First Ride 2016 KTM 250 SX-F, 350 SX-F & 450 SX-F

Adam Booth | June 23, 2015

After two epic days of enjoying the all-new 2016 KTM 250 SX-F, 350 SX-F and 450 SX-F on the Ironman MX track in Crawfordsville, Indiana, we are happy to report that 2016 is a very good year for KTM motocross bikes. A redesigned chassis, new engine and revamped suspension headline a long list of improvements that will have the SX-F models giving the other manufacturers some sleepless nights full of worry.

2016 KTM 350 SX-FRailing corners on the faster, lighter and better handling 2016 KTM 350 SX-F.

The supercharged changes for 2016 focus on mass centralization, big weight savings, more power and improved handling. Minus the powerplant and some suspension settings, the improvements to the SX-F line are the same across the board, meaning the 250, 350 and 450 SX-F share everything­ ­– the chassis, plastics, wheels, footpegs, brakes, triple clamps… you name it, it’s the same on all three machines. The only difference comes in the suspension settings and spring rates. There is also a very slight change in the frame cradle between the 450 SX-F and 250/350 SX-F. The 250 SX-F and 350 SX-F share the same frame since the engines are nearly identical.

These changes net a significant weight reduction from last year’s models, with the 250 SX-F seven pounds lighter, the 350 SX-F about eight pounds lighter and the 450 SX-F ten pounds lighter than the 2015 models. We can’t recall a motocross bike from any manufacture that ever dropped such significant weight numbers in just one model year.

2016 KTM 250 SX-F

The 2015 250 SX-F Factory Edition (read the test) was our first look at what the all-new 2016 250 SX-F model was probably going to be. And we’re happy to report they are nearly identical! This is good news because the Factory Edition is a great bike and so is the new 2016 250 SX-F.

 2016 KTM 250 SX-FThe 2016 KTM 250 SX-F is gained power off the bottom while losing weight. 

The 2016 KTM 250 SX-F has better torque and pull off idle, which is the only place the 2015 KTM 250 SX-F motor was lacking in comparison to the rest of the 250F class. The new 250 SX-F engine is smaller, 2.4 pounds lighter and more powerful. The clutch is raised 26.9mm and moved back 11.1mm while the crank was moved up 6mm and the connecting rod is 6mm shorter. KTM also raised the rev limiter on the new engine to an incredible 14,000 rpm!

Sitting on the new 2016 250SX-F feels completely different than last year’s bike. The seat and handlebar positions are both 10mm lower, and the footpegs are now mounted 5mm back and 4mm down, creating a bike that feels like no other KTM before it. The 250 SX-F is currently the lightest production 250F, even with electric start.

That light weight creates a bike that is ultra agile, and quick direction changes feel more like you’re riding a 125 than a 250F. Often when a bike corners well stability suffers, but not with the 2016 250 SX-F. A balanced and stable feel contributes to the great cornering characteristics, allowing the rider to enter a corner with confidence, knowing the bike will go where directed and stay in the line.

The smooth Ironman MX track didn’t offer much in the way of suspension testing bumps but we will report on how it does once we do a more in-depth test on the 250 SX-F in the future.

2016 KTM 350 SX-F

KTM didn’t release a 2015 Factory Edition 350 SX-F, but if they had it would look much like the completely new 2016 KTM 350 SX-F we rode in Indiana. The same changes that grace the 250 450 SX-F apply to the 350 version. In fact the new 350 SX-F engine shares the same lower half as the 250 model, different only in the cylinder (10mm more bore), head, and stroke (5.5mm more stroke). The 2016 350 SX-F is 6.8 pounds lighter than the 2015 version! Like all the other 2016 KTM SX-F bikes, this 350 is nothing like the 2015 model.

2016 KTM 350 SX-FKai Mukai skies out the quad on the 2016 KTM 350 SX-F.

The 350 SX-F blows away any big-bore 250F without feeling like a slow 450. This is truly the most impressive, lightest and most powerful 350 SX-F ever produced. The 2016 pumps out more bottom end grunt than previous years while maintaining its high-revving character, which improves its ability to hang with a 450. Like its 250 and 450 siblings, the new 350 SX-F corners amazingly. It is stable and will carve any line you aim at, no matter if it has a rut or is flat and slippery.

For riders who were on the fence about buying a 350 SX-F, this is the year to do it. However, the most fun all-around bike in Indiana was the off-road version of the 350 SX-F, the 350 XC-F. It worked well on the moto track and out in the woods, so if you ride a little off-road as well you really want to check out what we thought about that bike in our KTM XC-F write ups from Crawfordsville. Again, this is a bike we can’t wait to get a bunch more time on very soon.

2016 KTM 450 SX-F

The 2015 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition (read the test) was the world’s first look at what the 2016 SX-F line would most likely look like. And, sure enough, the 2016 450 SX-F is an almost exact clone of the 2015 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition, which is wonderful news. The 2016 450 SX-F is 10 pounds lighter, faster, more compact and handles better. It’s a win, win!

 2016 KTM 450 SX-FThe 2016 KTM 450 SX-F is  faster, better handling and lost significant weight. 

The all-new 450 engine is smaller, four pounds lighter and more powerful. New compact die-cast engine cases allowed KTM to move the crankshaft position 7mm higher and 9mm back to centralize mass even further. Overall engine size is now 23mm shorter, 23mm narrower and 9mm lower than 2015 KTM 450 SX-F. The new head pipe might look like a two-stroke expansion chamber but it isn’t, it is the Flow Design Header, developed to increase power, throttle response and maintain low noise levels. Like the 250 SX-F and the 350 SX-F, the muffler is now 40mm shorter and with new mounting point, the muffler is 60mm closer to the center of the bike.

We are stoked KTM now uses a rubber mount system for the handlebars on all the 2016 models, reducing vibration and adding to overall front end comfort. There are two mounting positions for the handlebar clamps and lower triple clamp is designed with more flex for better handling. The reduction in vibration is a huge plus as is the new chassis, which like the 250 SX-F and the 350 SX-F gives the 450 SX-F excellent handling characteristics. Overall balance is impressive while the corner abilities of the 450 SX-F hard to match. We’ve spent some time on the 2015 450 SX-F Factory Edition and know that it corners and handles awesome. We did complain a little about the WP 4CS fork still having a bit of a mid-stroke harshness but the production 2016 SX-F bikes have further revisions to the WP suspension that will be tested further once we have one in our hands. The Ironman MX track never really got rough or choppy during our two days in Indiana but the track did offer a great opportunity to feel the power delivery of the 2016 KTM 450 SX-F, which can only be described as phenomenal. It is ultra smooth off idle and builds into a strong mid and top. The smooth delivery increases cornering confidence and allows the bike to drive forward deceivingly fast.

The Bottom Line

The 2016 SX-F models are big improvements over 2015. If the only improvement for 2016 was less weight, that in itself would be a remarkable improvement, but the new bikes produce more power and handle better as well, making 2016 a good year to be in the market for a KTM. Remember, MotoUSA will be following up with full tests on all the new SX-F models very soon!

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Adam Booth

Off-road Editor | Articles | Enjoying single track in the mountains, hitting the motocross track or battling an EnduroCross track, if it's on two wheels Boothy will have a smile on his face. Adam has served a mega ton of years in the off-road industry as a photographer, writer and popper of wheelies.

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