new spring hangers at the frame. It’s a good beam to work with but for a winch plate, wanted extra tie ins. The winch envelope fits completely hidden behind the plate bumper, and took some cutting and grinding to narrow the gap and tie the fairlead plate of the winch plate to the bumper. It’ll be like trying to pull the winch through the front bumper. Second, enlarged some of the pod light holes into rectangles to flush mount a pair of 6″ LED light bars down low.

KTM 530 EXC adventure build for TAT

So it begins.. added to the fleet, a 2008 KTM 530 EXC-R plated California dirtbike. Taken delivery with relatively low hours & miles (180 hours; 3850 miles | 6200km) on the XC4 motor, she appears to have solid potential from the initial baseline of mechanicals and fluids, and enough initial issues to facilitate getting rapidly acquainted with this machine.

2008 is the debut year of the new generation XC4 motor. It’s a 510cc (31.1cid) 4-stroke thumper with 95mm (3.74in) bore x 72mm (2.83in) stroke at 11.9:1 compression ratio, with a 4-valve overhead camshaft. KTM decided to split the crankcase lubrication into 2 separate oiling compartments, one for motor oil and another for gear oil. Both are specified to use 10w-50 4T motor oil, so there are 2 filler caps and 2 side by side drain plugs with respective screens. Both engine and gear oil are checked with the motor cold, where the engine oil @0.6L (0.6 qt) is sighted through the glass and gear oil @0.9L (1 qt) is checked by removing a plug to ensure oil has reached its proper fill level. Am running a K&N oil filter in the engine’s pressure lubrication system with 2 rotor pumps.

The 530 is another carbureted bike for analog fuel delivery (my prior bike was a 2006 KTM 450 EXC with RFS motor), because i’m just not interested in relying on an electric fuel pump. To tune the carb, Death Valley’s elevation ranging from below sea level to over 9000′ and up will be proving grounds for jetting feasibility and AFR mixture screw range with all the ambient heat. Home base tune elevation is at 100′.

First is an explanation of the build logic and intended use. This bike is a pilot build for ultralight adventure travel on a dual sport, and my eyes are on the western half of the trans-American trail : northern Utah, central Idaho, and the western spur through Oregon to the Pacific Coast. It’s also called the trans-Am trail, or TAT for short.

For the pavement and twisties (not letting these roads pass me up on this travel project), adding a set of supermoto 17″ wheels and street tires to transform the 530 chassis into an entirely separate bike with just a wheelset and fuel tank swap. Read about its ongoing build here.

The adventure build style will be a ‘nothing fancy’ fitout, yet the bike will certainly not be babied. Determination at DIY goes as far as reasonably possible with this Austrian machine, mainly familiarizing myself through maintenance, functional modifications, and replacement of wear & tear items, yet do recognize the safeguard of utilizing a KTM or general motorcycle shop for major work (or more likely, when i screw up a DIY project). Parts will also not necessarily be strict OEM or splurges as the mantra is to ‘run what ya brung’ and most importantly to get out there even on a budget. Much of what gets purchased and utilized on the bike is being documented, reviewed, and linked in some form.

Recovery gear and toolkit strategy is to wrench on the bike and fitout the contents based on actual tools used. For example, KTM uses an M17 (KTM p/n 78038018000) and M16 (KTM p/n 77038017000) bolt for the engine and gear oil drain plugs on the XC4; both have 13mm hex heads where a box end wrench works best, because the bolts are practically coincident with an adjacent frame cross-member and can’t be reached straight-on with a socket and extension. It’s a royal PITA if one of these heads rounds off after the last person to have performed the oil change has gorilla strength.. let me tell ya all about it below.

But first, a shout-out to KTM dealer and parts retailer The Motor Cafe in Sunnyvale, CA for having exactly what I needed in stock, and great service for putting the new drain plugs out for me as I rang them 10 minutes before closing, purchased over the phone, and wouldn’t arrive until after close.

Baseline the bike:

Starting with a tear-down, then assessing the aftermarket bits and addressing issues inherited from the previous owner.


When I briefly test rode the bike before purchasing from the previous owner (a self proclaimed non-mechanic; totally appreciate his honesty!), the KTM sprocket guard (machined aluminum, orange anodized) had a visibly wonky runout. First noticed it looking down as I got on the throttle out of the first turn, feeling the back tire flex (it was practically flat) I could see the sprocket guard wobbling wildly like an eccentric.

Luckily, as I suspected after pointing it out and checking the countershaft for end-play in the seller’s driveway (it had none), turns out during my tear down I find the dome compression washer is on backwards (it was mistakenly facing the guard) which caused the guard to sit off center as seen in the score marks on the guard. It was so FUBAR the guard was rubbing its way through the master link and threatened to foul it into a chain whip. Was also an opportunity to note the previous owner ran a 13T front sprocket with the 49T rear, where the front is 2T smaller than factory and probably how he liked it set up for tight, narrow PNW trails, as a big 6’4″ rider.

