This is how we set up our KTM 350SXF for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.
WP FORK SETTINGS Last year’s forks were a hot mess. They lacked mid-speed damping in both directions. They moved too quickly, boinged around and tended to bottom if push came to shove. For 2013, KTM increased the midstroke damping and raised the oil height to get the forks closer to where a high-horsepower, Open- class race bike should be. The result is better front suspension. It is more raceable and able to support the typical KTM buyer’s weight. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setup on the 2013 KTM 350SXF (stock specs are in parentheses): Spring rate: 0.48 kg/mm Oil height: 390cc Compression: 15 clicks out Rebound: 15 clicks out Fork leg height: 5mm up Notes: Last year we raised the fork oil height by 10cc, but for 2013, KTM raised the oil height at the factory by 10cc. KTM’s forks come with different oil heights for each model. The 125SX and 150SX have their oil set at 360cc, the 250SX has 380cc, and the four-strokes roll out of the factory with 390cc. Unless you are a bantamweight, we don’t think you will find the WP forks to be too stiff. KTM increased the compression damping noticeably over 2012, but they could go firmer.
WP SHOCK SETTINGS The rear suspension setup isn’t all that different from 2012, but it does have a different feel because of increased rigidity in the rear end. The rear axle is 5mm larger and the one-piece swingarm is beefier. The result is a better-tracking rear end—with less tendency to kick or yaw in the rough. For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2013 KTM 350SXF (stock specs are in parentheses): Spring rate: 5. 7 kg/mm Race sag: 105mm Hi-compression: 2 turns out Lo-compression: 15 clicks out Rebound: 15 clicks out Notes: We don’t think that the average 350SXF rider will need a stiffer shock spring—unless he is over 200 pounds. Smaller riders (those under 150 pounds) might opt to return to last year’s softer 5. 4 kg/mm rear spring.
(1) Shock preload ring. Hate it. Who would make a preload ring out of rubber? ( 2) Gearing. No sweat. We gear every KTM down one or two teeth. ( 3) Seat foam. Feels good for a couple rides, and then it starts to settle in. ( 4) Weight. We expected the 2013 KTM 350SXF to be lighter. It wasn’t. It hit MXA’s trusty scales at 236 pounds. This bike would be a lot better at 230 pounds. ( 5) Fender. Someone in KTM’s engineering department is a fan of Euler-Bernoulli’s I-beam theory. This 1750 theory was the cornerstone of engineering during the Second Industrial Revolution, and, as with all things structural, it could be applied to the design of a front fender. On the other hand, we don’t know that an I-beam front fender is necessarily the best possible expression of the theories expressed by Euler and Bernoulli. ( 6) Torx bolts. We all want to be unique, which accounts for the popularity of tattoos, soul patches and wool caps in the summer. However, MXA is not quite sure that we want the bolt choice on our racing bikes to be the equivalent of Elvis-style sideburns. Having Torx bolts for the sake of having them is an open invitation not to tighten them. Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE? A: The like list: (1) Exhaust pipe. Finally, we can remove a KTM exhaust pipe without having to pull the shock off. On a side note, there are two perf-core cones inside the 42mm muffler core; one facing forward and one facing backward. The cones restrict exhaust flow, thus lessening the exhaust note. The 450SXF has one forward-facing cone, and the 250SXF has a wire-screen restrictor. All the KTMs pass the two-meter-max sound test. ( 2) Steel clutch basket. The 350SXF does not use the exotic diaphragm clutch that comes on the 250SX and 450SXF, but it does have a durable, strong and money-saving steel clutch basket, plus it is hydraulic. ( 3) Handlebars. The Renthal 827 bars are 12mm taller than last year’s bars, which were 12mm too low. ( 4) Reprogram. The 350SXF has three ignition (not fuel) maps embedded into the black box, but you need an accessory switch to access them. We prefer the “aggressive” curve. ( 5) Gas cap. Thanks for the threads. ( 6) Brakes. 260mm of pucker power. ( 7) Power. Night-and-day better than last year’s and eons better than in 2011. ( 8) Fender. Yes, it is over-engineered, but it is better than what KTM had before. Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK? A: KTM did irreparable harm to the 350cc mid-size concept with the bike they introduced in 2011. The Austrians took a promising idea and killed its momentum by building a bike that was poorly planned, ill-conceived and underdeveloped. At the time, the motocross market was open to a 350cc engine wedged into a 250 chassis. They envisioned a bike that was light and agile, but had a broad and usable mid-sized powerband. That didn’t happen. Instead, they got a slow-revving 250-ish powerband in a heavy, softly suspended chassis. Flash-forward two years and the 350SXF is a lot closer to the vision that customers had back in 2011. There has always been a potential market for a mid-sized Open bike, because it suits the riding styles of many offroad riders. Now, KTM is finally offering what they promised. ;
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