Ryan Dungey is a bad dude, but when RD5 pulled up roots and headed over to KTM to join Roger DeCoster we wondered if he would be competitive on the current 450 SX-F. Turns out we will never know as he immediately went to work riding an all-new model. This brought on more questions; that is until KTM dropped the release of the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition back at the first of the year. Then it became crystal clear, sort of.
The big question was how and why KTM would roll out a second 450 SX-F model for 2012? In order for Dungey to compete on the new model, KTM must have 400 examples for sale in the US. So beginning tomorrow, 200 Factory Edition bikes will be available for the general public followed by 200 more on June 1st. This is where we as mere mortals get to reap the rewards from the AMA homologation rules. Team Orange chose its words carefully in saying this is an early release of the 2013 model. They said that it is a glimpse, but most likely not the exact machine we will see for sale next year.
Although the engine is vastly different from the current 2012 KTM 450 SX-F, the Factory Edition’s mill is not exactly all-new. Based off the 450 and 500 XC-W powerplant, the FE’s motor is smaller in physical size and lighter by 4.4 pounds. Not
The simplified ans smaller engine of the 450 SX-F Factory Edition is based on the 450 and 500 XC-W powerplants.
only was the goal to cut weight but to also reduce reciprocating mass. By integrating the balancer shaft and water pump and going to a single overhead cam design, KTM has reduced rotating mass by 1.8 pounds. Fueling the smaller and simpler engine is a new 44mm Keihin throttle body featuring separate controls for the idle adjustment and choke. To support the new fuel system and engine, a new muffler and air boot have also been designed to boost power output.
The engine is big news, but the updated chassis is even more noteworthy. KTM engineers started with a steering head crossbrace to increase the rigidity during corning and braking. With a smaller engine the cradle tubes were made thinner and the ground clearance was increased. The suspension is the same 48mm upside-down WP closed-cartridge fork and WP shock as on the standard 450 SX-F, but the settings have been revised to work with the stiffer frame. A new lower triple clamp is designed to reduce stiction of the front fork. At the rear, a new swingarm features a new 25mm axle for additional durability and strength (formerly 20mm).
Slim bodywork wraps around an all-new fuel tank. Additionally the front fender, number plate, airbox and side panels are fresh units. Factory Red Bull graphics come standard complete with RD5 numbers and team sponsor logos. Black Excel wheels, an orange anodized sprocket and Renthal 827 Fat Bars finish off the Factory Edition.
On the Track
With so few units available we were allotted just one day to ride the Factory Edition. We met up with the KTM crew at Lake Elsinore Motocross Park to turn as many laps as we could to give you the scoop on one of the most exclusive MX
machines for 2012.
Right of the bat the difference between the Factory Edition and the standard 450 SX-F is apparent. Throttle response from the new EFI system is instantaneous and crisp. Almost too crisp until you adapt the light throttle feel and newfound power. Right off the bottom the FE comes on strong and pulls hard until it begins to taper off in the upper rev-range. The new motor just has more everywhere.
“On top of KTM’s already cool features to their existing 450 SX-F, the Factory Edition far exceeds their standard motocrosser!” exclaims our pro-level tester Matt Armstrong. “It starts off with more horsepower, a noticeable difference in the midrange with more top-end power that allowed me to hold it on harder into corners. Also the motor seemed to have a smoother power delivery, which helped make the bike easier and more fun to ride!”
Handling is also is a whole new ball game with the 2012 450 SX-F Factory Edition. Where as we felt the 450 SX-F tested in our 2012 450 Motocross Shootout struggled to drop into corners and took too much effort to turn, the Factory Edition is sharp and nimble. Although the steering feels light, there is not even a hint of twitchiness or instability.
“One thing I’ve never liked was the cornering characteristics of the standard SX-F, but the new FE has a much more planted feel and really stuck into tight ruts without wanting to stand up when entering with speed,” says Armstrong.
Suspension settings for the Factory Edition are balanced and stiff yet compliant at the same time. Small chatter and braking bumps don’t upset the SX-F at all, and at the same time the WP suspension eats up big hits and jumps.
If the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is a preview of what is to come from KTM, then we are excited to see what happens in 2013.
“The suspension was aggressive yet plush,” comments Armstrong. “I really liked where the suspension sat in the stroke. It was nice and progressive and had a good planted feeling with out any harsh or violent impacts.”
The only complaint on the suspension was a spike in the mid-stroke when the front end slapped down when banging through the rollers. Backing off two clicks on the compression on the forks all but eliminated the spike. Overall we were very impressed with the difference between the standard and Factory Edition.
In the past the KTM cockpit has been one of the largest, almost too large for some of our riders. The FE is a bit more compact and more comfortable; the reach to the new Rental Fat Bar feels natural and comfortable.
Armstrong adds, “The rider compartment felt less open and more fitted, which I think helped the bike corner better as well.”
At the end of the day, we were hesitant to return the 450 SX-F Factory Edition to the KTM crew. Even though the FE might not be exactly what the 2013 450 SX-F will be, we know it is very close and that is a good thing. All we can say is there are going to be 400 very happy KTM owners this year. Are you going to be one of them? I know I would be.