Bikes 2 Mar 2012

First Ride: 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

Ping tests the bike KTM specifically designed for Ryan Dungey to race in the U.S.

Ever since KTM announced they had signed Ryan Dungey for 2012, we knew the 450 SX-F Factory Edition was coming. Dungey wasn’t going to ride anything that wasn’t competitive and KTM’s current 450 isn’t known as a lethal race machine – especially in Supercross against the world’s best.

So, the Austrian brand put this new bike at the front of their priority list and made it happen. The truth is that they have been working on it for quite a while. The engine is based on the off-road EXC model they already had in production for 2012, and the frame is only changed enough to accommodate the new engine specs. But don’t let that mislead you… this is a whole new bike.

I met the KTM test crew at Cahuilla Creek in California, which has plenty of elevation change, soft soil and lots of high-speed bumps. My first thought when they rolled the Factory Edition machine out of the box truck was that it looked like a race bike.

MotoOnline's new U.S. test rider David Pingree in action aboard the 'Dungey special' KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. Image: Matt Francis/In The Moment Media.

It has an orange frame, Renthal ’bars, Renthal grips, an orange Renthal sprocket, black rims, a gripper seat and Red Bull graphics right out of the box. It even comes with Ryan Dungey’s number sublimated right into the graphics on each plate. It looks more like a race bike than most people’s race bikes!

Sitting on the bike you get a sense of some of the changes. The bike feels narrower than before and the rider area is compact, but comfortable. On the track you immediately feel the fuel injection. The throttle response is instantaneous, just as you would expect from a quality EFI system. The engine responds immediately and pulls strong over a very broad RPM range.

The KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition looks like a race bike straight out of the box. Image: Matt Francis/In The Moment Media.

I’m sure the dyno numbers are going to be good because this bike feels incredibly strong. While this model is lighter than their previous bike, the Factory Edition feels much, much lighter due to the changes made to the engine. KTM focused on reducing the number of rotating parts to eliminate as much gyroscopic feel as they could – the more parts rotating, the heavier a bike feels.

So, they went to a single cam design and did their best to minimise and/or eliminate everything that wasn’t necessary inside the engine. The result is a bike that feels nimble, light and easier to control than it’s predecessor. The SXF-FE darts right into ruts or berms and even changes directions quickly and easily on flat turns – something the stock model did not like to do before.

Throttle response and engine power delivery stood out for Ping during the test. Image: Matt Francis/In The Moment Media.

I made some changes to the suspension to soften it up for my weight. The forks were opened up six clicks and the high speed on the shock was opened up as well. This helped get the bike to settle in longer ruts and turns. Other than those changes, I rode the bike exactly as it came and I loved it.

While this particular machine will not be available in many markets (including Australia) it is a good representation of what folks can expect from their 2013 KTM 450 SX-F. The orange frame and graphics will be gone, but the engine, chassis and performance of this bike will all be there mid-year when the new bike is released. My suggestion is to take a good, hard look at when it hits your dealer’s showroom floor.

Want to see more of Ping in action? Check out this film that he put together during the test with our friends over at Racer X Online:

Note: KTM released the 450 SX-F Factory Edition in the United States only and it will not be available for purchase in Australia. The bike was released in the U.S. for homologation purposes so Ryan Dungey could race it in this year’s AMA Supercross series.