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KTM GT50 Test

Motorcyclist Illustarated Febuary 1974

I must be mad. I spend a beautiful summer writing about crosschannel ferries and motoring organisations then, when the bit­ter reality of winter hits us. I volunteer to do a road test — on a moped. The day I picked the bike up we had our first snowfall of the season. It was a freezing morning when Andrea, my long-suffering wife, transported me down to Comerfords to collect the KTM. The little Austrian, known as the GT50 Comet (a GT moped, how about that!) is being import­ed by the Surrey dealer.

Andrea was expecting some entertainment at my expense be­cause she thought the sight of a big bike enthusiast pedalling a reluctant moped was bound to have her falling about with hel­pless laughter. I am glad to say she was denied the pleasure by a tame salesman who demonstrated the starting procedure. Not wish­ing to appear a fool on any sub­sequent occasion I commrtteb this drill to memory and found the KTM to be one of the best starters I have ever known When cold you flood the carb and a quarter turn on the pedals sends the engine popping away The pedals

are rather highly geared and it is nearly impossible to turn them without using the decompressor. As you push them round you let go of the decompressor lever and you're in play. It's just like start­ing a 500 single with a valve-lifter but there I go showing my age again. To stop the motor there is a cut-out button on the left side of the handlebar.

A word of advice to buyers: With no ignition key necessary, and such a simple starting method, this bike can be too easily stolen unless you use the steering lock fitted to the head-stock. It's a good looking machine which attracts attention. Parked in front of my house one Saturday afternoon, I twice looked out to find people having a little prod and poke at it. You only have to get some high-spirited youth with nothing better to do and suddenly your bike's gone.

The KTM is a stranger to the British Isles although motocross followers will have heard of the make since they manufacture a very workmanlike scrambler. The KT is derived from names of the directors, Kronreif and Trunken-polz, and the M stands for the town in Austria where the bike is made, Mattighofen. The robust twostroke engines are imported across the border from Schwein-furt in West Germany, home of the Sachs factory.

My first impression made me want to get on the thing and start her up. It's a moped but looks like a small motorcycle. This is one of the ingredients which, I think, has helped to bring success to many of the foreign moped makers. Many men will not ride some odd creation on which they feel like a berk when put-putting down the High Street. The Japanese flood­ed the market with dignified commuters and soon nearly everyone was buying "little run­abouts" which they could ride without feeling like a candidate for an old silent comedy The KTM is very much in this vogue. Paintwork is lime green set off by broad black stripes on the petrol tank and side panels. A bright, modern colour scheme, contributing a great deal to the overall appearance of the machine are the forks Gaitered telescopies, with alloy lower halves, they look like a miniaturised version of a big bike's springing The rear sus­pension units are in exactly the same mould. Exposed chrome springs again giving the bike an appearance far in excess of its true role. Sporty these may be, but I am not a believer in this style, especially in the hands of the utility rider who tends to abuse his transport. The chrome will take a hammering from the wheel spray and the uncovered-central rod will carry dirt and grit onto the seal with the inevitable result. However, their perform­ance is above reproach and must take a lot of the credit for the excellent handling.

The frame is of the spine type with no cradle loops. It leaves the engine very accessible for main­tenance. The power unit is secur­ed at the rear to the downtube and by a gigantic head steady bracket. The pillion passenger's footrests are mounted onto the swinging arm which may not be to everyone's liking. The mud­guards are made of stainless steel which looks terrific but no doubt helps boost the price to £209 in the UK. At this figure I would expect items such as mirrors and indicators to be standard fittings. They are on most Japanese models of this range and it's what a potential buyer notices when evaluating models.

What's it like to ride? Well, I am between two stools here because I am not sure whom to blame for the machine's failings. I've said it's attractive, starts well, stops good and handles beautifully, but with these pedals it's damned awkward to ride. Breezing along on the straight is fine You feel as , if you are nding a motorcycle but the KTM is a commuter so the chances of you covering big dist­ances on interrupted straights are not high. The bike was designed for stop-start town work where gear changing and braking are happening all the time. Now call me as temperamental as a prima donna if you like but I like the pedals and levers to be just so. If they are anything else it annoys me I have always worked on the principle that an economy of driver movement promotes a smooth riding style. I like the brake pedal in such a position that it just kisses the sole of my boot, so to brake all I have to do is push my foot down.

The gear pedal I like so adjusted that a flick of the toe sends me up or down a cog. In this way the toes are tucked in and not sticking out like a pairjof aerofoils. If the toes are in, the knees will be in, so what have we got — a neat rider. Man and machine combining to make one unit. Remember, a mimimum of movement requires a minimum of time; and time equals distance travelled. Even at SOmph a second wasted groping for a brake pedal and you're 44 feet nearer the idiot in the car which has just pulsed out in front of you. And after you've done your flying angel bit over his bonnet, rest assured he will try to expunge his guilt by proclaiming to the gathering crowd that "the motor-cyclist was going far too fast. They ought to be banned off the road, they're nothing but death' traps." Don't give them the chance to plunge the knife deep­er. Here endeth the first lesson.

