If you change from a Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kawasaki to
a KTM, be careful the first time you use a real brake.
We like the WP rear shock, the 45 N/m spring rate and stock
settings, but we hate the Nylon shock preload ring.
ping, every test rider felt that the 2018 350SXF was crisper
from mid and up. Surprise! When KTM finally answered our
mapping question, the answer was, “No mapping changes.” We think it’s faster, KTM’s in-house test riders think
it’s faster—but it is unchanged.
Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE 2018 WP AER FORKS?
A: We think the WP AER air forks are the best air
forks ever put on a production motorcycle. KTM racers can
live happily ever after with the stock WP AER forks. They
are the air version of Kayaba SSS spring forks. What makes
this statement significant is that Honda and Suzuki have
given up on air forks and joined Yamaha in the coil-spring
brigade for 2018, largely because of a consumer revolt. The
Showa and Kayaba air forks were too complicated, and
even if they had been right, it was too hard to get to the
sweet spot and almost impossible to keep the forks there.
Buyers didn’t want them anymore. As racers, we appreciate the return to coil springs, but we also have regrets. Air
forks weigh 3 pounds less than coil-spring forks, thus all
the work that Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha put into knocking weight off of the 2018 CRF450, RM-Z450 and YZ450F
has been for naught. They will all be heavier or the same,
even though they were designed to be lighter.
The MXA test riders had one small issue with the 2017
AER fork. Although we were impressed with how good the
2017 KTM air fork was in box-stock trim, we complained
about quickness in the transition from small bumps to
medium-sized bumps. The 2017 forks moved too quickly on
compression and felt fluttery in braking bumps. Thankfully,
KTM responded to these complaints for 2018. Every MXA
test rider felt that the 2018 fork followed the ground better
than last year’s fork. It didn’t flutter off little bumps and
tracked across rough ground without lifting off. Sensitive
test riders believed that the improved low-speed control
helped the bike turn better—all this thanks to moving the
30mm shims up in the stack and the 26mm shims down.
Overall, the 2018 WP AER air fork is an improvement over
the 2017 AER fork.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES THE 2017 KTM 350SXF
A: On MXA’s scale, it came in at 221 pounds. The
surprise is that it is only 1 pound less than the 450SXF (222
pounds). Thankfully, in motion it feels much lighter than
the 450SXF—largely a function of the bigger bike’s torque
and horsepower making the 450 feel more substantial.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Preload ring. We really hate the nylon preload ring.
Life would be so much easier with an aluminum or steel
ring, or even some high-tech locking device. The nylon ring
can’t be hit with a punch, but has to be pried with a long
screwdriver leveraged against the frame.
( 2) Fork-air bleeder. Even if you own a #20 Torx
wrench, never use it on the air side of the WP forks. It will
strip out. Just use a 10mm T-handle. On the left side, you
have to use the #20 Torx. We swapped out the left-side
Torx screw for the old-school Phillips screw from 2016.
( 3) ODI grips. Oh, don’t get us wrong, we like the ODI
lock-on grips, but the clutch side is locked on with a #15
Torx. If you want to change the grips, you have to have
a #15 Torx.
( 4) Exhaust. You can’t take the pipe off the bike without removing the shock.
( 5) Gas cap. It sticks.
KTM was late to the air fork party, which is too bad because
their AER air forks are the belle of the ball.