In 2004, the KTM 300 got a new bore and stroke. That model
is very similar in performance to later versions.
350 was a better machine, and it won on the playing field
on public opinion. The 300 was discontinued in 1987 while
the 350 lived on. But the big motor was on its last leg and
everyone knew it. It still had a left-side kickstarter and a
right-side output shaft. The 350 simply proved the concept
would work, that the ultimate two-stroke displacement
might lie somewhere between 250cc and 500cc.
A ONE-BIKE CLASS
The concept of a big 250 inspired KTM engineers to try
the idea again in 1990. Only this time, they put a little more
effort into the project. Both the bore and the stroke were
changed and the present-day 300 was born. This time it
was 297cc with a 72mm by 73mm bore and stroke.
Beyond that, the port layout changed, along with the ignition timing and the carburetion. The bike was eventually
offered in several forms: an EXC (woods), DMX (desert) SX
(motocross) and TMX (Green sticker legal).
The year 1992 was a strange year for KTM. The products
had improved dramatically, sales were better than ever, but
out of nowhere, the company suddenly announced bankruptcy. Everything stopped for a short period of time while
financial muckety-mucks performed their dark magic and
reorganized the entire corporation. When the smoke
cleared, KTM reemerged, seemingly stronger than ever.
For several years, the 300 remained in the shadow of the
more successful 250EXC, which won shootout after
shootout in the pages of Dirt Bike. The 300 hadn’t yet realized its true potential. The main reason was the ignition.
When Motoplat went out of business, KTM had to scramble
for a new ignition maker. SEM got the job. It wasn’t a bad
unit; it worked well on the 250. But the 300 developed a
reputation for being unjettable. It was rich and lean at the
same time. It wasn’t until 1997 that KTM moved to
Kokusan ignitions and almost all the troubles disappeared.
In the intervening period, KTM expanded its niche philosophy by building a 360 on the same platform. This bike
was offered in 1996 and 1997, but it wasn’t a hit. It was
punched out to a 380 in 1998, and that bike was more
popular, particularly in the West and on motocross tracks.
The year 1998 was a big one for another reason. The
whole line was completely changed to incorporate what
would become KTM’s signature design: the linkless PDS
KTM improved the 360’s various issues with a 380, which
actually was an excellent motocross bike compared to the big
500cc two-strokes of the day.
Wolf’s pick: the 1992 KTM 300 that Tom Webb raced in the
Czech ISDE was one of his favorite bikes ever.
The 1996 360 was a good idea gone bad. According to Tom
Moen at KTM, the prototype was excellent; the final production bike wasn’t.
ICONIC DIRT BIKES