Bikes 8 Jul 2011

Launch Test: 2012 KTM EXC two-stroke range hits the trail aboard KTM’s 2012 model two-stroke enduro range.

Two-strokes. They’re explosively fast and still tend to carry a weight advantage over even the latest and greatest of four-stroke thumpers on the market.

With supreme handling and less mechanical expertise required to keep them running, two-strokes are still ever popular in the off-road ranks when it comes to enduro riding.

And when it comes to top of the line two-strokes, it’s ultimately very difficult to look past the three models that KTM has on offer for Australian consumers. It would be four, however the 125 EXC – KTM’s smallest capacity off-roader – isn’t imported.

That leaves us with the hugely popular 300 EXC, the all-rounder 250 EXC and the 200 EXC, which does everything a 125 essentially can, albeit with more power at the twist of your wrist. was lucky enough to sample the entire range of KTM’s first class 2012 range in Queensland late last month, including the impressive four-stroke range that you can read all about by clicking here.

Today’s flavour of the day, however, is the two-strokes. And the location? We put each and every bike through their paces at the brand new Wyaralong Moto Park just outside Boonah in Queensland between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

The park, which is valued at over $3-million on a 745 hectare property, won’t be open until later this year, but selected members of the national press experienced a first look at what’s to come during the EXC range launch – lucky us!

KTM's 2012 model two-stroke range is headed by the power-packed 300 EXC.

KTM's 2012 model two-stroke range is headed by the power-packed 300 EXC.

While you’ll be able to take in all the technical knowledge that you can below our ride impression (and there is a lot to learn!), for now we’ll kick things off with the bike most of you want to know about… the 300 EXC.

As per the 2011 model, there’s a massive amount of power on hand, but the torque is what really pulls you in as it has four-stroke like torque off the bottom. It’s grunty and pulls in pretty much any gear, which is impressive in itself for a two-stroke.

When I say there’s huge power on hand, I mean it in the way that while there’s more power than your average trail (or trail rider!) can handle, it’s actually pretty smooth. In fact, this year’s big-bore two-stroke from KTM is even smoother than its predecessor.

As you’ll read below in the tech info, the throttle response is improved thanks to a new reed valve block. Bottom-end is also better than ever because of the new cylinder. That means the best just got better, which is always a positive – especially for two-stroke lovers as KTM certainly isn’t neglecting them.

The six-speed gearbox has a tall setting, meaning each gear pulls for a lengthy period and there really isn’t a lot of shifting you need to do in order to find the comfort zone. It also means that the power delivery isn’t overly aggressive.

Just how fun is the two-stroke engine? Well, Motorex KTM Off Road Racing’s Toby Price says it’s one of his favourites in the entire range! Even more proof that the bike’s an absolute weapon is the fact that Price’s teammate Jarrod Bewley is leading the Australian Off Road Championship’s E3 class aboard the 300 EXC.

One thing that did become apparent on the trail was the fact that the footpegs do tend to vibrate more so than its smaller siblings, but vibes through the tapered handlebars never proved an issue. I can deal with that! What I could also get used to again and again is the faultless electric start – it’s phenomenal!

While I’m no doubt a huge fan of the 300, my pick of the bunch in the two-stroke department was the 250. It’s more than powerful enough in the bush and is slightly easier to make the most of when it comes to riding harder and challenging yourself. In some senses it’s more forgiving, and I like that.

The vibrations are far less and the fact that it’s a touch tamer than the 300 meant that the 250 EXC was a good fit for me. Handling wise they are pretty similar, however in places where the 300 would struggle to take the turn initially, the 250 would just flow straight in. Keep in mind that when you do get the 300 turned in, it’s cornering prowess is basically on par.

Another thing you’ll notice is that the 250 is slightly more stable at speed, but that’s to be expected when the 300 has so much more power on offer at the rear wheel. It’s all a compromise, so again you need to ask yourself whether you enjoy horsepower or handling.

Perhaps the most fun of the three is the 200 EXC and its sheer ability to be thrashed. Seriously, it’s like you’re playing a video game – give it its orders and nine times out of 10 it’ll react accordingly.

The power’s nowhere near what you’ll enjoy from the 300 (or the 250 for that matter), but there’s just something all riders love about revving small capacity two-strokes hard when you’re in a hurry.

The 250 EXC ranks as a perfect all-rounded, easy to ride with plenty of power on hand.

The 250 EXC ranks as a perfect all-rounded, easy to ride with plenty of power on hand.

I’m not sure who it was that mentioned it at the test, but the 200 EXC is basically like a 125 EXC on steroids. It’s similar and definitely comes from the same design brief, albeit with a stronger motor that you can’t deny is better in almost every way.

Use of the clutch is required far more on the 200 than its larger siblings, and ideally you’ll be making the most of its purposes on tight and technical areas – especially if it’s a bit moist. When it comes to climbing hills or riding in rocky areas, the larger 250 and 300 EXC are better options.

In saying all that, piece together a section and gain the right drive on the 200 with the right amount of RPM and the satisfaction as you blast toward the next turn or obstacle is paramount. Those are the type of instances that make two-strokes so much fun.

All three bikes are priced well too, with the 300 EXC available for $11,995, the 250 EXC for $11,495 and the 200 EXC for $10,495. Prices listed are recommended retail prices and exclude dealer delivery or on-road costs.

All models are expected to commence rolling into Australian dealerships in late July/early August 2011.

Chassis Overview
For 2012 KTM has adopted new frames on its two-stroke range, as it had done on the four-stroke range we put to the test last week. Once again the PDS frames are back, a factor that KTM says is better for off-road enduro riding than linkages simply because a linkage can be damaged in hardcore off-road sections.