Drivetrain is being replaced with 14T/49T dual sport gearing and new O-ring 520 chain with 114 links and fresh master link, and new OEM dome washer and countershaft bolt. Steel front sprocket, aluminum rear sprocket, non cushdrive hub, and re-greased chain tensioners and lock nuts with anti-seize.

With the old chain removed to service sprockets, the back wheel can easily come off for inspection. Right away, found a bunch of loose spokes in particular on the sprocket drive side. To true on the bike, set a magnetic base dial indicator with roller tip on a plate of steel to measure lateral runout, then over the top to measure radial runout from inside diameter of the rim. Then took the 7mm wrench and smacked all the spokes for an indication of tension by frequency tone. The goal is to bring each side’s spoke tension within a close hi-lo range, to achieve evenly distributed tension and therefore the most robust equilibrium of a spoked wheel.


Moving on to the rear fender and aluminum subframe of the bike, noticed the left rail had a significant downward kink. Took a cheater bar to straighten it out, and noted this area of the bike will certainly need reinforcement, bracing, and gusseting in order to support any sort of pannier load. Then drilled and routed wiring for enduro style flush taillights by Sicass Racing in the rear fender.


All brake fluid in the hydraulic clutch, and front & rear brakes got flushed and bled with fresh DOT 5.1 synthetic fluid. My preferred method is to first use a vacuum hand pump to pull and purge old fluid through the caliper nipple, top off the reservoir, then use the traditional pump-pump-hold method to finish bleeding, which provides lever feedback as hydraulic pressure builds.

The oil drain plug was already rounded off by the previous owner, so anticipated this being a challenge. It was likely a known issue because the motor oil looked well used and dark through the sight glass, compared to the golden colored gear oil that drained out; this is actually a good sign that the lubrication circuits have not crossed over and internal seals are doing their part. First, tried hammering on a 1/2″ 6-point socket, which at 12.7mm and slightly snugger than the metric 13. However after snapping the thin wall socket even after applying heat to the aluminum case with a MAP gas torch, knew this task was going to take more heat, patience, and another cold beer.

I drained the motor oil as much as possible from the oil filter compartment and from one of the accessible oil rotor pumps, in order to reduce heat transfer to the engine oil from the aluminum case around the drain plug. Then broke out a chisel and hammer to use an impact load to break the bolt free. After many, many strikes and heat cycles with the MAP gas torch, finally saw the bolt head twist and finished persuading it out with a cylindrical flat punch. What a relief; no drilling nor elaborate extraction needed.


Moving on to ignition, went with the KTM recommended NGK spark plug p/n 2786 with solid copper construction, with gap spec at 0.8-0.9mm (0.031″-0.035″). The bike also came with an ignition curve mapping switch, and will experiment with this device on the street to discern its functionality on a carbureted bike.

Noticed that the old spark plug was covered in oil. The 530 has a factory crankcase and rocker breather venting circuit that joins at a T, then terminates at the intake boot on the clean air side. The theory is that crankcase pressure from the engine sprays and mists engine oil up the breather lines and into the intake, thus consuming oil over time and evident on the old spark plug. Since engine oil already has such a limited capacity and short interval, am in the process of re-routing the vent line after the crankcase and rocker T joint, using 3/8″ fuel line hose to a 3/8″ double ended barb fitting (hose mender) and breather filter that fits under the seat and inside the stock air filter box. The filter is intended to keep crud from entering the motor, and is tucked up high for water crossings and away from outside elements.

Subsequent oil changes will involve measuring how much fluid gets drained and how much gets added, to determine if the breather modification effectively narrows the delta. A further modification could be an auxiliary oil cooler to the system, which increases oil capacity from the additional volume in the lines and heat exchanger.

Added an inductive digital tachometer and hour meter (coil cell battery) after completing baseline and fluids, to begin recording my service intervals and hours. It’s mean to go on the dash area but i’m really only interested in hours, so the display is routed along the above breather hose and also into the air box below the seat.


For engine coolant, drained the radiators and noticed the previous owner was already running Engine Ice. Great stuff, all pre-mixed and ready to run; replenished and topped the radiators off with fresh blue coolant fluid.

Fan fits behind the enormous Acerbis adventure tank.


The belly of the bike came protected with a high zoot carbon fiber skid plate. Am relieving it of duty and selling, in favor of an aluminum skidplate by Enduro Engineering. Reason being is the bike is carried on my vehicles using a steel cradle that jacks it from the belly, so not ideal to unnecessarily crush and abrade the fancy composite during rough transport.


When with the MoJavi saddlebag 2 x 6L side pocket capacity by Giant Loop Moto and tail rack bolted through the rear fender.