Ten Reasons Why I Love The KTM 500 EXC

Let me count the ways…

2014 KTM 500 EXC action shot

1. It's Timeless: While the 2014 KTM 500 EXC is a completely different platform than KTM's first street-legal enduro, you're still getting a race-ready machine. It doesn't matter if it's a 2006 model or a 2014, you get unmatched dirt performance for a street-legal bike. And it has been that way for almost a decade.

2. It Wheelies for Days. The 12 O'Clock Boys would be under a lot less scrutiny from local authorities if they used street-legal bikes like the 500 EXC. This KTM lofts its front wheel easier than most bikes, encouraged by its monster motor. Although the balance point is easy to maintain, those 12 O'Clock boys are still way above my skill level.

3. It Uses All Six Gears. Shifting through the 500 EXC's butter-smooth gearbox is easy. Moreover, the gear ratios are evenly spaced to provide almost seamless power from first to sixth. And sixth is that big drive you need when going down the road.

4. It Carries Enough Fuel. While you won't necessarily want to traverse the Sahara on this bike, given its range, the EXC's stock 2.25-gallon fuel tank is large enough for 80-plus-mile trail rides. What's more, there are multiple options for larger tanks to suit your individual needs.

5. It's Not Punk Rock. You don't have to worry about looking unique on your EXC. Chances are, most guys in your riding circle will have one, so just accept that fact. You can share tech tips with your buddies, and while you're bench racing, nobody can blame their bike for being slow. Also, hundreds of aftermarket goodies are readily available, many from KTM's own Powerparts.

2014 KTM 500 EXC static 3/4 view

6. It Has Great Suspension. Pure and simple, the EXC is an enduro machine with a license plate. It comes off the floor ready to race. KTM didn't skimp on suspension components. This dual-purpose machine doesn't bottom off every whoop, it tracks into corners like a race bike, and it glides over the potholes on Baja's Highway 1. You can even jump ravines you'd normally only consider on a motocross bike.

7. It's Five-Star Swank. I'm not one for luxury, but the 500 EXC treats you well. The electric starter fires the bike instantly without any special technique. The hydraulic clutch is easier than that of a 125 two-stroke, with smooth engagement. Fuel injection means there's no need to change jets at altitude, and the fit and finish is what you'd expect of a $10,099 Austrian dirtbike, In other words, top-notch.

8. You Can Pass Harleys (And Hipsters) On The Freeway. The KTM 500 EXC can hit triple digits on the highway, even though it starts to get a little buzzy above 65mph. But it's not taxing the engine at that speed, and I always make sure to wave every time I pass artsy types on their classic wrecks.

9. There's No Lack Of Power. The 510cc engine is smooth and torquey, with an exhaust note that's polite for the street and far from obnoxious in the wilderness. The motor may feel a little plugged compared to an MXer's, but this 500 will match a 450 motocrosser side by side up your local hill climb. The EFI provides perfect delivery in even the roughest conditions.

10. You Can Ride Anywhere! Did I mention this was a dual-purpose bike? Okay, I did. But please understand that the 500 EXC's main focus is off-road, which is just the way I like it. Sure, you can ride the 500 EXC two hours down the highway to reach your off-road riding area, but this special KTM is better viewed as an off-roader that serves as an occasional grocery-getter or short commuter.

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2014 KTM 500 EXC wheelie shot

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2014 KTM 500 EXC static left-side view

Static left-side view.

2014 KTM 500 EXC static right-side view

Static right-side view.

2014 KTM 500 EXC static left-side view

Static left-side view.

2014 KTM 500 EXC static right-side view

Static right-side view.

2014 KTM 500 EXC static rear view

Static rear view.