Story And Photos By Bob TheobaldWhen was the last time you bought a car without test-driving it? How about the last time you bought a dirt bike without riding it in the dirt? The last bike I bought, I rode up and down the street, but not in the dirt. I wish every dealership had a test track and a fleet of demo bikes. This would help me make a more informed decision on my next bike purchase. Well, KTM provides the next best thing, a traveling fleet of demo bikes, and a great plan to share the bikes with riders at different locations across the country.
I was excited to attend the Phoenix KTM demo day, hot off the heels of Ryan Dungey providing KTM with their first Supercross class victory. KTM brought out their fleet of bikes that range from the 125SX to the 500XCF-W. If you are a two stroke fanatic, they have you covered. If you love four strokes, you are covered. If you want to try something new, you are covered. You can even personally answer the question of two stroke vs. four stroke or linkage vs. linkless because you can ride each one back to back.When I arrived, the KTM semi was easy to spot. Out in front of it was a fleet of bikes lined up ready to go. All I had to do was go through the simple registration process, get my punch card, and gear up. Mark Hyde from KTM started the event with a riders meeting, then depending on what type of bike we chose, we took turns running laps on the fully prepped motocross track at Arizona Cycle Park and a GP style off road course that included singletrack and sand washes.
I went out with an agenda. I love my KTM 300XC, but I wanted to see how the 350XC and 500XCW were in comparison. I started with the 500 and then rode the 350. Both bikes handled very well. I was impressed by how well the suspension worked on both bikes, considering I am much larger than the average rider. The 500 has a lot of go power. This is a wheelie machine. I could also lug it and short shift it. The 350 had plenty of power for me in most situations, but it was a bit soft on the bottom end in the sand washes for my size. Had I not been able to compare them, back to back on the same course, I would not have known the difference between the two bikes. I could definitely see the 500XCW in my garage next to my 300.
I spoke with some of the riders about why they came out to KTM’s demo day. Rob Barney who drove a few hours from San Manuel, Arizona is in the market for a new bike and wanted to try out the various models. By his own admission, he is “a dyed-in-the-wool 2-stroke guy.” His favorite bike was the 250SX. However, after riding some of the four strokes, he said, “I might convert.” Tom Saviano has participated in many KTM events, but this was his first demo day. He was looking for a singletrack bike, and came away liking the 150SX.
I asked Mark Hyde why KTM does the demo days. He said it is a way to get the bikes out in front of the consumer and let the loyal consumers confirm their purchases, as well as let the motocross crowd see what the bikes are capable of… And now we know they are capable of the top step on the podium of Supercross.Hats off to KTM for providing an opportunity like this to any rider wishing to test out their product. Whether they are in the market to buy or want to check out the brand, KTM just wants you to come out to their demo days, ride their bikes, and have a good time. After my quick comparison, I hope that refund check from the IRS will be big enough for a down payment on a new bike.
Editor’s Note: KTM’s figures for the day put the number of sign ups at just
about 180 riders and the total number of demo rides at approximately 800.