By Chris Vogtman
Rumored for several years, KTM is finally coming to the market with ready-to-race sport ATVs. Two cross country models, the 450 XC and 525 XC, will make their way to dealers in the initial machine release. A race-ready motocross ATV is expected in early 2008.
It’s been a long time coming for KTM, which has found ample success in the dirt bike realm.
“For us, [ATV development] means a couple things,” said Jon-Erik Burleson, president of KTM North America. “First, it’s the opportunity for us to connect with new customers and new people who are going to be able to connect with our brand. It also shows KTM is not only a growing company, but a growing company that can do things in markets it’s never been in.
“The ATV represents a show of strength in KTM and the fact that we can step out of our roots and build a new product in a new market. It’s a product that’s really special to us. [The ATV market] is the largest single market, at least for KTM.”
With production reaching 90,000 units per year, KTM is currently the second largest powersports manufacturer in Europe. “Our target is to be No. 1 in the very near future,” said Joachim Sauer, KTM’s technical marketing director. “One major step forward is our new product, the ATV line.”
After tapping professional racer Tim Farr for expert input and three successful racing debuts, in flat track and cross country racing, the ready-to-race claim is gaining clout.
Both the 450 XC and 525 XC share many similar components and were slightly changed from their motorcycle versions to accommodate reverse. To that end, engine cases on both ATVs were redesigned wider in order to make room for the reverse gear — which is located below first gear and accessed via a left handlebar-mounted lever.
The 450 XC and 525XC engines are fed fuel by a 39mm Keihin FCR flat-slide carb with TPS. This is a very tunable carb and is an ideal fit for a high-performance machine. For a lower center of gravity and increased performance, KTM employs a dry sump design without an external oil tank. Engines start-in-gear via an electric start button.
Both machines use an all-new five-speed transmission with reverse that KTM says requires less shifting while racing.
A high flow airbox with snorkel is designed for maximum performance while drawing air from the highest possible point to reduce water and mud intake. The no-tools air filter is the same as the company’s SX motorcycles.
KTM says its engine design enhances serviceability with easy access to the spark plug and oil filters — both ATVs use twin oil filters and twin bottom oil strainers to prolong engine life. The main service point, however, is access for valve adjustment and inspection for the four-valve SOHC engine.
To keep the high-performance engine cool, a lightweight, curved aluminum radiator utilizes a thermostat and electric cooling fan for ideal engine temperatures during race situations. Also, the radiator has designed mud shields to keep it clean in poor conditions.
Clutching is put into action with a Magura hydraulic clutch for light lever effort and automatic adjustment. The Magura clutch, which has an adjustable lever, uses a steel braided clutch line for less flex and more durability.
Backing its ready-to-race claim, KTM bolted on a performance tuned exhaust with lightweight aluminum canister, using a high-flow design. It comes with a USFS-approved serviceable spark arrestor.
Chassis, Suspension And Brakes
While most of the competition is offering their high-performance ATVs with an aluminum chassis, KTM opted to stick with a proven SX main frame using lightweight chromoly steel.
For a low center of gravity, the chassis design places the engine low for an “optimum countershaft-to-swingarm pivot position.”
Like several competitors, the KTM machines will come with a removable aluminum subframe — with whip flag mount — and removable aluminum grab bar.
Where the excitement really starts to build, however, is up front. Instead of having to jump into the aftermarket for durable steel A-arms, the KTM comes standard with chromoly steel upper and lower arms. The lower arms use a swept design for increased ground clearance and total A-arm width was designed for cross-country riding.
The upper control arms come with replaceable Hym joint bearings and complete camber and caster adjustability. Also, KTM designed the front end with replaceable upper and lower ball joints and lower needle bearings. An industry-exclusive steering stabilizer mount was designed into the chassis at the bottom of the steering stem.
Out back, KTM stuck with the chromoly steel platform with the swingarm for durability in harsh cross country terrain. An eccentric chain adjuster and tapered roller bearings with easy lubrication access also were included in the design. The swingarm and chassis are protected with plastic skid plates. A unique aspect of the KTM machines is an adjustable axle width that has a range of 45.5-48.5 inches and also a self-locking rear axle nut for quick race tire changes.
Öhlins suspension with dual-rate springs and adjustable crossover is highlighted up front with 11 inches of travel. The shocks are preload, compression and rebound adjustable and use aluminum bodies and piggyback reservoirs. The rear shock features a Position Damping System and offers 11 inches of travel.
KTM kept with its race-ready theme by adding Magura four-piston front brakes using a fixed caliper design and 180mm floating brake discs for increased cooling and cleaning capabilities. Also included on the ATVs were stainless steel braided brake lines and an adjustable brake lever with an integrated break point and a parking brake.
The rear Magura single-piston brake, with a floating caliper design, uses a 200mm brake disc and integrated reservoir master cylinder. A stainless steel braided brake line and aluminum brake pedal with height and freeplay adjustment round out the package.
You can’t claim to be “ready to race” if you don’t offer the stock ATV with some of the most common aftermarket add-ons. These KTM machines come with tapered Magura aluminum handlebars with adjustable steering stem and handlebar clamps for ideal rider ergonomics. Also, both the 450 XC and 525 XC use a race-engineered oversized fuel tank with 3.5 gallons of capacity and petcock reserve. The bonus is a quick release quarter-turn fuel cap.
Maxxis Razr 21 x 7-10 fronts and 20 x 11-9 rears with a four-ply rating are mounted on DWT aluminum rims with rolled edges — a common industry bolt pattern means you could save tires and wheels from your previous ride.
Like the Can-Am DS 450, the KTMs come with extra wide serrated foot pegs with sharp teeth to keep your boots planted. A race-ready safety lanyard comes standard.
With several ready-to-race selling points, dealers shouldn’t have a problem selling the 3,000 units KTM says it expects to produce for the first model year. Also, several Hard Equipment options are available upon purchase of the vehicle that include the following: nerf bars; Öhlins steering damper; grips; Z-ring chain; Evolution titanium exhaust; beadlock wheels; and aluminum skid plates.