2017 KTM 350 SX-F Review

KTM’s mid-weight motocrosser gets air-thereal up front.

We are getting tired of having to stick up for the 350cc power plant just because most professional racers don't race one, so we are just going to be blunt here. A majority of casual to even serious moto riders don’t need and can’t use all of the brute force of a modern 450. And yes, the KTM 350 SX-F really does have the the positive characteristics of both the 250 and 450 SX-Fs. If you are in the market for a new bike to ride at you favorite tracks, give a 350 a good hard look. For 2017 KTM gave the same changes to all of the SX-F bikes and they are: WP AER 48 fork, aluminum upper engine mounts, softer rear spring, traction control, stiffer top triple clamp, 10mm longer brake pedal, and new handlebar clamps.

KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
The 2017 KTM 350 SX-F has the same egos/frame orientation that the '16 had, which was a big change for that year. It give the bike a flatter seat and thinner overall feel. This does a couple things; it makes it easier for the rider to slide forward for turns and back for whoops and the thinner feel gives the bike a small, nimble feel. You sit on the KTM, not "in" it like some other bikes.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
KTM's have been known for their stellar braking performance and this year all of the 2017 SX-F models received new brake pad material that is designed to give better feel and a more progressive action. When brakes are too strong, they can be hard to modulated and turn the brake pedal into an on/off switch. On the track, the rear brake is less likely to lock up and is easier to control. This is especially helpful when going down steep hills since you don't ever what the rear to be completely locked. The rear brake pedal is also 10mm longer. This wasn't an issue that we had in the past with KTM's but we guess some people did. It still feels normal to us.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
The motor on the '17 350 SX-F is the same as last years model but mounts securing that motor to the frame are different. They have been swapped from steel to aluminum and are stiffer and lighter. All manufactures this year seem to be really fine tuning their bike's chassis feel. Right off the bat, we can't say that the new upper engine mounts changed the way the bike handled but we can say that there is still a place for steel frames in motocross.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
Air forks for all! We haven't been impressed with other air forks, yet the WP AER 48 is the best one that we've ridden and yes, it is better than the 4CS fork. There is a suppleness and level of comfort that other air forks just can't match. And, what is even better is that there is only one air chamber to check and fill. For our pro level rider, the fork was actually on the soft side (as well as the shock) and he added some pressure to chamber. Our slower vet-paced rider felt that the pressure was fine, just that the fork seemed to want to stay high in the stroke and hard to initiate turns. The KTM tech on hand suggested to go four clicks softer on compression (which is what he also did when breaking in the bike) just to get the fork to be more compliant.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
New for 2017 is KTM's traction control. If you haven't read about it yet, it is a relatively simple system. Rather than wheel sensors (which are illegal for competition) the ECU just monitors throttle control and engine rpm. If there is a sudden spike in rpm without a throttle position change, the system will slightly retard the ignition. This is a very subtle system and is only noticeable when the track is really baked out and dusty and you get really lazy with the throttle application, in which case the traction works pretty seamlessly. Overall we are fans of the system since there isn't any downside to speak of as of yet.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
You can see the one Schrader valve on the fork cap and the bleed valve next to it. You still have to set both fork legs to atmospheric pressure before each ride. Another new item on the 2017 bike is a more stout upper triple clamp which is aimed at making the handling more precise, which it does. It is a subtle change but the new triple clamp (along with the new engine mounts, most likely) make this 350 SX-F more willing to lean into turns and more stable when leaned over. It doesn't handle like a yellow bike but the 350 is a really easy bike to point where you want it to go. Again, having an overall very light package doesn't hurt.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
There are two engine maps on the 2017 350 SX-F which are very simple to change on the fly via the handle bar switch. Map 1 is standard and Map 2 is aggressive and we typically always go for the aggressive map, but that isn't the case with the 350. In Map 1 there is a broad spread of power that starts pretty low (not as low as a 450, mind you) and pulls to a great, strong mid-rang and just keeps climbing to a rocket ship-like top end. Map 2 does add a little down low but it isn't worth the penalty of loosing that super fun upper rpm power.Photo By Drew Ruiz
KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike
The KTM 350 SX-F is really the do-it-all moto bike. You can ride it like a 450, using its torque to get you around the track, or you can ride it like a 250 and just keep revving and revving and revving. Plus, it handles like a 250. About the only downsides we can say is that it doesn't have the raw grunt of a 450, it isn't the quickest turning bike when compared to certain 250Fs, and it doesn't have an orange frame.Photo By Drew Ruiz