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Thread: Real World Comparison - KTM 500 Vortex ECU, Athena GET ECU & JD Tuner

  1. #1

    Default Real World Comparison - KTM 500 Vortex ECU, Athena GET ECU & JD Tuner

    KTM 500 Aftermarket ECU/Tuner Review.

    Mike Spurgin at Tacomoto.co hooked me up and sent me both a Vortex and Athena GET ECU to test on my 19 KTM 500EXC. I already had a JD tuner on the bike so I was excited to try out the full replacement ECU's and see how they compare to the JD. On the 17 and up KTM's the factory ECU's are locked and cannot be re-mapped, this leaves you looking at aftermarket options to get your bike running correctly and realizing it's potential.

    I Wanted to share my thoughts on the different tuners with others who may be looking to pick up a ECU or Tuner themselves.

    One box of badassness that just arrived from Mike.



    My bike is set up with the following:
    *2019 KTM 500EXC
    *Fully De-smogged with reed valves removed.
    *FMF 4.1 Canister
    *14-52 Gearing
    *MT-21 front tire and MT-43 rear with Tubliss in each.

    I will preface this with the statement that I'm tuning by riding the bike (Seat of the pants) and I'm not monitoring the AF ratio. I'm not a professional rider or engine tuner but do have a LOT of time on bikes over the years. These are my thoughts and my results on how the tuners felt on my bike. I'm hoping to be able to get the 3 units on a Dyno to compare as well.

    First up the JD Tuner: The JD tuner is a piggy back tuner that modifies the signal coming from the stock ECU going to the injector to either add or remove fuel as needed. It's worthy of note that the JD tuner modifies the fuel signal only and can not modify the ignition timing as well like the GET and Vortex tuners, this presents some built in limitations as the JD will never be able to fully correct the side effects from the factory set ECU programming. The tuner allows you to change your fueling (manually) in real time to accommodate for riding conditions such as altitude, temperature or equipment changes to the bike. It can take some time to get used to the controls of the tuner but depending on where you mount the unit changes are performed quickly. Install of the tuner is pretty straight forward and includes power wires and OEM connectors to place the unit inline between the ECU and the Injector. The JD tuner is also the most cost effective fueling solution.

    Here's where the dealer installed the JD tuner on my bike...not the best spot for access. In this case you have to remove the right side plastics to get to the tuner. They could have easily mounted it on top of the battery to allow faster access.




    When I purchased the bike with 10hrs on the clock it already had the JD tuner installed and had been "Tuned" by the dealer where the original owner purchased it. The bike already had the 4.1 exhaust installed but had not been De-smogged. After the Desmog process it was time to test. The bike started hard at times and would stumble under throttle right after start up. This usually happened when cold but did happen a couple times when warm as well, the rest of the time the bike would fire right up and run normally. The bike would also flame out on occasion and popped during decel. I checked the settings and the tuner was set to lean for an open pipe, it was set for a stock exhaust (Green 4, Yellow 5/6, Red 6, Green/Blue 5, Yellow/Blue 4 and Red/Blue 4). I reset the tuner to the "factory" set point for a de-smogged bike with an open exhaust (Green 5, Yellow 6, Red 6/7, Green/Blue 6, Yellow/Blue 5 and Red/Blue 4). After the reset I took the bike out again and it did run better, seemed to pull harder off the bottom end and seemed to have quite a bit of snap on top. The starting issue persisted at times although less frequent and the popping on Decel was about the same. On the next few rides I played with the tuning, dialing in some more fuel on the "accelerator" pump setting and added a little to the bottom end as well chasing the decel popping.

    After numerous outings playing with the tuner the bike pulled hard and made a lot of power. The power seemed slightly abrupt off the bottom end (can be tamed somewhat by playing with the "accelerator pump" setting) but built good power through out the RPM range. The power never seemed completely linear to me and had spots that felt "Boggy" as you transitioned through the 1/4 throttle up to half settings. I was never able to completely eliminate the decel popping (I did check and no leaks at the exhaust were found contributing to the popping). In summary the JD tuner does an amazing job for the money, it transforms a stock bike into a power house compared to the stock ECU and with some more playing I think I could have dialed it in slightly better. If you travel with the bike or ride in drastically different climates or elevations you may have to re-visit the tuning to keep the bike spot on.


    Next up is the Athena GET RX1 Pro ECU (Green).



