Four-fifty off-road bikes are some of the most versatile, do-all megamachines you can get your hands on. Most are based off of each company's full-on MX 450s, then tuned for off-road use and set up to meet standards and regulations for off-road machines. Yet it's still surprising how many riders make the mistake of buying a motocross bike when what they really need is right here. We tested the four most popular bikes in this crowded class-one brandnew, one heavily revised, the winner from last year and one that stayed the same-to give you the skinny on some of the sweetest machines available.We mostly trail rode these bikes because that's what most riders will do with them. But we didn't stop there. We raced them at an SRA Grand Prix, took them to the dunes and did a day in the desert. We had experts ride them hard and novice riders ride them, well, like novices. We've played with some modifi cations on all of these bikes, but the majority of this test refl ects on the bike's stock performance, or uncorked performance in the case of the Yamaha WR. We're hitting it hard and quick here as our Torture Test is coming next month with even more off-road madness. In the following pages, you'll see what we think about the stockers.KTM XC-W(R) All-New For You
To get the in-depth details for this fresh bike, you'll need to see the full test of its big brother, the 530, in our March '08 issue. It's just like that but dropped in displacement to 450cc, making this Austrian bike similar yet distinctly different than its open-class sibling. It doesn't feel lighter, as we've become accustomed to between previous 450 and 525 variations, but this bike is light; it tied with the CRF-X as the most feathery. In the power department, sold right off the showroom fl oor the bike just plain rips. We never felt the need to mess with anything in the engine. And the suspension is tuned for aggressive trail riding giving it legs to do just about anything.The Facts
The lightest-feeling bike here through the bar and footpegs is also the twitchiest-steering machine. In the tight stuff, you'll only praise the KTM for this. Start going fast, though, and you'll be looking for a steering damper. However, having the bike set up right (especially the fork rebound) can drastically change the nature of the beast. The suspension lets you feel the ground, is very controlled in the mid-stroke and resists bottoming well.The motor has a Jekyll and Hyde nature to it. It can be the smoothest traditional four-stroke torque monster or act like a fi re-breathing 250cc four-stroke MXer. It's all in how you treat the throttle. We think the 530 is actually smoother, but the 450 revs faster and gets to the revlimiter pretty quickly. We learned to quit downshifting on this bike. And high revs also meant vibration, too.The bike comes with a spark arrestor but no lights, though the wires are there to hook some up. It's the loudest of the bikes here, especially when wide-open, but it meets sound regulations. We wouldn't mind it being a tad quieter up in the Rs. Also the XC-W(R) is the . rst (and only) to spit coolant when you aren't moving as it is the only bike without a coolant recovery system. The clutch takes the most abuse but also heats the motor up fast during punishment.KTM out. ts this bike to get the job done without any goofy stuff, and the company does it right. The six-speed gearbox is tops and the tank is good for 65-plus miles; it has a digital odometer and the kickstand tucks away properly. The cockpit is the roomiest and highly adjustable. The separate oil chambers in the motor will only have these bikes running longer than forever. Maintenance is simple and very minimal.The Verdict
Our riders unanimously praised the KTM and most felt it was the best all-around bike here. With little tweaks to the suspension or adding a steering damper, its abilities are limitless.