In the dual-sport world there have been far too many streetbikes posing as off-road trailbikes or even race models. With the KTM 450 EXC, the opposite is true. It is a thinly veiled off-road race and trailbike pretending to be a streetbike. For real dirt riders, KTM's strategy is the right direction to pretend. Don't be confused: The EXC is a world-level, dedicated off-road machine from a company serious about off-road competition. It breezes through the DMV, but it isn't a streetbike. For an extended road trip or daily commuting the KTM gets the job done as far as legality goes, and with a wide-ratio, tall-geared six-speed, it is capable of traveling at highway speeds with little trouble. Many miles into our test, which included perhaps three percent pavement and many hours of true single-track, all of the lights and street paraphernalia remained in perfect order. But to use the bike as a commuter is as uncomfortable as it is a waste of a perfectly fine dirt bike. The KTM's thinly padded seat and noticeable vibration is compounded by ergonomics that are excellent riding standing up but not as suited to road-oriented, butt-planted comfort.We'll get the complaints out first. The KTM is a premium-priced model, and some traits will bug the heck out of you after writing a big check or signing your life away. The mutation from XC-W competition model to street-legal EXC leaves marks. The XC-W is geared 13/52-low enough for almost any trail situation-while the EXC has a much taller 15/45 setup. To minimize hassle and make the bike more dirt-worthy, we changed to a 14/48 setup that still allowed highway speeds for short distances (or extended 55 mph running), was relatively dirt-friendly and allowed use of the stock chain. The KTM remains one of the few plated off-road bikes employing carburetion. KTM routes the crankcase breather hose into the mouth of the carburetor, and hot, oily air is not ideal for performance. We blocked the hole in the carb bell and rerouted the breather with the other vent lines. The stock setup's lean-hesitation meant the bike wasn't much fun until we raised the needle (lowered the clip position) two. That helped, but the engine had erratic idle that was annoying. We installed a JD Jetting kit-following all the instructions including blocking the line from the small air pump located near the countershaft sprocket-and gained a steady idle, clean running and solid midrange pull increases. The JD needle must be richer because it calls for a leaner main and pilot than stock. After that we changed nothing but the mileage reading until the stock tires wore out. As DOT rubber goes, the Metzelers walk the line between performance and life, but are clearly missing traction compared to dirt tires. Plus, the rear is tall and bouncy, so it affects chassis balance and suspension and may catch the license plate and rip it off. We trimmed the rear fender shorter and mounted the plate higher for safety.As irritating as our complaints are to a new owner, they are all easily fixed, and once they are, the EXC is truly dirt- or even race-ready. It is lighter than pure dirt models from other brands, and the great features that make the XC-W a loved off-road bike-light and tucked-in sidestand, easy-change wheels, no-tools air filter, adjustable riding position, hydraulic clutch, a great engine and plush suspension-are all included. While our gearing was a good compromise, for serious trail adventures first gear can be tall, and you can easily abuse the clutch enough to boil the radiators over, but otherwise the 450 EXC is a fun and willing trail companion with an off-road range of 60 miles or more in most conditions. If you need more, there are plenty of tank options up to seven gallons.