By Brendan Lutes
Photos by Donn Maeda
The KTM 450SX-F has made huge strides over the past few years. Since the introduction of the newest Electronic Fuel Injected machine, KTM has stepped closer towards the front of the pack. And with Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey taking the bike to numerous Supercross wins and the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship last year, it's easy to see that KTM is now a force to be reckoned with.
After introducing an all-new machine only a couple years ago, KTM has slowly been refining the bike, updating, tweaking, and fine-tuning the motor, chassis, and suspension--this year is no different. With an already solid package, KTM has made focused changes to the 450SX-F with the goal of improving the power, handling, and overall feel of the bike.
Beginning with the motor, KTM changed the EFI mapping to help with throttle response while still maintaining strong, useable power. The gearbox also received minor changes to increase durability and performance, while the clutch now has stiffer springs for improved durability and feel. The chassis on the bike was given a new swingarm that is now stiffer than previously, providing better handling, control, and rider feedback. The forks received new settings that are stiffer than last year with the goal of keeping the bike riding higher in the stroke, thereby providing better overall suspension performance. Stopping power has also been improved for 2014, as a new master cylinder and brake pads are found both in the front and rear. The 450SX-F has always been equipped with Renthal Fatbars, high-quality grips, and the very popular electric starter, and all of those components carry over from 2013.
ON THE TRACK
Out on the track, the first thing we noticed about the 450SX-F is the amazing power. The motor is easily one of the most powerful in the class, producing strong useable power right from the initial crack of the throttle. Down low, the bike comes to life immediately and continues to pull hard through the midrange and into the top-end. Down fast straights, we found that the bike never fell flat and continued to pull. Furthermore, there was always plenty of power in reserve if it was needed to get over a jump or wheelie over a hole.
One of our biggest complaints about the 450SX-F over the years has been the suspension, however, the new suspension settings are definitely a step in the right direction. The forks and shock work well together, remain plush, and soak up small hits and big jumps very well. The stiffer settings in the forks allow them to remain higher in the stroke, not dive under braking, and resist bottoming much better than previous models. One complaint that we do have, though, is that the forks rebound too fast. During our initial testing, we slowed the rebound down two clicks, and found that it improved the feeling, allowing the forks to rebound slower and giving them a stiffer feeling, which we liked. Overall, the suspension and chassis are improved and work well together.
Other smaller components on the bike that we must mention are the amazing hydraulic clutch, electric starter--which makes firing up the bike easy if you stall it--the Renthal Fatbars, the improved Brembo brakes, and the high quality grips. The 450SX-F is a very well built machine.
Even though the 450SX-F didn't receive any major updates for the new year, it still has taken a step forward from the previous model. The new 2014 machine is fast, handles better, and will stand up to anything you can throw at it. We still have a lot more testing to do, though, so be sure to check out an upcoming issue of TransWorld Motocross for a more in-depth review on the bike.