ON THE TRAIL
The 300 feels light and agile because it is. The bike
can be manhandled on tight trails much more easily than
a four-stroke. In terms of seat height and rider layout,
though, it’s a large-feeling bike. Smaller riders might want
to bring the handlebar in closer or maybe even alter the
seat. It’s also noteworthy that two-strokes have lost their
advantage in actual weight recently. Manufacturers (mostly
KTM) have been aggressive in shaving weight off four-strokes, while two-strokes have been relatively unchanged.
As a result, the 300 is now heavier than a top-of-the-line
450 MX bike. However, you would never know that when
you ride it. A 450 four-stroke has more rotating mass,
so there are mysterious gyroscopic factors involved. The
300 is much easier to maneuver in virtually all situations.
It changes directions effortlessly and always gives you
confidence that you’re the one in command.
There are two different factions that square off regularly
in the KTM suspension world. The linkage guys and the
PDS guys agree to disagree on which system is better.
Both have their advantages. The PDS system on this bike
is cushy on small bumps. It’s also lighter, simpler and
offers more ground clearance. On the flip side it tends to
make the rear end ride high, which makes the bike feel
stinkbug-like on steep downhills. Suspension tuners also
say they can do more with a linkage system when it comes
OFF-ROAD TEST | KTM 300XC-W
to setups for specific riders and terrain. The argument
will continue, but the 300XC-W has great suspension
for most riders. In fact, many claim that the fork is
superior to the 4CS unit that comes on the SX and
XC models. This is an old-school, open-bath fork that
works very well on small bumps like rocks. It gets a
little overwhelmed in big whoops, but that’s more a
result of softish spring and damping rates than design.
IN EVERY GARAGE
KTM has sold a zillion of these over the last 15
years, yet they are hard to find on the used market.
Riders tend to hold on to 300s for a long time, even
while other bikes come and go in the same garage.
That’s because they’re reliable and cheap to maintain.
A top-end rebuild takes about an hour and costs a
little over $100. The bottom ends goes forever, and
even when KTM 300 engines fail, it isn’t in catastrophic
What about the future? Will the 300 be around in this
form much longer? We don’t know. KTM redesigned all
its four-stroke off-road motors at the end of 2015. The
company also came out with a new 125/150 motor this
year. That would lead us to believe that the 300 two-stroke motor is next on the list.
Or, maybe not. Frankly, we’re not sure what they
could do to it. o