The KTM 300XC isn’t really a cult bike. It’s KTM’s
hottest seller, defying the industry analysts with
their charts and pointy sticks who have been
announcing the end of the two-stroke era for so long.
The KTM 300 still serves a cult, but the cult is so large
that it confuses the definition.
A big part of the XC’s strength is the fact that it has
moved forward when most other two-strokes have
stopped in their developmental tracks. It became lighter
when all the four-strokes became lighter. It became smoother,
faster and better as all the four-strokes became smoother, faster,
Riding the 300 XC is easy. It continues to run down to zero rpm, long
after most four-strokes have flamed out. Granted, it doesn’t make much
power down there compared to a 450 stroker, but it won’t stop, and that’s
something few bikes can promise. Picture an ugly, uphill rut that pulls your
feet off the pegs and leaves you defenselessly draped over the rear of the
seat. The KTM just keeps on going—as long as you don’t fall off the back.
And unlike the KTM 300s of the past, it runs clean on the bottom. Face it,
one of the reasons that two-strokes declined was because of the missing,
the smoking, the detonation and the loading up. They could be a mess to
jet, and the KTM 300 was the worst. But not now. The bike might need to
clear its throat briefly after sustained low-rpm riding, but it’s never in danger
of fouling a plug like the bikes of old. In terms of sheer power, the XC is a
little milder than the other two 300s; it has more low-rpm pulling power but
less of a hit moving into the mid-range.
The fact that the XC doesn’t ask you to pay a weight penalty for the
starter and battery is amazing. It weighs 220 pounds, which is less than the
other 300s. The truth is that they all feel pretty light, but we’ll still give a
handling edge to the KTM because of its suspension. The XC has slightly
stiffer WP components than the Gas Gas and Husky (and for that matter, its
nearly identical stable mate, the XCW), so it’s able to deal with a little more
speed and aggressive riding. At the same time, it handles rocks, stumps,
holes and roots pretty well. It might be the most well-rounded suspension
package in the KTM line.
The bike’s flaws are few. The biggest is that it’s a steamer. If you abuse
the clutch, the motor gets hot and coolant starts squirting. We hear that this
can be mitigated slightly by removing the thermostat, but it really could use
a coolant recovery tank. After that, the complaints are more on the level of
the dumb push-button gas cap and things of that scale. Make no mistake
about it, for hard-core enduro riding, talking trash about the KTM 300 is
almost sacrilegious. And frankly, we’re not in the business of taking down
any cult icons.