When it comes to off-road bikes, KTM remain the boss bikes. The Austrian brand outsells its rivals in the UK and abroad and has just unveiled its seven bike enduro range for 2020. We sent experienced road tester Adam ‘Chad’ Child along to ride them all and fill us in with all the vital details…
The KTM enduro range for 2020 consists of seven models, starting with the all-new 150EXC TPI, which is homologated for Euro 4. The 250EXC TPI and 300EXC TPI complete the fuel-injected two-stroke range. If you prefer four strokes in your motor, you’ll have a choice of four different models; 250EXC-F, 350EXC-F, 450EXC-F and finally the 500EXC-F.
KTM’s racing experience and expertise is unquestionable and continues to be at the forefront of all racing, and the latest range of enduro bikes benefit from the latest innovations gained in racing; not just in enduro, but motocross, rally raids and even MotoGP. For 2020 each model is around 60% new, with the 150EXC being an entirely new bike for 2020.
So what’s new for 2020?
Although the new 2020 bikes may not appear completely different to the untrained eye, they have a huge list of changes, which soon add up.
The main changes are:
New frame – designed to give more torsional stiffness, but more flex in places. Cylinder head to frame mounting is new, and on the 250/300 EXC models, the engine has rotated forwards to improve the front wheel grip. The rear subframe is lighter, but longer by 40mm to increase strength. WP suspension has been improved across all models, with new adjusters, a new mid-valve piston and revised settings. Fork rings also come as standard on all models, which indicate movement and clean the stanchion at the same time. At the rear, the WP adjustable shock receives revised damping, while the shock is still directly mounted to the rear shock.
Engine – it’s now been two years since the launch of KTM’s very clever fuel-injected TPI 250 and 300 bikes, which means the new bikes benefit from 24 months of development and racing. According to KTM, the range of two-stroke engines are more efficient, with improved performance and now feature a new air pressure sensor, which communicates with the ECU, that compensates the fuel injection dependant on air pressure.
The four-stroke machines receive an increase in performance and not necessarily peak power. Interestingly the kick-start has been completely removed from the four-stroke engines and is not even an optional accessory. This allows for a completely new exhaust routing and a cleaner appearance. Kickstarts are still optional on the 250 and 300 TFI models and they both receive completely new exhausts to improve performance and reduce noise. The new exhaust comes with an easily distinguishable corrugated surface on the header pipes to add strength against debris. Radiators are new on all machines, with increased cooling and mounted 12mm lower, the big 450 and 500 are fitted with electric fans as standard. Airboxes are also completely new.
Appearance – as you’d expect, there are new graphics, but also new Bodywork, which is thinner and heavily sculpted, as well as a new seat. The seat has more padding than before, more so towards the rear, but doesn’t compromise seat height, which is the same as previously. The bodywork is noticeably narrower towards the rear. We could go on; the fuel tank is new and even the oil tank has more flexible mounting points for improved longevity. KTM hasn’t left any rock unturned, but the proof is in the riding and we were lucky enough to be able to throw a leg over the new models…
Less Talk, More Action
The completely new 150 TPI benefits from the engine and chassis changes mentioned above. It takes all the qualities of the proven two-stroke models with direct fuel-injection and proven reliability.
Interestingly the kick start remains and it doesn’t have the corrugated surface on the exhaust. I’d describe myself as a club level rider, which is why I loved the rev-happy 150 two-stroke. It is so light, it felt like a very fast mountain bike. You can have fun, wring its neck and it’s not going to jump back at you and bite you in the backside. There’s even a two-way throttle map that softens the power further, if that’s what you want.
The throttle response was impressive and in the tighter wooded sections it will happily pull you through. Equally, out in the open you can ride it wide open, just clicking through the gearbox – I felt like a teenager again! I’m relatively light, and short, and prefer to ride more technical tracks, not wide open, so the 150 won’t fit everyone, but I loved its toy-like ability to make me smile.
250 and 300TPI
The 250 was my first choice of bike for the day ahead as I’ve ridden its predecessor many times before. KTM has made the 250 easier to live with and it is manageable at low rpm when you’re negotiating tight sections. Considering it’s a 250, it’s not the animal you’d expect, however higher in the rpm it is still aggressive, feeling more motocross than enduro.
Again, like the 150, there are two rider modes, which soften or sharper the fuelling and can be easily switched over on the fly, as long as you’re below 4000rpm.
The 300 felt a little easier to ride, not as MX like, which may sound strange but as it has more torque I found I wasn’t chasing the revs as much. However, in more experienced hands the opposite might occur.
Both models are manageable and light, which encouraged me to push my skill levels, taking on trails I wouldn’t normally. The slimmer rear end allows you to really hang off the rear end down deep drops and the seat feels grippier and softer than before.
The 250 four-stroke is the friendly dog of the bunch, I raced one last year and it was a doddle to ride, the perfect beginners’ bike and in many ways is actually easier than the lighter two-stroke 150. The feeling the 250 provides inspires confidence, the power in the low rpm is lazy, like riding an old diesel Land Rover! It’s happy to plod along and will pull your out of any scenario. When the pace picks up the 250 will pick up her skirt and run, although you must use the gearbox a little more, but arguably that makes it more fun.
It’s easy to see why the 350 is so popular, its all-round ability is a clear highlight. For many of the riders riding at KTM’s world launch; from club level riders to former international racers, the 350 four-stroke was always in their top two. It has the ease-of-use of the 250, even inexperienced hands won’t find it intimidating, and equally more experienced riders will appreciate the extra grunt the 350 delivers, without being scary. It’s quick but still manageable, I didn’t find myself simply being a passenger I always felt in control… up to a point. The 350 is the perfect all-round bike. It’s ideal for a leisurely ride down some green lanes with mates, but can still compete the next day.
450 – 500 EXC-F
For me you really notice the increase in weight and power. I’m only 5’7 and, at clubman level, I felt a little intimated by the 500. Saying that, at low rpm, you can tickle the big girl around and it’s not the animal you’d expect. But then it leads you into a false sense of security thinking ‘this 500 isn’t all that’ then you tickle the throttle a little bit more, listen to the airbox gasp for air, then you’re propelled forward at an alarming speed. On the open section laid on by KTM, I loved the power, it feels like riding a superbike on the road. But I could see myself getting into a messy situation on the 500. The ride quality is impressive, the suspension feels plush, and there is traction control and two rider modes. You can tame the beast and it’s impressive that KTM can produce such a powerful bike which is rideable even for inexperienced hands. But if you poke the 500 in the eye it will bite you.
You can afford to be lazy with the 450 model as, like the 500, it will pull up the side of a mountain. It does feel physically smaller and lighter than the 500, and there’s less tendency to miss apexes and ride wide as I did on the 500. The brakes are impressive on both models, but I felt I could physically get the 450 to turn easier than the 500. In many ways, the 450 makes a lot more sense than the 500, but for me, if you’re going to go for a big four-stroke you may as well go big. If you’re going out for a few drinks, have a few and don’t come home ‘til sunrise!
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