Rider Info: I consider myself to be a Vet B minus rider (175lbs). I owned a 2009 and 2011 CRF 450 up until 2011 when I decided to purchase a 2011 KTM 150sx as a “play” bike. As soon as I started riding my 150sx, I only rode the 450 one more time and then decided that I no longer wanted to own/race another 450. Shortly thereafter I sold my 450’s and decided that 2-strokes would be my motocross weapons of choice. I then followed up by purchasing a 2011 KTM 250sx to be used as my primary race bike. I am still a die-hard 2-stroke guy and don't foresee that changing anytime soon, but that's not to say I don't enjoy riding a 4 banger from time to time, especially 250’s. In short, I feel I can ride a 2-stroke more comfortably for longer motos and with a higher level of enjoyment and satisfaction. 4 strokes feel more front end heavy overall and I prefer the rear wheel bias of a 2 smoker. The simplicity and cost of ownership are just additional bonuses.
About the Demo Day at Redbud: KTM put on a very organized and amazing day of riding. They had 3 bikes of each model, except only 2 125’s for a total of 17 demo bikes on hand to ride. My one fear was that too many people would show up and that extra time on the bikes would be hard to come by, and that turned out to be the case with over 150 riders on a beautiful day at RedBud. KTM allows 2 laps on each bike and then a bonus ride on your favorite bike at the end. With 150 riders, we barely had time to get to ride each bike and had to wait in line for just under an hour. If the weather would have been a typical hot summer day, I probably would have had a much lower opinion of the whole experience. 150 seems to be the maximum number of riders one of these events can reasonably accommodate.
Note: This was my first time riding RedBud and naturally getting comfortable on the track would take some time, which is hard to do 2 laps at a time with an hour wait in between. It took 5 bikes (the 350) before I started to get familiar and up to a decent pace.
What did I like? KTM line-up as a whole
The thing that stands out on all the 2013 bikes is how similar and almost identical they all feel. The ergo’s, handling, geometry, and suspension setup of every bike are all so very similar. The American Spec’d suspension settings KTM incorporated into all 2013 models is very impressive. The main differences one can notice between each bike is primarily based on the power delivery and throttle response between the 2 stroke carbureted models and the fuel injected 4 strokes.
- New handlebars. The new bar bend and additional height is a nice improvement over the previous Renthal bars. It opens up the cockpit and is simply more comfortable
- Shifting: The transmissions all all the bikes were flawless, never did it feel notchy under load or not.
- New gas cap. I have no idea why Motocross Action complained so much about the previous style gas caps. The old cap was uniquely engineered using a locking mechanism with quater turn on/off method which only required a simple push down on the cap...a 1/2 second process. The new cap is more traditional design except with internal threads and requires several turns and the inevitable vent line kinking that goes along with it. Watching the KTM staff trying to fuel up all 17 bikes was interesting in the fact that they all realize it was far easier last year. As one undisclosed KTM member said, "You have to be smarter than the gas cap" ...directed at MXA
- Stock seats: The KTM seat foam is still a bit too soft. Under acceleration bumps you can feel the frame rails on your ass when seated
- Did I mention the gas cap?
125sx VIDEO HERE This was the 2nd bike I rode. I already own a 150sx, so I was eager to ride and see if I could feel much of a difference between the two bikes. The 125 is so close in power to the 150, that the difference is only noticeable in that the 125 will fall off the pipe a bit faster if your clutch work and shifting isn't spot on. Once the bike is in the meat of the power, the difference between the 2 bikes is barely noticeable. The 125 is a super fun bike to ride and the handling traits are second to none...this bike will point and shoot wherever you want it to go and the suspension is excellent in stock form. Of course you need to keep the bike in the power like with any 125
150sx VIDEO No bike is more “fun” to ride than the 150sx. It has an incredible “fun factor” level that cannot be matched by any bike (125 is very close though). While it doesn't have much low end torque, it still has a very useable power delivery and revs out to the moon. This bike can be raced against 250’s in all but the driest hard packed tracks and be competitive. Riders with some clutch skill can easily manipulate this bike to go very fast without tiring a rider out over a long moto. Almost all riders coming off the 125 and 150 seemed incredibly surprised with the power and overall traits of these bikes, and we are talking about riders weighing less than 150lbs to some over 250lbs.
