Easy rider: The broad powerband allows the rider to play with the oomph. Q: WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WP SUSPENSION? A: KTM made some mild damping adjustments to the low- speed compression and rebound on the 2014 forks, but this is a band-aid on a mortal wound. KTM obviously tuned its suspension settings for Vet riders. In the past, we would have said that they tuned them for European riders, but the American- spec WP suspension is much stiffer than the Euro-spec stuff, which makes us wonder how bad it must be to ride this bike in Barcelona. KTM has focused on the biggest group of 450SXF buyers—older, richer and heavier slow guys. The WP forks and shock are good for a certain speed and rider weight. Not great, but good. Any rider under KTM’s target weight or over the target speed is in trouble. When we switched from Novice and Vet test riders to Pros, they bottomed the suspension everywhere. And since the 0.50 kg/mm fork springs are freight-liner stiff, this points to insufficient damping (front and rear) Q: WHAT DID WE HATE? A: The hate list: (1) Shock preload ring. “Hate” is too nice a word. Does “hassen” sound better? ( 2) Weight. It is lighter than last year, but it is still too heavy (although not the heaviest 450). ( 3) Suspension. If we were KTM and were so close to winning every 450 shootout ever printed except that our suspension kept nixing the deal, we’d put more effort into fixing the Katoom’s biggest flaw. Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE? A: The like list: (1) The bike. This bike has the best all-around handling, best brakes, best clutch, best shifting, best overall powerband, an electric starter, no-tools airbox and good durability. Other brands might have better suspension, more focused power or weigh less, but no brand has as many superlatives as KTM. ( 2) Plain bearings. Much like the old-school bronze bushings used on road racers, KTM’s plain bearings are good engineering. ( 3) Hydraulic clutch. The best clutch in motocross just got better with the addition of the stiffer Belleville washer. ( 4) Brakes. Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki should be ashamed. Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK? A: This is the greatest four-fifths of a motocross bike ever built. It is missing the one piece of the puzzle that would make it untouchable—and that is a puzzlement. If you are a Pro who knows a suspension tuner with KTM experience or are part of KTM’s target audience, this bike is a winner. ;
2014 KTM 450SXF MXA KTM 450SXF
SETUP SPECS This is how we set up our KTM 450SXF for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot. WP FORK SETTINGS The 2014 KTM 450SFX suspension works best at Vet speed. Any faster than that and it is quickly over- stressed. We have lived with these forks for many years without seeing any significant improvement in their damping. We originally blamed it on the Dutch, but a few years ago KTM moved the WP facility to Austria (and got the Dutch off the hook). It is true that KTM upped the compression damping for 2014, but that was just a baby step in the direction they need to go. We would bite the bullet and send these forks to MX-Tech, MX1 or Pro Circuit. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setup on the 2014 KTM 450SXF (stock specs are in parentheses): Spring rate: 0.50 kg/mm Oil height: 390cc Compression: 9 clicks out ( 12 clicks out) Rebound: 12 clicks out Fork-leg height: 5mm up Notes: If you are looking for plusher forks, lower the oil height by 10cc to 380cc. If you are faster and looking for firmer forks, raise the oil height by 10cc or 20cc (400cc or 410cc). The clickers cannot iron out the issues that Pro riders will have with these forks. WP SHOCK SETTINGS The shock is considerably better than the forks, but when one end of a bike doesn’t work, it transfers the bulk of the load to the other end. Until you get the forks to absorb everything thrown at them, the shock will continue to suffer. For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2014 KTM 450SXF (stock specs are in parentheses): Spring rate: 5. 7 kg/mm Race sag: 100mm (105mm) Hi-compression: 1-1/2 turns out ( 2 turns out) Lo-compression: 12 clicks out Rebound: 15 clicks out Notes: We don’t think the average 450SXF rider will need a stiffer shock spring, unless he is over 200 pounds. Smaller riders can live with the stock spring by turning the compression clicker out.