KTM 450 SX-F

Dirt Rider - - Route Sheet - Story By Kris Keefer • Photos By Chris Tedesco and Sean Klinger

Close to the stan­dard model on pa­per but far from it on the track. Mi­nor up­grades pay big gains.


This is only the June is­sue. Is it al­ready new bike sea­son? For KTM it is! The 2017.5 450 SX-F Fac­tory Edi­tion is here, and we had the chance to swing a leg over one for a while to see if hav­ing the word “Fac­tory” in the bike’s ti­tle helps the rider on the track. This 450 SX-F Fac­tory Edi­tion doesn’t have as many up­dates on it like it had in pre­vi­ous years, as the changes that were made to the Fac­tory Edi­tion from the stan­dard 450 SX-F are in­ter­nal sus­pen­sion valv­ing specs (fork and shock), new air pis­ton, air seal, and re­bound spring in the left fork tube, a new pis­ton in the damp­ing (right) tube, an Akrapovic slip-on muf­fler, ODI soft half-waf­fle grips, or­ange frame, or­ange an­odized triple clamps, or­ange rear sprocket, Selle Dalla Valle grip­per seat cover, KTM fac­tory Red Bull graph­ics, and black D.I.D Dirt­star rims. With most of the changes cos­metic in na­ture, how much dif­fer­ent can the Fac­tory Edi­tion ac­tu­ally be on the track?

Let’s get to the most no­tice­able change/feel out on the track. The 2017 KTM 450 SX-F is a great, solid pack­age that packs a punch. How­ever, in our 2017 450 MX Shootout (Feb./ March) some test rid­ers com­plained about the fork be­ing soft and some­times harsh through the mid-stroke when try­ing to keep the soft-feel­ing fork from blow­ing through. KTM and WP changed the 48mm AER’S fork pis­ton ma­te­rial (plas­tic to sin­tered steel), re­vised the valv­ing, and went to a dif­fer­ent fork seal slider to help free up the over­all ac­tion of the fork. Not a big change on pa­per, right? Well, out on the track those changes are felt im­me­di­ately when the track gets bumpy.

The 48mm WP AER fork has more of a free feel­ing to it (sim­i­lar to the KYB SSS fork) and the ac­tion is smooth. We didn’t feel a harsh spot through the en­tire stroke and were able to get com­fort­able once we went from 106mm of shock sag to 104mm. This helped the front-end stick through cor­ners and gave the bike a good amount of front-wheel trac­tion. We will be the first to ad­mit we are not huge fans of air forks and their con­stant change in feel through­out the day, but we are ex­tremely im­pressed with the WP’S AER fork. The change over the course of the day was min­i­mal, and the re­bound only had to be slowed down a cou­ple of clicks. This was a very happy set­ting through­out the whole day. When the track got some de­cent-size brak­ing bumps, the fork didn’t dive too much and the sus­pen­sion was su­per bal­anced.

To us this was the big dif­fer­ence when go­ing from a stan­dard 2017 KTM 450 SX-F to the Fac­tory Edi­tion model. We could change up lines (to the some­times shorter, rougher line) on the track eas­ier with the Fac­tory Edi­tion model, and over­all com­fort was im­proved as well. This goes to prove that you don’t have to make big changes in bike setup in or­der to get big changes out on the track. When the track changed for the worse, the KTM 450 Fac­tory Edi­tion didn’t, and the con­stant and com­fort­able feel that a rider needs to go fast was there through­out the day.

The rear of the bike felt sim­i­lar to the 2017 ver­sion and seemed a lit­tle soft on high-speed com­pres­sion, but go­ing a quar­ter of a turn stiffer helped it from rid­ing too low up jump faces. We also like the fact that over ac­cel­er­a­tion bumps, the rear of the bike feels planted and doesn’t have much side-to­side move­ment.

