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2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride

Wednesday, September 9, 2009
2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride
The 2010 KTM 150 XC offers a between-class displacement that makes riding and racing a whole lot of fun for several reasons.
Stepping outside of the displacement racing categories can be daunting or unfamiliar. It can also be extremely rewarding which is what I’m coming to enjoy most about riding KTM dirt bikes. Japanese manufacturers don’t offer the same variety, and even though KTM has dropped models from its lineup, it continues to offer bikes like the new 2010 KTM 150 XC for those who compete based on skill level or age, or simply like to ride something different.

Though it’s the first time KTM has offered the 144cc machine in the XC trim, the overzealous 125 has been around as a SX model since 2008. This cross-country version is based off the motocross version, but with specific tweaks to make it function better and more reliably as an off-road bike. Yes, it gets a kickstand, but it doesn’t get an electric starter - the only 2-stroke in KTM’s lineup not to have one. It’s not like you need it anyway since it lights first kick every time, but the conversion wasn’t so simple.

Switching to an off-road application necessitated some changes in the transmission as well. The final 13/50 gearing is shorter to help compensate for the taller top three gears in the six-speed, close-ratio box. First through third are the same ratios as the former SX model, but first has been reinforced to help boost durability.

The triple clamp is all-new and a major factor in the bike’s attitude. With a fixed 22mm offset compared to the adjustable 18-20mm version in 2009, the new XC gets added stability. After over-developing rigidity into the chassis, designers are trying to put some of that flex back in to the front end. Dropping from three to two pinch bolts on the lower clamp helps accomplish that. Overall we felt very comfortable with the new chassis geometry, including the half-degree steeper steering head angle which is intended to put more emphasis on the front tire for better feel and cornering ability.

2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride
2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride
The new triple clamp highlights
the front end, but it doesn't allow
for the handlebars to turn very far.
A nimble chassis and spirited
motor make the restrictive steering
much less obtrusive.
If there was one thing we noticed about the handling it was that the steering locks are very close together, leaving little room for the oversized aluminum handlebars to turn. Compared to the 250 XC and 300 XC, there is a very drastic reduction in handlebar movement. The 150 still has a very small turning radius on the trail, much aided by its thin, lightweight dimensions, but slow, tight sections where the bars are turned lock-to-lock bring out this weakness. It was our biggest complaint, and other testers on hand nodded in agreement about the observation.

As part of the revised front end, a new closed-cartridge fork from WP is bolted on. We found that the initial setup was a bit stiff even for the tester’s 180 lbs at B-level speed. The White Power components added to a slightly nervous feel during the ride. However, light, zingy 2-strokes tend to have that sensation regardless. Our testing did not allow for a lot of adjustment time and we’d anticipate making strides if given the time to tinker with compression and rebound clickers. New seal and bushing in the fork and tighter tolerances reduce friction between the upper and lower tubes. Engineers were then able to increase the amount of available damping which leads to better bottoming resistance. We only taxed the fork on the motocross section during our test at the Olympia, Washington WORCS race. The rear shock was also adequate for our tester and added to the surprise that neither end was undersprung.

The motor gets a new cylinder with different casting techniques and higher-precision porting. A thinner Twin-Air air filter sits inside a reworked airbox which has better protection against water entering – a problem more common to the off-road world. Another concern for enduro riders is changing elevation over the course of a ride, but the 150 doesn’t get any fancy fuel injection to compensate. The premix is dispensed via a Keihin carburetor which ran well at Straddleline ORV Park’s sub-2000-foot elevation. It did load up a bit coming from low rpm before smashing into the powerband, but we were more interested with how willing it was to lug down. The 56mm x 58.4mm bore and stroke motor doesn’t have the low end of the 250 XC, but it does pull better than a standard 125. It doesn’t work well enough to be the desired riding style, but it was enough to get through some sections with improper gear selection or simply to avoid spinning the tire in nasty stuff.

However, the bike really comes alive once it starts to get on the pipe (which has a thicker gauge steel for the sidewalls moving from 0.88 to 1.0mm). The jump isn’t violent, but it definitely comes on with authority and makes for a seriously fun kick. It’s enough to make you squeeze that skinny chassis with your knees because it has enough motor to run with 250F machines in the right conditions, especially X model 4-strokes.

