Here is a quick status report on the 450 now that we have some of the major modifications done. Ride time so far includes two trips (six days) in Baja, racing the Tecate Hare Scrambles, one trip to McCain Valley, one day at St George Utah, and a couple of track days. Next up will be a few more track days to see how the latest mods work there.
For both Baja trips we had a 450xcw alongside for comparison. On the first trip we rode the xc-f in stock form. It was pretty harsh next to the well-worn xcw, so there was no question about which bike was more comfortable for long days. The xcf front end was harsh. The bars always seemed to be moving, at times trying to jerk themselves free of my hands. I was sure that a steering stabilizer would be needed for the bike. There was also a constant vibration. In general, the front end was very busy
Adding the Flexx bars made a huge improvement. Much of the buzz was gone and the spikes from the fork were less obvious. Next came the fork. KTM told me about some mods they were doing to free up the initial travel, so I talked them into doing the same for this bike. Sure enough the forks are much smoother now. They have much of the same feel of the open chambers. But I won’t rate them as perfect yet, the changes also took away a bit of the bottoming resistance and they can be a bit springy rebounding from strong hits.
One word of caution: The clickers on the 4CS forks are very sensitive. One to two clicks on either the rebound or compression can make huge differences in performance. I have spent a lot of time moving the clickers around. With both clickers on the top of the fork legs, it is easy to do while riding. I find that it is easy to make the forks feel really bad with just a few clicks. Opening the compression seems to affect the ride height and in a couple of clicks the fork is too low in the stroke and becomes quite harsh.
That brings us to one of the major areas of comparison between xcf and xcw – suspension. I won’t go over the whole PDS versus linkage debate again. In general PDS is better for trail and linkage for race. Right now I have to give the nod to the xcw for our testing. I like the way KTM has chosen to set up the current WP components. They are a little bit soft right out of the box. But with just a spring change, one rate higher on each end, I find the package amazingly good.
But we are down to almost splitting hairs between the two bikes also. If our testing was focused more to track time, the xcf would probably get the performance nod. But for the trail I like the positive feedback of the xcw set up.
As for the motor, the addition of the 12 ounce Steahly flywheel weight has transformed the xcf motor. It is now the king for everything. It has loads of easy to use torque and is still a berm blasting, hill climbing monster. It now has that great visceral feel of my 525. Any 500 or 530 would have to humbly bow down before this motor.
Things are going well enough that I am seriously starting to contemplate adding the sixth gear. For Baja riding it is the one very noticeable difference from the xcw model. With 14/50 gearing it is great for the trail, but runs out quick on anything open. Going to 15/50 makes that better, but then it is a bit too tall for real single track use. Robert at Vey’s Powersports tells me he has just finished adding the 6th gear to his own 2013 450xcf. He has the parts list all put together to do the change. He has quoted us a significantly discounted price of $1,000 to do the entire job. He will offer that same deal to any of our readers also.
So here is the video update. Feel free to fire away and questions. We have a few more things to test, but so far it is going really well.