KTM 350 XC-F | First Ride

No man's bike?

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

In the First World War, No Man's Land was the contested space between enemy lines. In modern off-road riding, it is the performance and weight gap between the svelte but high-strung 250cc four-strokes and the heavier but fast-to-the-point-of-brutal 450s. The players in the middle have been limited to the Husqvarna 310, the shrinking field of 250cc two-strokes and the small but growing number of 300cc two-strokes. Jumping from a 250F to a 450F is a minimum 15-lb. and 15-horsepower gain. On a dirtbike, that's a leap that significantly impacts the handling and fun factor, but rewards with bug-catching grin factor when accelerating. Now, KTM is hammering No Man's Land with its 350 SX-F motocross model, soon to be followed by the off-road-modified, closed-course 350 XC-F.

In essence, KTM has done what anyone would do to convert a motocross model for off-road use-but it did the job better. The SX and XC engines share the same state of tune and even the same EFI settings. Both use close-ratio transmissions, but the XC's is a six-speed for longer legs. The main changes are the XC's larger, 2.5-gallon gas tank, low-fuel indicator light, 18-inch rear wheel and sidestand. Naturally, the XC has softer suspension settings as well. Even in the company of off-road-modified 350 SXs, the XC is a standout performer.

There are few bikes that gobble trail miles with as little fuss. Much of that is due to the mid-size engine's power character and delivery. It has clean and slightly "chuggy" traits down low, a long and smooth pull through the middle and high-rpm pull oh-so-close to a full 450. In the lower middle part of the power spread there are some 250F motocrossers that feel a little more muscular, but the smooth 350 has long and effective power that is all about finding traction. You need to spool up the rpm to make serious trail pace, but even the best trail two-stroke isn't as easily modulated on tight and technical trails. A two-stroke has more "snap" in the middle, but the power is far shorter in each gear.

Consider the 350's suspension and handling a direct hit as well. You can seriously race off-road, mess around on less supercrossy motocross tracks or play ride on the trails and the suspension will carry you through in style. The settings are more get-it-on race level than get-through-it trail plush, but are a great compromise. Steering effort is light, and the bike feels light as well; in fact, it feels lighter than it is. Everyone hoped for the 215-lb. dry weight of a 250F motocrosser, but that didn't happen. The 350 weighs 242 lbs. with an empty tank-a single pound lighter than the Honda CRF250X off-roader.

If you have been in your personal No Man's Land, KTM has you covered with one amazing, odd-sized off-roader.

Tech SPEC

Price $8999
Engine type l-c single
Displacement 350cc
Bore x stroke 88.0 x 57.5mm
Compression 13.5:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Horsepower na
Claimed Torque na
Frame Chromoly single backbone with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension WP 48mm fork with adj. compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension WP shock with adj. spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Front brake Twin-piston Brembo caliper, 260mm disc
Rear brake Single-piston Brembo caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire 80/100-21 Bridgestone M59
Rear tire 110/100-18 Bridgestone M402
Seat height 37.1 in.
Wheelbase 59.2 in.
Fuel capacity 2.5 gal.
Claimed curb weight 257 lbs.
Contact www.ktmusa.com

VERDICT 4.5 out of 5 stars
A superb, do-it-all dirtbike that makes off-road riding a pleasure.

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