2009 KTM 450 SXF - Dirt Rider Magazine

The 2009 KTM 450 SXF has been ridden through the first testing stage here at Dirt Rider Magazine.

There are two camps of new bikes developing in the early stages of 2009 introductions. There are drastically changed, wildly-new models and then there are the tweaked and tuned. Break it down to redesigns and refinements.The 2009 KTM 450 SXF is definitely in the refinement drawer. With a close look at components and characteristics that really needed improvements, KTM built what could be their best 450 yet.What's NewQuite a lot, actually. KTM took the 450 SX to the drawing board for 2009 and they efficiently refined the bike into a performer.The biggest changes in terms of what you'll feel on the track center around handling.--The 2009 KTM 450 SXF has a new front fork assembly that consists of new bottoming cones to help smooth those super-huge landings and a stiffer spring rate up from last year's 4.8 to a 5.0 (N/m). New valving settings are shimmed in to accommodate the heavier springs. The point of all this springing and valving is to reduce the amount of oil and give more of the suspending duties to spring and valves for a plusher feel across the board. The harsh, in-your-hands feel we discovered in all of last years' SX models is definitely addressed here and the changes work.--Adding to the new-found supple-like settings in the fork is a new outer fork tube. Yes, its factory-bling finish draws a drool or two but the focus is on performance. The new tube is lighter, thinner and provides more flex to the front. This is produced from a new supplier and is featured on all new KTM models (see our comments on the new fork in our 250XC test here: www.dirtrider.com/features/141_0807_2009_ktm_250_xc/index.html)--Another front end refinement is hand-clickers for compression settings. The small little star-shaped knobs are a tool-less way to dial in the ride. They became a bit gummed up after a few hours and were hard to use. Add a shot of lube to these when you're washing the bike and they'll keep moving freely.--Shock treatment is given to the KTM as well. While the spring rate remains the same as last year, the PDS needle is beefed up from an 11.5mm unit to a hefty 14mm poker. This needle is essentially the linkage in a dual piston shock system. It acts similar to a carb needle in that upon compression, the amount of oil passing by the needle is reduced the farther the shock travels. When the needle closes off the bypass, the valving moves to the secondary piston and the rate of damping force increases. The angle of the shock puts a certain amount of rising rate (like a linkage) on the shock, but the internal valving adds even more dimension to this.-- The new needle requires its own set of internal shock components to go along with the new sizing and valving settings are refined to match the new guts.--The engine head stay is now a lot less rigid. It does not triangulate to the mounts on the upper frame tube and is similar in design to the head stays on the two-strokes.Let's move to the motor. The '08 450 SXF was a class favorite for many with its smooth power and strong top-end pull. For '09, KTM made some solid improvements to get more power sooner.--Internally, the cylinder remains the same, but the piston is a new part number and is lighter in weight; likely to get the rpm up quicker. This bike makes power at higher rpm and KTM seems to be trying to get it there sooner.--The valve train features new valve springs, lighter finger followers for the valves and the same cams as '08 with just a bit different timing setting to work with the new head. Again, this looks to be an effort to boost the speed at which this bike revs.--The intake and exhaust port are reshaped and compliment a new cylinder-to-carb manifold and new exhaust manifold. The tuning to the airflow continues through the cylinder head here...a precursor to fuel injection? We can't say for sure, but it's not likely the only reason for the change. The bike's motor runs different from last year for sure, and we're sure these tweaks all lead up to the way it performs.--There is a new water pump sealControls, style, parts and pieces.--The KTM's stellar front brake power gains some control for '09 through a new master cylinder, caliper, caliper mount, pads and lever. The unit appears much lighter (at least less bulky) than last year's assembly.--Clutch control is updated as well with an all new fold-away, crash-resistant lever that is narrower and smoother with a quick-adjust knob for customizing lever reach. The hydraulic clutch master cylinder is also streamlined and the system is overhauled to provide smoother engagement. If you want more control and a lighter lever feel, we hear the master cylinder from a 125SX will give that to you.--The new KTM graphics are rebellious and edgy. There are intricate details like throttle cables, trophies, supercross rhythm sections and freestyle ramps superimposed into the traditional black and orange theme.--Plastic frame guards are now standard on the bike with a burn-protection extension built in to the exhaust side. Your pants will love this.--Ignition and clutch engine covers feature longer-lasting coating (at least its color has changed to match the metal underneath) for a newer-looking bike, farther down the road.--Triple clamps receive factory coloring. Yes, it's black.

The most sano controls in the motocross bike world just went to another level.

