’17 KTM 500 EXC-F Build Up

with 21 Comments

topNo motorcycle is ever ready to go from the factory, therefore everyone sets their bike up to fit their needs. There are always going to be things to make it more comfortable, perform better and be protected from the off-road elements. After picking up my 2017 KTM 500 EXC, I only got about 1 or two rides on it before the mods began. My buddy Greg at Head Down Throttle Back set me up with a pile of parts to get this project going.



Tidy LED Taillight with Integrated Turn Signals

First things first. That super dorky factory taillight had to go. I cleaned up the back of the bike and installed a much lighter and smaller LED taillight/ turn-signal assembly. The turn signals are integrated into the sides of the taillight and flash orange. The bottom of the light even has a license plate light. I have one of these on my 690 and I love it. It makes for much less bulk on the back of the bike. It’s a factory plug and play unit with KTM connectors so the install is a breeze. I purchased mine off eBay member pw_garfield. He has these available for multiple bikes. 

KTM 500 EXC-F Build

Ha! This thing is a joke right?

2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Build


Ditching the Reflectors

Dirtbikes don’t have reflectors. They came off and on went the WP Suspension XPLOR 48 fork protection decals.


TM Designworks Skid Plate

KTM doesn’t even bother putting a skid plate on this bike from the factory. It’s probably because it’s the first thing to get tossed in the trash and upgraded. I chose to go with the plastic TM DesignWorks skidplate for a couple reasons.

  • less noise and vibration than aluminum
  • glides over logs and rocks easier
  • lightweight yet extremely strong
  • it is molded to the bike to provide better sidecase protection

2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Build


Cyra Handguards and Sicass Deflectors w/ LED Turn Signals

Every bike needs handguards. They help protect the rider’s hands as well as the bars and levers when the bike goes down. I went with Cycra ProBend handguards and chose SICASS deflectors with the integrated LED turn signals. This allowed me to ditch the front factory turn signals that stuck out from the side of the headlamp mask. I want to keep this bike as trim as possible. Basically it is my barely legal bike. It’s not going to see much street so I don’t need all that bulky stuff sticking out on the trail.


Acerbis 4.1 Gallon Fuel Tank

The stock tank is only about 2.2 gallons which means rides are limited to about 100 miles. I upgraded to the Acerbis 4.1 gallon tank. IMS makes a 4.5 gal tank, however I was told by my buddy Greg at Head Down Throttle Back that he had to send back a handful of tanks due to poor craftsmanship and leaks. This Acerbis fit like a glove. It hugs the bike nicely and puts the weight as close to the motor as possible. My only gripe about it is the way the side panels attach to the radiator shroud. They give you 4 o-rings to use as straps to keep the side panels secured. Seems sort of like an afterthought, but so far it works just fine and hasn’t bother me too much.

2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Build

Installation was a breeze. Although the instructions were extremely vague, it wasn’t difficult to figure out. The fuel pump gets transferred to the new tank and there are new fittings to use. I had to reuse the seals from the old fittings, but that wasn’t an issue.

Here are some more photos during the day to show the fitment better.


Bulletproof Designs Radiator Guards

Although adding the larger tank serves as added radiator protection, I wanted as much as possible. There are a couple other brands out there, but the quality and fitment of the Bulletproof Designs Radiator Guards are amazing. They were very easy to install and felt like they were a factory piece.

2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Build

Since the guards were designed to work with the factory tank, the Acerbis tank was a little snug. So I clearanced a small piece from the middle section of the radiator guards.



Seat Concepts

Although the factory seat feels nice when you push your thumb into the cushion, I found myself doing the side saddle shift from buttcheek to buttcheek on a rather short ride back from Nelson. It was only about 10-15 miles of pavement and my bum was already sore. I knew the bike would be getting a better seat when I bought it. Seat Concepts is the only seat I will run. The quality is top notch and the seat shape is much wider than stock for those long rides. They make a low, standard and tall height seat kit. I bought the Standard foam and cover kit and had it installed by an upholstery shop to my factory seat pan. It only cost me $30 labor.

Factory seat (top) Seat Concepts Kit (bottom)


Hammerhead Shifter

While out on my first ride at Nelson, I dumped the bike on a hill and the shifter tip bent backwards. I found out how cheap the material was as it broke away. I upgraded to a Hammerhead shifter after that. It looks much better too in black and anodized orange.


Enduro Engineering Rear Disc Guard

Gotta protect that rear brake rotor. Enduro Engineering makes a very nice and strong rear disc guard for under $100.


Wolfman Daytripper Bags

Although I don’t plan on loading this bike up with camping gear and doing multi-day rides, I do plan to do long day rides and that means I’ll need to carry spare tubes and tools. The best alternative that I found to carry that stuff without hindering my ability to ride aggressively is the Wolfman Day Tripper bags. They have plenty of space to spare and don’t get in the way.


