I can’t say I totally had a monogamous relationship with the Dirt Rider 2011 KTM 450 SX-F test machine. Not that I didn’t try. The bike saw a lot of suitors over the course of the fiscal motorcycle calendar. Yes they called it a 2011 but since most motocrossers come out between July and September each year, they should have a “.5″ after each year. I did enjoy the machine for the lion’s share of the year following the shootout, yet it spent a few vacations in the hands of pro Ricky Yorks and then back to the DR staff for selective testing and whatnot. And this was all after early testing in 2010 and it got the snot ridden out of it during the shootout. The bike danced around with different testers but not because it was zero. In my opinion it was a hero, especially after I put my spin on the bike during the “Fixing the MXer” story that appeared in the pages of Dirt Rider.
So what have I learned about this ride? Lots. First off, in stock trim it’s not perfect for a 6’1″ vet racer with a few extra pounds to lug around. KTM addressed soft suspension for the most part on the 2012 model. I had to have the suspension revalved with stiffer springs for this hefty boy. But after that, this little filly was rock solid and very reliable. After a few accessories were slapped on the Kentucky Trash Masher (don’t ask, it’s something my buddies and I came up with back in the mid ’80s) it was more about maintenance over repair.
In the end we put 60-70 hours on the KTM. The piston was stock and the valves were only checked once and they did not need adjusting. We went through 2 1/2 chains and sprockets if you included the stockers. All of the chain sliders showed little sign of wear and did not require replacing. We were pretty fanatical when it came to changing the oil, which I think is cheap insurance. I swapped out the black gold every 2-3 hours of use. The oil filter was replaced every other to every third oil change.Ok, nothing is perfect. You want to know the bike’s weak link? First off, the rims were pretty bent up and needed to be replaced. The rims just didn’t seem to have the durability compared to other brand bikes, or we were just a bunch of thrashers. From day one, the spokes needed consistent attention and were part of every pre-ride inspection. Having a torque spoke wrench is a must-have to keep the proper tension on the spokes. Also keep an eye on the rear sprocket bolts.
The clutch is the only weak link in the engine that we discovered. The rubber cushions on the baskets wear out when the bike is ridden hard. We had a Rekluse standard basket with new bushings ready to install before the bike got called back to KTM. As you may have read, the 2012′s got a new clutch. I would imagine the new clutch should bolt right up to a 2011 or there are options in the aftermarket sector such as Rekluse, for example.The frame paint gets a little beat up and chips off when pelted with rocks. If I had had the bike since birth, I would have installed some sort of skid plate for protection since the front of the engine is very exposed. The stock air filter cage is a little difficult to install so I put in a Twin Air. We also had an FMF slip exhaust that had a removable spark arrestor. Very little power difference, but it looked and sounded sweet.
The performance of the KTM is epic and it puts out lots of power-more than enough for this sap. I would have liked to mess with the gearing a tad more, yet these were minor issues. Low-end jetting can be a little finicky to temperature changes or season changes so we put on an adjustable leak jet as well as a finger-adjustable fuel screw. The chassis is fun to ride-very stable and predictable. Yet the chassis can also feel a little harsh at times, not as forgiving when it comes to hard landings and square-edged bumps compared to some of the aluminum chassis I’ve ridden. On one hand I like the feel, feedback, and control but on the other hand it almost offers up a tad too much feedback, yet I would still own one of these bikes.I would say that the 2011 KTM is a solid machine and would make a good used bike buy if I were looking to save money and still wanted a current model. The 2012 is almost identical except for the clutch and some suspension settings. No, it is not fuel injected but who cares? The power is ample and makes you feel like a hero when you twist the throttle. The only real shortcomings on the 2011 450 SX-F is probably the rims, the clutch basket, and the fact the sucker has a bunch of 13mm bolts all over the bike. And even after the hours we spent on the bike it still felt as solid as when it was new and didn’t even show a hit of feeling starting to feel clapped out.THE GOODS:
-Solid and predicable handling
-Still feels solid after over 60 hoursTHE BADS:
-Rims bend up a little too easy
-Spokes need constant attention
-Clutch basket bushings wear
-Low end jetting a little touchy as climate changes