Okay, let’s get this out in the open for those who don’t already know – I’ve never been much of a KTM lover over the last decade. I used to ride for them back in my early teens and had one of the quickest 85s out on the track – it was awesome! I was close to a factory rider aged 14 and Bryan ‘Badger’ Goss who was the importer at the time threw more bikes and trick parts my way than Tom Jones’ fans threw knickers.

I then had to move up to the 125cc but around that time I sadly lost my dad and I took some time out. When I came back for some reason or another KTMs never floated my boat and even when they cranked it up a decade or so ago their production models didn’t win me over – although to this day Jamie Dobb’s 2000 factory 125cc is one of the best bikes I’ve ridden.

Anyway, that was then and this is now and if you haven’t worked it out already KTM have won me over by persistence towards perfection and by toning up and revamping their look. Kinda like a girl you went to school with who all of a sudden looks h-h-h-hotter than hell, the sorta fine filly you’d love to swing your leg over. Yeah, I can honestly say I get the whole KTM thing now. It’s like ‘oh yeah, we’ve connected’! Stratie – I too feel the love…

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It’s not just the all new 350SX-F that has me smitten, I reckon the entire range of KTM motocross bikes (and what a comprehensive range it is by the way) has really come on leaps and bounds in just the last couple of years. Now they’ve built a bike that in the right hands could quite easily win AMA Supercross Main Events on a regular basis and I would’ve never said that a few years ago. That’s obviously the aim for KTM and credit to them for building a bike to do just that. Like it or lump it, America still owns the lion’s share of the motocross market and I get the feeling KTM need to break that market just to validate what they already know. Could this be the bike that sees them conquer America?

Maybe it won’t be quite that successful but it’s certainly a big step in the right direction. So let’s get down to brass tacks and let me do my best to describe to you what it’s like to ride…

How about awesome, light, fast, manoeuvrable? You get the idea. This bike is the new weapon of choice for sure, well at least as far as I’m concerned and here’s why. Personally, I think a 450 is just that little bit too much for the average club racer. The only rider I’ve ever really seen with my own minces asking for more out of a 450 is Ricky Carmichael and considering he’s affectionately known as the GOAT I think that speaks volumes.

The 350 is a powerplant that caters for a wider spectrum of abilities. An aggressive, solid semi-pro racer will be able to rev the knackers off it and throw it around with the agility and grace of a Romanian gymnast. Then for more of a smoother, calculated rider or amateur it has this ability to run taller gears through the turns and use a great bottom-end torque that won’t put the willies up you!

Basically, the 350SX-F is the best of both worlds. It has the agility and feel of a 250 and all the power you’ll ever need to use from a 450. This bike was an integral part of KTM getting Stefan Everts’ signature on a contract – he was as good as involved with the project before the ink dried and you can see his influence in it. He talks about it with such affection and I believe this bike is a major contributing factor in also getting Cairoli defecting to the orange army. It really is that good.

With the 350SX-F being a completely new bike and totally different to anything else out there it’s hard to pinpoint the technical advances in its DNA. The frame is an all-new chrome-moly steel central double cradle design for all of the 2011 four-stroke Katooms that compared to previous SX models has higher torsional stiffness for better stability while the longitudinal rigidity is reduced to give better handling with the suspension. Which it does – but it’s probably not just that alone.

It’s probably been one of the worse kept secrets in motocross so it’s no real surprise to see the linkage fitted but, surprisingly, it’s only fitted to the SX-F range and not the two-smokers. The reason, according to KTM, is that the PDF suits the lighter and more nervous characteristics of the two-stroke so that also means the two-strokes have a different frame to suit.

So, armed with new frames and with WP now being part of the KTM group and closer to the factory in Austria for constant testing, all the SX-F models definitely handle better than ever. A result for them for sure in an area some would argue has been their Achilles’ heel. Now put that with a high-revving yet torquey motor and – let’s be honest – you’re onto a winner really.

With the new Keihin EFI and 42mm throttle body all the four-strokes are lightning off the bottom but because the 350 hasn’t got those extra 100cc you can crack open the throttle hard and not feel like you’re going to take off into orbit. It’s quick but manageably quick and it doesn’t want to leave you flapping like your granny’s knickers on a washing line. Then you get into this brilliant area of power as you transfer from bottom to mid where you can either leave it in that gear, keep the tension on the throttle cable and push it to valve bouncing RPMs or just hook a gear and use the grunt. It’s gert and it’s lush and I loved it. As you work up through into the top-end it just keeps going and revs to 13,000 RPM where the 450 goes to 11,600 so if you’re a serial revver it will take all your abuse and then some.

I could fill pages and pages talking about the 350SX-F but with five other bikes to mention there isn’t the space. This is a bike test, I’ve tested it and all that really matters here is what it performs like and in my opinion on this occasion the future really is orange. You don’t even have to kickstart the thing either – I mean come on, play fair.

But let’s not lose sight of just how good the other four-stroke bikes either side of the 350 are though. It’s fair to say the 250SX-F has really been the bike that has got KTM to this stage and yet again it’s an improvement. Now armed with EFI and the linkage to go with that grunty motor it definitely has a new edge to it. No question it handles better and the new ergonomics on the SX-F and SX range have definitely helped the cause.

