Command center: The button is the electric starter and the
switch is both launch control and mapping.
Pound of flesh: We have issues with KTM’s shock spring
selection. We can’t always get preload on the spring.
no-win situation. It was time to change directions. KTM’s
American test department decided that its previous tack
had sent its suspension off on the wrong course, so KTM
trimmed the jib and reset the main sail. Instead of listening to its Pro test riders, KTM started listening to the Vet
riders who actually buy the bikes. The result? (1) Forks
that actually move all the way through their stroke. ( 2)
Forks that have compression adjuster settings that work
for a wide range of riders. ( 3) Forks that are plush. Okay,
we admit that they aren’t stiff enough for most high-speed Pros, but they are much better for the vast
majority of KTM owners.
MXA’s Pro test riders said that they could bottom the
2016 WP 4CS forks, while the typical KTM Vet rider was
able to compensate by turning the compression clicker in
whatever direction he wanted to go—and that is something that few KTM riders, regardless of their speed,
were able to do last year. For the first time in a long
time, the WP forks can operate over a wide range of
compression settings. Most MXA test riders actually
turned the compression clicker in instead of out.
KTM’s test department decided to focus on regular
riders instead of Pro riders, who never race with stock
suspension valving anyway. The WP forks aren’t perfect,
but they are much better for the majority of riders.
Q: WHAT ABOUT THE REAR SHOCK?
A: We had issues with WP’s choice for the rear
shock spring. The stock 48 N/m shock spring works best
for riders above 180 pounds—and even then it operates
with very little preload on the spring. Any rider under
180 pounds will probably have zero spring preload. This
isn’t the optimum setup for a rear shock. Preload is an
important tuning tool. We sent test riders of all weights
out to ride with the stock 48 shock spring, and the
heavier the rider, the better it worked; however, for
lighter test riders, we used the 45 N/m spring from the
2016 KTM 250SXF. This was a great mod for riders
below 160 pounds. Riders in the middle of our weight
range—from 160 to 180 pounds—will have to decide
which spring to use based on feel.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Gearing. We don’t hate the stock 50-tooth gearing,
because it gives the 350SXF powerband a seamless
rheostat delivery; however, with a 13,400 rpm rev limiter
and peak power at the top of the chart, half of the MXA
test riders preferred to add a tooth to the rear sprocket
to get full use out of the high-rpm powerband. Why?
Below 13,200 rpm, you aren’t using full power, so the
quicker you get to max rpm, the sooner you get max
blast. But if you prefer long pulling power, the stock 50
is the wise choice.
( 2) Frame guards. We complained about KTM
putting black frame guards on last year’s orange frame,
so they fixed it for 2016. They painted the frame black.
Now they match.
( 3) Mud flap. It is almost as stiff as the fenders,
which means that it doesn’t flap much.
( 4) Tubes. Expect to get flats until you replace the
super-thin Pirelli tubes hidden under the Dunlop MX32
tires with something stouter.
( 5) Gas cap. It sticks. Bring a friend with you to help
get it off.
( 6) Pipe. You can’t take the pipe off the bike without
removing the shock, or you can’t take the shock off
without removing the frame. Either way, this is money
badly saved by KTM. Put a slip fit in the pipe in 2017.
Giveaway: The only way to visually tell a 350SXF from a
250SXF is by the curved resonance chamber on the 350.