MEET THE KING OF KTM CUSTOMS
If you’re a die-hard KTM fan and have spent enough time doing an Instagram deep dive, you’ll no doubt have come across a few viral, custom-built motorcycles assigned to the handle @daan99999. We sat down with the undisputed King of KTM custom motorcycles and picked his brain.
Preferring to remain anonymous, you’ll not find much about the elusive @daan99999 on the web. His Instagram bio is equally cryptic, simply reading – The KTM builder! Dutch biker and motorcycle engineer. The official page for the unofficial KTM bikes!
But, we managed to nail him down for an exclusive interview to pick his brain about his wild KTM creations, and see what makes him tick.
KTM: How long have you been modifying bikes?
@daan99999: I started way back in 2017. I had two KTM motorcycles in my garage – a 2017 KTM 690 DUKE R and a 2014 KTM 690 SMC-R supermotard.
Every time I rode the SMC-R, I could feel the big differences compared to the 2017 690 DUKE R with its updated LC4 motor, especially the vibrations from the engine. I often thought back then, why not put the updated engine on the SMC-R, even going as far as to ask my local KTM Dealer the question.
At that stage, KTM had no plans to bring the updated motor to the SMC-R. So, there was only one thing to do – I had to build it myself!
Let me tell you, it is a decision that still haunts me to this day!
So, in my garage, and with my thinking cap on, I started to modify my 3-year-old KTM 690 SMC-R. Many declared me completely crazy, but you have to be that way if you want to do this. You have no certainty that the modifications will succeed, and once you go past the point of no return, you run the risk of destroying a perfectly good motorcycle!
Of course, there were often moments where you cannot see the finish line. Especially in the beginning, when I had a lot of electronics and software problems. And because this was a once-off build, there was no information to be found online, and the dealer couldn’t help either. I had to learn to problem-solve, and think on my feet.
I learned an awful lot from this build and it was the spark for my next projects. If I hadn’t undertaken this modification, the construction of the KTM 1290 RC8 and KTM 1290 SMR would never have happened. I literally had to build the 1290 RC8 and the 1290 SMR from scratch. Nearly everything was bespoke, but it is amazing when all the parts slowly came together and the finished product started to take shape. Seeing your “idea” and passion become a functioning motorcycle is unexplainable.
But, you are constantly problem-solving. For example, during the build of the SMR, it was sometimes quite intense. You look at what material something can be made of, how strong it needs to be, whether it will break, or wear out, and what influence it will have on things like handling, engine heat, and so on. And of course, it also had to look good and stay true to its KTM DNA.
I regularly ran into problems, take a step back, solve the problem – and immediately the next problem would come to the surface. Because I had to adjust the frame for the SMR, you’re suddenly working on the geometry of the entire motorcycle again. Later you’re working on electronics or plastics, or you have to print something in 3D – all those different things make it very fun and rewarding in my opinion.
When the motorcycle is finally ready for its first test ride, it’s a very rewarding experience. Sure, you will have some teething problems along the way, but they slowly become fewer and fewer.
Eventually, you’ve got a 100% working motorcycle that is completely unique and hand-built, and that is pretty special.
KTM: Where do you find inspiration for your builds?
@daan99999: Good question, I actually don’t know for sure. After building the SMC-R, it felt like a victory and gave me such a kick that it led to wanting more. At that point, I did look ahead and ask myself what is a motorcycle that is no longer made but has many fans who would like to see an updated version of it. That is where the RC8 build got started.
You start to think like a designer – what makes a superbike a superbike? And what would an updated version of the RC8 look like if it came out of the factory in Mattighofen? And that same thinking goes for all of my projects; I try to build them in such a way that it looks like it has rolled off the KTM factory floor, as well as making use of as many KTM PowerParts as possible.
When someone thinks that one of my creations is an official KTM model, that for me is the ultimate compliment. I sometimes receive messages asking me where I bought it and where it’s for sale because they can’t find it on Google! Once, a bike dealer even shared a photo of one of my bikes on Instagram, but he stopped doing it because customers called him asking when the bike would be released and if they could already reserve it. He had to disappoint them and explain that it was a custom build project. I also heard that the KTM importer of a country was called asking when the RC8 1290 would be for sale because they had seen it on the internet.
It’s the same with my other projects. I look at other KTM models and imagine how it would be to bring them together. I then form a certain image in my head of the entire motorcycle and slowly start to think more in detail about how it can be made in reality. The planning phase of these builds can take months. Once I get started, it’s an all-out mission to complete it.
KTM: Why KTM?
@daan99999: It actually happened by coincidence. I used to ride another competitor’s motocross bike and converted it into a Supermoto. Because it was originally a motocross bike, it wasn’t well-tuned for the road and required a lot of maintenance for the engine. It had a small fuel tank with very little traveling range and often had electronic problems. I was looking for a Supermoto that was more geared towards street riding.
When I found the KTM 690 SMC-R at a KTM Orange Days event, I realized that this was a Supermotard built for the street and I was hooked. Although I also test-rode the KTM 690 DUKE and ultimately ended up buying the DUKE. The SMC-R stayed in my thoughts and in 2014, I couldn’t resist buying the new KTM 690 SMC-R with ABS and the double ignition engine.
But to answer your question, if someone were to ask me to build something custom from a different brand, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I have so many parts of KTM in my head that I could never just switch to another brand. Also, other brands don’t really do it for me. I don’t know what it is, but when I see a KTM my heart starts beating faster.
KTM: Are you currently working on any projects or is there something special in the pipeline?
@daan99999: Definitely! After the massive response I received after putting the build of the KTM 1290 RC8 on the internet, I was overwhelmed. My phone was ringing non-stop, and the responses were so great!
But announcing what my next project will be? That’s not my style. I like to keep it as a surprise until the motorcycle is finished – just like KTM does. It also provides a bit of a safety net for me, in case a project doesn’t work out. So, I won’t be revealing anything about my next project, for now. What I will say is; I think people in India are going to find it a very cool project. Keep an eye on my YouTube channel!
KTM: And finally, which motorcycle would you like KTM to build?
@daan99999: Great question! First and foremost, I think KTM would easily sell a 1290 SMR if it went into production. I still receive so many positive reactions and questions worldwide about this project. Also, this is still my favorite bike, and I’m most proud of it because I’m a diehard Supermoto fan. I built the prototype, now it’s KTM’s turn!
Additionally, I think it would be cool to do something electric. The KTM FREERIDE E-XC has such an incredible torque, it opens up a whole new world of customizing. I think you can build some really cool bikes with an electric motor, such as the original prototype of the E-SPEED scooter is still not on the market. That would be a really cool thing for me!
KTM: That sounds great! Thanks for speaking with us!
@daan99999: Thank you for the great bikes!