KTM is on a mission to capture more of the American motocross market–and it’s succeeding. Running on the philosophy that change sells, KTM has completely reworked its motocross line-up for 2013. That means new-generation models such as the 250, 350 and 450 SX-F. It’s nice not having to wait four or five years before a better design comes along. One thing is for sure: This apparent philosophy of “new technology now” will allow the Austrians to better compete with the Japanese.
KTM’s new-generation SX-F models boast a new frame and swingarm, plus revised electronics, improved suspension and fresh bodywork. As for engines, the 350’s has been redesigned, whereas the 250 and 450 powerplants are both all-new. Also important: These new KTMs are all ergonomically friendlier for 2013, which means the rider now has much better contact with the bike.
The 350 SX-F’s chrome-moly steel frame has a reinforced steering head to provide more torsional stiffness, and the engine cradle uses thinner profiles to save weight. What’s more, a new head stay helps improve the handling, while a beefier swingarm allows a larger 25mm axle, up from 20.
I rode a 350 SX-F, and the bike clearly exhibited a firmer, tighter feel, with accurate steering and less sway in the corners. It’s also more precise to rider input, and more likely to stay in line when attacking whoops. The stiffer suspension is a big help here, aided by new fork oil and seals that reduce friction and improve smoothness.
To fire the engine, one must rely solely on the electric starter, as there is no longer even an optional kick lever. Saving weight, KTM must feel, is more important than having a back-up kicker. And while you’re looking at the engine, you can see that the days of sand casting are long gone. The 350 now features die-cast cases, which look better and are far more precise.
The 350 SX-F fires up quickly with the push-button starter. The engine purrs like a finely tuned race bike, and the new exhaust doesn’t hurt the ears. It’s sure not a 450, but the 350 has enough boost to get the rider over any jump. Finding traction isn’t a problem either, and it’s not because this bike is slow. The power delivery is smooth and very controllable. Yes, the 350 is noticeably slower than the 450, but its smoothness makes it easier to ride. Traction is great, and although power on the top end is incredible, the bike could benefit from a stronger midrange.
The 2013 KTM 350 SX-F is claimed to be lighter than last year, but our scales here at CW reveal the bike to weigh exactly what the previous model did: 236 lb. dry. Might have something to do with its heavier Dunlop tires. Whatever the case, this a greatly improved bike.