Pipe and Remap

I added the FMF Factory 4.1 anodized titanium silencer with titanium end cap. The blue anodized color looks awesome on the bike and although the carbon cap would have been cool to have, I heard of some guys breaking theirs so I went with full titanium. After quite the fiasco of trying to get my bike remapped at Carter Powersports here in town (Las Vegas), I ended up bringing the bike back up to Utah and had Rocky Mountain reflash my ECU for me. They had me in and out in about 30 minutes and had no issues flashing the Euro map into my bike. The remap is a must anytime you make the bike to breathe better. More airflow means more fuel is needed.


Uncorked and Retuned for More!

I went a step further after the Euro map and removed the reed cage, desmogged and had Blais Racing remap my ECU for the FMF and uncorked intake. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t running lean. Afterwards, it ran like a KTM should! It was a huge upgrade and increase in power and throttle response. So if you already have the Euro map installed, which unlocks the ECU for future programming, I would highly recommend the remap from Blais. If you haven’t had the Euro map installed, I have heard that KTM no longer allows dealers to reflash the Euro map and it is no longer available! In this case, you would need to buy a Vortex ECU to get the same results. I have heard great things about it though! It just costs a bit more cash. For a more detailed about this upgrade check out my blog post, ’17 KTM 500 EXC-F Build Up.


2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Product Links

Here’s a list of links to the products I purchased for my build.

Tidy Taillight: http://www.ebay.com/itm/KTM-2017-500-450-350-250-EXC-Six-Days-LED-Taillight-with-Integrated-Turn-signals-/192104089376?hash=item2cba4bc720:g:o6cAAOSw44BYE28z&vxp=mtr

TM Designworks Skid Plate: http://tmdesignworks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=325_327_354&products_id=1218

Acerbis 4.1 Gal Tank: http://shops.hookit.com/acerbis/ViewProduct/SXF250350450XC-F25035045016-17EXC-F350450500174galFuelTank/4419.aspx

Sicass LED Turn Signal Hand Guards: http://sicassracing.com/store/products/turn_signals/led/sicass_ktm_orange_turn_signal_hand_guard_deflectors?cPath=46_52

Seat Concepts: http://www.seatconcepts.com/store/products#!/KTM-2016-SX-XCF-2017-SX-XCW-EXC/p/56974343/category=15050042

Cycra Probend Handguards: https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/p/962/51366/Cycra-Probend-Alloy-Bar-Pack-Handguards

Cycra Handguard Clamps: https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/p/962/20317/Cycra-Handguard-U-Clamps

Hammerhead Shifter: https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/p/3116/40580/Hammerhead-Forged-Shift-Lever-with-Knurled-Tip?v=13127

Wolfman Day Tripper Bags: https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/p/1033/69728/Wolfman-Day-Tripper-Saddle-Bags-V1.7?term=wolfman+day+tripper+saddle+bags

FMF 4.1 RCT Anodized Titanium Silencer with Titanium End Cap: https://www.rockymountainatvmc.com/p/902/56380/FMF-Factory-4.1-RCT-Anodized-Titanium-Silencer-with-Titanium-End-Cap?v=13127

Blais Racing ECU remap and desmog blockoff kit:




Up Next

Scotts Dampener: I still plan to add a steering dampener, which is a must in the desert.

Tires: Once the factory TKC80 tires are burned off, I’ll upgrade the tubes to HD tubes and install a Pirelli Scorpion Rally up front and something a little more aggressive on the rear like a Moto Z Tractionator.

Mirrors: Although I was originally planning on running small, convex mirrors on my bars to stay legal, this bike rarely sees pavement. Even when it does, it’s for short stretches so I have just taken them off completely.



Got Questions?

No problem. Leave a comment below or drop me a line.




Follow Pete:

Do more with less! That is my motto lately. I love getting outdoors and exploring new places, usually on my KTM motorcycle. My wife, Anna, and I recently bought and built out a Sprinter van to do more of the things we love. Traveling and seeing new places is always at the top of our to-do list.

21 Responses

  1. Darrell Davies

    Nice, You did a lot of upgrades. Mine was really loose in the front end over 40mph especially in the sand. I had to get a steering stabilizer and it made all the difference.

  2. Mr_McBride

    Very nice bike. I like what you’ve done with it. Thanks for taking the time to share your choices and experiences with the mods.

  3. Pete

    Thank you

  4. greg

    Well done! You are riding my soon to be purchased bike. How do you like it vs the 690?
    Any specific CO ktm dealer you would recomend?

  5. Pete

    Thanks Greg! I love both bikes equally. The 690 is a do it all bike that you can easily take on long adventures as well as singletrack and trails. When it comes to the whoops, jumps, and hard enduro, the 500 really shines. The 690 shows it weight when you start to push it. Although the 500 is only about 75 lbs lighter, it feels like WAY less. It is very easy to ride in the tight stuff, hills climbs, etc. It’s a very fun bike. Offroad there is no better bike in my opinion.

    There’s pros and cons to each, but you’ll get that with any bike that is in different classes. One always something better than the other. It just depends on what you’ll be doing the most of. Check out my 500vs690 comparison post, https://livelikepete.com/ktm-500-vs-690-dual-sport-bike-comparison/. Thanks for reading. Sorry, no suggestions on any CO dealers as I am in NV. Which ever place gives you the best deal. Don’t pay for those extra fees! I didn’t.