250sx VIDEO The 250sx is the “fire breathing dragon” of the KTM line-up. It’s the one bike that drew complaints from quite a few riders, in the fact that they would come off this bike “scared”. Not much has changed between my 2011 250sx and the 2013 (primarily just the addition of linkage). Being very familiar with this bike, it has incredible pull when transitioning from “off the pipe” to “on the pipe” and that transition needs to be managed for riders not accustomed to it, or those with poor riding technique. The 250sx has great low end pull and can def be lugged at times, but still needs to be ridden in the meat of the power to get the full benefits. Overrev is noticeably less on the 250 compared to the 125 or 150, so consider this bike to be a mid to low-high beast of a machine. Some people are always scared of the dreaded “loop out” on a 2 stroke, and this bike brings that feeling to the forefront for many. The fact is, 250 2 stroke power needs to be respected, but is easily manageable with proper clutch work...something a lot of riders no longer do well in the age of 4 bangers. For riders wanting to improve their overall riding technique, no bike is better suited for this objective than the 250. This bike rewards proper clutch work and body position during acceleration, which in turn rewards you with proper riding technique and less fatigue during motos. The stock suspension feels great overall and the bike still feels incredibly light in all aspects when compared to a 350 or 450 4 banger. However, even with this bike being only approx 12 lbs heavier than the 150, the engine inertia makes the 250 feel heavier than the 12 lbs difference. From my experience, rotating engine mass is much more noticeable in making a bike "feel" heavy compared to actual weight and this is very noticeable when comparing the 250 to the smaller bore 2 smokers
All 3 of the 4-stroke models were very impressive overall. All 3 bikes have practically the exact same handling manners of one another, with the exception of the power delivery and weight differences between each other in actual weight and perceived weight from rotating mass. Each one has a very smooth off-idle power delivery with a very linear power delivery all the way through top-end. This is something new to me, as every fuel injected 4 stroke I’ve ridden in the past seem to have an “instant on” feeling, which some fast riders seem to prefer. I personally like the roll-on feeling and control it provides. On the downside, all 3 bikes seemed to be “choked up” a bit and didn't have as much over-rev as they could with an aftermarket pipe thats less restrictive. The most amazing aspect of all 3 bikes was the front end feel. Like I mentioned earlier, 4 strokes tend to feel nose heavy to me...but not a single one of these bikes felt that way. I prefer the balance of any of these 3 over anything I’ve ridden in the past. KTM is doing a lot right!
250sx-f VIDEO With this bike being totally redesigned this year with a claimed 5 horsepower increase, it was the bike I was most looking forward to. The 250 was a blast to ride and I loved being to rev it out and use most of the power it could deliver. Through the up-hill whoops/rollers, the bike pulled with excellent power and wanted to be shifted often to stay in the meat. I could go full-on through the whoops and always felt in control under full acceleration. The 250 laid down into the berms very well and had excellent handling characteristics in the air and through bumps and turns. Other than the lack of over-rev, this bike in stock form is just plain fun to ride. If I were to buy another 4 stroke, it would be this bike (but not by much, read 350 below). This bike feels the most choked up however, and an aftermarket pipe to unleash the top-end would be a required purchase.
