KTM has decided it is time to define its model lines even further and make a bold statement with a type of bike that only it produces. The idea is to make the XC line a benchmark so lofty that riders converting to motocross bikes or pumping up trail bikes have something to shoot for. While at it, KTM has quite possibly developed the ultimate GNCC/hare scramble/grand prix race bike, a machine most riders will find is perfect on the track and an acceptable trail bike. It is the bike a lot of us try to build, a sort of “do-all machine” that doesn’t suffer anyplace-at least, not suffer much.All-new for 2008 and based heavily off of the ’07 SX, the 450 XC-F has a much more serious mission statement than DR’s 2006 Bike of the Year. The chassis is straight-up SX with the large-section oval chrome-moly tubing first seen on ’07 motocross models, and it houses a motor that is very similar to the electric-start-only ’07 450cc motocross engine. But stuffed inside is a five-speed tranny (one more gear than the SX, but one less than the previous XC). Tuned differently than its motocross brother, the XC has an exhaust cam timing that is revised for added bottom to mid power and matched to a lighter crank that has more inertia combined with a lighter balance shaft. This all makes for a more off-road-worthy power delivery. The engine is brought to life by the EXC-size battery for stronger and longer cranking power, and KTM changed the clutch so it’s fed more oil, which helps keep engine temperatures down. There is also a dual-map ignition activated by disconnecting a wire near the radiator.Suspension duties are still handled by a PDS WP linkageless shock and a sealed cartridge fork with settings developed specifically for the longer courses the bike is intended to race. Hence the bike is sold as a closed-course competition model without a spark arrestor, so if you install a spark arrestor that is 96 decibels or less, you can ride it in most places on public land or during “red sticker” time in California.We hooked up with KTM at Lake Elsinore MX Park on a warm afternoon for our first ride on the bike and to shake down any jetting issues that might arise from a bike fresh out of the crate. None did. In fact, the bike ripped like it had been set up specifically for this track. Straight away, the power is impressive. Smooth right from the bottom, it pulls like a full-on factory race motor in style, meaning a consistently building strong pull that revs forever and doesn’t really sign off nor hit a rev-limiter. It is only differentiated from an unobtainable race motor in the outright amount of power. This sweet power is blessed with a five-speed tranny that we’d describe as medium-spaced ratios. And with the power spread this wide and strong, it easily pulls the load and gets a lot of work out of each gear, as you’d expect a four-stroke to do.Next on the list is the light feel of the bike. It is every bit as light in feel as any 450cc MX four-stroke. That means flickable, where it is easy to move the bike around on the ground or in the air. And it grabs an amazing amount of traction-the front bite is good, but it is better in the rear. Turning is very neutral, and the bike gives solid feedback, bonus to the Bridgestone tires. On the motocross track, the suspension gets the job done and then some. It seems KTM has found a way to keep the bike stiff enough on jumps, landings and when bouncing through whoops so you don’t suffer one bit on the track. We tackled all of the supercross-style jumps-camelback, rhythm and step-up-that send bikes with any type of off-road setup running scared. Simply put, this bike is not afraid of the track one bit and is even better than ’07′s SX for 90 percent of riders out there. The motor is better for sure. Every one who rode the XC found the riding accommodations slim, smooth and roomy, but the seat foam is a bit thin, so don’t get too comfortable.