First Ride: 2016 KTM MX & Off-Road Bikes

A Look At The 2016 KTM SX/XC Model Launch

By Chris Denison & Ryan Orr // Photos By Shan Moore

The 2016 testing season has officially begun, with KTM offering up the first taste of its new machinery for the world press to evaluate. Dirt Rider has traveled back to Crawfordsville, Indiana for the official 2016 product launch, where a fleet of SX, SX-F, and XC-F models has been made available for us to check out. With the fully prepped national track, a fun GNCC-style off-road loop, and eight different machines at our disposal, we got in some quality testing time and came away with a great glimpse of the new upcoming lineup. Below is a teaser gallery of the new machines, along with some of our initial impressions. Be sure to check back soon for full evaluations of these machines, both on and in print.

This 150 is one of the most fun bikes we’ve ridden in a while; it absolutely refuses to sign off on top. The delivery is strong and snappy, and so long as you keep it in the window of power, the bike will keep you smiling.
KTM’s 250 SX-F has an extremely linear powerband, with the most impressive portion occurring at higher RPM. Thanks to the lighter-than-last-year weight, cornering is improved and it feels easier to get the back end around in turns.
If ever a bike was purpose built just to carve dirt, it’s the 350 XC-F. The smooth but snappy motor delivers torque in a really manageable way, with awesome traction on corner exits and good acceleration on tight trails. As for handling, the 350 changes direction quickly and is great with varying lean angles.
DR Editor Chris Denison throws it away in an unlucky almost-save in one of the creek sections. The resulting crash sent a tidal wave of dirty water onto our ever-brave photographer Shan Moore. If you zoom in close enough, you can see that Denison is already cracking up in this shot!
The crew talks shop between photos on the MX track. One of the most repeated comments of the day was that all of the new bikes feel much lighter on the track than last year, which translates into better all around handling and easier cornering.
Brenden Lutes pins it on the MX track aboard the 250 SX-F. He felt that the power came on strongest through the mid and top, pulling forever into the over-rev and making for an awesome outdoor stock race package.
Obviously, low overall weight translates into flickable handling in the air, with a nimble overall attitude being found on all three of the SX-F models when jumped. Here, Lutes throws a little style for Shan’s camera over one of the many poppy jumps on the test track.
Extremely similar in design to the SX-F model—basically just an 18” rear tire, softer suspension, handguards, a bigger fuel tank, and a side stand away—the 250 XC-F has a racy and light feel out on the trail. We are still playing around with the fork to find our favorite setting, as we experienced some deflection and unbalance in turns. Overall, though, we were plenty pleased with the bike.
The motor on the 2016 350 SX-F flat-out rips! It has the familiar power curve of a 250F, but with those few extra ponies to get you charging out of corners and sending massive jumps. The Indiana National MX track is a burly one, but the 350 SX-F was well suited to the various off-cambers and big leaps.
Just when you thought there’s no way to make a two-stroke 125 more fun and feel more like a toy than it already does, KTM comes out with a lighter, more dialed bike! The new 125 SX is even lighter and easier to throw around than last year, with an all-new powerplant and chassis design. This bike is every bit as fun as you would expect it to be!
While a lot of attention has been given to the handling and engine performance of the KTMs, there’s a lot to be said for the little details of the bike. The hydraulic clutch is super smooth, the brakes are positively epic, and the ergos have a neutral, comfortable overall setup.
This 450 SX-F feels more manageable than last year, but don’t be fooled—it is still wicked fast, especially up top. Now that the chassis is so much lighter, the bike has improved cornering and feels agile, maneuverable, and snappy.
We were flat-out shocked by how fun the 450 XC-F was! Even in tight woods, the power was snappy but not violent, with an absolutely awesome upper-mid-range hit. First gear is extremely useable on this big machine, so tighter trails are not a problem.
As much as we love motocross, the off-road loop where we tested the XC-F models was the highlight of our test day. There is no doubt that you could take any of the XC-F machines and go straight to the line of a national enduro or GNCC.