Thin orange line
Test by Darren Smart. Pics by Nigel Paterson
KTM has ruled the MX1 and MX2 classes in the World Motocross Championship over the last few years and all of the data gained from those wins has evolved the machinery that we, the consumer get to race each year.
For 2013 the KTM 350 and 250 SX-F also get the benefit of the input from Roger Decoster and Ryan Dungey so there are serious advancements in chassis, ergos, swingarm, suspension and the engine.
The only way to win 13 world championships in 13 years is to have machinery that is not only competitive but reliable so for 2013 the 250 and 350 SX-F have a raft of changes that are designed for exactly that, and they have an immediate effect once you start punching out laps.
For 2013 there are serious adavncements in chassis, ergos and swingarm
The ergos are slimmer, the ’bars are more swept back, the suspension/chassis package feels firmer and both motors roll from zero to the rev limiter without a glitch. A quick check on the spec sheet confirms that I am not as dumb as I look.
Yes, the chromoly chassis has been given some extra rigidity around the steering head, there is a new beefier swingarm and the suspension has been firmed up.
Changes to the motor include a new Pankl conrod, new head design with larger everything and redesigned camshafts, larger 44mm EFI system, redesigned airbox and intake boot, new CNC billet clutch all wrapped in all new die cast cases that save a heap of weight.
There is no kick starter with any of the 2013 SX-F models and that may be a concern to some riders but I am pretty sure the hard core motocrossers won’t give a toss.
The ride – 250 SX-F and 350 SX-F back-to-back.
So with all these improvements at my disposal what was the 2012 250 SX-F like to ride? KTM claim that there is an increase of five horsepower over the old motor and I won’t argue, the motor is so user friendly it offers the ability to pull the power on very early in the corner and hang on to each gear until the 14,000 rev limit…yeehaa!
The hydraulic clutch and the six speed gearbox allowed me to keep the 250 motor in the meat of the power all of the way around the track and there were several times that I was thankful for the Brembo brakes because some of the corners come up a little faster than I had anticipated.
This motor rips!
The general feel of the 250 was definitely different to previous models with the ’bar/seat/footpeg combination giving what I consider a more conventional riding position so it took no time to get into the swing of things out on the track.
The chassis offers good feedback and I felt that the WP suspension sat higher in the stroke when cornering yet slid through the stroke with minimal spiking or deflection on flat landings, square edged bumps and g-outs.
The complete 250 motor
The rear suspension in particular sat higher than in previous years and there was less squat under acceleration without any harsh or kick through the rear when hanging off the throttle through bumps.
Tipping into corners and maintaining speed through turns is effortless thanks to the balance of the chassis and suspension coupled with the smooth power delivery and once under hard acceleration coming out of the corner there isn’t any tendency for the bike to want to run wide.
Jumping off the 250 and straight onto the 350 gave a pretty fair indication as to how many parts these models share. I mean, I could hardly tell the difference, they share the same seat height at 922mm and just about everything else but the 350 motor definitely offers extra speed between corners.
The 250 now shares the same clutch as the 350 so that obviously felt the same but the 350 has, and only needs a five speed gearbox and weighs a piddly extra 2kg than the 250.
Sure, there is a little more push from the larger CC motor going into corners but as I belted out laps on the 350 I found myself using exactly the same lines as I was on the 250 with the main difference being that I was arriving at the next corner a little quicker and it felt like I was using less energy to get the same result lap time wise.
The rpm limit on the 2013 motor is 13,400 rpm (up from 13,000) and there were only a few spots on the track where revving it that hard was necessary but on those short little straights where you’re just trying to get to the next corner as quick as possible I rarely changed gear, I just pulled the throttle to the stopper and let it run through the revs and almost every time I had to hit the brakes before redline, and again, I thanked my lucky stars that the Brembos work as well as they do.
One of the great things about doing a KTM launch is getting to talk to Rob Twyerould between rides and when I got off the 350 I mentioned to Rob that the 350 motor felt a lot stronger than the last model I rode and he said that the 2013 motor is basically a replica of Cairoli’s motor from the 2011/2012 seasons.
As a person who follows the sport of motocross with the dedication of a 16-year-old boy who just found his dad’s Playboy collection I have watched with interest KTM’s evolution in the motocross world over the last decade or so and to ride what is the end result of all that hard work and appreciate how far KTM has come is pretty cool.
What I can say with all of the confidence I can muster and backed with over four decades of racing motocross is that KTM has absolutely nailed it with the 2013 KTM 250 and 350 SX-F. And to ram the point home my mind wanders back to a session I did just before lunch when I was out on the track turning laps on the 350 and wondering if there was anyone else on the track that is loving this bike as much as I am when Ryan Marmont came blasting by me on one of the other 350′s at absolute warp speed and I was convinced right there and then.
No Darren, you are not the only one out here loving the new KTMs.
I really would love to give you an in depth rundown on the specific changes to both bikes but we don’t have the room. Both the 250 and 350 get their own updates, and there are plenty of updates that both bikes share too.
Check out Cycle Torque’s iPad edition of the November issue where you can read my full test.
Smarty’s view I guess if you’ve read to this point you’d see I’m impressed with the 2013 250 and 350 SX-F.
Sure, the 350 has a little bit more grunt than the 250 but I think making a choice between the two bikes will come down to your mindset or prejudices on capacity, and possibly what your top budget is (250 – $10,495, 350 – $10,995).
There’s not a huge difference between the two bikes, and it’s tough to say one brand of machine is substantially better than another brand these days, as much of it comes down to a rider’s personal ‘feel’ of a bike rather than actual performance and handling.
That said I think the 250 SX-F will surely be a class leading Lites racer, and the 350 SX-F could well start to become the thinking man’s open class racer.
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