What's HotWith a lot of changes for '09, especially when it's not an all-new model by any means, the KTM 450 SXF has a plenty to be proud of.--First, it's still electric start. This is awesome if your battery is charged. It adds a little weight but once you don't kick, you won't mind. Keep your battery charged.--The fork refinements are the most immediately noticeable improvements to the 2009 KTM 450 SXF. They're great. The bike handles supple up front and our hands are happier than they've ever been on an orange bike. It maintains cornering prowess and front-wheel traction while eliminating harsh, irritating and energy-sapping jolts. This bike is truly plush.--The changes to the shock are similar. However, we didn't feel as much improvement here because we didn't have an issue with the rear of the KTM last year except for one thing: We believe the shock, combined with the steel frame in '08 was directing a lot of force into the head-tube of the bike. What a lot of riders were commenting on as front end harshness was, we believe, a resonating effect of the rear force coming forward. Essentially, KTM solved this and improved the front end handling through its updates on both ends of the '09 450 SXF. The bike behaves better than before and has more friends because of it.--The engine character is just about perfect. After close to 10 hours on the bike it's loosening up and revving freely. The bottom end enhancements are noticeable and it seems the motocross snap most people think they need is here for the taking. It has CRF450R-style pick-up off the bottom while still being one of the quietest bikes on the track. The best part about the KTM power is that you can modulate it easily. There is no snap-or-nothing character here. The bike simply responds nicely to your throttle input. If you want to squirt past, just whack it open. It's got more downstairs for sure. Traditional smoothness remains and the top end prowess is readily available. It spans riders with hyper-active ADD throttle wackiness as well as calm, collected and controlled users. KTM might have the best motor of the year.--The new controls are just what this bike needed. KTM bikes feel different enough just because they are. With smoother, sleeker and friendlier levers on both sides, the bike is welcoming to the hands of non-KTM riders. The clutch engagement is spot on and the adjustable clutch lever is great at dialing in your reach preference. The biggest improvement is by far in the braking game. The old KTM brake was too much for most. Most factory bike's trick one-off brake components we've tested are barely a match. For '09, KTM took the bite out of the front binder and put in some serious control and modulation without losing any of the strength. The lever is smooth and normal and the pucker power increases as you squeeze. The caliper, mount and entire assembly is ultra clean and screams quality.--The graphics are just cool. Try to find everything hidden in them.What's Not-- Batteries die. The electric start can be heaven-sent or hell-bound. If you're battery is fresh, you'll love it to death, but it is one more thing you have to watch, but you can't see electricity or do an electricity change!--The front fork compression adjuster turn knobs can be difficult to use when dirty. Add in the fact that the compression settings are in the teens and you have some seriously sore fingers. Blast them with some contact cleaner and keep them lubed.--The suspension is approaching the too soft state for faster riders and heavier folk. If you are an intermediate level rider or slower, don't worry. But our pros were quick to start bumping up the compression across the board to stop the bike from feeling wallowy and to feel more confident pushing it hard. And with that comes some uncomfortable times in the choppy deceleration. But even stiff, the bike eats up the chop on the acceleration bumps way better than last year. Tune in some stiffness if you feel a bit wallowy. And don't be afraid to open up the rebound to get better traction. There is plenty of high-speed rebound built into the valving to handle the extension from the big hits. If the bike feels choppy, open the rebound first.-- The SX still only has a four-speed transmission. But we never really needed a fifth. KTM makes an XC for that but it would make the SX so much more versatile.What It IsThe 2009 KTM 450 SXF is a fine example of a refined ride. The new model addresses every complaint our fleet of test riders complained about on the '08. For most riders the suspension action has never been better on a KTM motocross bike. And it's easy to see by the praise it's getting that the motor is probably the best the Austrian company has ever produced as well.It really seems that KTM took the hard-edge off their SXF line (at least the 450) and is looking to please a wider range of motocross enthusiasts. You no longer have to get this thing up to full race pace to enjoy a pleasant ride at the track as everything is tuned to be easier to get along with. Average Joe should enjoy the heck out of this bike, while the faster guys out there can easily move it to the front of the pack.The bike sits now in waiting. Waiting for totally new class leaders (Red and Green ones) to come out of the shadows and show what they got.

2009 KTM450 SXF
DIRT RIDER SPEC SHEET
** Price:** $7998
** Claimed Weight:** 230.6 lb
** Actual Weight (no gas):** 234 lb
** Actual Weight (tank full):** 247 lb
** Seat Height:** 37.9 in.
** Seat to Footpeg:** 20.9 in.
** Footpeg Height:** 17 in.
OFF-ROAD
** Fuel Capacity:** 2.1 gal.
** Ground Clearance:**
SETTINGS
** Stock** DR
** Jetting:**
Main: 185 Std
Pilot: 42 Std
Needle: OBDTP Std
Clip Position: 5th Std
Fuel Screw: 1.5 1.25-1.75
** Other notes:**
Fuel screw is critical for smooth bottom. It varies track to track.
** Suspension:**
** Fork:**
Compression: 18, 15-13
Rebound: 21, 22
** Shock:**
Low-Speed Compression: 15, 14-11
Rebound: 24, 26
High-Speed Compression: 1.25, 1.5
Sag: 110-113mm, 112-120mm
** Other notes:**
Static sag: 33-40 mm (very important with proper race sag!)
Modifications we'd like to try:
Bridgestone 403/404 tires. Clutch master cylinder off of KTM 125.

