From the short ride time in Indiana at the KTM new model introduction, the 450xc-f is the one bike I feel the least ready to comment on yet. But it was at least a start and I will share with you the ride impressions I have. Why? Well of all the xc-f line up, the brutish 450 was furthest out of its element on our test loop which seldom saw the bikes get to third gear. It was hard to use even half of the 450’s 60 plus horsepower.
So I am not going to speak as if I know everything about the new 450 yet. It is too important of a subject. This is our western bike. For racing everything from Baja to desert to Gran Prix, this is the bike that many potential KTM buyers will be looking to. Still, there are a few things we already know about the xc-f too, so let’s talk about them.
As you recall, we spent quite a bit of time with the 2014 KTM 450xc-f. It was a polarizing bike. Nearly everyone who got on it either loved or hated it. The motor was the high point. It had so much pizzazz that it was just a hoot to ride. Crack the throttle and the 450 would leap to attention. But it was not very good at low revs. It was stall prone and that made it difficult to ride. A flywheel weight and quieter exhaust pretty much cured those issues for us.
The other limitation to the motor was the 5 speed transmission. I made it livable by running taller gearing, but there was also some vibration that made extended two track riding tiresome. 55mph was about the top comfortable cruising speed. The stock suspension was fair. The shock performed well, but the fork was harsh. Overall the whole ride experience could be described as track inspired, the faster the pace, the better it worked.
Ultimately what I desired was a bike with the power and response of the xc-f, but with a more xc-w style ride quality. Even with our limited time on the 2016 bike, I can tell you that KTM must have listened, because we are at least half way to that goal.
The 2016 450xc-f is an entirely new bike. I have written extensively about the new design in our 2016 KTM 350xc-f review. So instead of a complete rehash here, please read the link to get caught up on all that is new. Here I will focus on what is unique to the 450.
The 450 motor boasts a number of changes. New engine cases stack everything together for a package that is 23mm shorter, 9mm lower and 23mm narrower. The idea is to create more mass centralization with the crankshaft moving both rearward and slightly higher.
The cylinder head gets a lighter design too. There is a new cam to open the titanium valves. The rocker arms are DLC coated. Max revs are 11,500 rpm. Like the other models, the new wide spread lateral head stays give a stronger connection to the frame.
The new cylinder is 6mm shorter. The new piston is the high tech box-in-box design and runs at a 12.75:1 compression ratio. The new crank claims to have more inertia, but without adding weight. the connecting rod is 6.4 mm shorter. The plain big end bearing is two force fitted shells that ride directly on the crank. KTM claims a longer service life for this design and reduction in vibration due to tighter tolerances.
The Keihin throttle body is all new this year. It has a new injector position. The direct connect design eliminates the cable linkage for better throttle feel. There are separate circuits for cold start and idle adjustments. The Keihin engine management system incorporates a bar mounted map and launch control switch. Although the switch was not mounted on our test bikes. There is a light on the upper clamp to indicate when the launch control system is activated.
The transmission remains a 5 speed. The design is now lightener and narrower. Attention has been given to both the gears and shift forks to improve feel and durability. The 450 is the only bike of the xc-f four strokes to retain the DDS clutch. It gets a redesigned basket, inner hub and pressure plate. Hydraulic actuation is still via the Brembo master cylinder.
The wiring harness is simplified and much of it sits in the box above the battery in the airbox. The idea is to allow the subframe to be removed without having to disturb the electronics. The xc-f gets a lightweight, 1.1 lbs Lithium battery and will also accept a standard YTX4 battery.
KTM has improved the overall air flow with new radiators designed around the new body work and fuel tank for a 10% increase in cooling efficiency. The beefy radiator guards now provide structural protection from crash damage.
One of the more obvious changes is the all new exhaust design with the bulging head pipe. KTM calls this the Flow Design Header (FDH) and says it improves throttle response while reducing noise. The overall package, including silencer is 60mm shorter than the previous model.
A look at the the KTM supplied dyno chart is pretty impressive. Peak output is 63 hp at about 9500 rpm. Max torque is 52 N/m at 7,000 rpm. Perhaps equally impressive is that the 450 is already putting out 50 hp by that point. If I have my math correct, 52 N/m equals about 38 foot pounds of torque.
