New bike season is upon us and our first intro of the year was with KTM at Chaney Ranch MX in Warner Springs, California, to test the new 2019 350 SX-F. The bike features several updates to the engine, suspension, and chassis, so we were excited to put the midsize orange motocrosser to the test at one of Southern California's most unique and picturesque tracks. The conditions were a bit on the dry side, but we still got a good idea of how the changes affect the 2019 model.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
The main chassis updates on the 2019 KTM 350 SX-F include a new black frame with increased rigidity, newly designed frame guards, a stiffer upper triple clamp, and a revised swingarm with a longer slot for the rear axle. Also, the WP suspension components have different settings in the front and rear.Jeff Allen

Engine

The 350 SX-F engine received lots of attention for 2019 and the changes made to it include a reworked cylinder head design that features the same architecture as before but decreases weight by 200 grams (approximately 0.44 pound), a new header pipe with a further advanced resonator called a Flow Design Header (FDH), a reworked muffler, a Pankl transmission, a new 44mm throttle body, an improved seal on the Manifold-Absolute-Pressure (MAP) sensor, new ECU maps, a new lithium-ion starter battery, a reworked airbox, different intake snorkels, and revised traction control and launch control settings.

When the 350 SX-F first came out, I was not a fan of the engine’s powerband. It was supposed to be able to compete with a 450 but be easy to ride like a 250F. The first few years of this model required a high-rpm riding style to make any serious power, but it still fell way short of a 450. Because of this, I didn’t see the advantage of the 350 at the time. KTM has come a long way since the bike was first introduced in 2011, and it has developed the engine to where it is now fun to ride in almost all conditions. It still does not offer the low-end grunt of a 450 but is now far easier to ride than the 250 SX-F.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
A few of the changes made to the 350 SX-F engine for 2019 include a reworked cylinder head design that features the same architecture as before but decreases weight by 200 grams (approximately 0.44 pound), a new header pipe, a reworked muffler, and a Pankl transmission.Jeff Allen

We haven’t put it on our dyno yet, but I can safely say after riding it that the engine’s peak horsepower is now closer to a slower 450, and for the most part, the little bit that you give up on power can easily be made up with proper cornering technique. The power is strong enough to pull third gear when you are running tight, inside lines. When you want to cut to the inside, second gear pulls great, revs high, and pulls long enough so that you don’t feel you to have to shift before you’ve exited the corner.

It always takes me a little time to get used to the hydraulic clutch, but seeing as KTM has had them on its bikes for 20 years now with this system, it has the hydraulics pretty much dialed. I noticed the new diaphragm steel (DS) clutch setup seems to work well too. The map switch is a fun option, but after trying the two settings, I always seem to go back to the standard map 1 setting. Map 2, the aggressive one, seems to spin the tire a little too easily, while the traction control option doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
A few of the changes made to the 350 SX-F engine for 2019 include a reworked cylinder head design that features the same architecture as before but decreases weight by 200 grams (approximately 0.44 pound), a new header pipe, a reworked muffler, and a Pankl transmission.Jeff Allen

Suspension

The suspension component changes for 2019 are new damping settings in the WP AER 48 fork and the WP shock has an updated main piston and new settings to match the reworked fork setup and improve the damping characteristics too. The fork was a little stiff initially but can blow through the stroke and rebound fast at times. We had a limited amount of time on the 350 SX-F that day as we were also testing the 250 SX-F, so I didn’t get the opportunity to experiment with as many setting changes as I would have liked, but I feel that possibly stiffening them up would help. I would like to spend more time with the AER 48 fork to see if I can make it more comfortable to help offset the new stiffer frame.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
Further revisions made to the engine include a new 44mm throttle body, new ECU maps, a new lithium-ion starter battery, a reworked airbox, different intake snorkels, and revised traction control and launch control settings.Jeff Allen

Chassis/Handling

The chassis received lots of attention for 2019. KTM made several changes to all of its motocross bikes including a new black frame with a 2-percent increase in longitudinal stiffness and a 10-percent increase in torsional stiffness, newly designed frame guards, a stiffer upper triple clamp, a revised swingarm with a longer slot for the rear axle, a 40mm-longer subframe, redesigned radiators that are mounted 12mm lower, a new fuel tank, new bodywork, a newly shaped seat, new spoke nipples (designed to reduce the frequency of tightening spokes), a reworked bar pad and cover, and new graphics.

The changes made to the frame are quite noticeable. The bike’s responsiveness to rider input is certainly elevated. Although I feel KTM may have gone a little too far in that direction. I rode the 250 SX-F first and it was very rigid, but it was less noticeable on the 1-pound-heavier and more powerful 350. The KTM ergonomics are good, but I am not a fan of the bar bend. The new seat shape is good and overall slimness of the bike between the legs is excellent. The Brembo brakes are powerful and progressive, and the adjustable levers are always a nice touch.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
The increased rigidity of the frame is quite noticeable as the bike’s responsiveness to rider input is certainly elevated.Jeff Allen

Conclusion

The KTM 350 SX-F has come a long way since it was introduced back in 2011. The bike’s power makes it very fun to ride and the narrow chassis makes it easy to maneuver around on it. The chassis is definitely stiffer overall than previous years and transfers more impact to my hands and arms, and the handlebar bend is not my favorite. The bike has powerful brakes and the new muffler sounds great, almost like a 450, and in a good way.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
The new seat shape is good and overall slimness of the bike between the legs is excellent.Jeff Allen

I must say that during our first time riding the 350 SX-F, the track conditions became very dry later in the day and were not the most favorable to highlighting a new motorcycle. I am looking forward to riding it again on a track with a little more grip to see how it feels in those conditions. Overall, on a limited first day of testing on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the bike a score of 8 with the potential to easily be in the 9s on a track with better conditions.

2019 KTM 350 SX-F
The 350 SX-F’s engine is strong enough to pull third gear when you are running tight, inside lines.Jeff Allen
2019 KTM 350 SX-F
The 350 SX-F has powerful brakes and the new muffler sounds great, almost like a 450, and in a good way.Jeff Allen

TECH SPEC

PRICE $9699
ENGINE 349.7cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Steel central-tube
FRONT SUSPENSION WP AER 48mm fork adjustable for air pressure, compression and rebound damping; 12.2-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION WP shock adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 11.8-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo single 260mm disc w/ twin-piston caliper
REAR BRAKE Brembo single 220mm disc w/ single piston caliper
WHEELBASE 58.4 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 37.4 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.85 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 219 lb. (w/ all fluids except fuel)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT ktm.com/