Riding /Racing the 2011 kTM MXers

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
Myself and the family traveled to Australia, for our annual holiday visiting family.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of riding/racing the 2011 KTM SXF 250 and 350 mx bikes.
As in Thailand we often don't even have the opportunity to see these motorcycles I thought I would share my experience, and thoughts of these bikes
The 2011 bikes look sweet, KTM have always had eye catching bikes, however the Antonio Cairoli world championship 350 replica is a real head turner in the pits, with its gold triple clamps and Cairoli sponsor graphics.
The race event was held in Grafton a small country town just 60min north of my parents home town Coffs Harbour. I was able to enter in 3 classes, over 35's, MX lites and Open all powers. Each class has 3 races, so in all I was up for 9 events for the day.
This is how you look after racing 8 events in 1 day, still one to go.

My prep was pretty short I had 2 laps of practice to learn the bike and the track. the track was slippery wet clay for practice caused by the previous nights deluge. But as the day sun dried the soil it became tacky with lots of traction and some nicely rutted turns.
The SXF 250
First impressions of the 250 as I sat on the bike to adjust the controls where confusing, the layout of the motorcycle felt nice and fitted well, all but the handle bars they seem to be a little wider than the norm, but once we started to roll I didn't notice this on the track.
The front fork felt completely spongy and soft with a complete lack of dampening both compression and rebound, a adjustment to the compression gave zero effect, not sure if there was a fault here, the bike had only done 1 race before so I expect not ???. The motorcycle has been factory set for a sub 75kg rider so my 80kg was a little heavy for the suspension.
In contrast to the fork the shock was setup stiff, it was insisted this is the way the bike came from the factory, It just did't figure, as I had to back the spring pre-load down 2 turns to balance the shock with the fork
KTM SXF 250. photo taken after a 2 lap practice.


The engine was very linear and super smooth. The fuel injection was faultless with zero bog, I didnt even come close to stalling this bike. This was a wet and difficult track early in the day, on a bike I didnt know, I thought the bike not even having a sniff towards a stall was very impressive of the how well the EFI works
The engines power was so seamless. It took me nearly all day hitting the rev limiter, before I realised the bike was able to pull a higher gear much sooner.

I got the jump out of the start gate most times just to be mowed down by 3 to 4 riders before I made the first corner turn. Until the 6th race when I learned the engine a little more and I came into the first turn level with a 350 which was impressive as the start straight was over 100m.
What is really impressive about this bike is its stability the bike tracked and turned very well, and most of all was very stable in corners. I never once lost the front end in the difficult conditions. By the end of the day as I became more trusting in the front end you could really chop and change you lines, this was awesome for the close races we had going, as I was able to find lots of passing points on a track, a track considered by the rest of the competitors as being one lined.

Brakes where outstanding, thats all I can say about the brakes.

By the end of the day and I worked out the balance of the bike, I became more and more impressed. Earlier in the day I had a little trouble riding aggressively into the face of the jumps as I was unable to ride to far over the front with the softer front fork, but by mid afternoon and the track roughened up I was liking the pogo style suspension on the sharp edged bumps and was able to hit the jumps with full aggression.
One instant I had a fallen riders bike infront of me as I aired out a jump and had no where to go. I hit the bike in a second after landing with compressed suspension and surely thought my bike would cartwheel, however surprisingly the little Kato plough straight over the bike and stayed in control, this was impressive of how stable the bike was.
I feel with a little stronger front fork compression I would be able to go through the faster corners a gear higher.


The 250 was impressive, the handling is a notch above any KTM I have ridden before its stability is impeccable, it corners very well and exceptional in flat wide turns. The motor is strong and very easy to use, the bike starts easy every time and had faultless EFI.
The fork was a let down, it was set in a way I have never ridden a bike, much like the feeling of a KLX 250? But as I became used to the fork and worked out the bikes balance it still worked and did its job well, just in a different way to the mainstream.
 

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
KTM SXF 350


I did the last open powers race on the 350. I really wanted to try the bike but wasn't sure about hopping on the bike without riding it before and lining up at the gate.
I played it safe and ended up letting the field go a start straight distance before I took off, just so I could do 4 laps and get a feel how the 350 rode .
The bike still has 450 frame dimensions so it does feel a little longer than the 250. The suspension was stiff, seeming to be set up as a 100% go fast machine. The suspension felt to stiff for myself which I find rare for a production suspension, so I checked and it seems the suspension spring rates are set for a 90kg rider. As I am 80kg that makes sense.
The bike turned well and handled well, I really didn't get to push the bike very hard but riding the bike at 70% I estimated it I was running similar speeds to the 250f on this track.
This is a serious bike and I felt it has massive potential to cut fast laps. The motor was soft of the bottom which made the bike easy for all to ride, but there are some serious H.P. being put out by this bike. I did find a need to twist the throttle a long way round from zero to get about 50% rpm, this was really noticeable and seemed needless to be set this way with EFI. But maybe with some more track time and a less slippery surface I may have been riding a gear lower, but the bike would have really been in high rpm to do this.
The best I can compare this bike to is a KTM EXC 300 2 stroke? believe it or not the motor feels very similar as does the front end and the bikes statue.
I really didn't have enough time to ride the bike aggressive at my race pace, however I could really feel the potential to be unleashed.
If it weren't for the stiff suspension the bike would be very versatile.
Personally I would prefer more low end power and would be happy to give away a bit at the top to achieve this, I wouldn't be surprised if the future goes this way for the 350.
 

