KTM Freeride 350 | First Look

Ready to Play

words: Aaron Frank

Photo: KTM

Off-road motorcycles get more focused and less forgiving each year. KTM, known particularly for hard-edged, competition-bred machinery, is one of the worst offenders. “Ready To Race” is the corporate tagline, after all! So it’s almost poetic that the most serious playbike we’ve seen in forever comes from this Austrian manufacturer. The revolutionary Freeride 350 is everything KTM’s hard-hitting MX and XC models aren’t: flexible, forgiving and, if viral YouTube promo videos can be trusted, tons of dirty fun!

Just because it’s a playbike doesn’t mean it’s dumbed-down. A composite steel/aluminum frame and a high-tech, superlight thermoplastic subframe save major pounds, and the 350cc, DOHC, four-vavle single uses expensive, die-cast cases to save even more weight. Fully adjustable WP suspension front and rear, variable-position footpegs and a smooth hydraulic clutch complete the high-spec theme.

Where the Freeride differs most from its race-ready siblings is in concept: Everything is painstakingly optimized to be accessible and easy to control. The electric-start, 23-bhp engine is tuned for torque and smooth power delivery. Long, slender bodywork is specifically designed to allow freedom of movement. Steep steering geometry, a short wheelbase, low-ish 35-inch seat height and svelte, 218-lb. claimed dry weight maximize maneuverability. And an extra-quiet exhaust keeps you from upsetting the non-riding hordes.

KTM hopes the Freeride 350—and its revolutionary electric sibling, the Freeride E—will attract a new generation of casual, fun-seeking off-road explorers more concerned with good times than lap times. Think of it as a mountain bike you don’t have to pedal.