The KTM 350 engine platform eschews convention, but delivers an optimal platform for enthusiast riders and racers.
Current dirt bike racing is heavily steeped in the 250/450 divisions. Bikes outside of the two standards have typically not gained a strong foothold with a majority of riders. KTM introduced the 2010 350 SX-F as the first 350cc motocross bike, and it was a natural progression to bring it off the groomed track. While the MX version hasn’t seen a ton of success in the United States as it stacks up against the 450 division, it’s a much more versatile and usable platform in the off-road world. Racing classes are less strict and riders often have more need for an in-between bike and the benefits that a 350 can provide.
On the motocross track, the lighter handling of the 350 struggles to make up for its engine deficit, but once the ride lasts longer that 20 minutes, those traits start paying off with energy savings. The fuel-injected 350 engine churns out plenty of usable power without wearing out the rider. To make the XC-F more off-road worthy, KTM added a sixth speed and altered the transmission gear ratios. It’s equipped with the new linkage components and WP suspension with enduro settings. It also gets a larger volume opaque fuel tank, a backup kick starter, hand guards and an 18-inch rear wheel. For many riders, this is a bike that can still pull duty on the MX track, and as part of the XC family it leans towards racing applications. The foot lever is handy for dead-engine starts and the 350 is not equipped with lights to help keep weight to a minimum.
The 350 isn’t setting the motocross world ablaze like some anticipated, but the XC-F version is paving the way for a whole new breed of off-road motorcycle. KTM did a good job of applying real off-road modifications and the XC-F is the first in what will be an expanding line of 350 machines from Austria and other manufacturers as well.