The Torture Test - KTM 450 XC-F - Dirt Rider Magazine

(DR Note)
Now you're into the top six!
This bike stood out at Dirt Rider's annual Torture Test and was chosen by the editors and test riders of Dirt Rider Magazine to be included in the magazine. You've likely read about how it compared to the other top five contenders in the test in the June issue of DR. This is the singled-out test of one of the best bikes we've tested all year. Enjoy!
About the Bike
KTM XCs start out with SX specifications, but the factory adds a semi-close ratio transmission and suspension settings developed for a wide range of racing terrain. Next they add an 18-inch rear wheel, o-ring chain, hand guards and large capacity fuel tank. It even has lighting capabilities, so you have a bike you can use to race motocross, WORCS, Gran Prix or desert, and KTM builds it for you.The result: The ultimate do-all off-road bike.Parts and modifications:****KTM North America, Inc,
Map switch,$44.99
Hour meter, $48.99
Bar pad, $19.99
2009 450 XC-F MSRP $8,698****This is the Best Bike Because: This bike is as strong on the track as it is on the trail. There is no lighter E-start 450 off-road model, and it is as light as some kickstart-only motocrossers.This is not the Best Bike Because: The power is a little zappy for slow, technical trails, and the suspension is on the stiff side for roots and rocks when the trails are slower and technical.Dirt Rider Post Torture Evaluation:If you started with a light, powerful motocross 450, and you had the budget and resources to fix anything you wanted to make it a hard-edged but still light off-road model, you would most likely end up with something like the KTM 450 XC.At 237 pounds with no gas, the XC is nevertheless equipped for off-road with a semi-close-ratio five-speed, a lighting coil ignition, a kickstand and a decent-sized tank with reserve on the petcock. Plus there is that 18-inch rear and off-road oriented suspension settings. There are even plastic hand guards. About the only things missing are a spark arrestor and perhaps a skid plate.If you put the tank, stand and handguards on a Japanese motocrosser, nearly all would be as heavy as the stock XC, and they still wouldn't be E-start.It is no surprise - given the mx heritage - that the XC suspension is more oriented for faster, more aggressive off-road competition and trail use. Desert racing or hare scrambles are a better fit for the XC than survival enduros or rocky, ledge-filled trails. The power is snappy enough that it feels like a motocrosser when traction is poor. Oddly enough, when the bike is on the track, the power is smooth and totally off-road feeling, like it has a heavy flywheel, when it feels like it doesn't have one on some trails.For hare scrambles or the track the gear spacing is just right, but there is no low granny-gear first for slow technical terrain, yet it runs out of fifth sooner than the off-roaders with wider transmissions. The thing is, the XC does all of these things with as much or more composure than a converted motocrosser, and none of those have electric start. For the test we had at Rynoland, and the subsequent trail testing, the XC was a pleasure, and always composed, willing and ready to switch on your adrenaline.Opinions
To me this is just a magic bike. The front end feels like it is right under me, so I can cut through the tight turns. That clutch is easy to operate and very solid. These brakes are very positive, and I can use the rear brake to set up for turns. The bike is so slim feeling that it slipped through tight sections easier. I like a tooth down on the countershaft. Then I could have run second gear everywhere on the tight trail. It isn't that I mind shifting, but it is nice when you don't have to worry about it. This bike has plenty of boost, and it almost feels like too much. I'm a two-stroke guy these days, but if I was getting a four-stroke, this would be the one because of the weight and how controllable the engine is. Plus I like the closer ratio transmission.
Don Kelley 5'11"/195 lb./B riderThe stock 450 was my second favorite all around bike. The two reasons that I didn't like it as much as the Am/Pro WR450 was its aggressive bottom end, and stiff suspension. The stiff suspension could be fixed, but we were testing the bikes "as is." The aggressive bottom end was a plus on the motocross track, but was a slight downfall in tight and technical trails due to a little to much torque that took me slightly out of my comfort level and made me use more clutch than both I and the bike liked. Asides from those two problems, KTM created a great bike that could suite any riding style, with no money spent on aftermarket products.
Chris Dvoracek 6'/170 lb./Expert

When the conditions are like this, the XC has wide-ratio siblings that work better, but it still beats-up on most converted motocrossers for a lot less money.

Right from the very beginning this bike was the one for me. It was so nimble through the tight and twisty trails. Clutch work in the tight sections was made soooo easy with the hydraulic clutch. The suspension was great whether it was on the trail or on the motocross track. The ergonomics were, in a word, perfect. Everything was right where it needed to be. To top it off the bike is very quiet, making it even more enjoyable, and especially on the trails.
Dana BergThe KTM 450 XC had zero glaring issues, great ergos, smooth power and well-balanced suspension. I got along with this bike instantly on track and trails and had no complaints.
Nate Evans: 6'1"/215 lb./Vet AWe went out in groups to test these bikes, and I wasn't the only one in the group to notice how comfortable I immediately was on the 450 XC. It wasn't even close. The XC is strong but civilized, crisp without being edgy and just what the Doc ordered for a long day in the saddle - and it doesn't matter where the day is. I'm happy on the trail and blown away how much I like this on the track. The power and weight of an MXer with the civility of a KTM off-roader: Bi-polar in a good way.
Karel Kramer: 6'1"/225 lb./B riderI am so picky about how a bike's low and middle RPM jetting that this KTM was just throwing me for a loop. I was turning the adjustable fuel screw every time I got on the bike and I never fully got it tuned how I know it could run. That little glitch in jetting takes away from the handling, the traction, the ability to have confidence in really technical trails, to go into and come out of turns on the track. Everything. And it wasn't really that bad, but in this group of near perfect bikes, especially at the end of the comparison, it was a booger. I know I could tune it out but then there was this nearly identical bike, the XC two-stroke, the did everything the 450 does, but just a little better for my kind if riding, so I lost a little affection for the 450. If you like to feel like your bike had big power that slaps you in the face, then this XC can easily accomplish that. If you have some tonnage and your weight dictates you need a stiffer suspension setting and a more aggressive tug, this bike does that. It is set up to do everything and for quite a few of the bigger guys this was "The" bike in the Torture Test. For some reason I, and a lot of our test riders who have riding experience that spans much farther than just the California desert, see how the advantages of the two-stroke has made it a much more versatile machine. Especially when you consider real trail riding and tighter enduro racing along with your track days.
Jimmy Lewis 5'10"/185 lb./A riderWe get a lot of crap from internet know-it-alls about our claimed bias towards KTM. We also get it from KTM-crazies about the same bias towards Honda, from Yamaha kooks towards our Kawasaki bias and from Kawasaki yo-hoos about our Yamaha bias. The point is we ride and test every bike made by every manufacturer. The reason KTM has three bikes in the top six of our Torture Test is because they currently build the best "all-around" off-road/race/ride/track/trail bike. That bike is the XC. The 450 XC for me is second place to the 250 or 300 two stroke. The four stroke is harder to make quiet, boils over more on good trail rides and doesn't tickle my fancy like the e-start two strokes do. Universal traits across this line include light weight, comfortable ergos and smooth power. In fact, there are a lot of times I prefer this 450 to the 450SX motocross model. If I was a buying a KTM 450, this would be it for sure. The 450 suffers from finicky throttle response and that's about it. I just prefer a two stroke in this case.
-Jesse Ziegler

KTM works hard at keeping its bikes thin between the pegs, but some \"trails\" are just too tight to let the bike through.