First Impression: 2013 KTM 450SX-F
By Rich Taylor
Photos and video by Donn Maeda
We’ve been riding our 2013 KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition test bike for a couple months now, so we an say with confidence that the “standard” 2013 KTM 450SX-F is just as good as the $9600 race replica that KTM sold in order to meet the AMA’s homologation rules. In comparison to the 2012 KTM 450SX-F, the new 450SX-F is completely new and in an entirely different league. While the old bike was heavy, softly suspended, carbureted and antiquated, the new machine is light, fuel-injected, properly suspended, and is easily one of the best bikes available today. A 44mm throttle body electronic fuel injection system, a new bore and stroke (95mm x 63.4mm vs. last year’s 97mm x 60.8mm), a Konig piston and Pankl rod highlight the engine changes, while a completely new chassis, stiffer suspension, and all new bodywork are the main highlights.
Yesterday, Tom Moen from KTM met us at one of our favorite tracks, Racetown 395 in Adelanto, California, to help us set up our 2013 450SX-F test bike. To be honest, since we’ve actually had one of the rare Factory Edition bikes (KTM sold each and every one of of the mandatory 400 for AMA homologation in short order!), we weren’t as excited about it as we would have been, had we been riding the clunky 2012 bike all along. And why not? Because we already knew how bad ass this new bike was going to be! Take away the orange frame, Red Bull graphics and number fives on the plates, and that’s basically what the “standard” 450SX-F is.
On the track, the bike has a light feel, thanks to the quick, snappy engine response, and also the firmer suspension settings. In the past, the slow-revving feel of the 450SX-F engine, paired with the spongy, wallowy suspension, actually made the bike feel heavier than it was. The new powerplant boasts very good low-end throttle response, great mid-range power, and decent top-end overrev. While riding the bike – and especially on the faster sections of Racetown 395 – we couldn’t help but feel that the 450SX-F felt like it was choked up and not pulling the way it really could. When we mentioned that to Moen, he removed the stock muffler and pointed out a pair of baffles in the core, designed to keep the sound levels down. To be honest, you could have used the new 450SX-F muffler to view the solar eclipse that we had a couple months ago…it’s that choked up! For comparison’s sake, Moen bolted on a muffler off of a 2013 250SX-F, which has a much less restrictive baffle system inside. As we expected, it livened up the 450SX-F considerably. On our next day of testing, we installed the Akrapovic exhaust that we’ve been running on our 450SX-F Factory Edition bike for months, and it really brought the new bike to life. As has always been the case, installing an aftermarket exhaust system on any KTM really brings things to life.
On the track, the new chassis and firmer WP suspension are much appreciated. It’s obvious that KTM has a seperate set of US test riders for the United States-spec bikes, as the 450SX-F does not have the soft, wallowy and heavy feel that previous KTMs have had. The quick and free-revving engine plays a huge role in that, no doubt, but the suspension package is a huge improvement over the 2012 bike. Unlike previous years, where we’ve had Moen install stiffer springs and add oil to our fork, we found that we could dial in the new 450SX-F to our liking with only a click or two on the suspension component adjusters. Both ends are finally set up firm enough to ride in the plush part of the suspension stroke in the small bumps, yet progressively stiff enough to soak up hard landings and big hits. The chassis is noticeably more rigid than the 2012 bike’s, as it provides a much more precise ride. It still feels like a steel frame, mind you, as it has a flexier feel than the ultra-rigid aluminum chassis of all the Japanese machines.
As usual, the little details about the KTM really stand out. The new Renthal Fatbar has a much-improved bend, and both brakes are amazing, as always. To this day, we have never installed a larger diameter aftermarket brake rotor on any KTM test bike. Thus far, our inital test sessions on the 2013 KTM 450SX-F have been very enjoyable. We’re scheduled to race it several times at the Muscle Milk TWMX Race Series in the next few weeks before we go to press with the full test, but this far into our relationship with the new bike, things look very promising.