If there’s an off-road
rider who doesn’t like the
KTM 300, he’s probably
never ridden one.
KTM sells two 300 two-strokes with almost the same
name: the 300XC and the 300XC-W. The 300XC-W that we
have here is more focused on trail riding, but for the record,
it is also the one that Red Bull Hard Enduro champion
Jonny Walker usually rides in his very toughest races. It
has the more traditional non-linkage PDS rear suspension.
The W also has a different front suspension, using an open-cartridge WP fork instead of the 4CS. The motors are almost
identical. The W has a lower first and second gear, although
the final gearing is taller. There’s a slight difference in ignition
mapping, and the W has a headlight and a spark arrestor.
Even though none of KTM’s U.S. factory off-road racers ride
the W, it remains the popular choice among rank-and-file
The 300 appeals to two completely different riders. Its
primary customers are older trail riders who don’t like the
complications of the new fuel-injected four-strokes. Its
other fans are young, athletic types who want to go into
impossible places and leap over giant stair steps and
waterfalls. The reason it works for both types of riders is
because of the nature of the power delivery. The 300 will
run at an engine speed of nearly zero, then spring to life
without hesitation. It won’t stall, and it never does anything
like cough or sputter. It also makes a lot of power. The 300
is probably the most powerful production two-stroke on
OFF-ROAD TEST | KTM 300XC-W
the market. This isn’t motocross-type power, though.
When you venture out on a track, the 300’s strongest
asset—its low-end response—goes unnoticed because
it happens too early. On a track, riders tend to rev a
bike up in a zone where the 300 isn’t as impressive.
The power is certainly enough to do the job, but KTM’s
own 250cc two-stroke motocross bike feels stronger.
The 300 is only a pipe and silencer away from having a
more aggressive power delivery.
As any 300 fan will tell you, the jetting can be
somewhat baffling. In stock form it feels like it’s on
the edge of being too lean. It has the slightest bit of
detonation and surges at low rpm. For the most part
it’s harmless. Most riders fix it by using earplugs. Some
insist on altering the jetting, which is possible, but it
goes a little beyond adjusting the air screw. Raising
the needle a notch is too drastic, but there is a Suzuki
needle that helps. Stillwell Racing has some in stock.
KTM hasn’t changed this motor much since giving it electric
start in 2008. If a new design is in the works, maybe now is
the time to buy the existing one.
like the Brembo