Electric start motocross bikes are making more fans every day.

Opinions:KTM is making improvements every year to keep this 450 competitive against Japanese machines.The first improvement over the '08 model that I noticed was the suspension. When I was riding around and checking things out I immediately noticed how plush the bike was. It was smooth and supple. I was impressed. That was not a characteristic of last years machine. But when I picked the pace up from 70% to 100%. The suspension couldn't keep up. Especially at speed on big jumps and bumps.The forks and shock were overall a bit soft and on decel the forks would blow through and rebound back making the front end really nervous. The shock was surprisingly stable in big rollers and didn't give that negative rebounding feedback that Japanese bikes sometimes give. But when accelerating out of a corner, the rear squatted down and rode at the bottom of the stroke, which was harsh on acceleration bumps.The KTM shined on flat sweeping turns or sharper turns with no ruts or berms. The front end stayed planted and the rear tracked right behind it. The only issue I had was in rutted corners. The front end wanted to climb out of the rut in an over steer.The most impressive thing on the bike for me is the motor. This thing rips!! The delivery is smooth and responsive. Then it transitions strong up into the mid and keeps delivering ponies to the ground all the way up to the never-ending top end. I could ride this bike a gear lower or a gear higher or even two gears higher, and the machine still pulled me around. I think with some suspension mods focused at keeping the bike's handling up to speed with the awesome engine, this bike could be a more aggressive machine and really put a hurt on the other bikes in the class.Ryan Orr/ 5'10/ 170lbs/ Professional WORCS and MX racerI would have to say that the 2009 KTM 450 SXF is definitely an improvement compared to last year's bike. Not that the '08 was bad, it's just that last year, with such a strong motor, the stock suspension couldn't keep up with it. Well, KTM got word of that, because they tuned the suspension big time and even though the '08 had a bitchen motor, they stepped up the '09 in that department too.The suspension on the new KTM is very plush. A little too soft for my top speed, but when I back it down some, it works quite well. It soaked up small chop and never really acted unpredictable; a huge improvement from '08 where it was very unpredictable and didn't seem to work quite right riding fast or slow.One negative about the new suspension would be the sensitivity of the compression and rebound adjustment. One click on the adjusters makes a huge difference and makes it a bit tough to find that perfect setting. It seemed that one click was too much; it would either make it too soft or too harsh. I just couldn't find that happy medium. Now if the adjustment was maybe half or even a quarter of a click, it could definitely be dialed in. Even with this, it's still the best stock KTM suspension I have felt and it's good to see it complement their motor.The KTM again has an awesome motor, but now with better power delivery. They smoothed out the power compared to last year and the bike seems to have a little more bottom end. None of this took away from the mid to top end boost, though, because it still revs like no other 450.Now, I don't usually like to rev out 4-strokes, but it is nice to have some extra rev when I don't feel like squeezing in that extra shift from time to time. The KTM is an easy bike to ride: not easy as in slow, but easy as in I don't have to always be in the right gear. The bike rips out of turns in second gear with plenty of traction and keeps pulling hard or it can pull third through the same turn, just as easy, with plenty of drive.It all depends on how you want to ride it. Ride it smooth or hard, either way, it always put traction to the ground.Now I have to say it even though it's said every time the KTM is brought up: How can you go wrong with electric start? It is so nice to just push a button and not have to kick your motorcycle like a caveman. When will the other mxers follow suit?I feel the '09 KTM 450 is closer than ever to putting it to the Japanese 450s. I was definitely impressed. With a great motor and suspension to match I can't wait to ride it back to back with the big four.Chris Barrett/ 6'1"/ 180lbs/ ProThe 2009 KTM 450SXF was a very smooth riding bike. The powerband was extremely smooth and the throttle response is incredible. The suspension needed a little fine tuning and adjusting to fit my riding style and my weight, but when we got the suspension tuned for me the bike ran insane through all of the braking bumps at high and low speeds.The angle of the forks on this bike are in the perfect spot for railing some ruts. The bike likes to get into the rut and flow with the rut. I never had a problem with the front end wanting to hop out. The best thing about it is its brakes. The front brake on this bike has incredible stopping power. But it's not to the point to where it wants to throw you over the bars. The rear brake also has incredible stopping power. Being new to 450s and having just bought a 2008 Honda CRF450R, I really enjoyed riding this KTM.Jake Scarbrough 6'1"/ 180 lb./ Novice