    The GET is a full replacement ECU and has quite a few options available over the JD unit. The GET comes with two maps pre loaded (Mike worked with Derek Harris of HP Racing Development to build the maps) and comes with a map switch so you can select between the maps while on the trail. Mike loaded mine with Map 1 set to Full On Honey Badger and Map 2 set to "Enduro" with a slightly softer bottom end. The GET also comes with an onboard WIFI unit that allows you to use your phone to tweak fuel and ignition changes in real time, check the bikes diagnostics and calibrate the TPS. You can change fueling +30% and -10% and ignition timing -30 Deg and +5 Deg. The GET has a barometric pressure sensor built in and will automatically compensate for altitude changes...nice! The GET also allows you to add their GPA Traction Control knob for use during slick condition. The GPA switch uses software to compare throttle settings with RPM and works to eliminate wheel spin by controlling the throttle faster than the rider can respond to wheel spin situations with their hand. There are 10 levels of traction control available at the touch of a dial. This unit is also fully water proof.

    Installation of the GET is really straight forward. You remove the OEM ecu then pull the ecu out of the factory rubber sleeve. Install the GET into the sleeve then re-install the GET just like the factory unit.

    Removing the Stock ECU.








    With the stock ECU removed the GET is installed in the factory rubber sleeve. The GET has a Barometric pressure sensor on the top of the ECU and the rubber sleeve covers it, the sleeve probably wouldn't have caused any issues but I cut a hole in the sleeve to ensure the sensor can function properly.




    Using a punch and a piece of wood to cut a breather hole for the pressure sensor.






    Back in the bike. You can see the WIFI module mounted over the battery with Velcro.






    Installed the GET Map switch. The switch is very robust and has a quality feel to it.




    Mounted the GPA Traction control knob to the bottom of the throttle assembly. This location is out of the way and allows quick access for adjustment.




    With the GET installed it's time to download the app and set up the WIFI. Setup went quickly following the included instructions. Once connected you can set up the profile for your bike.


    My bike set up in the app.




    Next up calibration of the TPS. The app makes this a quick and trouble free process.






    Here's the diagnostics tab...green means your good to go and no errors.





    Here's what the interface looks like for setting the fuel and ignition offsets. I'll leave everything at Zero or Factory settings for the first test.






    On the trail with the GET ECU.I have about 100 miles of both single and dual track on the ECU so far. The bike starts and idles spot on every time and I've yet to have to use the cold start knob (With outside temps down to 35 deg F). The popping on decel is completely gone, no popping while on long down hills or when abruptly chopping the throttle.....Nice! I experienced zero flame outs with the GET.

    Map 1 - Dialed is the word I'd use to describe this map. The power feels sooooo linear and smooth, there are no feelings of flat spots anywhere through out the throttle range. Power is Everywhere! Lofting the front end with throttle is super easy in 1st - 5th and requires little effort at the bars to loft in 6th as well. The power is predictable and I felt very connected to the bike. It may be just a tad lean at very light throttle settings when cruising at a steady speed around 35-40mph on pavement. I felt a very slight surge a couple times when cruising down black top to the trail, again it was very slight and I only felt it a couple times. Switching to Map 2 you can notice a slight ease in bottom end snap which could translate to control-ability in muddy or slick conditions. I ran several trips through a very rocky canyon we like to play in and tried both map 1 & 2 while in the canyon. Both maps worked really well and in the end I just left the bike in Map 1 for most of the trail. I haven't had the chance to try the map switch out yet in muddy or slick conditions which is where I feel the Map 2 setting would show it's benefit.

    GPA Traction control knob: I really like the theory behind the traction control unit and the "on the fly" adjust-ability the bar mounted knob provides. With my limited time on the bike I haven't had a chance to ride in muddy or slick conditions where the GPA would shine. I turned on the traction control and spun the tire in loose dirt and you could feel the engine cut out and the GET take control (Like it's hitting a rev limiter) telling me that the traction control is functioning. I can't wait to get some time on a muddy trail and see how the traction control behaves.

    The GET ECU....A Green Box of Magical Wizardry! I'm VERY impressed with the GET ECU. The mapping that Mike provided is SPOT ON, I haven't put any offsets into his mapping as of yet. (Note: depending on who you purchase your GET from the mapping could be completly different and results could vary accordingly. These results are specific to this tune/mapping). On the trail I like the ability to use the phone to check diagnostics and I like that the ECU compensates for altitude changes automatically. On our long distance desert trips we routinely see 3000' to 10,000' elevation changes in the matter of a few hrs so the compensation feature is welcome. The GET gives you the bike that you really wanted when you purchased your 500, it turns the corked up factory bike into a flat out awesome machine!


    Vortex ECU: I'll be testing the Vortex next and will edit this post to include the results once I get some time on the unit.

    More to come....

    Hodakaguy
    2019 Ktm 500EXC. A few of my ride reports below...
    In Memory of the Crewman: CLICK HERE
    Adventure is out there - 1500 miles through NV RR: CLICK HERE
    Riding Through History - NV a Land Lost In Time RR: CLICK HERE

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Real World Comparison - KTM 500 Vortex ECU, Athena GET ECU & JD Tuner

    Extremely cool test. Cant wait to see the rest. Cam.

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