8 things you need to know about the world’s best rally bike
1 Look through the other manufacturers’ line-ups and few design and build a motorcycle specifically for rally like KTM do. The results are the proof of the pudding. Only Honda are truly building a bike fit for purpose while most others are essentially enduro or MX bikes adapted for rally use. Every aspect of the KTM is designed, tested and developed to suit the task of winning the Dakar. This bike is the benchmark.
2 The range of riding conditions in the Dakar is as vast as you can imagine. Unreal sand, massive dunes, rocky hard-packed desert, dried-out river beds and a hell of a lot of road riding liaisons (fancy getting up in London at 4am, riding to Manchester to start a race at 7.30? Then doing a lap of Derbyshire off-road before heading back to, ooh, let’s say Oxford?) The claim that rally bikes are set-up to work best in sandy deserts is nonsense, this bike is just as capable hacking around as a courier bike as it is riding up 100ft dunes.
3 Aside from a few extra buttons, the navigation tower and bigger fuel tanks, the KTM Rally isn’t far removed from an enduro bike in feel – though heavier (140kg). 4 The fuel tanks carry over 33 litres, split more or less evenly between tanks front and rear. A switch on the left handlebar changes the fuel pump feed so riders can choose which tank drains and therefore adjust weight distribution. Most run the rear tank down, which affects handling most, for 100km or so then switch to the front. Full of fuel the bikes are over 20kg heavier. 5 One of the beauties of KTM’S Rally programme is that the 450 Factory Rally bike feeds, and feeds off, a production bike programme. Subject to having upwards of €30,000 you can buy a 450 Rally Replica. The difference is in the WP suspension and linkage, plus the Akrapovic factory exhaust, engine mapping and fancy Pankl parts in the factory bike engine. 6 KTM Rally bikes have to be comfortable to spend hours sitting or standing riding. Of course the seat isn’t an armchair as off-road sport does require a certain degree of physical stubbornness. But this Selle Dalla Valle seat is comfier than it looks and loads better than an enduro or MX bike.
7 Check out any of the factory rider’s social media feeds and you’ll see you can very easily rag these bikes round an MX track. With the Dakar getting faster and more competitive each year, the ability to treat the bike aggressively is part of the deal. MX has become part of the training programme as much as navigation, endurance and mechanical skills.
8 How quick is it? It’ll do over 150kmh (93mph), Sam Sunderland claims around 170kmh (105mph), thanks to longer gearing, a bigger intake and exhaust. In off-road terms this is very fast. If you ever go green laning try doing half that speed and see how it feels!