  6. Cody Wise

    Awesome build. I’m hoping to pick one one soon! Any other options for integrated turn signals for the rear tail light?

  7. Pete

    Thanks Cody.
    Not really when it comes to integrated turn signals. Your next best option would be to run the SICASS LED signals on the sides if you wanted something slimmer than stock but more noticeable. http://sicassracing.com/store/turn_signals/led/orange_lens_led_flat_mount_ktm?cPath=105_46_2222&

  8. Jason


    Building up my 17 500 as we speak.. Thanks for some great ideas and feedback… did the Reflectors just come off with heat gun? or is there something more to that? and what was the wiring precess like for the siccas turn signal guards? and are they out of the way and securely safe from issues? thanks.

  9. Pete

    Hey Jason. You’re welcome!
    Yeah the reflectors are just double sided taped to the forks. I don’t even think I needed heat to remove them. Pull them off and then just roll the tape off.
    As for the SICASS turn signal guards, they just plug right in. I routed them wiring away from the controls and used a small zip tie on the bars. It’s not an issue.
    Good luck wit your build and enjoy! These bikes are awesome.

  10. Jason

    and lastly did you need to order the smart flasher kit from sicass along with the turn signal guards or any of the other wiring switch parts? website has me a bit confused as to what i may or may not need to install these… thanks again

  11. Pete

    I did order a smart flasher (not from SICASS but from Rocky Mtn). The only thing the flasher does though is slow down the flash. I don’t mind a faster flash. 🙂

    If you are running 2 sets of LED turn signals (front and rear), you will need to do one of two things.
    1) remove the bulb from your turn signal indicator
    2) Buy and wire in this diode kit, https://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/motorcycle-accessories/metric-bike-diode-kit/1190/2805/

    If you don’t do one or the other, all 4 of your turn signals will flash like emergency flashers.

    Hope this helps.

  12. Jason

    yes, so I have the same tail light / plate assembly that you have ( btw thanks for that) also my dealer loved it so much he is now stocking them from our eBay friend in CA), and i am going to ad the hand guard turn signal’s and eliminate the stock ones, so i guess i will need some kind of lighting regulator kit like you mentioned above..

    thanks as always

  13. Taylor Beams

    Nice upgrades! I just bought a exc-f 350 and unfortunately on the first ride out I layed it over and ripped off the plate holder below the tail light. I’m definitely going to order the low pro setup you got.
    What about tires? So far I’m not a fan of the continental twinduros that came stock.

  14. Pete

    Thanks Taylor. Sorry to hear about the new scars, but at least you got that out of the way! It gives you a reason to upgrade and replace that hideous tail light though.

    As for the stock TKC80 tires, they definitely don’t look very cool or belong on a dirtbike, but they do the job for now. They work much better than I thought they would. Super quiet on the road (the 1% of the time the bike sees it) and actually hook well in dirt and rock. I plan on burning them off and running a Pirelli Scorpion Rally up front and something else on the back. I’m not 100% decided on that yet. The Michelin T63 has always worked very well on my 690 so I may give it a try. I might actually try a trials style tire. I hear they work great on these bikes.

  15. David E

    I am realy curious about your seat upgrade? How has it been? How long can you last before you
    can’t feel anything below the waist? I traded in my KLR and I had a Sargent on that one. Nice
    upgrade. But I am having issues finding a descent seat upgrade for my 2017 KTM 350 EXC-F. I
    bought a Seat Concepts with pan and when it came I was realy dissapointed. Not big enough in
    back for the seat area.

    What are your thoughts?


  16. Pete

    Hey David, I’ve done a 200 mile ride on my 500 and was totally fine. Then again in was in the dirt and we had several stops. The long stretches of highway are what take a beating on me. Last weekend I did a 109 mile ride and was about 25-30 miles into the tarmac when I had to do the butt cheek shift back and forth. My bum muscles were pretty sore. The Seat Concepts is much, much better than stock and I love it. It’s a bit wider than a factory seat, but you’re never going to be able to get the width and comfort of a KLR seat on a dirtbike. I guess you could, but it’s going to look ridiculous and get in the way of standing up and actually using the bike for it’s intended purpose.

  17. Ryan

    How difficult will it be to pass smog test when needed?

  18. Pete

    Hi Ryan, I’m not sure where you live, but motorcycles are exempt from smog testing in NV. I have never heard of a state that tests them either.

  19. Ryan

    Thanks for the reply, and all the info on parts! I live in Ca. And just figured they did. I’ll look into that.

  20. Jake Powell

    I just bought a used 2017 500 with the same rear light setup. I broke the light and need to replace it. PW_garfield doesn’t sell anymore, and I am at a dead end trying to find the same integrated brake light/turn signal. Any ideas Pete?

  21. Pete

    What’s up Jake. I recently noticed that as well because I was trying to find one for my buddy who just bought a ’21 500 EXC-F. Check with Taco Moto Co. He has a light that looks the same. They are on backorder right now though. 🙁 https://tacomoto.co/collections/electrical/products/tidy-tail-with-plate-down-light-by-taco-moto-co

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