A 1.8 bar radiator cap replaces the previous 1.4 and helps keep the steam in check when pushing the engine temps to maximum levels. One of the features I appreciated most, though seemingly small, was the translucent fuel tank. It really is great to be able to check fuel level without having to remove the gas cap. This is the perfect example of how refined the KTM machines are.

2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride2010 KTM 150 XC First Ride
Riding or racing, the KTM 150 XC is damn good and even more fun.
Once the bike gets up to speed, hauling it down again is just as much fun. With a claimed tank-empty weight of 200 pounds, we couldn’t stop ourselves from doing stoppies at every chance we got during the photo shoot. Even though we couldn’t feel a direct change in the brake performance courtesy of the new Toyo brake pads, we can say that these are some of the best brakes you can buy. The front especially impressed us with its progressive feel. Equipped with the SX brake caliper which was new in 2009, the XC has amazing power yet not a single hint of grabbiness. The rear was also especially easy to get a feel for under our Sidi Crossfire boots.

If there’s any downside to the 150, it’s that KTM has opted to let it replace the popular 200 XC. While not necessarily a high-profile race winner, the 200 has plenty of supportive followers. Known for more midrange grunt, these bikes are similar, but significantly different. However, the 2010 KTM 150 XC carries on the Ready to Race tradition of a lightweight, extremely fun 2-stroke. It offers more than a 125 with the same attributes that make riding tiddlers so much fun. The 150 is an exceptional bike for all around purposes, but once you figure out how to fit it into your racing program, the $6998 KTM really starts to show its benefits. We haven’t found a 2-stroke recently that really got us interested enough to request a long-term unit, especially with a wet and slippery winter right around the corner, but the 2010 KTM 150 XC made us say the word “fun” so many times that we’d love to have it in our garage, whether we race it or not.
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moss -yz  October 29, 2010 01:16 AM
my 05 yz 125 pulls about 35 horses. the 150 would be about the same cos its for off road, so more spread out. the exc 125 here in australia weigh the same as a 200, so for me the 150 is heavy for a small bore.
webbdadddy -get it  June 21, 2010 12:52 AM
i want this bike like now
shaun -ktm off road  March 19, 2010 03:03 AM
this bike is so sick its awesum

KTM 2-stroke fan -Taddy's bike..  September 29, 2009 10:12 AM
When he was crushing all in Endurocross last year it was on the 200 - Dirtbike (or Dirt Rider?) just showed a current picture of his bike and called it a 250, but I swear the pipe shape and cylinder stil looked KTM200 to me - I think the mag was wrong! (Or else he switched recently, but that photo still looked 200!!)
JP125 -Thank you man!  September 25, 2009 12:07 PM
Again, thank you! The main reason I have never left the 125 class bikes is the ability to just hold the bike wide open and go, using the clutch and gear selection as speed control rather than the position of the throttle. Anytime I've ridden friends 250cc bikes, I couldn't do this without getting myself into trouble. I do not know if the 150XC will allow me to still use the "wide open" throttle style I have grown accustom to or not. I am hoping to make a road trip to KTM Days next month, hopefully, so I can actually ride the bike and see before I spend 7 grand.
JC -RE: JP125 - go for it  September 24, 2009 04:23 PM
If you're already riding a 125 I don't see jumping to the 150 as a big deal. It is surprisingly forgiving at low rpm, but once it kicks in the power comes on hard like a 125, just with more oomph. Be smart about it and don’t try things you aren’t comfortable with, but I think this is a great stepping stone machine. I would not call the 150 an expert-only bike by any means.
JP125 -SX vs XC  September 24, 2009 03:36 PM
JC, thanks man! I have been looking at the 150 this entire season, but I read a review on the 150SX that scared me back down to a 125SX. The review stated that the 150SX has an experienced level power band, unlike the 125 that is very novice friendly. How much tamer is the 150XC having the heavier flywheel now versus the SX one? would you still say that statement stands true and the power band is for experienced leveled riders, or does it seem smooth enough that a novice could skip the 125SX and jump into the 150XC? Just curious as to what your opinion would be. thanks again man!
KevinS -nice  September 24, 2009 10:20 AM
So cool to see KTM going back to natural fuel tanks.
JC -RE: JP125  September 14, 2009 04:16 PM
I haven't ridden a new YZ125, but as far as the 150 XC, the handling is very good. I think that with some dedicated suspension testing it would be even better. There is one glitch that I can see causing problems and that’s the narrow steering locks. In super-tight, slow negotiating, the bars just don’t turn far enough. I can picture a few switchbacks on my local trails where it would be an issue. Turning around on single track is difficult also, and I found myself resorting to the wheelie-180 spin rather than trying to jockey the handlebars. Fortunately, the motor is willing and the overall package is so light that I had no problem executing this maneuver. I’m a pretty average build and weigh 175 lbs.
JP125 -Handling  September 12, 2009 11:37 PM
Hey man, great review. I was wondering if you had any pros or cons in the handling, corner, over-all feel for the agility of this 150xc in comparison to a yamaha newer year yz125. I know how the YZ125 reacts and I am curious if the 150xc will just be to much bike for me if it doesn't have the same agility and awesome handling. I weigh 160lbs, on average. Thanks man!
Alan -KTM200  September 12, 2009 08:37 PM
The 200 does not have e-start.
Taddy rides a 250XC
Lyle -lookin' good  September 11, 2009 08:34 AM
For a guy who favors four strokes, you're lookin' good on that two stroker JC!! Can't beat the fun factor of those things eh?
JC -Bye, bye 200...  September 10, 2009 10:32 PM
The 200 will no longer be offered as an XC, but is on the list for 2010 as an XC-W. As for the E-start, the 150 is the only full-size XC without. Sorry for any confusion.
KTMonty -200 lives  September 10, 2009 04:24 PM
I have read recently that the 200 is going to still exsist. The bike will continue as a 200xc-w and the W stands for wide ratio, includes the 6-speed transmission, and more trail friendly suspenders.I have read a rumor that there will be a 200xc-w street? That would make sense given the popularity in enduro(headlight and plate) and open it up to dual-sport style rides. I hope that is not a rumor.
Uncle Charlie -200 2 Stroke  September 9, 2009 10:46 PM
"KTM has opted to let it replace the popular 200 XC. While not necessarily a high-profile race winner"

