Those who learned of civil liberty in school may be groaning, but the 2010 KTM 450 XC-W ISDE Edition is a different “civil liberty.” Maybe it should have a comma? This bike is super civil, and with a six-speed, good fuel range, quiet power, decent lights and off-road legality it gives you the liberty to attempt any sort of off-road riding or racing you could be interested in. Plus, since it is the ISDE Edition, perhaps we should add value to that title.For the last decade or so KTM has made up a lot of ground on other brands’ off-road models by offering tons of value for the price. Sure at $8798 this KTM might be a bit more expensive than a Japanese off-road bike, but it comes better equipped and prepared for a higher level of performance. For those who still buy a motocrosser and convert it, how much are you saving when you need to buy an O-ring chain, larger tank, 18-inch wheel and tire, kickstand and quiet muffler? And how much does sixth gear cost? A KTM comes with all the goodies you need to ride and race off-road, and the company continues to upgrade the goodies.
New for ’10 is a D.I.D lightweight, low-drag X-ring chain. Since this is an ISDE Edition it comes even better prepared. In the past KTM has made a run of specially equipped enduro models to use as rental and team support bikes for the ISDE. Some importers buy up the extras, but for 2010 KTM is making all U.S. 450 and 530 XC-W models ISDE Editions with special Portugal graphic packages. The graphics are the least of it, though.The ISDE Edition comes with a quick-release plastic skid plate, push-button fork bleeders, pull handles for the front axle and rear brake pads, a two-part steel/aluminum rear sprocket and other goodies. The most radical addition is a lightweight, thermostatically controlled European-model cooling fan. We could hear the fan working, but we never actually boiled the bike over in slow technical riding. Lights come stock on the bike for 2010 as well.
Those value-added items alone could probably explain the price tag, but the bike itself gets some great upgrades including a new frame that works in concert with a 22mm-offset triple clamp, suspension tuning and lighter Excel rims. The backbone of the frame is changed to attach 10mm lower on the steering head tube. That lowers the tank, changes the angle of the seat, drops the engine a bit lower and forward, and steepens the shock angle, which changes the way the rear suspension forces affect the front suspension. All of which it shares with its SX-F motocross brother. One of the few complaints we had with the 2009 was cam-chain clatter that showed up early, and was loud enough to erode our confidence and motivate us to install a Dirt Tricks cam chain tensioner. For ’10 the tensioner and cam chain slides and guides are upgraded to fix the problem.
During our testing we spent time on a WORCS course and some designated forest trails in Washington State, hit our normal high-desert mountain trails and even got the speed up on plenty of two-track roads. For the slippery Washington terrain the 450 had a little too much motor, and it hit too hard for the traction available. But this is a KTM, and it has a dual-curve ignition. We unplugged the wire that switches the ignition map to a softer one (there are handlebar switches from KTM and the aftermarket to switch maps on the fly), and that worked better for the conditions. For the woods and mountains we would have gone for lower final drive gearing, but the stock six-speed is plenty flexible to handle the stock gearing, and it, too, is slightly lower than in 2009. Our bike started easily with kick or button and carbureted typically lean for an off-road bike. For the closed-course WORCS race we raised the needle three clip positions and rerouted the crankcase breather from the carburetor, and then it carbureted very well. It has all the acceleration you could want when you twist the throttle but can be super docile at low rpm. Add in a more-than-reasonable exhaust note and you have an engine that is a winner. With the six-speed and easy-pull hydraulic clutch, the XC-W is willing and controlled for technical, tight trails, yet will blur your vision and spike your heart rate if you find the room to uncork sixth gear, or just twist the throttle at any speed.
As mentioned, this chassis got all the 2010 SX-F upgrades including the 2009 shock with the 14mm PDS needle, new suspension settings and the new triple clamps. It doesn’t have the SX sealed cartridge fork, but the WP open cartridge fork is more supple in rocks and roots, so it is a better choice here. The XC-W is planted and solid on the trail, yet it turns in very nicely and has accurate steering. The same changes have resulted in a less busy feel to the front at speed. In Washington the suspension was plush enough to handle nasty roots and rocks, but remember that a WORCS course includes a motocross section. We had a real, existing motocross track incorporated into the loop, and the suspension handled the G-loads and landings fine. If we stiffened the settings a bit, the bike could easily be at home for moderate motocross use. Once we were in the SoCal desert and the more open terrain let us hit whoops and gullies with more speed, the suspension reacted supplely and smoothly. From now on the old saying is reversed: A baby’s butt is as smooth as an XC-W’s suspension. We did find that stiffer settings made the orange bike happier in the sand, but that is normal. In all, the changes KTM made to the XC-W make it brutal on the competition but easy on the rider.Specifications: 2010 KTM 450 XC-W ISDE Edition
Claimed Dry Weight: 247 lb
Actual Weight (tank full): 267 lb
Seat Height: 37.4 in.
Seat-to-Footpeg Distance: 20.9 in.
Footpeg Height: 16.5 in.
Ground Clearance: 12.4 in.
Sound Test: 95.0 dbWhat’s hot!
Absolutely race and ride ready right off the showroom floor.
Roomy and adjustable riding position.
Quality components and features.
Unique and striking graphics package.
Six-speed, E-start, powerful brakes.What’s Not!
Power delivery is a little abrupt for super-technical riding.
|Other Notes: 40 leak jet, rerouted crankcase breather hose|
|Shock –||Low-spd. comp.:||15||12-15|
Modifications We’d Like To Try: More powerful headlight so we don’t have to stop riding. And if we’re heading to gnarly trails, we’ll lower the gearing.
5’11″/195 lb/Expert trail riderThis bike is really smooth! It is so easy to ride that I wouldn’t consider any other bike for days with long miles. I was on a nasty technical trail getting whacked in the head by bushes. On my 300 XC I’m thinking, “Cover the clutch, watch the pipe, careful with the throttle,” but on the 450 I was thinking, “Man, on this bike I don’t have to worry about anything but ducking!” It doesn’t have the raw energy of my 300 two-stroke, but it does feel more calm and relaxed in rocks and it vibrates much less.
5’10′/185 lb/A riderThe first thing that struck me about the 450 XC-W was the engine character and the sudden and powerful bottom-end. It is the kind of snap that 450cc MX bikes were looking for just a few short years ago. For me and for off-road in general, I think this is too much and going to the “softer” ignition curve only changed the mid and top-end pull. It lights up the rear wheel too quickly and in reality, in tough-to-get-traction situations, is more power than you’d really need; take care with the throttle on our trails. Unless you are out doing Karel Kramer hillclimbs, then it is different. Maybe this is why I like 400s better? And I haven’t been on the KTM XC-W four-strokes enough lately to notice the subtle changes in handling (all better than I remember compared to past bikes), but I will tell you that 99 percent of riders would not find any fault with this package for anything short of MX. And from experience, as these bikes break in, they get better and better. Even the power has a way of softening up!