Behind David Knight’s KTM 450XC

July 31, 2007
By Steve Bruhn
Shawn Mundy may have the toughest mechanic’s job in motorcycle off-road racing. He’s the mechanic for KTM’s international “tough guy” David Knight, who is leading the AMA’s GNCC series on a 2007 KTM 450 XC.

“Knighter,” from the Isle of Man, UK, is KTM’s Number 1 guy for the toughest races they can find. Knight is 6’4″, very strong, and can throw a big bike around like a 125. Mundy and he paired up when KTM brought Knight into the US for events like the EnduroCross and Last Man Standing, and now Mundy joins him around the globe, doing major damage wherever they can find a race that rewards the tough.

Mundy and Knight check all the details before a 3-hour race.
David Knight (right) is known for his ridiculous technical skill on a bike. The man responsible for letting him do his thing unimpeded is Shawn Mundy (left).

This interview took place about 4 hours before Knight won the Snowshoe GNCC with one of the biggest leads in the series’ history. Knight himself actually finished three interviews before the second place rider was in. Their next race was a 4-day enduro in Australia, and they won that too!

Most of the GNNC riders use 2-stroke 250s since a 450 can take a hefty toll on one’s endurance after three hours in the woods. Knight however, handles his 450 in the woods with the skill of a former trials rider, and benefits from extra speed in the open sections. That’s a tough combination for anyone else to beat.

Mundy, from Booneville, IN, started with KTM eight months ago and was assigned to Knight for some American events. “I did the Las Vegas EnduroCross (and) the Last Man Standing,” he said, “We had another race called ‘The Tough One’ in Wales and I went and did that, and then started the GNCC. I do all the events that I can with David.”

Knight’s bike is a 2007 450 XC with works suspension, a motor with some “bite” and modifications to prepare it for three hours of competition in the woods. The engines are prepared in Austria by the factory.

“They (KTM) have an XC-W which has wide-ratio transmission,” said Mundy, “which would be for desert racing. Out West you find more XC-Ws. We have an SX model too, but this XC is an all around bike.”

That wheel has to be tough enough to take a serious pounding for three hours and not fail. Mundy relies on Talon s carbon fiber hub.
That wheel has to be tough enough to take a serious pounding for three hours and not fail. Mundy relies on Talon’s carbon fiber hub.

“The motor is actually done in Austria,” he continues. “They do all the engine work and send them here. I check the valves after each race. For the most part, the motor is pretty bulletproof. They say to go 60 hours but we try and not let them go that far before they get rebuilt.”

Since Knight still lives at home in the Isle of Man, he doesn’t spend much time riding anything but his race bike. “He has a practice bike here but he doesn’t ride it much,” said Mundy, “because he flies in to where the race is going to be, then he wants to ride the race bike to make sure it’s good. He has bikes at home that he rides at the Isle of Man.

“KTM has a good crew here (at the GNCCs). There are different guys stationed at different mile markers so we know how David is doing. We all know about where he should be. Normally I stay in the pits because I have to be prepared in case he may come in from somewhere else.”

Is Knight really the fastest, toughest guy? “Yeah, for sure,” said Mundy, “He is just an animal on a bike. He can throw it wherever he wants. He came from trials riding, so his balance is unreal. Even on these full-size bikes, he can do trials stuff. In real tough events, he specializes in technical stuff.”

Making David Knight’s KTM 450XC

Motor – “It’s not super-hopped up at all. We run more of an SX-style (ignition) curve. The regular XC doesn’t have the strong hit that David likes.”

Knight is a giant. He really does throw his 450 around like it was a 125.
David likes a little more bite to his motor than the stock XC provides, but other than a SX-style ignition curve, the 450cc engine is relatively stock.

Clutch – Stock.
Carb – Stock 2006 450SX 41mm.
Exhaust – FMF.
Air Filter – Twin Air.
Suspension – WP works suspension, 52mm forks.
Fuel Tank – IMS, wrapped with heat tape. “Normally we can do a race on two fuel stops. A lap on an average GNCC is 10-14 miles. We can do it in one stop, but if we have a big enough lead, we will stop for a splash just in case.”
Brakes – Factory rear master cylinder, Brembo caliper with Enduro Engineering guard. Factory Brembo front caliper. “On the (front) master cylinder there is a pin that we grind down, to make the lever closer. It’s just a rider preference.” Chain – Regina O-ring.
Sprockets/Bars – Renthal.
Radiator – Fluidyne with Evans coolant.
Tires – Michelin with Mousse tube. “We normally run an MS3 Michelin which is for all-around, but here in West Virginia where there are a lot of rocks we are running an S12, which is a softer rear.
Footpegs – Stock.
Grips – KTM.
Wheels – “We run the Talon Supercross hubs with the Excel A60 rims. The front hub is carbon fiber.”
Seat – SDG.
Plastic – Stock.
Graphics – Image Works.
Extras – We use thread tape on the brake and clutch lever perches instead of Teflon bushings. We put holes in the skid plates, to allow some of the heat from the motor to get out.
Security – In Supercross they do a lot of greasing bolts. That’s where I came from and got in the habit of doing. With these bikes we use a lot of LocTite on every bolt. We also put new bolts in every race. The whole thing gets all new bolts.

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