2019 Factory Off-Road Bikes—Taylor Robert’s KTM 450 XC-F

Prepped for ISDE competition

Taylor Robert is one of the smoothest riders on the off-road circuit and he sets his bike up to accommodate his style.
Taylor Robert is one of the smoothest riders on the off-road circuit and he sets his bike up to accommodate his style.Shan Moore

While covering the recent Chestnut Corner Full Gas Sprint Enduro in Laurens, South Carolina, we had a chance to check out Taylor Robert's factory KTM 450 XC-F, which happened to be set up for ISDE competition since the race also doubled as Team USA's ISDE camp. All three of the US Trophy Teams (World, Junior, and Women's) were on hand for the event, and team manager Antti Kallonen put the racers through several drills that simulated Six Days competition.

Robert is the only rider on the KTM off-road team in the United States (FMF KTM Factory Racing) who rides a 450, so his setup is a bit different from the rest of the crew. FMF works with the team during the off-season to make exhaust systems specifically for each rider, and Robert runs a muffler that is a little bit shorter than stock. The radiators are standard, but a higher-pressure 2.0 cap is used. There is also a fan from PowerParts mounted on the right radiator that has a switch so he can turn it on or off as needed. An RK chain and Renthal sprockets are used with 14/50 gearing.

The FMF KTM Factory Racing rider says he is very easy on the rear brake and could go an entire season on one set of brake pads.
The FMF KTM Factory Racing rider says he is very easy on the rear brake and could go an entire season on one set of brake pads.Shan Moore

A WP Cone Valve fork handles the suspension duties up front, while at the rear of the bike is a WP Trax shock. The suspension setup is handled by the team’s own WP technician at the race shop in Murrieta, California. The triple clamps are Xtrig with an offset of 22mm. According to team mechanic Charles Marchant, the riders went back and forth between 22mm and 24mm, but settled on 22mm, which is the stock setting.

The engine package includes mapping set up by the factory with two settings, and Robert prefers the milder one.
The engine package includes mapping set up by the factory with two settings, and Robert prefers the milder one.Shan Moore

Robert prefers a Renthal 996 handlebar with ARC levers and Renthal half-waffle grips that are the soft compound. He also told us he is super picky about play in the throttle and runs as little as possible. The Moto-Master brake rotors are the standard diameter in both the front and back, and the rear is a solid disc. The brake lines are pressure-tested Galfer units, which Marchant says are stronger than stock and very durable. Robert mentioned that he is very easy on rear brake parts because he rarely uses it.

“I don’t use the rear brake; you can ask the mechanics,” he shared. “I can go all season on one set of brake pads in the rear, but that’s due to my riding style. I don’t come into turns nearly as hard as anybody else; I just carry my speed. I don’t brake hard, but I don’t get on the gas hard either. I’m just always rolling.”

Another component Robert gets a lot of life out of is the Hinson Racing clutch.

“I’m super easy on the clutch, so I can usually go all week [at the ISDE] without changing one,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll [replace] it just for peace of mind, but it depends on the terrain too. If it’s muddy or sandy, you’re going to be changing a lot more [items], but for the most part, these bikes are bulletproof. KTM does a good job with it, whether we’re racing a Sprint Enduro, WORCS, GNCC, or ISDE. They’re super bulletproof, so we don’t have to change much throughout the week.”

Robert runs a Selle Dalla Valle seat with a step instead of a hump, so he doesn’t have to “climb” back over a hump when he is moving from the back to the front of the bike.
Robert runs a Selle Dalla Valle seat with a step instead of a hump, so he doesn’t have to “climb” back over a hump when he is moving from the back to the front of the bike.Shan Moore

The ignition mapping is straight from Austria and there are two maps—one that is a bit more forgiving and another that is more aggressive. Robert prefers the milder map.

“I like a smooth delivery,” he said. “I’m not too picky though. I really haven’t done that much motor testing. I’ve done a little bit of ECU testing with mapping and stuff, but they kind of just build the engines how they always build them and then we can tweak the mapping a little bit, but I like it to be a smooth delivery. I just like to ride the bike where there is as much torque as possible.”

Robert also runs a Selle Dalla Valle seat with a step instead of a hump, a Zip-Ty Racing sharkfin, extra-sharp IMS wide footpegs, and Acerbis hand guards. Team USA is using the new Dunlop Geomax Enduro EN91 for the ISDE, which is an eco-friendly, FIM-spec tire.

On prepping the bike for ISDE, Robert shared some additional insight:

“I would say the only thing we really do is [install] the Six Days exhaust because we have really strict sound requirements over there, so that just makes the bike a little bit quieter. It doesn’t really detune it that much. It sounds like it’s detuned because it’s not as loud, but louder is not always faster, so really I think the performance is about the same as the [regular] exhaust. Other than that, I run the bike really similar to how I would race it at a WORCS event. I soften up the suspension just a little bit because we need comfort for all-day riding, and a lot of times there are rocks and tree roots and stuff like that. Other things we do are run a kickstand and FIM-spec tires, which need to have short knobs on them. We actually run an SX-F gas tank too; we don’t need a big 3-gallon tank because of the checkpoints throughout the day. We really only need to go 30 miles or so on a tank of fuel.”