Bikes 5 Dec 2014

Tested: 2015 KTM 350 SX-F

MotoOnline.com.au rides and reviews the 2015 KTM 350 SX-F.

The KTM 350 SX-F has proven itself as a legitimate contender in the 450cc category multiple times over the past few years, especially on the MXGP circuit with Antonio Cairoli wrapping up three consecutive premier class titles aboard his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 350 SX-F.

Although the bike has proven it can hold its own against the 450cc models, it’s still a bike that seems to put people on the fence. With that in mind, myself and fellow MotoOnline.com.au test rider Dylan Wills took to the track to see what we ourselves thought of KTM’s latest 350cc offering.

First up, the engine package. The engine is the biggest talking point on the 350 SX-F; it’s the feature that separates itself from the rest of the premier class pack. For 2015 the KTM 350 SX-F features a DOHC cylinder head with ducts designed for optimum flow. Ultra-light titanium valves and DLC-coated cam followers allow engine speeds of over 13,000 rpm and peak power that comes very close to that of the KTM 450 SX-F.

The 350cc engine can actually be a tricky one at times. With a 250cc four-stroke you’re all about high rpms, and with a 450cc four-stroke it’s all about low rpms and really letting the torque do the work for you. The 350 SX-F is right there in the middle, it features the high rpm characteristics of a 250, but there’s added torque and raw power that mimics that of a 450cc machine at the same time.

Image: Plan V.

Image: Plan V.

Both myself and Dylan are big fans of the 350 SX-F’s engine, it really allows you to choose your own style and go with it. You can ride the 350 SX-F like a 250 four-stroke and it will work, or you can use the torque of the engine and flow around the track effortlessly.

The 2015 KTM 350 SX-F features the all-new 4CS (four chamber system) fork by WP. We both opted to run the 4CS fork between four and five clicks softer on the compression, whilst slowing the rebound down one click. This gave us a planted feel and really made the 350 SX-F super comfortable around the perfectly prepped Appin circuit.

Initially we were experiencing a slightly harsh ride in the front end, but with these changes, which were done out on the track with a turn of a dial (no tools required), we were both quite happy. The 4CS fork responds very well to adjustments, something that both myself and Dylan were really impressed with.

Adding to the improved front end performance is a new 22mm front axle (formerly 26mm) for 2015. The new axle provides improved rider feedback and also saves 40 grams. The new fork stubs now feature an offset of 33mm instead of 35mm, which together with increased trail deliver greater ride stability. They also accommodate newly developed, 50 gram lighter fork protectors.

Image: Plan V.

Image: Plan V.

With an all-new front-end, the 2015 350 SX-F also receives a rear end upgrade with a longer shock and an updated linkage to optimise geometry. The flatter progression with a higher initial rate ensures greater stability and lowers the rear end. In addition, the new design saves another 40 grams of weight.

These updated suspension components are mounted to a lightweight, high strength, chrome-molybdenum steel frame. The frame combines maximum longitudinal stiffness with optimum torsional stiffness. A forged and milled cross-tube connects the two frame halves with the connecting rod of the linkage on the new SX frame for 2015.

If you’re riding hard pack tracks especially, you’ll notice the steel frame design to allow for optimum traction – these bikes hook up. KTM has worked out the perfect amount of rigidity to allow power of the 350 SX-F to be transferred directly to the ground at all times.

For 2015 KTM have gone with an all-new graphic design using a lot more white compared to previous models, both myself and Dylan are huge fans of this design. The added white, paired with the orange frame, black Excel rims, black spokes and polished hubs really stands out. The aftermarket brands will have a hard time improving the looks of the 2015 KTM models across the board.

Image: Plan V.

Image: Plan V.

Ergonomically the 2015 KTM 350 SX-F remains the same super slim and comfortable bike that it was for 2014. The bodywork design allows for seemless movement around the bike without catching your boots on any of the bodywork. The design of the bodywork is not only aesthetically pleasing, but super functional.

In the cockpit, the tapered Renthal Fatbar 827 handlebar can be fixed in a choice of four positions. We opted to leave the ‘bars in the stock position while rolling them back slightly to suit our riding styles. For 2015, the 350 SX-F is also equipped with softer two-component grips to spare the rider’s hands.

As expected, the 2015 350 SX-F features high-tech brakes from Brembo paired with lightweight wave discs. These brakes are impressive, there’s no denying that KTM has the best brakes on the market today. KTM definitely have both their engine power and stopping power dialed in on the 2015 KTM 350 SX-F.

Verdict? The 2015 KTM 350 SX-F is a bike that can compete quite well in the premier class, there’s no doubt about that. In saying that though, if you can ring the neck of the 350 SX-F, you may want to step up to the 450 SX-F which you can click here to read our review on.

Image: 64MX Photography.

Image: 64MX Photography.

The 350 SX-F has its obvious advantages, a slight weight reduction from the 450 model, and the big one in our opinion – reduced inertia. The 350 feels more nimble and easier to lay over in the turns, something that each and every 450cc motocross bike design battles to overcome.

If you’re looking for a race bike that feels lighter, more nimble, revs harder and can be ridden in a similar fashion to a 250cc four-stroke, this is your bike. Or if you feel the a 450cc machine is too much for you and a 250 lacks a bit of punch, the 350 SX-F is the bike for you – no doubt about it. Feeling lazy in the turns? No worries, just do the old point and shoot, you’ll have a great time.

Be sure to head to your local KTM dealer to check out the 2015 KTM 350 SX-F which comes in at a recommended retail price of $11,695.

Click here for detailed specifications

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