So, here goes. A lot of the text may seem familiar in the chassis department as it did for the four-strokes, and that’s because it’s vastly the same apart from a few unique features that the two-stroke range boasts. That’s a good thing too, because unlike many manufacturers, this proves that KTM is keeping its two-stroke range first class and on exactly the same development schedule as the four-strokes – a great thing for the old school two-stroke lovers!

The 2012 EXCs have completely new frames – three years in development – with a further developed PDS rear suspension system for all EXC models. Following the proven KTM tradition, the frames are made of high- quality, lightweight chrome-moly steel material in various profiles.

Compared to the previous EXC frames, this frame design provides higher torsional and reduced longitudinal stiffness, providing better track stability in conjunction with improved handling. In addition the chassis is specifically designed to absorb energy created from the rear wheel impacts.

According to KTM’s press kit, the EXC frame weighs approximately 0.5-kilograms less than its lightest competitor, while also stating that it’s easier to maintain and work on.

The new EXC models are fitted with a seven millimetre longer PDS shock made by WP Suspension and a further developed geometry (the shock is mounted flatter compared to 2011) to offer an improved rising rate character.

It is fitted with an improved piston and bushings that provide better seal and friction properties to handle the higher shaft velocities. A new spring retention and preload system allow preload adjustment without the use of hammer and punch.

The 200 EXC is best suited to tight and technical trails, a dream in single tracks.

The 200 EXC is best suited to tight and technical trails, a dream in single tracks.

All models are fitted with a new cast aluminium swing arm. The single-component casting process allows unlimited geometry solutions and eliminates any inconsistencies created by welding. Updated mounting positions, slightly higher profiles and optimised flex support the frame and suspension characteristics. The swingarm is 300 grams lighter than 2011.

Also on all models, WP’s latest generation 48mm USD forks are now fitted with new seals and improved bushings. There are new settings featured throughout the range.

The bodywork of the new EXC line-up has already proven its qualities on the 2011 SX models. Super slim ergonomics and excellent contact points between rider and machine were a major target set by 10-time Motocross World Champion Stefan Everts.

Everts also insisted on having a wider and 50mm longer rear fender, which is fitted with a new number plate support for enduro. There’s also a fresh new ‘lift handle’ in the outer rear fender.

A new airbox is fitted, driven by two main functions – optimised protection for the air filter against dirt and maximum airflow for increased performance. The engineers designed different intake boots for every displacement, which improve the power significantly.

The two-stroke silencers feature a modern two-component technology. A strong plastic holder is injection-moulded around the aluminium housing to attach the silencer to the motorcycle better.

The high-quality KTM wheels with CNC machined hubs are now silver, assisting in keeping them looking good on the trail. What’s more, the spokes are now covered with noble zinc/nickel coating to improve corrosion resistance. With new nipples made of high-strength aluminium the weight could be reduced by 200 grams per wheel.

KTM’s proven integrated cooling system routes from the cylinder head through the frame triangle directly to the radiators, and the removed tubing simplifies the radiator mounting and improves the air flow through the radiators. A new T-connector with an optimised fluid flow improves the heat dissipation.

Other impressive standard features that come standard on the EXCs are a hydraulic clutch, Brembo brakes, tapered aluminium handlebars and Renthal grips. In addition there is the high-quality robot welding of frames and a KTM tool kit, which allows disassembling nearly the whole bike due to special standardised screws.

The nine-litre tanks are made from lightweight translucent polyethylene. In the PowerParts catalogue there are also 10-litre tanks available for all two-stroke models (three litres less than the four-strokes.

200 EXC Engine Overview
The ideal combination of playful handling of a 125 and engine power close to a 250, KTM has opted to bring the 200 in instead of the 125 in Australia. The 200 EXC is the perfect choice for everyone who is searching for the best handling and sufficient performance outside the standardised classes to have the most fun in off-road riding at reasonable costs.

Apart from the range of chassis changes mentioned above including the new airbox that also improves engine performance, the 200 EXC boasts a new exhaust, new ignition curve for smoother power, plus a new kick-starter that weighs 80 grams less.

From the 200 to the 300, you'll find a bike that suits your enduro needs. If not, the four-strokes are always there waiting!

From the 200 to the 300, you'll find a bike that suits your enduro needs. If not, the four-strokes are always there waiting!

250 EXC Engine Overview
For years KTM has committed to the development of two-stroke engines which are an advantage against four-strokes in many aspects. Unbeatable power-to-weight ratio, low cost of purchase and maintenance, and a comprehensible technique which allows a piston change without having studied machinery.

The most modern engine with electric starter and the enduro-specific six-speed gear box in conjunction with the new chassis make the new 250 EXC an unrivalled enduro machine for tough enduro rides. Taddy Blazusiak already proved its qualities by winning the 2011 Indoor Extreme World Championship!

For 2012 it has all of the above in the chassis department, once again including the airbox and optimised intake boot, plus a new reed valve block for better throttle response. The 250 EXC engine is an absolute all-rounded that you’ll appreciate time and time again.

300 EXC Engine Overview
The 300 EXC has proven its qualities in many off-road races over the past years. It is known for its massive two-stroke performance and torque. Equipped with a further developed cylinder, the new engine with electric starter and six-speed transmission produces even more low-end power than before.

As with the other two-strokes in the range, the new airbox and intake boot add to the engine’s performance, while the throttle response is improved thanks to a new reed valve block. Bottom-end is also better than ever because of the new cylinder, as mentioned above.

For further technical information and full specifications on the models, visit

Rider Wear (click to read our reviews in the Product Centre)
Jersey/Pants/Gloves: FOX Platinum Race
Helmet: FOX V3 Carbon
Goggles: Oakley Mayhem
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Neck brace: Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support
Knee brace: PodMX K700

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