There are many scenarios where having the right tool for the job can save you a lot of hassles. KTM’s new 2010 150 XC is filling a small but important place in the motorcycle market that fits that description. It is a 125-sized bike in weight and feel with a boost in power to make it more appealing to those who might be comparing it to a 250F. And it is following a successful bloodline with the XC badge, a minimally and yet properly equipped off-road bike that is claimed to be “ready to race” off the dealer’s showroom floor. Well, like usual, we took KTM up on its claim.We attended the 2010 KTM XC launch at Straddleline ORV Park in Washington State. We arranged for Dirt Rider to get the 150 XC a day early so we could begin the test by racing the WORCS X event, which is like EnduroCross with a slightly faster and longer course. About the only thing I did before the event was to pop a few wheelies to get a feel for the clutch and power, slap on a KTM Hard Parts aluminum glide plate for undercarriage protection, and bolt on my set of Fasst Company Flexx bars because they had Cycra wraparound hand guards installed (mostly to ensure my ability to type this story).The first thing you have to know about this bike is that it truthfully comes ready to race, sans wraparound hand guards; if brush deflectors will do, you are set with the bike bone stock. The bike is simple to start, stock jetting was perfect for the near sea-level location, and it has a light feel you won’t get on any other full-sized motorcycle. The tank-empty weight is less than 205 pounds. And that is with a kickstand, a 2.9-gallon gas tank and an 18-inch tire.The transmission is a semi-wide ratio. Or a long close-ratio, you decide. KTM lowered the overall ratio with the final-drive gearing, so first will work in tricky, tight situations and the gaps are never far apart. Internally the ratios for fourth, fifth and sixth have all been stretched so the bike has just a bit more legs than an SX would have. Of course, the clutch is the excellent Brembo hydraulic unit with simple adjustability and great control. This setup will easily do MX duty, and it has legs for long straights in GPs or fire roads, but you still have to rev it.
Launching a second-gear start in the race was no problem, and keeping up until the first shift was easy, then the bigger bikes pulled me. The 150 has so much more gusto than a 125 it is hard to describe, since the feel and excitement of the orange bike is all 125 goodness, just a bit faster. Where the KTM really shines is in a couple of places. It has a lot more torque than a 125 and will bog along and build power into the midrange much more proficiently. It is less sluggish and more likely to keep pulling than slow down. Then it hits into the midrange where this motor really shines. Since it is packing a heavier flywheel the hit is not as abrupt as the SX was last year, a great thing for off-road, but you still have to be ready for it. Also, the XC pulls better into the top-end than I remember the SX doing, meaning you can let the gears all work a little longer-always good on a small-bore two-stroke. Powerwise there was always enough grunt to lift the front wheel for logs or rocks but not enough outright power to safely launch the bike over some doubles out of tight turns. For sure my weight might have had something to do with that.KTM has made a few changes to the chassis, most notably a revised triple clamp that now puts the offset at 22mm from the 20mm in years previous. This change did not cause much slowing of the turning or add any weight to the steering feel, but it did seem to give the bike some more stability in the faster sections. The suspension was about at its max with my 185 pounds squatting on it, but it took everything the log-, tire- and rock-infested course threw at it without issue, without changes to the clickers, either. For sure faster riders might want some more damping force to slam into things harder, but that would best be solved with heavier springs.I managed a few minor rider-created crashes but also didn’t get dead last. The bike carried me to a placing I was proud of even if it was near the back of the pro class, and there wasn’t much blame for that result on the bike.
Step two of the race test was to tackle the WORCS event the next day. Signed up in 35 Pro, we gated with the 30A class, and it was a struggle to the first turn against Open-class bikes. But slicing through and around them was easy once we got going, especially when traction was in short supply as the 150 was on equal ground at getting grip as well as having to push less bike forward. The bike is so light and flickable that it is much less of a fight than a bigger bike for sure. But you do have to keep alert to keep the bike revving. It is slow if you are bogging the machine, even in the off-road technical sections. Where on a 250F you could relax a bit with the throttle, you have to be twisting it on the 150 to keep pace. But the whole time it is fun. Fun because you are making go-fast sounds and you feel like you are riding great because the sounds tell you so.The suspension, like all of the XCs, is a great blend of moto capability and trail ability. It can move through the stroke enough to be plush yet resist bottoming out on the over-jumps. It is set up perfectly for riders in the 165-pound range but can handle up to 185 with stock springs; go over that and you need to be thinking about stiffer ones. We never felt the need to play with the clickers, but rear race sag setting (near 100mm) goes a long way in making the front end work properly. We felt the front end acting choppy, and it turned out to be the sag of the bike being 10mm too low. As for straight up motocross, the XC will handle it for riders through the intermediate or B-class range, but faster riders will find it a little on the soft side.
So where a 150 shines is in its handling; the KTM has that in spades. The longer front end calms down turning on the 150 compared to a 2009 125 SX without making the steering heavier at all. Since it is so responsive, you can still turn anyplace you want to and maneuver the bike so easily compared to bigger-displacement bikes of any engine configuration. Even a KTM 200.The brakes on the bike are about as powerful and progressive as you will find on any production bike, and the light weight has plenty to do with that. The tank will give you gas for a bit over an hour of riding at full race pace, and that usually translates to the neighborhood of 55 miles in the trails, plus it is really easy to see the fuel level with the clear tank. The top triple clamp has four-position adjustability. KTMs are some of the easiest bikes to work on and have been excellent in durability for us over the years, with parts like pistons and rings lasting up to double the life span of some Japanese brands.So the question is, is there anything we don’t like about this bike? The answer is no. If you are looking for a great small-bore two-stroke off-road bike, there isn’t much in the way of competition. It makes an excellent alternative to a 250 four-stroke, especially for young riders off of 85s. And for a lot of smaller older guys, who used to have 125s and loved them, you can’t believe how far this bike elevates that class. The $6998 price tag may be a bit of a stumbling block for some, but bikes are all getting more expensive, and you are getting a lot of performance for that price. We will guarantee these bikes will be in short supply quickly with smiles all around.
2010 KTM 150 XC
Claimed weight (tank empty): 205 lbWhat’s Hot!
Great boost in power and torque from a “125.”
Manageable power delivery for off-road, peppy enough for moto.
Light feeling like no other bike.
Has just the right off-road equipment.What’s Not!
Where’s the electric start?
What if it were a 175?
You have to put oil in the gas?