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WTF: El Solitario just built two super-practical dirt bikes

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
A camera pans slowly across a dimly lit workshop—home of The World’s Most Hated Motorcycles. David Borras’ gruff voice spits out a cryptic diatribe. Yep, this an El Solitario movie all right.

A minute in, the visuals switch to a forest setting, and we catch a glimpse of the Spanish crew’s latest bikes. Except, curiously, there are no skeletal fairings, and there’s no wacky fabrication either. El Solitario have built something truly unexpected: a pair of utterly practical, highly capable KTM 350 EXC-F custom dirt bikes.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Why? Well, according to El Sol’s blog, motorcycles have no future, and the only way to escape rules and regulations is to venture far off the beaten track. That’s how the manifesto reads. But truthfully, it just means that Borras & co. have discovered the joys of riding dirt bikes.

Their first foray into customizing bikes for off-road was the Desert Wolves project: three Harley-Davidson Sportster Roadsters transformed into sand-eating monsters to tackle the Sahara. This time, los chicos were after something lighter and more nimble; something suitable for overnight jaunts into the woods.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
So they started with a pair of brand new, 2017-spec KTM 350 EXC-Fs, and added a thoroughly sensible set of mods. Each bike features a 16-liter Acerbis fuel tank for covering distance, and a set of El Solitario branded bags from Kriega for carrying gear.

New Baja Designs XL Pro headlights improve low light visibility, with Pivot Pegz foot pegs and sheepskin seat covers improving comfort. El Solitario have also installed Yoshimura titanium exhaust systems, Barkbusters hand guards, and KTM swing arm protectors and skid plates. The tires are Dunlop Geomax Enduro S, filled with mousse.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
The KTM 350 EXC-F is a highly capable machine out the box, so El Solitario didn’t mess with the brakes, wheels, suspension or engine. But they did fit new Rekluse Radius CX automatic clutches, along with left hand rear brake levers.

It’s a nifty piece of kit: with the clutch’s anti-stalling tech, you can keep your hand off the clutch lever. That leaves it free to grab the brake when your right foot’s tied up stabilizing the bike through rough terrain.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
What you don’t see are the crazy mods that El Solitario usually offer up: heck, even the new graphics are subtle. It seems like El Solitario have thrown their playbook out the window, tipping the scales all the way in the direction of ‘function.’

We wanted to find out why, so we cornered David Borras and swung a few questions his way.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Do you think you learned a lot of lessons with your first off-road project—the Desert Wolves? Of course we did. Every inch you learn and crossing the Sahara on f***ing heavy Harley-Davidsons is not a light endeavor. Weight distribution is the key! Find the balance and then traction will propel you out of trouble.

You mentioned that there were people that guided you along the way? Our dearest Mauro from Classic Co. first introduced us to the world of off-road a few years ago and we ended buying a pair of Husaberg 550s. Then a year later we prepared together the Desert Wolves and crossed the Sahara on them. At El Solitario we only collaborate with the best. Period. This mantra enables that our relationship with our sponsors is more like family, being entirely based on mutual respect.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
You went from Harley-Davidson Sportsters to KTM dirt bikes here. Those are two very different platforms. The human body needs certain ergonomics to tackle the task of riding long distances off-road in extreme conditions. In case of the Desert Wolves, to tackle this we needed to redesign the whole motorcycle! Aside from the motor and the frame, all the rest was fabricated to suit the new needs.

There was more mad engineering and audaciousness in the Desert Wolves than in all the other El Solitario creatures put together. They made awesome cruising off-roaders close to the old rally machines, but once we caught the flu we got ambitious and just wanted more and more performance, and for this you need to improve the power to weight ratio, and then logically comes the KTM. Watch a video of Graham Jarvis and you will know why in a sec!

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Why did you pick the 350 EXC-F specifically? Almost as nimble as a 250 but not as brutal as a 450. It’s the perfect displacement for long distance trips with some extreme enduro bits. Not too heavy and crazy powerful, so you can still steer it with the rear wheel.

Is El Solitario done with crazy one-off custom road bikes? Or is off-roading just a brief distraction from business as usual? At El Sol we have an authority problem, can’t deny it, and the intensification of controls and idiot laws concerning the use and modification of motorcycles have made us wish that we were turned on more by football or table tennis. Unfortunately we breathe and love motorcycles, so turning towards off-road felt good. Freedom and self-reliance instead of inspections, traffic lights and parking laws.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Also, in the old days we created concept motorcycles for a specific event or race, only to find out that when this was completed, even if we had been victorious, we felt an existential emptiness that tortured us.

