MotoOnline.com.au tests the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F.
KTM recently hosted it’s 2020 EXC-F and EXC international media launch in Bassella, Spain, where the new generation enduro models were showcased for the very first time. MotoOnline.com.au had the opportunity to sample the entire range, including the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F.
Where we rode:
The media launch took place at Bassella Experiences, about two and half east of Barcelona in Spain. The venue is a dedicated off-road park, and a unique 12km enduro loop, including a special test, was put together for the international press to put the bikes to the test. The trail offered varying surfaces and obstacles, including challenging rock sections, steep ascents and descents, tight and technical trail, plus fast and flowing trails.
2020 signifies a complete overhaul of EXC-F and EXC range, with the new generation 350 EXC-F boasting a number of enhancements and refinements. The target for KTM with year model 2020 was to make the dirt bike more rideable, which is the result of significantly developing the chassis, suspension and engine. The latest incarnation of the 350 EXC-F offers an engine that is more efficient and produces greater power, the chassis has adjusted stiffness, the cooling system has been refined and the exhaust system is completely new to compliment the engine and electronics updates. All-new bodywork graces the versatile machine, however there’s more to it than just aesthetics – the panels have been intelligently designed to maintain strength while cutting down weight, while they’ve been reworked to slim the bike down, particularly on the exhaust number plate, which is now symmetrical with the left-hand side. The airbox has also undergone a makeover to improve airflow, and despite the adjustments, it still utilises the same air filter as its predecessor. As always, the KTM is fitted with only best componentry, including WP XPLOR suspension, Brembo brakes – which are clear standout – hydraulic clutch, Giant rims, Neken handlebars and electric starter.
The year model 2020 chassis has undergone significant development to emphasise the ridability goal of KTM, however, it still retains the same geometry as it’s predecessor after zero complaints from riders. The difference? Stiffness levels have been adjusted in key areas of the frame, offering a more playful, yet stable, ride. With such versatile power available on the 350, the frame really comes into its own. Throughout the trails it felt nimble and confidence inspiring to take on obstacles, and in faster, wide-open terrain, it offered reassuring stability. All-new for 2020 is the WP XPLOR fork and WP XPLOR shock. The fork is 48 mm diameter, and is a split fork design developed by WP and KTM. While each side is fitted with springs, they have separate damping functions – compression damping is on the left and the rebound on the right. At 75kg and intermediate skill level, the fork felt a little stiff in standard trim, although in saying that, I didn’t alter the clickers at all. You can really feel the potential with the fork, and I think additional time on the bike with some fine tuning would be all that’s needed to settle on a comfortable setting. The shock utilises KTM’s PDS (progressive damping system) design, unlike its motocross siblings – this is where the shock is directly linked to the swingarm without an additional linkage system, reducing weight and lowering the chances of hooking on rocks. The WP XPLOR shock offered a comforting feeling in standard trim, once again, I didn’t adjust the clickers. Straight off the bat, the bike tracked exceptionally well, particularly in the rougher and rockier sections of the trail, and provided plenty of confidence to push the limits further. The suspension package really compliments the reworked frame, and I felt comfortable and confident in just matter of minutes.
The KTM 350 EXC-F’s powerplant is biggest drawcard for the popular model. For 2020, the 350 EXC-F has a reworked cylinder head design with a similar architecture to the race-proven previous model, but is 200 grams lighter. The two new overhead camshafts and flow optimised ports guarantee outstanding, enduro-specific engine characteristics. It’s crankshaft is located in an ideal position close to the centre of gravity, contributing to easier handling. It also utilises a short connecting rod, which makes for an overall compact and lightweight engine with a snappy power delivery. The 350 gives you best of both worlds – you can ride is aggressively like a 250, yet it has the torque available to ride it like a 450 and lugg it around, perhaps in a higher gear. This is my favourite characteristic of the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F, and that’s only strengthened with traction control and two maps on offer, where you can really transform the bike to your liking and ability. The ECU features new maps for 2020 adapted to the new exhaust, airbox and engine configuration, and it regulates the unique traction control feature as well as the smooth and aggressive maps. Contrary to what I mainly used on the 500 and 450 models, I opted for the aggressive map when riding the 350, which was an absolute rush in the trails and special test.
The 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F is without a doubt one of the most versatile and enjoyable enduro bikes on the market. The engine offers so much for riders, with the ability to ride it like a 250, yet have that additional power on tap that is still manageable, and more importantly, adjustable through the maps available. Paired with an exceptional chassis and suspension package, along with components such as Brembo brakes and a hydraulic clutch, the 350 is the machine I’d buy as an enduro contender.
Engine type: Four-stroke, single cylinder
Bore/stroke: 88mm x 57.5mm
Seat height: 960mm
Weight: 103.8kg (dry)
Fuel capacity: 9.2l
More details: www.ktm.com/au