2012 KTM 450 SX-F
What You Need To Know About KTM’s Big Motocrosser
Just looking the 2012 KTM 450 SX-F you might think that it isn’t that much different than last year, which is partially right. After all it was an all new chassis and from the outside not much has changed. But history has shown that the best off the showroom floor motocrossers never happen in the first year after a major refinement. No, that aims the gun in the direction. Refinement is when you nail the target.
The motor has been around for a while and no one has ever complained about the power. It is there and it is served up in a very long and progressive, some say very smooth, spread then is longer feeling and more powerful feeling than any other 450. The issues have been with the sometimes finicky carburetion right on the bottom end and clutch issued for those that abused it or rode the bike at the maximum. Our testing only revealed the first issue and KTM has been improving the jetting and year after year so that you no longer have to mess with it. And aside from touching the fuel screw (best to replace the stock one with a finger-adjustable one) in quarter-turn increments to make the jetting perfect, there isn’t much to complain about and this is as good as carburetors will ever be. And it would take a picky rider (like me) to ever complain about the need for fuel injection. It isn’t an issue of power but an issue with power feel. If you like snap and a bump of power every time you turn the throttle, this KTM delivers. Since I like to ride a gear high and twist the throttle absurd amounts the carb is not as precise and will often give me more or less than I desire so I have to shift a little more and cover the clutch to smooth the engine’s delivery.
Good move then on KTM’s part for improving the clutch feel. It wasn’t that bad, but now it is even better. Smoother engagement and easier to control through the lever, plus all the durability issues the single-diaphragm spring-equipped one-piece gear and steel basket unit accomplishes. Did I even mention it was hydraulic? Changing the master-cylinder unit’s piston diameter to a smaller size helped too. Never forget the engine is electric-start only because forgetting to have to kick-start the bike s always welcome.
On the chassis side of things it was business as usual making changes to the suspension to get the bike working even better. Stiffer valving is the name of the game and it works. Still plush on the little bumps the changes have the bike overall less wallowly in the bumps and better on the bottoming resistance since the stiffness kicks in mostly in the mid-stroke. Targeted at 170-180 pound riders, if you are over 180 you should think about a stiffer spring to keep the balance on the bike, though even our faster lighter riders were thinking about stiffer fork springs. We found that if the rear gets low, the front end starts to feel harsh, but as long as the ride height is correct, everything is fine. And having the balance correct keeps the front-end sticking to the ground in the turns and it goes where you steer it. The change to linkage has, in our opinion, given the bike a wider range of duty in multiple conditions compared to the PDS linkageless systems. The bike is stable and light feeling, and our impression, though the bike did not lose weight, was that it felt lighter due to the suspension changes.
Can we complain? Sure, starting with the seat. It might just be made of mush and KTM is aware this is a problem. Want more? Well there isn’t really much more to gripe at and we’re being serious here. Some would like a different bend of handlebar, though most felt the Renthal FatBar was just fine.
So where is the new KTM 450 sitting? Pretty and dialed. At $8799 it isn’t lacking anywhere in performance and has the adjustability to fit a wide range of riders. It has proven itself durable and easy for most to work on, especially those who prefer the simplicity of a carbureted bike. It is still the only electric-start 450cc MX machine and it is all business.
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