KTMphil

Senior member
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Location
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bikes
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
Mark

The moto movie we were watching with David Knight in it, what was he riding?

How much would a 350 be new in the USA?

What would the maintenance schedule be like. ie how many hours before piston and valve work?

I'm sure lots of people like me will find this interesting (i'm sure Alex will), thanks.
 

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
I cant remember for the film we watched, but David Knight is riding a fourstroke 500cc in the E3 class world championships
They sell a XCW 350 in the states. I memory serves we right 8,500usd.
Oil changes would be a every 10hours or 400-500kms
KTM's in the past have had good piston and valve life,
This bike is the motocross bike with a wide ratio gearbox in the 350 case, it has a 6 speed where the SXF is 5 speed, it also has lights. The XCW stands for "cross country wide ratio"
KTM are releasing a EXC model for 2012 which is a bit more enduro/trail orientated,

KTM XCW 350
 

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
The EXC range are mechanically not really suitable as a long distance Laos trailbike i'm afraid. Better of with the XR's, DRZ's and the KTM enduro range for those who can afford the price.
 

jon

Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2011
9 races in a day sounds hard going. The bikes look great. How do you think it compares with a 2011 Japanese 250 ? If they were easily available here with the same spares back up would you buy one over a Japanese bike?
 

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
The 9 races where 4 laps, only about 8 minutes each one, so a lot easier than a full moto, although at 4 laps it is full sprint pace the old heart got pumping.

I think all the 4 Japanese manufacturers and the KTM are basically equally as good, It is just that some are better on certain tracks or surfaces and others are better on different tracks and surfaces.

The Suzuki that I own is a midget better at supercross than the KTM I feel, but the KTM I think would be a midget better on higher speed tracks. It really is personal preference.

For myself if I had to race one tomorrow for 2011 I would choose the Suzuki, It has more lower end power with sharp steering, I feel this personally gives me better corner speed, most motocross has obstacles exiting out of a corner, this magnifies the effect good corner speed has for faster lap times, not only are you going quicker through the corner the higher corner speed sets you up to complete the obstacles cleaner and faster. Even if you bike gives up a little h.p. on the dyno to increase the lower end, for myself I feel I decrease lap times. "personal preference"
 

bigntall

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2011
Excellent reviews Mark, thanks. Can you shed some light into how the 350 felt on the track relative to the 250 and 450 MXers? Specifically how did the handling, flickability, and weight compare across the three displacement bikes?
 

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
Mate it is really hard for me to evaluate that, I hadnt ridden a 450 for a year and the suspension was so much heavier on the 350 compared to the 250 that it would be difficult to compare
Keeping that in mind, the 350 felt quiet a bit larger to me than the 250, and the 250 was definitely much easier to change lines and throw around. The soft suspension may have added to this feel, I really dont know.
What I can say was the 350 has a much faster revving motor than the 450 and didnt have the low end torque of a 450 but a lot more than a 250. The 350 was right in middle
In truth, for myself, the 350 with it fast revving engine felt like it was a purpose built race bike, more so than the 450. The 350 is a very different feeling engine to the 450 but its HP feels similar.
Does that make sense?
To put it some extreme perspective the 450 engine feels like a V8 and the 350 feels like a 2.5 turbo, both pumping out near 300hp but doing it differently. The style of power is that different.
The biggest thing that sticks in my mind was. "The 350 felt like a 2 stroke EXC 300 and how all this technology on 4 stroke evolution for the past 10 years, has produced a EFI engine, with very little engine braking that has a similar engine response and feel to a 10 year old 2 stroke of similar cc, however the 4 stroke still feels heavier to ride, but has perfect jetting.
 

bigntall

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2011
You answered it perfectly Mark, thanks. I was looking for how a 350 feels from a size and handling perspective compared to 250 and 450 in general. So from what it looks like the 350 is not just a larger bored 250 in terms of handling, it definitely feels a larger bike. I guess i was hoping for more of a "a pumped motor 250" but it seems KTM did not develop it as that from a bike feel and handling aspect, especially given that the weight is pretty close to KTMs 450 SX-f (only about 8 pounds lighter if I remember correctly).

Interesting comment on the lack of engine braking feel from the 350. Something for people that were raised in this modern era of four stroke dirt bikes will have to get used to doing without when riding the 350.
 
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