MX Trail Bike: Fuel & Armor Upgrades

Mar. 19, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez

If you find yourself spending more time on trails than on track, it’s time to add some armor. Sneaky rocks, stumps and trees are at every corner waiting to getcha!

Added fuel capacity should be another thing to consider, as ride times and distances get longer on trails. Trail riding is addicting – you’ve been warned.  You get a taste, like it, and then you want more and more.

We kick off our MX Trail Bike series discussing the benefits of fuel & armor. 

Some simple items like a skid plate, rotor guard, larger fuel tank and hand guards can go a long way in making your trail riding experience better.  We’ll show you how easy it is to transform your dirt bike.

Fuel, yes we like fuel-powered machines and the joys they bring us. From the happy grins they produce to the heart-pounding excitement we get when romping a dirt bike in the hills. Trail riding can require more fuel than a stock motocross tank can give. 

With most motocross dirt bike fuel tanks having a capacity of less than 2 gallons, going the distance takes on a whole new meaning. I’ll be the first to confess that running out of fuel when trail riding is no fun, especially when you have to scoot yourself back to camp 4 miles away. Josh Burns, ORC editor was there to witness the entire fiasco.

The IMS tanks are a favorite for anyone who likes riding in the desert, or extensive trail rides that require more fuel capacity. The natural finish looks great and makes gauging fuel level easy. The only downside is the tendency for them to turn yellow. It’s recommended you drain the tank and keep it out of the sun when not in use.  If this sounds like too much work, full pigment colors are available in red, orange, green, black and white.

Your best bet is to upgrade to a higher capacity fuel tank, available from companies like IMS Products, Acerbis and Clark. The capacity increases to 3-, 4- and 5-gallon tanks. If you like riding tight trails, the larger ones tend to become heavy and awkward.

Two-stroke dirt bikes tend to use up fuel faster than four-strokes--especially if you need to keep them pinned at high RPMs to make hill climbs and such. The 3-gallon seems to be the sweet spot for most trail bike riders.

We used a KTM 450 four-Stroke as our test mule, with both a 3-gallon and 4-gallon fuel tank. The 3-gallon gives us a range of about 60 miles, and the 4-gallon is just over 100 miles. Depending on the type of trail riding or adventure we have planned determines what tank to slap on.

Swapping out tanks isn’t very difficult – just remove your radiator farrings, seat, and bolts attaching the tank. There’s a single hose connecting the petcock and carburetor that also needs to be attached.

Whether you add a 3-, 4- or 5-gallon fuel tank--you’ll appreciate not having to worry about not having enough fuel to make it back to camp after an epic day of riding.

Rocky roads make riding interesting--for sake of words. First thing you want to do once you realize riding your dirt bike on trails is a lot of fun is to bolt on a skid plate. They’re easy to install, run under $100 and have the potential to save your engine case from splitting like a birthday piñata.

Companies like Enduro Engineering, Moose Racing and MSR make great skid plates built from aluminum, plastic or carbon fiber.

We really like the Enduro Engineering products. They make great items that are designed to protect the bike yet keep it light and nimble on the trail. The Enduro Engineering skid plate used on our dirt bike is made of aluminum, and it is held by 4-bolts and a bracket. Simple, yet effective.

Some other armor goodies to consider are hand guards or “bark busters.” Depending where you live and what the trails are like, it doesn’t hurt to have some added protection for your hands. Simple hand guards can make a difference between getting cut or catching a branch. If you ride in very heavily wooded or rocky areas, you may need more protection--like “bark busters.” Both are available from Acerbis.

Acerbis is known for their quality plastic parts and accessories for dirt bike motorcycles.  Their protective hand guards and “bark busters” are one of the best out there. Easy to install, light and a great piece to have on the trail.

One area that gets too close for comfort is the rear brake rotor. We’ve been on trail rides where guys hit, bent or broke their rotors. This is not fun if you’re miles away from camp or counting on having that rear brake for the 1,000-foot hill decent that awaits you.

The best way to prevent a bent or broken rotor is to add a rotor guard. Companies like Enduro Engineering, Moose Racing and MSR make good pieces designed to protect the rotor. Some even have added protection for the caliper.

We sourced a rear rotor guard for our KTM 450 from All-American KTM in Ramona, CA. The design is very similar to the Enduro Engineering. It adds protection to both the disk brake rotor and Brembo brake caliper. The black anodized finish and KTM logo also add a nice touch.

Installation is simple. Remove the rear wheel and brake rotor bracket assembly. Then replace the rotor bracket with new rotor guard. The rotor guard becomes part of the brake assembly. Re-assemble and you’re set!

All of these upgrades can be done at your very own place with a few simple tools and by following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

With added fuel capacity and bike armor, you’re ready to hit the trails with confidence.

We’ve just given you some of the essentials to shaping your motocross dirt bike into a trail bike. There are a number of other pieces that can be added to make your bike into a medieval jousting bike—but that’s beyond this Camelot.

Make sure to check back for our next MX Trail Bike series topic “Teeth & Roll.”  We’ll cover chain sprocket sizes, gear ratios, tires and other ways to make your dirt bike even better on the trail!


All-American KTM

Enduro Engineering

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