The Fac­tory Edi­tion en­gine also felt like it pulled slightly bet­ter than the stan­dard 2017 450 SX-F out of cor­ners (maybe due to the Akrapovic slip-on). Throt­tle re­sponse feels about the same (as the stan­dard 2017 model), but it just feels like there is a touch more pulling power when ex­it­ing cor­ners. The KTM’S sec­ond gear has got to be the widest gear out of any cur­rent 450 mo­tocross ma­chine to­day. We can pull sec­ond gear so far down straights (af­ter a tight cor­ner) and not need to shift right away when com­ing out of cor­ners. How­ever, third gear is tall and you will need to give the KTM a mod­er­ate amount of clutch to pull out of deeper tilled turns.

Gen­er­ally you can run third gear on most 450s in cor­ners (work­ing smarter not harder), but once you get used to us­ing sec­ond gear more on the KTM, down­shift­ing is the way to go in some cases. This is not to say third gear isn’t us­able in some cor­ners; it’s just that the KTM likes to rev, and since it likes to rev, we are go­ing to ac­com­mo­date it by do­ing so. We rec­om­mend maybe go­ing to a one-tooth-larger rear sprocket for rid­ers who like to lug the en­gine.

The KTM 450 Fac­tory Edi­tion has al­most zero vi­bra­tion and is great on rear-wheel trac­tion. Even without the Trac­tion Con­trol but­ton on, Map 1 pro­vides ex­cel­lent con­trol from the rider’s throt­tle hand to the rear wheel. Map 2 (ag­gres­sive) was more ac­com­mo­dat­ing in the early morn­ing hours when the track was tilled deep, but as the track grew hard-packed, staying in Map 2 but turn­ing on the TC was bet­ter. This is a great way to en­sure that you don’t get too happy with the throt­tle hand com­ing out of cor­ners (and lose the rear end) when it’s hacked up and dry yet still have a gen­er­ous amount of bot­tom-end pulling power.

The looks of the Fac­tory Edi­tion KTM are very im­pres­sive. The sheer beauty of the or­ange frame makes us sali­vate. Brakes are the usual top-notch Brembo feel, and the er­gos are good be­sides one small prob­lem: The shrouds bow out just a lit­tle on the tops, and this can hin­der leg move­ment when div­ing into cor­ners.

Bump ab­sorp­tion of the chas­sis is great when square edges ap­pear, and even when the bike is not per­fectly straight up and down when you are lean­ing un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, the frame has a com­fort­able, planted feel­ing and will not give you a sense of de­flec­tion. The over­all cor­ner­ing abil­ity is good once the sag is di­aled in. As men­tioned be­fore, go­ing from 106mm to 104mm of sag proved to give the right amount of front-wheel trac­tion (es­pe­cially for front-end steer­ing rid­ers) when en­ter­ing cor­ners. The KTM 450 Fac­tory Edi­tion lays over nicely, and you are able to feel the lack of over­all weight, es­pe­cially when you’re com­ing off of a dif­fer­ent color 450cc mo­tor­cy­cle.

To an­swer your ques­tion, “Is the 450 Fac­tory Edi­tion that much bet­ter than the stan­dard 2017 450 SX-F?” To us the an­swer is, “Yes, it is!” The small changes made by the en­gi­neers pro­duced a dif­fer­ence in pulling power and over­all sus­pen­sion feel when the track gets rough. Not ev­ery­one loads up the truck when the track gets rough and goes home. KTM has a ma­chine here that lets rid­ers look at a rough track and have them want to stay and ride. Only 500 of th­ese 2017.5 KTM 450 Fac­tory Edi­tions will be in deal­ers across Amer­ica, so you might want to make sure you get one be­fore they sell out. But first it will cost you a lit­tle more than 10 grand to take it home.

Even though there are few, the changes KTM did make are eas­ily no­ticed on the FE.

Is this a bet­ter KTM 450 than the stan­dard SX-F? Yes, it is!

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