The Bike of the Year award is not 100 percent performance-based, but for this winner it could be. The BOTY is a statement about where our market is going and how far manufacturers are pushing the envelope, which this bike does. It is a little groundbreaking, sometimes very practical and usually a bit controversial. Criteria met, the KTM 450 XC is a slam dunk and the easiest BOTY vote Karel Kramer can remember, and he’s been through a few.The 450 XC sacrifices very little in performance and about the biggest drawback may be one of its strongest California sales points. It comes with lean enough jetting to qualify for a green sticker, meeting the tailpipe emissions standard. Concerned about performance? Who doesn’t change jetting on a race machine to achieve optimum performance, right? The XC isn’t even equipped with a spark arrestor, so you can’t ride it legally on public land in the first place. What kind of message is KTM trying to send? That the bike is a no-holds racing machine for closed-course use, which it is. But the right owner, who knows he wants that higher, more aggressive level of performance, has only to find a S/A-equipped muffler that meets sound (below 96 decibels) and it’s clear sailing for any kind of riding his heart desires.The XC comes with all the stuff that is nearly impossible to get on a motocross bike. A six-speed tranny and electric starting. Plus nuggets like steel valves instead of titanium, just to be on the safe side. It doesn’t have the girth that so easily sticks to a “fully compliant” off-road bike, where regulations dreamt up deep in a bureaucratic den snuff out performance, with very little if any bearing on the real world. Leave the lights and odometers to the customer, if they desire. It evokes KTM’s ready-to-race philosophy so well that the XC is plain and simply ready to ride. Anywhere.And the anywhere part is what sets this bike into a new classification. Other makers have tried, but KTM seems to have struck the magic combination. It isn’t a strict motocross bike, but it can do MX and do it quite well. The motor has plenty, and the suspension is stiff enough to handle it. Maybe its specialty, if we can say it has one, is the ability to race GNCC or WORCS or Grand Prix-style off-road, it has that completely covered. Going on a trail ride, the bike only gives a little in its standard setup, call it aggressive. The suspension is somewhat stiffer, but the motor has a tame nature for the toughest trail situations, while still being plenty SX-like in delivering excitement.As good an individual machine as the 450cc is, the whole line of KTM XCs have the same focus and performance, just the displacement changes. For this, KTM takes Bike of the Year.
KTM 450 Xc
Over the years I have seen KTM thrive by anticipating off-road markets, and with the XC lineup, I think it has holeshot another race for untapped market share. More and more riders who are off-road guys by nature-especially existing KTM riders-are riding some moto, as practice tracks provide an attractive and convenient riding opportunity. And off-road race series are including more moto-inspired elements, so practicing on a track makes sense. Then if you can only afford one bike or prefer to spend the time to maintain only one, the KTM XC line and the 450 XC in particular make great sense. In a time when many riders feel that 450s are too much, KTM responds with an MX-spec motor with an electric start and stainless steel valves. It remains a totally off-road-capable race weapon, with a transmission that will let it go 100 mph. I got two of my friends to spend their cash on a 450 XC, and both of them are in love.Jimmy Lewis
KTM 450 XC
It is in the polish that KTM easily wins this. The KTM has a do-everything motor, wrapped it in a do-everything chassis and with it a do-everything suspension-the whole machine is imbued with long-lasting durability. As good as Honda was at surpassing the rules with the CRF450X last year, KTM is at just meeting them, so you as a rider can decide what you want to make this bike into. Just a few parts, such as a larger gas tank and some lights, and this bike would be like a Transformer. I could get rid of the 20-something bikes that I cram in my garage and replace it with this one. Almost-it can’t replace the minibikes.Derek Steahly
KTM 450 XC-or any XC for that matter
Karel says it is a niche bike, but I think it’s more of an all-encompassing bike. It has the capacity to do trails, off-road racing and motocross without doing more than making a few adjustments to the suspension clickers. Plus, it has an electric start. It will be the bike for every WORCS, GNCC and GP racer, as well as any off-roader who likes to spend time on the moto track. That’s not a niche; it includes everyone who doesn’t exclusively race moto.Jesse Ziegler
The Kawasaki KX450F is my personal choice for bike of the year because it came into the most competitive class of off-road motorcycling and arguably whooped the guts out of everything else-even the mighty CRF450. Although this bike didn’t win our 450 shootout (I voted it number one), it still took my BOTY vote simply because Kawasaki built a winner that can beat what other manufacturers release as their second-, fourth- and fifth-generation bikes. As Kawasaki’s flagship model and poster child for its new emphasis on motocross dominance, the KX450F is the finest example of first-year bikes this industry has ever seen. I like to ask people who doubt the KX450F, “What first-year model has been better?” The answer is none. At least, none that I’ve seen. Kawasaki looked the devil in the face and jumped into the fire with a potently pleasing motocross machine. I vote the Kawasaki KX450F the Bike of the Year because it wasn’t scared.Chris Denison
When I recently announced that my bike of the year pick is the CRF150F, I received more than a few sneers. Well, sneer away, little sneerers, because the 150 rules! I think to be the Bike of the Year a machine needs to be versatile, universal and well-rounded. What is more well-rounded than a bike that you, your girlfriend, your little brother and your best friend Bob can all jump on and have a complete blast? Between the electric start, the solid suspension, an excellent motor and a fun factor of about a million, the CRF150F is guaranteed to spring a smile on the face of any rider, from a complete beginner to an AMA pro. Add to this the fact that the Honda is known to be durable, easy to work on and fairly inexpensive, and you have a winner with me.