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Article and Videos By: ATV

KTM 450 & 525 XC -- "ATV's First Impressions"

The KTM 450 & 525 XC rails around corners.
The KTM 450 & 525 XC rails around corners.

Throughout the past decade in the motocross industry, it has been easy to assume the manufacturer associated with each bike by simply glancing at the color plastics it wore.  There were four colors to chose from, one that represented each of the major Japanese manufacturers: Red, yellow, blue, and green. Then in the late 1990's a fifth color began to make its presence known through product innovations that bucked the common trends and results on the racetrack.  That fifth contender was Austriaís KTM and the color that really put them on the map was their unique deep orange. Long has the day been coming that ATV riders would have the option of buying an orange and black quad with the KTM logo printed proudly on its graphics. 

The heart of the new KTM ATVs.
The heart of the new KTM ATVs.

The over-sized radiator.
The over-sized radiator.

Beauty & The Beast

Being released as 2008 models, KTM is hitting the ground of the competition segment of the ATV market running with two engine configurations under the XC label.  The first, a 447.92cc (89mm bore x 72mm stroke) single overhead cam, four valve, liquid cooled beauty appropriately called the 450XC and the second, a 510.4cc (95mm bore x 72mm stroke) single overhead cam, four valve, liquid cooled beast labeled the 525XC. The two models are identical in most every regard except for the size of the piston and surprisingly enough, are expected to carry the exact same MSRP. They are however, marketed toward two different types of riders: The 450 is intended to go head to head with the competition in the 450 cc racing class while the 525 is targeted toward desert riders, trail explorers, open class, and veteran racers.  We are big believers in the theory that you simply canít have too many options when it comes time to buy a machine that comes just shy of the 9 grand mark and think KTM is starting off on the right foot by offering two unique engine configurations to choose from.

Letís Talk Uniqueness

Since these quads have literally been developed from a clean sheet of paper, we need not waste precious time telling you whatís new on them. Itís all new! And while KTMís two-wheeled expertise may have spawned these mills at their very core, ATV riders will be pleased to know that these are not simply motorcycle engines mounted to a four-wheeled frame. KTMís engineers recognized the unique needs of an ATV rider/ racer and took several steps to ensure that these needs are met in the design process. For starters the motor itself has been widened for two purposes: to make room for a reverse gear and to lower the center of gravity within the ATV chassis. A deep-mounted oil sump without an external oil tank has also been implemented to centralize vehicle mass. Both XC models are electric start only. Normally die-hard racers chime in right about now with the idea that true performance equipment should have a kick starter, if even only as an option.   However, we can assure you that KTM has been taking the concept of bulletproof electric starting on race vehicles very seriously. How can we be so sure? Because even their anorexic race-motorcycles are coming with electric start only configurations and the finicky MX press is impressed! If those guys have no complaints, itís hard to imagine the quad-set will come up with any. Not to mention the simple fact that we experienced no difficulties or bugs to report during our test period.

Moving past the engine changes, KTM bucks another current industry trend by not falling into the hype of fuel injection. Rather, both XC quads will come equipped with Keihin FCR-MX 39mm flat slide carburetors (with accelerator pumps). Taking a cue from the utility quad riders, KTM has developed an air box with a snorkel intake nearly as high as the gas tank so as to keep water and goo out of the engines of even the most daring (or crazy) swamp-riders. In true KTM tradition, the air box is tool-less and the gas cap is a quarter-turn aviator style unit designed with quick fill-ups in mind. No need to plan a pipe and silencer swap-out the moment you get her home either. KTMís stock equipment rivals even the aftermarket scene in terms of light weight performance and spectacular build quality. Best of all it even manages to bark with authority in stock trim but meets Californiaís strict (94 dB) sound limit which means it is Green Sticker legal.

Like the motor, the frame of the new XC was designed from a clean slate.  Like its two-wheeled cousins, KTM again holds strong against industry trends by sticking with tried and true chrome-moly steel tubes over the typically more-rigid aluminum spars.  Since (again like the dirt bikes) there is no rear suspension linkage to provide rising rate for the shock, the frame is designed for both corner stability and to allow the swing arm to fully pivot properly.  KTM did, however, decide to go with aluminum for the easily accessed sub frame.

Double piston front brakes and chromoly steel a-arms with a width of 45 inches.
Double piston front brakes and chromoly steel a-arms with a width of 45 inches.

If all this sounds unique to you, wait until we tell you about the suspension itself.  Like the main frame members, the front A-arms are built entirely of chromoly steel and offer an impressive vehicle width of 45 inches.  If youíll look carefully at the lower A-arms, you might notice that rather than connect straight to the wheel, there are bends (sweeps) that cheat a little extra ground clearance out of the design without sacrificing any stability. Very trick! Handling frontal squish duties are piggyback reservoir Ohlins shocks with full preload, compression, and rebound settings for a total of 10.1 inches of race-tuned travel. The rear of the machine boasts a bit more travel (10.4 inches) and again uses an Ohlins shock that connects the aluminum sub frame to a chrome-moly steel linkless swingarm. By allowing the shock itself to influence proper rising rate (a system KTM calls PDS or Progressive Damping System), KTMís design adds additional clearance by freeing up the space beneath the swingarm normally occupied by a bulky linkage assembly. One of the most interesting (and unique) design features found on the KTM XC quads is an adjustable rear axle that can be dialed in between 45.5 and 48.5 inches of width.  The logic behind this setting is that not all tracks are of equal width and an on-the-fly adjustment can tweak the quad to accommodate for tighter tracks versus wide open areas.  We know, we know: Why didnít anyone think of this sooner?

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