On the suspension side, the xc-f retains the WP 48mm 4CS fork and linkage shock. But there is more there than meets the eye too. The shock is all new, as is the linkage. The new shock body has a larger gas reservoir for reduced fade. The shaft is smaller in diameter. Overall length is 12 mm shorter, but provides 10 mm more travel. The spring rate is reduced to 48 N/m.
WP has revised the damping in all of the 4CS fork models to match the new frame design. The overall goal is improved ride quality. Spring rates remain the same at 4.8 N/m.
For our trip to the new model introduction, the 450 was probably the most out of its intended element of any of the new models. If the 250xc-f was best suited to the conditions, the 450 was at the opposite end of the scale. Nevertheless, there were some significant first ride impressions.
The 450 is ridiculously fast. As the entire xc-f line is nearly identical to the sx-f line and the 450sx-f is now a replica of the Ryan Dungey race bike, you can see why it is so fast. Now having said that, I will also venture to say that it feels more manageable than our 2014 long term 450xc-f bike.
The power delivery seems surprisingly smooth and linear for so much horsepower. There was little opportunity to really use it, but twisting the throttle to move the rear wheel or take weight off the front came very easy without it just feeling like too much all the time. Riding in a tall gear and just using small amounts of throttle worked great. There was a plenty of torque and none of the on/off light switch kind of feel.
Like the other new models, there were a few stalls once we got off the main track and started boondocking around. That is an area that will need more ride time to learn how and where the 450 works best.
Suspension and overall ride quality are vastly improved over the 2014 model. The front is quite supple, perhaps too soft for aggressive riders. I think KTM took enough bashing for the 4CS fork being harsh on the xc/sx line last year that they went to the opposite extreme. But, the settings seem to suit me very well. I like to be a bit soft, even for my weight.
As for the shock, it simply seems like magic. I repeatedly tried to do things to upset it and had no success. It takes the improvements that KTM saw with the first version of their linkage platform and raises the bar again. Particularly good was the overall feedback from the rear in roots and ruts, something I saw as lacking on the linkage bikes.
There was none of the overall harsh feel that has characterized the xc-f bikes in the last few years. This is nearly an xc-w type of ride quality. Its is smooth, there is little vibration. It feels super light for a full size bike and tracks well.
There is definitely more to talk about with the big 450, but I want to wait until I can get more ride time and really see how it works in our western conditions, both track and trail. But it is pretty obvious that KTM addressed most of my wish list from the previous model. It is smoother, easier to ride and has better suspension settings. While more power and lighter weight were not on my list, I won’t complain about either.
I thought I was pretty clear in my call for a 6 speed transmission, but apparently that went unnoticed. Although I don’t think the average rider will miss it, only those of use who want our track bike to do double duty as a dual sporter too.
But I have a feeling that for those looking for the kind of power and handling to get the hole shot and win a Gran Prix or desert race, the new 450xc-f is going to be just the ticket.
|Engine Type||Single Cylinder, 4-stroke|
|Bore / Stroke||95 mm /63.4 mm|
|Starter / Battery||Electric starter / Lihium Ion 12V, 3 Ah|
|Carburetor/Fuel Management||Keihin EFI, throttle body 44mm|
|Control||4 V / OHC with rocker levers|
|Lubrication||Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps|
|Gear Ratios||16:32, 18:30, 20:28, 22:26, 24:24|
|Clutch||Wet multi-disc DDS-cluch, Brembo hydraulics|
|Frame||Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4|
|Handlebar||Neken, Aluminum 28/22 mm|
|Front Suspension||WP USD 4CS Closed Cartridge|
|Rear Suspension||WP 5018 DCC Monoshock with linkage|
|Suspension Travel Front/Rear||300 mm / 11.81 in; 300 mm / 11.81 in|
|Front/Rear Brakes||Disc brakes Ø 260 mm / 10.24 in; 220 mm / 8.66 in|
|Front/Rear Rims||1.60 x 21 ; 2.15 x 18|
|Front/Rear Tires||80/100-21; 110/100-18 Dunlop Geomax AT81|
|Chain||X Ring 5/8 x 1/4 in|
|Steering Head Angle||26.1°|
|Triple Clamp Offset||22 mm|
|Wheel Base||1,485 ± 10 mm / 58.46 ± 0.4 in|
|Ground Clearance||370 mm / 14.57 in|
|Seat Height||992 mm / 39.06 in|
|Tank Capacity, Approx.||8.5 L / 2.25 gal|
|Weight Without Fuel, Approx.||104.6 kg / 230.6 lb|