It seems like every year the new models are released earlier than the year before. For most, this means it's time to start weighing your options of where to spend your hard earned cash. In the last five years, KTM has made a supercharged effort in further developing their line of motocross bikes. And every year the Austrian manufacturer closes the gap on its Japanese competition. The 2004 models are no different. KTM's have earned a reputation for building the most powerful engines in the class, but handling continues to be their Achilles Heel. This year they have made a number of changes that address the handling issues of old. The MXracer test staff recently got a taste of KTM's new line-up.** Chassis Changes to all full-size SX models- WP 48mm fork has more effective mid-speed valve in fork.
- WP PDS shock fitted with a straight-rate spring (instead of progressive) and the needle for the PDS makes the second piston in the shock have more effect for better action while still retaining bottoming resistance
- Gusseting around steering head changed for more strength.
- Swingarm pivot bolt diameter increased 2mm to 17mm.
- Swingarm also 10 mm longer for better traction and increased stability.
- Rear master cylinder now has integrated reservoir.
- All SX models have one-piece rear fender/side number plate combo and subframe and air-box like on the '03 250 and 450 SX.
- Clutch master cylinder bore reduced for easier pull.
- Air filter and cage with three retaining pins for better sealing and safety.
- Triple clamps for all models have 20mm offset in contrast to the '03 two-strokes 14-mm offset.
- Renthal 608 tapered handlebar is 12mm higher than last year's, making for a roomier rider compartment.
- Dual-compound half-waffle medium compound Renthal grips.
** KTM 125SX Last year we raved about our KTM 125SX. This year we still stand by our word, but are very happy with new changes. The 125 class comparison is heavily weighted on horsepower, and that has only grown more cutthroat since the inception of Yamaha's high-performance 250 four-stroke. KTM leads the 125 class in the HP department, and has once again managed to squeeze a few ponies out of their eighth-liter machine. Internally the little KTM is virtually untouched, but the added V-Force reed cage and exhaust pipe and silencer change produces a broader powerband, which goes much further on top. In the past, our testers have had some issues with the WP suspension, especially the shock. The straight-rate spring and reworked valving greatly improves the over-all action of the shock. With added bottoming resistance and plusher initial action, the Austrian chassis yields a better all around ride. Likewise, the fork has also been altered for plusher action and a more balanced ride.** KTM 250SX** The KTM 250SX is hands-down the fastest production 250cc engine out there. The almost fifty horsepower '03 model was a handful at many of the tracks we tested at last year. Although KTM didn't soften the power this year, it was spread out into a user-friendly, more tractable curve. The 250 chassis received all of the same changes as the 125 to improve over-all handling. The brut power of the engine magnified some handling issues that go unnoticed with the 125. The frame tweaking and suspension improvements should put KTM's revised 250 in the mix with the rest of the competition.KTM 450SXFour-stroke technology is rapidly changing every year. Like them or not, they are here to stay. KTM was one of the first companies to release what they called a "RFS" Racing Four-Stroke. And it's no surprise that dealerships sell out of orange thumpers every year. Yet, like the rest, the 450 received a long list of changes; all of which we think are for the better. The Yamaha and Honda 450 motocrossers are tough competition, but the KTM runs with the best of them. Its very linear powerband is slightly softer than the rest, but it is easier to ride. At speed, the 450 stays stable with relaxed manners. The improvements made in the chassis department practically eliminated all of the snivels we could find with last year's model.