KTM has put itself on an even playing field with the almighty Japanese manufacturers. For years people have had a big misconception about where KTM comes from and what its goals are. As you can see from its huge racing effort, KTM is no longer taking baby steps. This year it opened eyes around the world with Grant Langston’s winning the 125 National championship. Not only did KTM win the championship, but Langston battled for the title with teammate Ryan Hughes. KTM is now in the limelight, and the ’04 version of the already potent 125 SX showed serious muscle throughout our comparison. During our lap-time portion of the test, rider Matt Armstrong threw down his fastest lap aboard the 125 SX by nearly two seconds. Although rider opinions are interesting and give good feedback, lap times cannot be disputed. And the truth is that the new KTM is up to par.In the past the handling department has been KTM’s weakest link. The WP suspension has since come a long way. The new 48mm WP fork comes with some new valving to help with the midstroke, eliminate harshness and ensure a more progressive feel. The WP PDS shock comes with a new straight-rate spring (instead of a progressive spring). The new suspension changes are really noticeable compared with last year’s bike. The fork and shock are sensitive to clicker adjustments, and most of our test riders had no problems setting the suspension to their liking. The suspension seemed to work best in faster conditions with a lot of momentum. In rough, slow sections it’s hard to keep the front end planted in the direction you intend to ride. The shock works well in most situations, but the linkless rear end does have a different feel to it. The handling characteristics are really predictable, and you get constant feedback from the front end. The brakes are super-responsive and didn’t show signs of fade. The ergonomics are different. The 125 SX has a very narrow feel to it, and most of the riders praised the change and liked the way the bike felt in rough conditions when using a ton of body English. However, the stock bar takes some time to get used to–it feels high and too far forward.We have been blown away with the power of the KTM 125 SX. The motor simply hauls butt! After the first couple of laps most of our testers were convinced the KTM was a cheater bike. The company has really worked hard and it shows; there is not another 125 that feels close in the motor department. The power is super-smooth. From the bottom-end all the way through the top-end the motor keeps pulling with a ton of overrev. The best part about this motor is it has good, usable power that is controllable; it doesn’t spin the rear tire and gets the power to the ground. The jetting is spot-on–not a miss anywhere in the powerband. The orange flyer also comes stock with a Moto Tassinari V-Force reed valve. Gearing inside the transmission is a close ratio–first and second gear feel close, and we found ourselves shifting more than normal. Under power the transmission feels like butter; missed shifts weren’t too common.From the first day of our test, the KTM shocked everyone. The motor is in a class of its own, and the changes to the WP suspension are huge and make the bike much easier to ride. The brakes are class-leading, and the bike is rider-friendly at any level of talent. The fact that Armstrong had his fastest lap time on the KTM is super-impressive considering he didn’t think it was going to be fastest on that bike. Renthal bars and grips come stock on the KTM, and the graphics are clean and last a long time. When it comes time to buy a new bike, don’t let the orange bang scare you. The KTM 125 SX is for real and is going to have the number-one plate with Grant Langston when the gate drops in the 2004 outdoor season.
| Corey Neuer
ABILITY: Intermediate • AGE: 27 • WEIGHT: 162 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
KTM has done a great job with this bike–it’s super-fast, it has killer brakes and it handles decently. It’s pretty obvious why there is a KTM in the front of the pack at almost every race: The KTM 125 SX has a monster motor. I had no problems sizing up jumps on the KTM, as it had more than enough power. I was also amazed at how perfectly the motor was jetted; it never missed a beat. My only real complaint with the pumpkin is the suspension. It seemed good on some sections but horrible on others. I also had to really search to come up with a good setting. It’s not the easiest bike to set up to your liking–it definitely takes time to adjust to the ergonomics and the feel of the WP suspension. Overall I came away impressed with the KTM; it was a lot better than I thought it would be.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 23 • WEIGHT: 145 lb • HEIGHT: 5’8″
The highlight of the KTM 125 is the power its motor puts out. The motor hits hard off the bottom and pulls well out of corners. Midrange is awesome, it pulls and pulls. Top-end power is strong and has a ton of overrev. The KTM shifts smoothly, and the transmission is consistent. The suspension is a little stiff; I am a tad on the light side so I had to ease up on the compression. The shock soaks up hard impacts well, but it’s a bit harsh in square-edged bumps. The hydraulic clutch is a big advantage; it has a really smooth feel to it and it never seemed to fade.
ABILITY: Vet Intermediate • AGE: 33 • WEIGHT: 165 lb • HEIGHT: 5’10″
I was really impressed with the KTM. The motor is great, comes on strong in the midrange and pulls to the moon. I also really liked the clutch; it had a nice easy pull to it and never gave me any kind of arm-pump. The brakes are gnarly; the front feels as if it came off a roadrace bike and has tons of stopping power. It took some time to get the suspension dialed in. I really had to take my time and get it fine-tuned. I am really shocked at how good this bike is; KTM definitely deserves some serious credit.
ABILITY: Pro • AGE: 18 • WEIGHT: 150 lb • HEIGHT: 5’11″
The KTM 125 SX is super-responsive off the bottom–the minute you crack the throttle the motor responds. It has great midrange and the top end seems to rev forever. The KTM 125 SX was by far the fastest 125 of them all, but unfortunately the bike felt awkward and did not handle very well. The forks were too stiff and had a harsh feeling to them. I played around with the settings but the WP suspension didn’t seem to respond. The shock, however, seemed to soak up breaking bumps really well. I liked the KTM when the track was smooth, but the minute it got rough the bike didn’t do what I wanted it to.
ABILITY: Novice • AGE: 32 • WEIGHT: 160 lb • HEIGHT: 5’7″
The single best aspect of the KTM 125 is the motor. It really is amazing how fast this bike is. It comes on hard in the mid, and rips a long, long time before you have to grab another gear. Anytime I found myself in too tall a gear, all I had to do is keep it pinned and give the clutch a poke. It’s a good thing for KTM the motor is awesome, because the chassis is not my favorite. The KTM feels tall and long, and it seems to have a dip in the seating compartment. In natural-terrain and off-road situations the bike shines, but it feels unnatural in the air. If you like man-made obstacles it might take some time to come to grips with the KTM.