Behind the Ride - A Look at Steve Kamrad's 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F

“Evan called me and said he had a bike and a deal ready to go, I didn't even flinch. I told him to ‘do it up, and I'll pick it up when ready’. Solid Performance has a way of setting up a bike that far exceeds the standard KTM bike set up from most shops. While at the same time, I hate working on my bike, so we're a match made in heaven.”


Dirt bikes are supposed to be dirty and we felt like in the spirit of keeping true to the muddy woods of New Jersey, we would present Steve Kamrads bike in its native race state. A bike that’s been ridden hard and used for what it should be; having fun and kicking butt.


This 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F has been built and tuned by Solid Performance KTM in Downingtown, PA. The 2019 model year marks the last year of the 250 four-stroke in the KTM trail bike line up. It's also the first year of the orange frame, so even in its stock form, this bike is just a ‘lil special. And the work that has gone into it has made it exceptional for Kamrad.


From the jump, Kamrad wanted a 250 4t to train on and ride enduros. He professes that big fun can be had on small bikes, but more importantly, it allows new and experienced riders to hone their skills. He’s been known and loved in the ADV and enduro communities as the crazy guy on the Triumph Tiger 800 XR (retired) and now a Triumph Scrambler XE. Coming from mainy big motorcycles, Steve knew that a mid-sized, performance oriented dirt bike would be perfect for his needs as a rider.


Having a good relationship with Evan Yarnall, the owner and top WP suspension tuner of Solid Performance, he asked for him to keep an eye out for a bike that would fit the bill. 


“Evan called me and said he had a bike and a deal ready to go, I didn't even flinch. I told him to ‘do it up, and I'll pick it up when ready’. Solid Performance has a way of setting up a bike that far exceeds the standard KTM bike set up from most shops. While at the same time, I hate working on my bike, so we're a match made in heaven,” said Steve.  


Right away, they ditched the stock air boot for a Euro 500 intake and did away with the "reeds" in the intake. All SAS (emissions) equipment was ditched and correctly blocked off or modified. Next, a 2017 ECU was installed and also received a Euro race tune, which unfortunately can no longer be done! The result is a bike that runs much stronger than a stock 250 EXC-F with better low and mid-range power delivery and a top end that continues to pull toward the redline.


“Initially, I had SP install proper fork springs and later went to a full open chamber fork conversion with custom "skunkworks" mid-valves and shim stacks,” said Steve.  “The amount of control I have in the front end is incredible. With both fork legs converted to handle compression and rebound, instead of one doing compression and the other rebound, the flow rates are noticeable even to me; a B-class enduro level racer.”


The rear shock has been given some "special tweaks" internally, while externally, it's gotten a custom thrust bearing at both ends of the spring from SP that allows the rear to compress without twisting. It lets the rear end soak up broader impacts without unsettling the bike and keeping it in a straight line.


To further add to the stability and fine tuning of the bike, Steve had Solid Performance add an Xtrig preload adjuster which keeps the bike balanced front to rear. If you think of the preload adjuster as a way of changing the front end feel rather than spring rate or stiffness outback, you'll understand the thought process. 


“24 turns on the Xtrig are needed to adjust what would be one full turn of a spring collar, and I've made adjustments as little as 8 turns on the Xtrig to get the front to turn in better or to add stability to the front depending on race conditions. The ease of use is worth every penny.” 


Stock levers are protected by Cycra Probend CRM mounted handguards, and Steve told us that he finds them to be the best at letting the bars feel light and flex properly. Additionally, bar flex and arm pump prevention comes in the form of a set of KTM power parts Progressive Handlebar Dampening System (PHDS) bar mounts, with the super soft green bushings installed. ODI Rogue lock-on grips are the last and arguably the best line of defense for arm pump prevention I've found and Steve owes this purchase to his bud, Joe Zito at RevZilla, for the recommendation. 


When it comes to tires, Steve runs a Bridgestone M59 up front and on the rear he uses a Shinko 525 cheater rear. How good is it? Steve proclaims, “My whole crew of friends is running it now, and we all throw up "525 gang" when we talk about it. It's absolutely amazing in all conditions except on asphalt.”


You might not be able to see it much in the muddy photos, but Steve paid the big bucks to have some of the best lighting on the front of his rig; a Baja Designs XL40 headlight with an amber lens provides exceptional illumination. At the NE24 Hour Challenge, a 24-hour team enduro race, he ran only this headlight with no helmet lights, and managed lap times about 4% slower than in the daylight. In the heavy woods, it's bright enough to be seen during the day, and he uses it to "convince" slower racers to move over so he can pass safely and then let out a "thank you!" as he rides past.


Some trick bits round out Steve's bike and are easily ordered online: Enduro Engineering radiator guards, clutch slave protector with "chain knockdown," and the larger rear brake pedal. The Polysport clutch and water pump protectors are excellent insurance, and the KTM power parts skid plate and rear grab handle get used enough to warrant the purchase. TM Designs chain guide and slider replace the stock units as they are more robust than the stock units. 


While Steve has opted for some very premium and performance upgrades on this KTM 250 EXC-F, the bike remains very close to it’s stock look. The critical takeaway with Steve’s bike is that riders should always get their bikes dialed in for their physical stature and riding style. No matter what you ride, practice and perform as much as possible. It’s one of the best ways to become more proficient at motorcycling.