Back in February we got our first taste of the 2013 KTM 450 SX-F when we took a spin on the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. Remove the Red Bull Graphics, Number 5 plates and strip the orange frame paint from the Factory Edition and you have the new 450 SX-F. At the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition First Ride, we felt the new and improved Katoom is a huge improvement and could be a contender in this shootout. Now it is time to see if we were right.
Thumbing the electric start button brings the bike to life quickly and easily, thanks to the addition of fuel injection. Crack the throttle and it’s obvious the slow revving tendency of last year’s machine is long gone. Also gone is low numbers on the dyno. Both the horsepower and torque numbers were the best in the field at 52.58 HP and 33.92 lb-ft of torque.
On the track the power feels choked up on the bottom, but once you hit the top-end – hold on! The rush from mid-range on
comes on strong and pulls like no other bike in the test. The problem is that it gets tiring trying to stay in the power, and our less talented testers had more of an issue with the KTM than the Pro-level riders.
“I had a really hard time keeping the KTM on the pipe. The top end power is unreal, but I was surprised by how little pull there was on the bottom end,” explains Milan. “I feel like the KTM has the most top end power of any bike in this test. A faster rider would probably have an easier time managing this style of power delivery.”
On the start line the 450 SX-F put down the second-quickest holeshot time at 4.20 seconds at 45.4 mph, just one-hundredth of second slower than the launch control-equipped Kawasaki KX450. The lack of low-end grunt became apparent in the third gear roll on testing where the KTM accelerated from 15 to 40 mph in a fourth in class 2.849 seconds at 121.4 feet.
If you get a little whiskey with the throttle, it’s comforting to know there is no better 450cc motocross bike at stopping. The only machine that had a higher braking score was the 350 SX-F which can be attributed to its lighter weight, but that is splitting hairs between the two. The Brembo units have a bite that is powerful and crispy but not grabby. They are on a whole different level than any of the Japanese MX’ers.
“The KTM 450’s brakes are superb,” says Nick Thiel. “The Brembos smoke everything else.”
Our Associate Editor Frankie Garcia adds,” The KTM 450 SX-F brakes are top notch. The Brembo set-up is precise and the stopping power is unmatched – not too grabby with tons of feel and feedback.”
The KTM 450 SX-F was sprung to soft for our crew as we all had issues in the whoops and even in the corners.
In the Handling and Suspension categories, the big KTM took a bit of a beating; our crew ranked it last in both. The biggest issue with the suspension was the harshness at the bottom of the WP fork’s stroke, which we found often as the spring rate seemed too soft.
“The big Katoom had a shock that worked well, it was stable and tracked well,” explains See. “The front end had a good initial stroke, but then it seemed to blow through the mid-stroke valving and got harsh at the bottom of the stroke.”
As for the handling, getting the 450 SX-F to stay down in a corner proved to be a challenge for our crew. Perhaps the weight (250 pounds fully fueled) was the problem as the suspension would work through the stroke and then sort of pogo up. The smoother you entered into the turn, the better it would turn out.
“The 450 was obviously heavier which made the bike a little harder to corner,” says our X Games champ Golden. “The distance from the seat to the handlebars was close which made it easy for me to weight the outside peg through corners.”
Although we love the smooth pull and consistent character of the hydraulic clutch and the transmission shifted without fail each and every time, the taller gearing hurt the overall score in the drivetrain category.
Milan sums it up perfectly, “I never had any issues with shifting, but I felt that I could benefit from lowering the gearing on the KTM. There were several corners on the track where I was between gears. If I left it in third, the soft bottom-end power didn’t want to pull cleanly through the sand and help me steer the back of the bike, but when I shifted down to second, the
Although it finished fourth in our shootout, the 2013 KTM 450 SX-F is a much better bike than the 2012 model.
screaming top end would kick in and make it tough to control all the power.”
The ergos were a mixed bag for our crew, some of us felt comfortable immediately and others never really liked the layout of the big orange machine. The layout is slimmer than in the past, and the seat is firm fairly flat and easy to move around on. The new handlebar bend was loved by some while others though the controls were too narrow or uncomfortable.
In our super lap testing the KTM 450 SX-F tied for third with the Suzuki and Honda with a 2:29.9-second lap. Our fastest Pro, See, turned his second fastest lap on the larger KTM as did our super fast lady ripper, Golden. Thiel struggled more with the bike, turning the second slowest lap during his flying lap testing.
There is no doubt that the 2013 KTM 450 SX-F has improved by leaps and bounds, and we were impressed with the top-end rush from the new engine as it crushed the competition in the objective power testing. Even so, a few faults with the suspension softness and heavier handling relegated the Austrian MX’er to fourth place in our shootout, and for the second time in three years it has finished behind it’s smaller capacity sibling.