The KTM was given pedals to make it legally available to sixteen-year-olds. Learners. Why the Department of the Environ­ment thinks that a 50cc machine with pedals is any more safe than a 50cc machine with footrests I shall never know. This is typical of the negative, unimaginative thinking which pours from the DoE. I would dearly love to sit Mr Peyton on a moped then on a motorcycle, even of moderate capacity, and ask him which he found easier to ride. But we've •got these motorcycles with pedals for sixteeners so, I'm sorry kids, you're just going to have to make Ihe most of it.

The pedals of the GT50 lock into the down position for riding. Wftri" the pedals thus, the brake pedal was about an inch above my right boot so I had to lift my foot up and over the lever to apply the brake. Because of the height I was unable to pivot my foot on the foot pedal which caused diffi­culty in controlling the pressure applied. Just to help matters the rear brake was ultra-efficient. I managed to lock the back wheel on more than one occasion which pleased me no end. This excessive right foot swinging is not condu­cive to steady riding and makes a learner feel more like a learner. In the hands of a novice there will be a tendency to use only the front brake with its obvious danger.

The gear pedal had similar shortcomings — or should I say longcomings. In the normal riding position it's too long and out of reach of the left foot. I was not madly impressed with the gear changing mechanism. Whilst stationary at traffic lights it was necessary to play a tune with the clutch to get down through the box. On the move, false neutrals occurred with frustrating repeti­tion. On the good side the ratios were well chosen. The KTM will nip away from the lights as quickly as most cars and will cruise merrily at 30+ with a top speed just over 50mph. With this performance it should satisfy most commuters' desires except those who have to tackle obstacles like Shooter's Hill in South London. If you have any long drags on your route, look for bigger guns.

Electrically, it all comes from a Bosch flywheel magneto. It makes for simplicity and ease of main­tenance but I have reservations about this type of system because it gives you poor lights just when you need them most. For example, take a straight stretch of road where cars travel a little faster than they should. Half way along you want to turn right but there is a vehicle coming the other way so you have to wait. There you are, in the middle of the road, at low revs with dim lights or, if actually stopped, no lights at all. You are at the mercy of the drivers coming up from behind. The drunken, the short-sighted and the plain incompetent.

Even turning left leaves me ill at ease. As I approached a couple of left turns I noticed the lights going dim as I slowed down then sud­denly almost dying out complete­ly. This is because as I braked the stop light came on and took the guts out of the electricity supply. The stoplight is an ornament. It just isn't bright enough, day or night. Again we're in danger of that automaton, the car driver. The majority of them drive on stoplights. He thinks if no lights come on, the' bike in front can't possibly be braking even though he is getting closer by the second. The KTM's pilot will probably be a novice who, as yet, is ignorant of the value of defensive riding so I am afraid that this direct lighting is zero-rated by me. In fairness, when travelling with a handful of revs working for you the lights are good. Up front, a nice dipped beam with a good main beam complete with a violet warning light, and a good bright light at the rear. The horn sounded a bit weak and croaky but when used always had the desired result.

In the garage — or out on the road if you're unlucky — I found the toolkit man enough for most jobs except front wheel removal Of the four open-ended spanners and two double-ended box span­ners none fitted the front wheel spindle, so be warned. Both wheels are easily detachable but not QD The cables (brake, clutch and decompressor) can be quickly changed, especially the clutch, which is a Godsend, because this is the one which snaps most and always at the wrong time. Bulb replacement takes a screwdriver (supplied) and five minutes. Plug removal causes no problems as I found out at 6.30 one morning when the thing left me sparkless in Forest Hill. I exchanged it for a Bosch W240P11, a special two-stroke plug costing £1 (who said I wasn't affluent!)

The KTM is basically a good machine, well screwed together and nicely finished but spoilt by two things. The pedals and the price. At £209 it's too much, although the importers told me they have sold every one they have received. There's no'answer to that, but there is an answer to the pedals. Who would you blame for this farcical situation? You can hardly blame the makers for ex­ploiting a loophole in the law to maintain their sales, but you can blame the bureaucrats for being so mindless. Motorcycling is a beautiful -but strange world understood fully only by motor-. cyclists. Before introducing motoring laws the DoE takes counsel with the RAC AA and other well-informed bodies I would strongly recommend that before committing another blund­er like this they seek the advice of the BMF where motorcyclists of the calibre of Bruce Preston and Co could provide the Minister with the guidance he so badly needs .

KTM GT50 Specification;

Engine: Single cylinder two stroke Capacity: 47cc. Bore and stroke 38 x 42mm. Compression ratio: 9 to 1 Carburation: 18mm Bing. Claimed output 4 3 din at 7,250. Lubrication: Petroil mix­ture 25 to 1

Electrical: Bosch flywheel generator, 6v 18w. 18 18w headlight.

Transmission: Primary drive by gear. Clutch running in oil. fnternal gear ratios: 1st: 3.38, 2nd: 2 25, 3rd: 1.50, 4th: 1 22. Four speed gearbox with left hand side change lever.

Brakes: Single leading shoe front and rear

Tyres: Sempent 2.75 x 17.

Capacity: Petrol 2!/2 gallons (1 gallon reserve).

Price: £209.

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