We realized we needed to take things further. The mainstream way to showcase our critters was obsolete, and not part of our dreams. We wanted to experience things over a longer period of time, sinking deeper into the conceptual search of what a motorcycle and its paraphernalia should look like, as it conformed with our imaginarium. For this to happen, we needed to control even the air surrounding our projects. We couldn’t allow any contamination!

On the dirt or on the road, legit bikes and human adventures is what you will see from us.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Some people might see this form following function approach as unusual from a crazy custom shop like El Sol. What do you say to that? Crazy Custom Shop? We don’t feel identified at all by that tag. At El Sol we hate definitions by fate, but the world needs to hang a label on us, so one year ago my partner Pico came up with the term, ‘Motorized Creativity Tank’—which tries to capture our essence.

Not long ago we did a T-Shirt that read MOTORCYCLE IS A VERB. For me that sentence summarizes it all. We ‘motorcycle’ and we do it while we develop all the other aspects of our life, in a wide sense of the term. El Solitario is the way under which we understand existence. It’s the motorcycle filter of creation. Everything is possible!

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
How do you go from crazy road bikes to practical enduro bikes, and still remain true to the spirit and philosophy of El Solitario? What is the thread that would connect these bikes to your usual customs? I never considered ourselves in the new custom scene, although we did share the same timeline. El Solitario has flirted with all styles and trends, just to break dogmas and break through with new concepts and ideas.

We are not interested in any scenes, as these invariably bore us to death. We are at the future of motorcycles, not the past nor the present. We are always one step ahead! That’s why we can be conceived as iconoclasts—but that is just a consequence, not the cause of our destiny.

It’s only a redirection of our creative ethos. Before, we aimed solely at aesthetics—trying to redefine its canons, as we didn’t know better. Today, with more means and experience, we aim at the motorcycle as an entity. We want to change its categorization and the whole rulebook the industry is set to understand.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Do you think the custom scene as a whole is moving towards more off-road and adventure riding? Off-road is hard and you need to be fit and concentrated, otherwise you won’t survive! In the last two years I’ve had titanium in my wrist, two broken toes, a few broken ribs and two serious knee sprains. You need to be ready for this. But all I think about when I’m down is, “When will I be back on the bike?”

Still, answering your question, I hope that off-road doesn’t become mainstream, and that inner city riders stay in their cities. Otherwise regulations and control will follow them, outlawing us all.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Some will say you are just riding these dirt bikes to help sell more clothing and gear. What’s your response to that? No f***s given for what they might say. For us is all about looking good while riding your motorcycles. Any of them! Looking good makes you a better person. The rest is just a mere prolongation of this feeling. You need to first love yourself to love others, right?

Call me frivolous if you want. We understand that science and progress are the real drives of humanity, but there are already too many bright brains enrolled in these activities. We are more interested in the exaltation of radness.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Can we look forward to more projects like this from El Solitario? Of course! We will never cease. Our friend Paul d’Orléans, after encountering the Desert Wolves, defined El Solitario as a Gesamtkunstwerk. And after we became familiar with the term we think he nailed it.

Translated as ‘a Total Work Of Art,’ it was a term used by some architectural writers when an architect was responsible for the design and/or overseeing of a building’s totality: shell, accessories, furnishings, and landscape. In a world like this, the quality of your final output will be that of the worst of your components. It’s a curse, but we couldn’t do otherwise.

This KTM custom dirt bike is El Solitario's most controversial project yet
Lastly, where did you film the movie? In our backyard. And now it is all gone because of the fires. Last October, when this happened, the dimensions of the catastrophe were so vast, in just a few hours, that there were no firemen, or any official aid, so we had to organize ourselves to fight the flames. With the help of neighbors and some dear friends that came to give a hand.

We fought the fires to stop their advance face-to-face for more than 48 hours. It was bad. The light was weird for almost three weeks. The devastation is just crazy.

I always try to be an optimist, but acknowledging that these fires were ‘provoked’ still fuels my fear of a human apocalypse. Those who have experienced this know what I’m talking about.

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