It’s only February. Is it already new bike season? Well, for KTM it is! The 2017.5 450 Factory Edition is here and I had the chance to swing my leg over one for a full day up at Competitive Edge MX Park in Hesperia, California. The 450 Factory Edition doesn’t have as many updates on it like it has in previous years, but the changes that were made were very noticeable on the track. The 2017.5 450 Factory Edition is modeled after Ryan Dungey’s factory Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F that you see him racing in stadiums across the country now. The changes that were made to the Factory Edition from the Standard 450 SX-F are internal suspension valving specs (fork and shock), a Akrapovic slip on muffler, ODI soft half waffle grips, orange frame, orange anodized triple clamps, Selle Dalla Valle gripper seat cover, KTM factory Red Bull graphics, and Black D.I.D Dirtstar rims. With most of the changes cosmetic in nature how much different can the Factory Edition actually be on the track?

2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
The 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition rides as good as it looks.Photo by Sean Klinger

Let’s get to the most noticeable change/feel out on the track. The 2017 KTM 450 SX-F is a great, solid package that packs a punch. However, in our 2017 450 MX Shootout some test riders complained about the fork being soft and sometimes harsh, through the mid-stroke, when trying to combat the soft feeling fork from blowing through. KTM and WP changed the 48mm AER’s fork piston material, changed the valving and went to a different fork seal slider to help free up the overall action of the fork on the track. Not a big change on paper right? Well out on the track those two changes are felt immediately when the track gets bumpy. The WP AER fork has more of a free feeling to it (similar to the KYB SSS fork) and the action is smooth. I didn’t feel a harsh spot through the entire stroke and was able to get comfortable once I went from 106mm of shock sag to 104mm. This helped the front-end stick through corners and gave me a good amount of front wheel traction. I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of air forks and their constant change in feel throughout the day, but I am extremely impressed with the WP’s AER fork. The change over the course of the day was minimal and I only had to slow the rebound down a couple clicks and stiffen the compression up two clicks as well. This was a very happy setting for me throughout the whole day. When the track got some decent sized braking bumps, the fork didn’t dive too much and the balance of the suspension was superb. To me this was the big difference when going from a standard 2017 KTM 450 SX-F to the Factory Edition model. I could change up my lines (to the sometimes shorter, rougher line) on the track easier with the Factory Edition model and the overall comfort that I had was improved as well. This goes to prove that you don’t have to make big changes in bike set up in order to get big changes out on the track. I can honestly say that when I was riding the Factory Edition, I was second-guessing myself as to what I was feeling was that much better than the standard 17 model. But as the day wore on it became very clear. When the track changed for the worse, the KTM 450 Factory Edition didn’t and the constant comfortable feel that a rider needs to go fast, was there for me throughout the day. The rear of the bike felt similar to the 2017 version and felt a little soft on high-speed compression, but going a quarter of a turn stiffer helped it from riding too low up jump faces. I also like the fact that over acceleration bumps the rear of the bike feels planted and doesn’t have much side-to-side movement.

2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
An Akrapovic slip-on muffler is standard on the 2017.5 450 Factory EditionPhoto by Sean Klinger

The Factory Edition engine also felt like it pulled slightly better than the standard 2017 450 SX-F out of corners (maybe due to the Akrapovic slip on muffler). Throttle response feels about the same, but it just feels like there is a touch more meat when exiting corners. The KTM’s second gear has got to be the widest gear out of any current 450 motocross machine today. I can pull second gear so far down straights (after a tight corner) and do not need to shift right away coming out of corners. However, third gear is tall and you will need to give the KTM a moderate amount of clutch to pull you out of deeper tilled turns. I am used to running third gear (on most 450’s) in corners, as I like to work smarter not harder, but once I get used to using second gear more on the KTM, I became quite fond of downshifting in some cases. Not to say third gear isn’t useable in some corners, its just the KTM likes to rev and if it likes to rev I am going to accommodate it by doing so. I would maybe recommend for all you riders that like to lug the engine, maybe try and go to a one-tooth larger sized rear sprocket. The KTM Factory Edition has almost zero vibration and is great on rear wheel traction. Even without the Traction Control button on, the number 1 standard map provides excellent control from the riders throttle hand to the rear wheel. The number 2 aggressive map was more accommodating for me in the early morning hours as the track was tilled deep, but as the track got hard packed I used the number 2 map with the TC on. This is a great way to ensure that you do not get too happy on the throttle hand coming out of corners (and lose the rear end) when its hacked up and dry.

2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
More orange is better right?Photo by Sean Klinger
2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
ODI half waffle soft grips and anodized orange triple clamps is all part of the new look the Factory Edition carries.Photo by Sean Klinger
2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
The Selle Dalla Valle seat cover is a nice touch, but not too aggressive on your rear.Photo by Sean Klinger

The looks of the KTM are very impressive. The sheer beauty of the orange frame makes me salivate when I am gazing at the Factory Edition while sitting in the back of my truck. Brakes are the usual top notch feel and the ergos are good besides one small problem. The shrouds bow out just a little on the tops and this hinders my leg movement when I am diving into corners. When lifting my leg in ruts I could feel the tops of the radiators and shrouds digging into the back of my knee brace area. I started getting used to it by the end of the day, but I still had to consciously think about where I am putting my leg when its upward in corners. Bump absorption of the chassis is great when square edge appears. Even when the bike is not perfectly straight up and down and you are leaning under acceleration, the frame has a comfortable feeling and will not give you a sense of deflection. The overall cornering ability is good once I got my sag dialed in. Like I said earlier going from 106mm to 104mm of sag proved to give me the right amount of front wheel traction (as I am a big front end steering rider) that I needed when entering corners. The KTM 450 Factory Edition lays over nicely and you are able to feel the lack of overall weight of the orange machine, especially when you’re coming off of another colored 450cc motorcycle.

Kris Keefer on 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
The lightweight feeling of the KTM is very noticeable in the air.Photo by Sean Klinger

To answer your question “is the 450 Factory Edition that much better than the standard 2017 450 SX-F”? To me the answer is “yes, it is”. The small changes they did make made a difference in pulling power and overall suspension feel when the track gets rough. Not everyone loads up the truck when the track gets rough and goes home. I feel like KTM has a machine here that let’s a rider look at a rough track and makes him want to stay and ride, not load up and go home. 500 of these 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Editions will be in dealers soon, if they’re not in there already and from the time I have spent on one, I can assume they won’t be in there for long.

Kris Keefer riding 2017.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
Senior Test Editor Kris Keefer was very impressed with the 2017.5 orange machine. Cornering the KTM takes minimal effort once you find the correct sag setting for your riding style.Photo by Sean Klinger