First ride: 2017 KTM EXC range

Published: 10 June 2016

‘KTM have gone further than ever before’

KTM’s success in the enduro sector is unprecedented and their current range enjoys a huge share of the enduro market. So what does a firm with such a proven track record and sales success do? They bring out a ground-up redesign of their currently world-dominating enduro range to the market for 2017, that’s what.

The overriding ethos of the 2017 KTM enduro range is simple and one that appeals to practically every motorcyclist on the planet: more power, less weight. Which in turn gives better handling, agility and racing performance.

MCN were invited to Las Comas in Spain, a location favoured by KTM’s factory Enduro and Dakar racing teams, for the global launch of what is an extensive range of new machines. For 2017 there are eight new models, split equally between two-strokes and four-strokes.

KTM have arguably gone further than ever before with the new four-strokes with the introduction of traction control and variable engine maps in addition to the complete engine and chassis rethink.

63bhp and monster torque

On paper the 500 appears a fearsome proposition. A huge 63bhp and monster torque should mean this is only a machine for the hardened pro, but in reality it’s the opposite. While the level of power available is verging on insane for an off-road bike that weighs 106.5kg, its delivery is smooth, predictable and manageable. When the going gets tough or you run out of energy you can simply sit down and let the bike do the work and drag you up the hills. It’s easier to ride than the 450 and would make a great trail bike whilst being seriously potent competition bike in the right hands.

Four-fifty enduros have a well-deserved reputation for being brutish bikes and the 2017 offering from KTM is no exception. While I’d love to be able to say it was the best bike for me, in the real world of enduro riding I found its almost limitless capabilities too much. Those ingredients of less weight and more power feel particularly noticeable, as does the grip it generates which makes it a formidable, and somewhat intimidating, prospect.

When KTM introduced the 350cc concept way back in 2010, it took the motocross market by storm before becoming a hugely popular enduro bike a year later. The 2017 model promises more of the same thanks to its redesign and in particular its lightweight handling and brilliant chassis characteristics. Power is abundant and it only weighs in one kilo more than its smaller 250 EXC-F sibling, meaning it genuinely has the power of a 450 with the handling of a 250.

The 250 EXC-F is without doubt the easiest bike in the entire range to ride. It may ‘only’ be a 250 but it has an incredible spread of power and loves to be revved. Every horsepower it has is usable and accessible meaning its truly a bike for any occasion.

Strokers are here to stay

Before the riding began, KTM were at pains to underline their current and future commitment to two-stroke technology – even at a time of ever-tightening emission controls. They won’t confirm it just yet but, clean running, high performance direct injection two-stroke engine technology is close. For now though the two-strokes remain carb’d, capitalising on the years of development to produce a package that is hard to beat. 

Their flagship is the 300 EXC. This single-cylinder 293.2cc two-stroke’s low-down torque and usability blows you away. Long gone are the peaky power characteristics associated with two-strokes of old.

KTM have been building strokers that defy preconceived logic for years and this year’s model takes another step and comes complete with an optional handlebar mounted switchable map, which softens the power delivery further, making it supremely capable when the going gets technical.

New 48mm WP forks provide 300mm of travel and at the rear KTM continue to run with the linkless PDS rear suspension set-up – a system favoured by extreme enduro riders as there is no linkage that could potentially get caught on obstacles hanging down lower than the swingarm.

The 250 two-stroke is more of the same and with ever greater power advances from KTM’s engine developers  it has become the weapon of choice for many top enduro riders due to its great spread of power, manageability and light weight. Riding around the six-mile loop in the Spanish mountains there was simply nothing faster when the going got technical and fast changes of direction were needed.

Die-hard two-stroke fans will be sad to hear that KTM have ceased production of the clubman favourite 200 EXC. In its place are the 150 and 125 cross-country models – derived from KTM’s motocross range but with wide-ratio gearboxes.

Tech spec   
Two-stroke  
125 XC-W £6099
150 XC-W £6299
250 EXC £6999
300 EXC £7199
Four-stroke  
250 EXC-F £7499
350 EXC-F £7649
450 EXC-F £7749
500 EXC-F £7849

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