Just on a side note Tady Blazusiak has used the 200 to devestating effect in EnduroCross and has downright kicked some asss on the little smoker

Great Review By the Way Guys
NW -200XC-W  September 9, 2009 05:06 PM
According to everything I've read the 200 XC-W will be available as a 2010 model, but not the 200 XC. The 200 doesn't have electric start despite the story stating that the 150 was the only 2 stroke without electric start. Please correct me if I'm wrong on these points.
JaimeB -KTM150 & horsepower  September 9, 2009 04:22 PM
JC - great video. Beautiful trails in a beautiful forrest...anyway, keep the bike for a bit longer and dyno it. You may think I'm a horsepower freak, but it really is all about historic perspective.

I started racing in 1970, and (for example) a 1972 250 Bultaco Pursang pulled about 20-22 horses, yet when it came on the pipe, it felt like a Saturn V rocket pulling you. By 1974 a Honda 250 Elsinore would make 28hp, and curiously all 250 MXers until about 1980 stayed in the 25hp (Husqvarna) - to - 32hp range (Can-Am). An early 1970's Suzuki TM-400 would scare you to death as it hit the powerband - it was an on - off switch! Lousy powerband, we were still at the bottom of the learning curve.

My last dirt bike, a 1980 Yamaha IT425 peaked at about 37hp on Cycle Magazine's Schenk dyno, if my memory serves me right and it was a bundle of fun! Very torquey for its time. So, therein lies my power output fixation - the technological evolution of bike engines.
I'll bet this 144cc ringer will output over 30 horses easiy. The last KTM 250SX dyno chart I saw about 5 years ago, that baby pulled 45 horses!

Alan -triple clamps  September 9, 2009 04:12 PM
Going from 18/20mm offset clamps to 22mm offset reduces trail and "stability"
x2468 -ktm  September 9, 2009 03:36 PM
It's great the KTM still focuses on exciting off-road 2-strokes. A lot of companys don't do either. But they're going to get alot of HATE mail from the 200 fans!! that's a popular bike. Most hare scrambles series out east even have a dedicated 200 class. I'm pretty sure fan pressure brought back the 400 4-stroke. I'm also very certain that the 200 2-stroke has a lot more die hard fans than the 400 did!