ADV Pulse

NEWSLETTER
Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Newsletter

Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Connect With Us

Follow On Facebook:

ADV NewsKTM 500 EXC Six Days: Modern Meets Retro in This Tasty Vinduro Build

KTM 500 EXC Six Days: Modern Meets Retro in This Tasty Vinduro Build

This classic-looking KTM enduro build is all modern underneath.

Published on 09.13.2022
KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

It isn’t easy to come up with ways to improve KTM’s 500 EXC Six Days, a limited edition model that celebrates the renowned FIM ISDE event. These bikes are modern-day enduro missiles. Barely street legal, equipped with race-proven parts, top-of-the-line WP suspension, a high-tech Chromoly frame, a fiery 510cc engine and a featherlight weight of just 246 lbs dry. 

It’s certainly not the first model that comes to mind when one is considering a throwback build, that is unless you happen to be custom bike enthusiast Dan Mickan of Brisbane, Australia, who found combining an old school vibe with the modern firepower of the Six Days machine made perfect sense.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

The goal from the start was to come away with a “vintage” enduro bike that offered all “the modern bike luxuries and performance,” he told ADV Pulse.


ADVERTISEMENT

It didn’t hurt that he already had a 2015 Six Days bike in his garage when the inspiration hit. He says the idea arrived at the confluence of two separate inspirations. Firstly, he was awestruck by Roland Sands customized 2015 KTM 450 SX-F, built to honor the legacy of off-road legend Kurt Caselli. Dan, who had previously dabbled in modifying bikes, told us that seeing that RSD SX-F was the first time he’d really considered a dirt bike as a base for a custom project.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Vintage Bike Build

Around the same time he’d decided to hunt up a vintage Honda XR600R. He loved the look of these older machines and thought it would be fun for the local Vinduro events he partakes in, usually aboard this 2015 KTM 500 EXC Six Days special edition. And then it hit him: If he bought the XR he would likely end up throwing a ton of time and money at it trying to improve its suspension and engine performance, and meanwhile his super advanced EXC would go to waste, sitting in his garage. 

“I thought that if I bought an old XR then all I would do is ride it, throw money at it to improve suspension and engine performance and I’d never ride my KTM 500,” says Dan.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

From concept to conclusion, Dan’s project took three and a-half years to wrap up. Yup, a long time, but the conservative approach suited both his budget and his limited time. With three kids at home and a full time job as a construction project manager, things needed to happen in stages. 

He also decided to farm out some of the fabrication work to local experts, noting that while he knows his way around a workshop, welding and fabrication aren’t his greatest strengths. On the other hand, the skills required by his day job —  finding the right subcontractors and clearly communicating complex instructions — definitely came in handy. 

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

The design process started with a vision board of sorts. Dan says he “printed out photos of bikes and tanks and custom builds and went old school, cutting and sticky taping different combinations together” until he was happy with a basic design. 

Once his ideal image took shape, he created a list of everything that needed to happen from start to finish, an element that Dan calls the backbone of the project. The list wasn’t essential because things might be forgotten, but rather as a means to reflect what was being accomplished, even when the pace was slow. “There is no doubt in my mind that without this list, and being able to cross things off as they got done, I wouldn’t have had the perseverance to stick out the build.”

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build
KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

So, evidently lists do work, but it’s also important to have a central aesthetic element for the build to evolve around. For this project, the cornerstone became a small, chunky fuel tank from an early 80s Honda XL 185, a feature that really does set off the look of the machine, though the choice was not without compromise, as Dan, post mods, is left with just 1.85 gallons of fuel to play with (he employs auxiliary cells on longer rides). “The tank is probably the design element that the whole build revolved around the most. I love it for its boxy lines and small size,” he says.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

Before the tank and its flattering and likewise chunky custom built seat could be applied a new subframe was in order. Dan approached this puzzle by building a mockup using electrical conduit. He then handed over a detailed drawing to his fabricator who produced an exact replica in chromoly steel. After some back and forth with the model Dan got exactly the proportion he was looking for, with the main goal being preserving the economics of the 500 EXC. 

“I used a stock KTM500 airbox and had it modified to fit within the new subframe so that I could use the stock air filters and battery box. This also helped to attach the stock rear mud guard. There are a few more places that mud and dust can get into the airbox so I put in a ‘Finke spec” funnelweb filter that’s a bit thicker than normal,” explained Dan.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

He says the most challenging part of the project was then adapting the vintage tank to the bike, due to the puzzle of working around the stock radiators, and especially, the test of fitting the fuel pump into such a tiny tank. 

Dan sourced a Danmoto exhaust because it was the best 80s-look pipe he could find, and he needed only to modify the stock headers to match the lines of the new subframe. Acerbis plastics and headlamp nacelle were chosen because they look the part and can be easily replaced “in the event I throw the bike down the side of the hills while out on the trails.” The plastic side covers were custom formed. 

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

Finally it was time to design the bike’s livery. Dan knew early on he wanted the tank to be white and the complimentary seat to be blue in tribute to early 80s KTM motocross bikes. And there would be orange, of course, mostly popping via the frame and shock coil. Additionally, he didn’t want to entirely lose the 2015’s Six Day’s celebratory essence, so some light blues and the “Argentina ISDE” lettering were worked into the mix.  

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

Dan enlisted a graphic artist to help with the design, and after some eight revisions, the final result is both subtle and stunning. Getting the powder coat on the subframe to perfectly match the chromoly main frame’s KTM orange was particularly difficult, says Dan, requiring the addition of a custom acrylic enamel paint over the powder coat for the ultimate match. 

These were the types of challenges he says were a time consuming “pain in the arse,” yet totally worth it since the bike turned out exactly as he hoped. “Being slow and methodical and always referring back to the original plan” and also “not accepting anything substandard,” meant having to redo some things, but at the end of the day, he said the extra time was well spent.

KTM 500 EXC Six Days Retro Bike Build

What we love most about this retro custom is that the limited edition 500 EXC behind it will be ridden as intended. “Even though it’s come up pretty, it will never be a display bike,” says Dan, who’s been riding motorcycles since he first twisted the throttle of his grandfather’s farm bike at age ten.

Dan says he’s also working on another custom, a Kawasaki W800 that he wants to turn into a desert sled. No telling how many years this new project will take, but we’re certain it will be worth the wait. 

Photos by Gabe Veit

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
ADVERTISEMENT

Related Stories

Related Stories

Comments
 0

Leave a Reply

ADVERTISEMENT

Sam Sunderland: From Humble Beginnings To 2-Time Dakar Champ

With an incredible off-road career including the amazing feat of snatching tw...

9 Extraordinary Places To Explore On Patagonia’s Carretera Austral

Patagonia!  For most, the word conjures visions of expensive down j...

Heidenau K60 Ranger Dual Sport Tire Review

In recent years, the number of dual sport tire options has continued to expand ...