control, hold the throttle wide open, and then dump the
clutch. It sounds like it couldn’t possibly work, but it does.
There is one caveat, though. If you blip the throttle on the
starting line and let the revs fall by more than 30 percent,
launch control will shut off—and you cannot reengage it
without shutting the engine down. Why does it disengage
launch control if the revs fall? The system is designed
to stay engaged as long as the rider is moving forward.
Once he shuts the throttle off for the first turn, the system
Q: HOW BIG IS THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE
NEW REAR BRAKE SETUP?
A: Welcome. For 2017 KTM made two changes
to the rear brake system. (1) Longer brake pedal.
The 2017 rear brake pedal is 10mm longer than the
2016 pedal. We recognized that the KTM brake pedal
was too short several years ago and always ran 7602
Racing’s 10mm-longer brake-pedal tip (www.7602
racing.com). ( 2) Rear brake pads. For 2017 the rear
brake pads use a less-aggressive compound. Many racers
felt that the previous rear brake pad was too grabby and
could overheat if used too aggressively. If you liked last
year’s feel, just order 2016 brake pads for your 2017 KTM.
Q: HOW BIG ARE THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF
THE MISCELLANEOUS UPDATES?
A: Very big. Every 2017 KTM comes with an hour
meter installed on top of the top triple clamp. This is a nice
touch. The head stays are not only aluminum and more
rigid than the steel stays of 2016, but they look nicer and
are lighter. The seat cover has a new gripper material that
is like Mamma Bear’s porridge—not too grippy and not too
slick. The top of the shock body now has a raw-aluminum
cap instead of a black-anodized one. It doesn’t do anything
functional, but it adds a light touch to the chassis. The
graphics mystify us. Last year, if you looked closely, you
could see the letters KTM cryptically hiddin in the radia-
tor-shroud design. We’ve been looking at the 2017 graphics
to find the hidden message, but it has eluded us.
Q: HOW FAST IS THE 2017 KTM 350SXF?
A: The 2017 KTM 350SXF may not be everybody’s
cup of tea, but it is a very sweet powerband that can be
used two ways:
(1) Ride it hard. If you want all the horsepower that
the 350SXF has to offer, you need to rev it to the moon—
and we mean rev it until dogs howl in neighboring towns.
The key tactic to being successful on a 350SXF is to refuse
to shift. Resist the urge to shift when your twitchy right
foot wants you to. Resist the urge to shift when the engine
whines at 11,000 rpm. Resist the urge to shift until your
brain can’t take it anymore. Then, at 13,400 rpm, and not
one iota earlier, slam in a new gear and refuse to shift all
over again. Why should you bleed it dry? Because if you
shift at 9000 rpm, you will be giving up 5 horses. If you
shift at 11,000 rpm, you will be giving up 1 horse. If you
shift at 13,400 rpm, you will be getting everything the
350SXF has, which is 54. 41 horsepower.
( 2) Ride it easy. What’s great about the progressive
nature of the powerband is that it is flexible enough to
meter out the correct amount of power for every track situation. It has the perfect power below peak rpm to master
tricky half-throttle corners. It can track across off-cambers
without raising your fear of spinning out. It picks up clean,
builds power progressively and keeps its eye on the prize,
even if you never get near the 13,400-rpm grand prize.
Many Vet riders love to race the 350SXF as though it were
a small 450 instead of what it really is—a big 250.
Is it faster than last year’s KTM 350SXF? No. There are
no cam, valve, piston or exhaust-pipe mods. Mechanically,
the 2017 engine is the 2016 engine, although there is a
mapping change that makes it feel smoother.
Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE 2017 WP AER FORKS?
A: WP’s take on air forks is so different from Showa’s
Hitting the scales at 221 pounds, the 2017 KTM
350SXF is lighter than every Japanese-made
250 four-stroke, only it has 54 horsepower
instead of 40.