What you should know about the
“Bike of the Year”
1. When we first tested the W, we proclaimed it “Bike of the
Year.” It turned out that the year still had some surprises in store for
us, but we’re standing by that statement.
2. This is a mostly new bike for 2012. The frame still uses the
no-link PDS rear suspension, but it has been reconfigured with a different shock angle. The motor is the stunning, single-overhead-cam
design that became the platform for Ryan Dungey’s Supercross
bike. It is simpler and lighter than its predecessor. It also got fuel
injection. It has a six-speed gearbox, and it now has an electric fan
behind the right radiator. The clutch uses a diaphragm spring rather
than conventional coil springs.
3. KTM is very proud that the XC-W is green-sticker legal without any compromises. Contrary to what we once believed, this is
more difficult with fuel injection than it was with carburetors. With carburetors, the manufacturer can usually jet the bike lean and expect the
customer to find the proper jetting on his own. With EFI, the lean
metering is preprogrammed into a CPU that can’t be altered, according
to clearly specified EPA regulations. KTM is the only EFI dirt bike maker
that has accomplished EPA certification without resorting to throttle
stops or the need for a “competition” kit to make the bike run right.
4. An unaltered 450XC-W runs very, very well. Not only that, but
it has one of the sweetest off-road motors ever. It might not be as
fast as the Beta or the TM, but the power delivery down low is
incredibly good. It’s smooth enough to make a first-timer feel at
home, but it has fangs too. Just twist the throttle more and it goes.
The KTM runs cleanly at any rpm and revs just high enough on top
to get serious work done. The gear ratios have no gaps; first is very
low and sixth goes as fast as we would care to go.
5. The KTM is the lightest bike in the test. It weighs 248 pounds
without fuel, and that fact is obvious from the start. The bike is agile,
narrow and you can throw it around like a good old-fashioned two-stroke. At the other end of the spectrum, high-speed stability is good,
but perhaps not as bullet-train like as bikes like the TM.
6. The KTM wins the suspension wars. The WP fork and shock
might be the cushiest in the group now that Yamaha has gone to the
stiff side. That means it has the best ride at slow speeds on tight
trails and rocky terrain, but it doesn’t mean the bike is too mushy at
a full-tilt race pace. The KTM holds itself up in its travel well, and
bottoming is rarely felt, even in deep whoops. You might not want to
race the XC-W on a motocross course, but it will go everywhere
7. This bike has the most fuel capacity at 2. 5 gallons. This
combines with excellent fuel economy to give the bike the greatest
range in the test. We don’t like to give range numbers, because no
two riders get the same results, but the KTM will safely knock out
more than 50 miles for almost anyone, going almost any speed.
8. The fan is a great idea. In the past, we almost always boiled
KTMs on tough rides. Not this time. All the other bikes did spew
steam at one time or another.
9. The detail work is always good on KTMs. We like the easy
pull of the hydraulic clutch and the quality of parts like the rims, bars
and incredible brakes.
10. We stand by our declaration of the KTM as Bike of the
Year. The retail price is $9199, but it’s a very hard bike to find at
the dealer level.