350sx-f VIDEO This was the bike I was the least looking forward to. You see, I have several friends with 2011 and 2012 350’s. I have some time on each of them and never felt quite comfortable with the 350. Those bikes had a very vague, heavy, and soft front end bias that always made the bike feel sketchy. In addition, the power delivery was non-linear and very top-end oriented. In low RPM situations, the previous year 350’s have a very strong tendency to flame-out and stall in the corners, even if you handle the clutch properly, something with the timing or FI mapping just always seemed off. This unbalanced feel in both suspension and motor made the 350 annoying to ride. Well, thats all in the past with the 2013 model. I was incredibly impressed with every facet of this bike, it has excellent roll-on throttle response with “zero” hint of the flame-out problem. The bike responded with excellent crisp acceleration from idle and was very linear all the way through the top end. The low end power seems dramatically improved and the handling is all around awesome. In addition, this bike has substantial power which was clearly evident going through the rollers at Redbud, where the 350 and 450 would quickly tire my arms when I twisted the throttle to the stop. Since its intro in 2011, the 2013 model has benefited greatly from 2 years worth of refinements. I was so impressed with this bike that I rode it again for my “bonus” ride.
Additional note: One of my friends has a well modified 2012 350 with new mapping, properly sprung suspension, and a core EXP clutch, which I rode yesterday for comparison. To his dismay, it was very evident that the 2013 350 still exhibits much better low end power and crispness that his 2012 still cannot quite match.
450sx-f VIDEO I make no secret that I’m not a fan of 450’s in general. They feel heavy, make me feel lazy, and look slow when I watch other riders of similar ability. To me this sport is about confidence and fun. If I can ride at high rpm’s with the bike screaming and I feel like I’m going fast, I’m more excited and will push myself harder to blow up a turn, manipulate the bike, and actually go faster. This instills confidence in me and that = FUN. Now how does that relate to the 2013 450? Well, its still a 450 and I have no reason for that much power...BUT...I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable I was riding this machine. With the exception of the power I can't use lap after lap, the 2013 still has excellent handling and balance characteristics, very much like the 350 and 250. The manners of this bike are superior to my Honda 450’s. It has no big bark off idle, just smooth and super powerful all the way through the top-end. I will say that the 450 while crisp off idle, is not as crisp as responsive as the 250 or 350. The 450 still seems to have a tendency for the dreaded 4 stroke flame-out that KTM seems to have solved on the 350 and 250 In saying that, it’s still vastly improved from the Zooks and Honda’s I’ve ridden. I actually have a rule not to follow a 4 stroke Suzuki or Honda in tight turn situations...I’ve been stuck too often behind them. The new engine single cam design and reduced weight is very clearly evident as the power comes on quickly and smooth from the crack of the throttle. In turns, the bike lays down nicely and doesn't want to stand-up as quickly compared to the previous version...however its still 450 power and wants to come up faster than the 350 or 250 and that's to be expected with the additional power. As for stock suspension, its as good as any stock suspension I’ve ever ridden. Both the forks and shock soaked up everything from landings to braking and acceleration bumps very well.
Small Bore vs. Big Bore 450 4 stroke comments
I am a fan of smaller bore bikes after owning my 450’s that simply had more power than I generally need in a moto. Sure, everyone can twist a 450 to the stops and hang-on for a few minutes, but trying to harness and use all the power during a race leads to fatigue in all but the best and fittest riders. Simply, even the fastest 250 pros are as fast and often faster than the 450 class riders...that's pretty compelling evidence that most riders have little use for 450 power. Some people claim that its 90% rider and 10% bike, I’m more in the camp that it’s 98.5% rider and 1.5% the bike.
So which bike would I buy if I could only own one bike? Well that depends on age, mission, and objective...
- Being a Vet B rider who rides in mostly optimal riding/racing conditions? 250sx
- For pure fun and play riding? 150sx hands down!
- Best 4 stroke for fun and competitive racing? 250sx-f followed closely by the 350
- Best all-around MX or multipurpose bike? 350
- Mini rider transitioning off of a Super-mini? 125sx all the way
- A top level pro? I’m not one nor will ever be one, but I’m highly skeptical that the 450 is the best bike for the sport or the riders
IMG_0606 by tdrewk, on Flickr
IMG_0618 by tdrewk, on Flickr
IMG_0615 by tdrewk, on Flickr
IMG_0610 by tdrewk, on Flickr
Edited by tdrewk, August 24, 2012 - 05:12 AM.