Test Ride: 2004 KTM 200 SX - Dirt Rider

KTM never has been very class-conscious, and many even peg the odd-size bikes (300, 360, 380, 440, 540 and 550 two-strokes) as the factor that put the company back on the map after a financial reorganization in the early '90s. But at least those bikes all fall within the parameters for the Open class; they just aren't common, traditional, "normal" sizes. It isn't that 200cc dirt bikes are uncommon, but this is an SX, KTM's full-blown motocross model. And 200cc moto machines are extremely rare, since there is no 200cc class in motocross. On the other hand, amateur races have age classes for 25-, 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds. Many riders in those classes love the light weight and frantic manners of 125cc bikes but race in age classes filled with ultra-fast 450cc four-strokes. Good luck pulling off a start on a 125 against a gate loaded with 250 two-strokes and 450 four-strokes.
Now consider that the KTM 125 SX makes 36 horsepower. Let's just say this bike has a shot at a start against bigger bikes.With giant power in a 125cc size and weight package, the 200 SX isn't the ideal machine for every rider, but for those who love small, light and powerful motorcycles, this bike will install a permanent grin on your face.Motor Time

Since this bike is in most respects a bored-and-stroked KTM 125 SX, the chassis isn't new, but the motor is. This isn't parts-bin engineering where KTM took an existing chassis and slipped a 200 M/XC engine in it. The gear ratios are the same as on the close-ratio M/XC, but the 200 SX engine is more closely related to the 125 SX than to the 200 off-road version. It has the SX-style power valve and motocross-oriented porting. In addition, the engine uses a lighter SX ignition flywheel, but to smooth the 200's powerful midhit, the flywheel is the same one KTM 380 SX models came with! In addition, there is a motocross ignition map in the black box. The only other internal engine change between 2003 and 2004 is a new power-valve governor.The 200 E/XC models Dirt Rider has tested have had a meaty hit in the lower one-third of the rpm range that can be hard to control in slippery situations. They rev fine for off-road motors but are too flat on top for motocross-style riding. The 200 SX does have more torque and roll-on than a 125 SX, but the character of this power is more like a 125 than a fast 250. The serious torque starts later in the rpm range than with the 200 E/XC or 250 SX, but the power builds pretty rapidly with rpm. When the throttle is wide open, there is no way to mistake the 200 SX for any 125--stock or modified.We asked KTM how much more horsepower the 200 made, and the engineers were pretty matter-of-fact: It makes a little more peak power than the 125 but has more torque. That prompted a closer look at the specs for both bikes. The transmissions for the 125 and 200 are identical for all internal ratios. The 125 is geared 13/50, but the 200 is geared 14/45! That's equivalent to nine teeth on the rear sprocket. Considering that we rarely make gearing changes of more than one tooth, the difference in gearing for these two bikes is huge. We sent the 200 to the same dyno that measured our 125 SX, and it cranked out a little more than 38 horsepower. We compared the horsepower graph with the one for the '04 125cc-class motocross shootout, and the 200 was equal to or better than the best of the 250cc four-strokes throughout the rpm range. That means the 200 SX is up as much as 5 horsepower in the middle rpm area. That makes it a sweet motor.We tested the 200 at four tracks (five if you count both tracks at LACR): I-5 MX at Gorman, Glen Helen Raceway, Los Angeles County Raceway and Piru MX. It had plenty of power to handle any of the tracks. Glen Helen has a long, fast, uphill start straightaway, and the 200 is big fun there. Unlike most 125s, the 200 will effortlessly pull second gear off the concrete gate then rows through the gears hard with no hesitation at any shift. And that was with a 200-pound rider aboard!The Rest

It should come as no surprise that the chassis the 200 shares with the 125 feels much the same on the track. Basically, the 200 turns well, is fairly stable and has few real warts as far as handling goes. As with the 125 SX, the bottoming resistance of the WP suspension is roughly equivalent to some of the KYB-equipped bikes, but the Showa bikes have an edge. The suspension likes careful setup, but it can usually be dialed in pretty well. Of course, it suits smaller riders, with its 125-ish springs and damping settings. Since the 200 engine pulls so much longer in each gear, it actually swallows acceleration bumps better than the 125. Where the 125 sometimes runs out of steam on the face of a jump, the 200 rarely does. And it has the extra boost to make the big jumps doable.As the 200 runs so strongly, it is fortunate the brakes are as supremely strong as on the bigger KTMs.When KTM first came out with the 360, we were amazed that none of the manufacturers had made a small big-bore powerplant earlier. We feel the same about the 200. The vet and senior markets are clearly big enough to support some made-for-the-class engine sizes. There are many riders who just play at the track and never or rarely race; the 200 is also perfect for them. The 200 SX will never be the bike for everyman, but for some it will clearly be the right tool for the job.Opinions

I pretty much fell in love with this KTM. I have a KX125 for playing on the motocross track and a KTM 525 E/XC for off-road riding. I like the 125 for moto, since it helps me learn clutch control and helps my cornering skills. I don't race much, so the fact that the KTM has no class doesn't affect me, and if I did race, it would be in the vet class, where the 200 is perfectly legal. I try to moto with friends and family once or twice a week, and I got to try the KTM at two different tracks and compare it with my 125. The KTM has the same light and fun feel of my 125, but gear selection and clutch control are not as critical. I was able to get on the gas earlier and avoid wheelspin problems. The added power also made clearing all of the jumps easy. Whereas the 125 sometimes goes flat, the 200 is a lot easier to find a gear in which the bike accelerates all the way off the face, so I felt a little safer, too. I suppose there is room for two KTMs in the family.
Tom Wolf/5'10"/175 lb/NoviceEver since I heard KTM was coming out with a 200cc two-stroke motocross model, I've wanted to try it. I have fun on 125s, but I struggle with the power on technical tracks. I figured the 200 just might be the bike for me. I've spent a lot of time on four-strokes so the bulbous pipe of the 200 bothered me on my first ride, but I never noticed it after that day. The KTM has plenty of power to pull me around, and it gets to the first turn in a hurry. I'm still a four-stroke guy for moto, but the 200 is a lot of fun, and it could even be my favorite two-stroke motocrosser.
Karel Kramer/6'1"/200 lb/NoviceI had a great time on the 200 SX. The bike handled really well and I felt I could throw it around like a 125, but at the same time it had a ton more usable power than a 125. The initial punch was really good. It hit really hard but not so much as to pull my arms off. It cornered well also, and it seemed as if it would go exactly where I wanted it. The fork is really plush and never bottomed harshly. The shock was set perfectly for me, and I felt totally confident railing through the deep sand berms and uphill whoop section at I-5 MX.
Cameron Heisser/5'10"/150 lb/Intermediate