2012 KTM 450 SX-F Off-Road Comparison

Justin Dawes | February 16, 2012

KTM has equipped the 450 SX-F with electric start and other convience features. Check out the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F 450 MX Off-Road Shootout Video to see how it performed off-track.

KTM is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to off-road performance. Nowadays you can’t find a off-road park that isn’t teaming with orange bikes. The Austrian manufacturer has earned numerous off-road championships, but an AMA motocross championship still eludes KTM. What KTM lacks in trophies it makes up with features not found in other motocross bikes, such as electric start and a hydraulic clutch. Features like this make the 450 SX-F an attractive option for a rider looking to hit the trails and desert on a full-bore MXer.

Right from the get-go the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F has some serious off-road DNA wrapped up in a bike meant for the track. The number-one feature that is that magic little button that brings the 450 SX-F to life, and that button is indispensable when stalled out on a hill or other precarious location. Other off-road friendly features include tool-less air filter access and a fade-free hydraulic clutch.

Swing a leg over the 450 SX-F and you are greeted with a

The KTM 450 SX-F required a higher amount of effort to get it settled into a turn than some of the other bikes in this shootout.
The KTM 450 SX-F was the the most popular choice for the best ergonomics and controls.

large comfortable cockpit. The seat is long, flat and firm but not rock hard, just right for a day of bashing through the desert at a decent clip, or playing in the bowls of Glamis until you are dizzy. Just about every rider in the group had positive remarks about the KTM in the ergonomics category.

“The KTM fit me best of the bikes in this test,” claims Ken Hutchison. “As a shorter rider it offers universal comfort so whether I was standing up or sitting down it always feels good.”

Our newest ripper on the team, Jamie Beckett adds, “The KTM had a really flat cockpit area. It was really easy to move around. I thought the bar bend was a little flat and caused me to put a lot of weight on my arms.”

Once underway the 450 SX-F’s suspension is a bit softer than the Japanaese bikes; on the single track that is not disadvantage as it rolls through the square edge chop nicely. On large jumps out in the dunes and at Ocotillo, you start to feel the need for stiffer spring rates and some adjustment on the clickers.

The KTM 450 SX-F finished in the third place in our 2012 450 MX Off-Road Shootout.
On big dune jumps the KTM 450 SX-F was felt underspung but performed beyond expectations on the trail.

“I was really surprised on how the KTM suspension worked, It was actually pretty good. It seemed a little fast and undersprung but it had a lot of potential and could probably be adjusted to work awesome,” says Full Factory Garcia. “When landing off of some of the bigger jumps it was a pretty harsh landing due to the soft spring rate and wallowed in the soft sand corners.”

Handling scores for the Katoom were mid-pack mostly do to its softer set-up. Jamming into fast sandy corners taxed the front fork causing an unbalanced situation when pushed hard. Also just as on the track it did take a bit more effort to get the KTM to drop into a turn in comparison to the some of the more taut rides in the group.

However the fastest dude in our group, Mr. Beckett, felt a bit differently. He concludes, “I put the KTM second because it was exceptional in the hills. It was predictable and very well mannered. It was just a little too soft in the dunes to win this category.”

The 2012 KTM 450 SX-F is a predictable handler which worked well in the desert.
In the tighter and rockier sections of Ocotillo the KTM 450 SX-F excelled.
The 2012 KTM 450 SX-F’s power might have been the king of the hill, but it had more than enough to get to the top of any hill.

As the only carbureted bike in the class, the KTM 450 SX-F once again ranked mid-pack. The lack of fuel-injection is not a huge issue, and one of our riders was surprised that it wasn’t EFI-equipped. Jetting was spot on no matter the temp during the cool desert days, and there were not issues with hiccups or misses. Power from the DOHC motor builds a bit more slowly than the FI bikes, and required the rider to use the revs to keep the power coming.

“It’s the civil one at the party. It might not win a dyno shootout, but the Orange Team has made this power plant one that works well,” comments the always-eloquent BuuS. “In an off-road test such as this where shaving off tenths of a second time wasn’t the name of the game, the mild mannered Austrian settles in politely in the middle of this wolf pack for me.”

Weighing in at 254 pounds when full of fuel, the SX-F is the porker in this test. Although it really doesn’t feel nearly as heavy as say the Yamaha. Plus with that added poundage you get a battery for the magic button and a 1.98-gallon fuel tank. There was never any worry of running out of fuel on the KTM when the rest of the smaller capacity bikes were already sputtering to a stop.

Jumping out into the desert meant jumping up onto the podium for the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F in our very first 450 MX Off-road Shootout. User-friendly features such as electric start, a large gas tank and comfortable ergos earned the “For My Money” vote from two of our testers. When the scorecard was completed and the points computed the 450 SX-F slid right into third place proving that having some off-road DNA in a motocross bike is not a bad thing at all.

Justin Dawes

Digital Media Producer | Articles | Raised on two wheels in the deserts of Nevada, "JDawg" has been part of the industry for well over two decades. Equal parts writer, photographer, and rider, he is a jack of all trades and even a master of some.