The cylinderhead has had a little bit of a nip and tuck too. Two overhead camshafts and DLC coated finger followers activate the four titanium valves while the optimised fluidic intake channel offers more gas flow and therefore more power. There are new camshafts too with different valve timings which are adapted to improve the gas flow into the new intake channel and header pipe.

The 450 is still a brute but with the new frame and linkage it’s just that little bit easier to tame. Now it’s matured that little bit more and like wine tastes a little bit better for it although I do have to say I found the front forks to be softer in their stroke than the other two SX-Fs and when you get the hammer down it felt a little unbalanced between front and rear into the corners. But that said the improvement in the plushness and ride in general make it such an improved bike even if the motor hasn’t really advanced that much. For raw grunt this baby is still pulling more than enough horses for sure. Just put it in third, roll on the throttle and you’ll sail over most jumps and slingshot out of turns with minimal effort.

With three very good four-strokes it’s so refreshing to see KTM stick to their policy on manufacturing two-strokes. Because for old gits like me from that generation they were the stable diet we were brought up on I’ve got to say I love the fact KTM aren’t just churning out the same model with new graphics, they’ve made the effort with new frames and ergonomics and plastics like the four-strokes.

For the 250SX they’ve even developed the cylinder with a lower exhaust port and new shaped exhaust that has a bigger diameter at the connection to the silencer which has made it easier to ride. The awesome two-stroke rip is still there but now it rolls into where you want it rather than snatching like a fat kid in a sweetshop. It was so easy to roll up to short, steep-faced jumps and just push down into the seat and bounce over them with a quick blip.

As for the 150SX, well, that is just so much fun. I honestly think it would not do an up-and-coming kid any harm to race one of these for a while before making the transition to the 250 four-stroke. It really sharpens your skills but has enough bite to demand respect because if you’re not concentrating it can get away from you. Awesome and I want one. Not quite as much as I want Sienna Miller but I want one nonetheless.

The 125SX was the first bike I went out on and I completely blew myself out on it and couldn’t get enough. By its very nature you just have to ride the wheels of it the best you can. If that’s not your style then get a 150 or a 250cc four-stroke but if you want a challenge of pushing yourself and testing your self-control then get one of these. Self-control because all you want to do is light it up.

Of course, there are other 125s on the market but this is the bike that reignited a wayward brand and put them back on the map and it’s clear to see why. What’s the powerband like? It starts when you twist the throttle and ends when you can’t twist it anymore. Serious 125 racers will no doubt tune it to their needs but I honestly believe it doesn’t need more than a pipe and a few minor tweaks to get a bike that will become an addiction to you, as will the 150.

Yep, the whole range of 2011 KTMs are the start of the next generation for the Austrian firm I reckon. The Brembo brakes are so strong but have a great feeling, particularly the front. The WP units just keep getting better as KTM and WP work in harmony with the relationship between the frame and suspension. The new look and the slim ride position is awesome and it allows you to move around better than ever before and just seems to have a tolerance for varying riding styles. Like you can sit a little further forwards or rearwards and it doesn’t seem to matter. There’s plenty of space.

The new grab handles integrated into the rear mudguard are a nice touch and fair play to KTM for going with the theory I’ve always held that silver rims not only make it look lighter, they don’t show the evidence when they’ve been mullered by rocks. The little touches like the ‘no tool’ easy access airbox and removable seat don’t go unnoticed and the fact the nuts and bolts are restricted to two sizes is pretty cool making the KTMs easy to work on. And let’s not forget the trick KTM patented billet triple clamps.

So to summarise, what’s my verdict on the 2011 KTM motocross range? I’d be lying if I said they are anything but exceptionally good. So on that note, they’re rubbish! Well, us blokes will never admit we’re in love now would we? And I have definitely been won over…

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Specification:

125SX
Capacity: 124.8cc
Bore and stroke: 54mm x 54.5mm
Transmission: Six-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP PDS (336mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1480mm
Ground clearance: 385mm
Dry weight: 88.8kg
Price: £4945

150SX
Capacity: 143.6cc
Bore and stroke: 58mm x 58.4mm
Transmission: Six-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP PDS (336mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1480mm
Ground clearance: 385mm
Dry weight: 88.8kg
Price: £5145

250SX
Capacity: 249cc
Bore and stroke: 66.4mm x 72mm
Transmission: Five-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP PDS (336mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1495mm
Ground clearance: 385mm
Dry weight: 93.8kg
Price: £5495

250SX-F
Capacity: 248.6cc
Bore and stroke: 76mm x 54.8mm
Transmission: Six-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP with linkage (330mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1495mm
Ground clearance: 375mm
Dry weight: 99.9kg
Price: £6145

350SX-F
Capacity: 349.7cc
Bore and stroke: 88mm x 57.5mm
Transmission: Five-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP with linkage (330mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1495mm
Ground clearance: 375mm
Dry weight: 103.9kg
Price: £6345

450SX-F
Capacity: 449.3cc
Bore and stroke: 97mm x 60.8mm
Transmission: Five-speed
Fuel tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Front suspension: WP USD 48mm (300mm travel)
Rear suspension: WP with linkage (330mm travel)
Front brake: 260mm disc
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Seat height: 992mm
Wheelbase: 1495mm
Ground clearance: 371mm
Dry weight: 106.9kg
Price: £6545

 

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