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

Adam Booth | July 7, 2015

Our trip to the 2016 KTM model intro in Indiana had us sampling a lot of new models, including the all-new 2016 XC-F off-road bikes. The XC/XC-F models are what KTM is all about and also the Austrian marque’s best-selling bikes. The three XC-Fs we rode in Indiana are basically 2016 SX-Fs with 18-inch rear wheels, kickstands, hand guards, different suspension settings, and larger capacity, translucent fuel tanks. The 250 XC-F and 350 XC-F only differ in that they feature six-speed transmissions. Everything else about the XC-Fs is identical; the frames, engines, mapping, gear ratios, plastics, brakes, etc.

2016 KTM 250 XC-FThe 2016 KTM 250 XC-F has improved bottom end power, making wheelies even easier.

 

All the 2016 XC-F models are significantly lighter and if you want a detailed breakdown of the changes to the 2016 XC/XC-F line, read MotoUSA’s 2016 XC/XC-F First Look article. After two days in the woods on a portion of the GNCC course and on the moto track, here is our first impressions of the 2016 250 XC-F, 350 XC-F, 450 XC-F.

 

2016 KTM 250 XC-FThe 2016 KTM 250 XC-F is almost identical to the 2016 KTM 250 SX-F.

 

2016 250 XC-F

Thanks to a new chassis and redesigned engine with more bottom end power, the 2016 is much improved when compared to the 2015. Already a trail favorite, the new 2016 250 XC-F is a lethal weapon when it comes to shredding through tight terrain, thanks to the increased power off idle and quicker turning chassis. Just like the 250 SX-F, the 250 XC-F revs incredibly high, allowing riders to ride down low in the rpm and lug the bike or hold it wide open and scream the impressive 250F engine. The chassis might be the same on all the XC-F bikes but the power delivery creates a different handling character for every model.

The smooth, predictable power of the 250 engine lets the chassis and suspension work wonderfully, creating a plush and balanced ride. The 250 was definitely the easiest to flick around and easiest to manhandle when needed in the Indiana woods. Riders hovering around the 200 pound mark still prefer the extra grunt of the 350 and 450 XC-F but lighter riders loved the 250 XC-F.

The bonus for the all the XC-F models is how well they handle the motocross track. MotoUSA’s lightest and fastest test rider, weighing 145 pounds, loved all the XC-Fs on the moto track, preferring the softer suspension settings. That’s not to say that the XC-Fs are a better choice for the moto track but they are a great choice for the average rider who loves both moto and off-road. The XC-F line is all about diversity.

 

 

 

2016 KTM 350 XC-FThe 2016 KTM 350 XC-F is at home off-road or on a motocross track. 

 

2016 350 XC-F

The all-new 2016 350 XC-F is not only lighter with better bottom end power, the overall handling is improved thanks to the new chassis. Because the 350 XC-F shares the same lower half of the engine with the 250 XC-F, it also sources a six-speed transmission, adding to the versatility. The 350 XC-F is a lot like the 250 XC-F in that it will lug down low and delivers smooth power but also has the ability to rev incredibly high, satisfying the needs of advanced riders who ride aggressively.

Turning the 350 XC-F is easy and predictable. This new generation of KTM chassis is by far the best yet and has us very excited to do some long-term testing! By the end of two days riding the all-new KTM SX-F and XC-F bikes, the 350 XC-F was one of our favorites for its ability to rip the off-road sections and still perform well on the motocross track. It is more flickable and lighter than the 450 XC-F and just slightly heavier feeling than the 250 XC-F. This is the best 350 XC-F KTM has ever produced and a ray of light for riders stuck in the world of wanting more out of a 250 but intimidated by a 450.

2016 KTM 450 XC-FThe 2016 KTM 450 XC-F can go from the woods to the motocross track easily.

 

2016 450 XC-F

As with all the XC-F models, the 450 XC-F feels much like the 450 SX-F with softer suspension. The engine power delivery is smooth but there is a lot of it on tap, so riding it aggressively requires concentration and strength. If the trails are super tight the 2016 450 XC-F can be a handful if not careful with the right hand. Riding a gear high and using the strong torque rewards the rider with traction and an overall softer feel from the chassis and suspension.

A powerful engine ridden aggressively changes the handling characteristics of a bike. A light pull at the clutch lever makes controlling the power more pleasant on the left hand. On more open trails, like GNCC style off-road or in the desert, the 450 XC-F is right at home where the strong power can really be put to use. As with the SX-F, the 450 XC-F feels light, turns easily and overall doesn’t feel like a big 450. Adding to the overall comfort of all the 2016 XC-F models is the use of a rubber mount system for the handlebars, absorbing some shock, while also reducing vibration and adding to overall front end comfort.

2016 KTM 450 XC-FThe 2016 KTM 450 XC-F is the same as the 450 SX-F, minus the 18-inch wheel, hand guards and kickstand. 

The 450 XC-F, just like the 450 SX-F, handles wonderfully. It is light and flickable and for a lot of riders might be a better choice out on the motocross track than the 450 SX-F! We only had two days on the XC-Fs but we know these are the best KTMs yet and will be doing much more testing on all of these bikes 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.