By Brendan Lutes
Photos by Donn Maeda
In a world of high-power 450cc fire-breathers and lightweight 250cc machines, it's always fun to be able to get our hands on a bike that can offer up the best of both worlds. With a displacement that is right in the middle of a 250 and 450, the KTM 350SX-F has a lot to offer both in the power department and handling. Since it's inception back in 2011, though, the 350SX-F has seen changes to the motor, chassis, and suspension—this year is no different.
For 2014, KTM has massaged the 350SX-F powerplant, updating the ECU to improve initial throttle response and bottom-end torque. Complimenting the new ECU mapping is a new wiring harness that is more durable than last year. The starter gear is now one-way to help reduce weight. Lastly, the muffler is shorter to improve power, however, it still meets AMA sound requirements. The suspension and chassis are what received the most updates, as the forks and shock got new settings to help with bottoming resistance and to reduce diving in corners. The 350SX-F also received a new stiffer swingarm, while the chain guide was updated to reduce wear and weight. Lastly, the Brembo brakes are improved with a new master cylinder and revised brake pads in the front and rear. The bike again comes with an electric starter, hydraulic clutch, and Renthal Fatbars.
ON THE TRACK
After getting acquainted with the bike, the first thing we noticed was how much fun the 350SX-F is to ride. The early editions of the 350SX-F came with a powerplant that was uninspiring. After some tweaking over the years, though, the latest model boasts a motor that can hang with 450s. The power comes on strong right off the bottom, pulls hard through the midrange, and revs almost as far as a 250cc four-stroke. Complimenting the powerful motor is the feel of the bike. In the air, the 350 feels light and flickable, and in corners the bike remains planted without knifing or pushing in either ruts or sweeping berms. The turning prowess of the bike is exceptional. When it came to the forks, however, we found that they rebounded too fast. After slowing the rebound down, it remedied the problem, giving the forks a firmer feel while retaining good bottoming resistance. In small chop, the suspension works well, and the bike doesn't dive under braking. Ergonomics are also comfortable, as the Renthal Fatbars and open rider compartment make it easy to move around. Other components on the bike that we liked were the hydraulic clutch and easy-to-use electric starter. Lastly, we must mention the Brembo brakes, which although updated for '14, still maintain excellent stopping power and feel.
For only receiving minimal changes for '14, the KTM 350SX-F is still a good machine. The power is strong, the suspension works well, and the fit and finish is top-notch. We still have plenty of testing to do aboard the bike, though, so be sure to check out an upcoming issue of TransWorld Motocross for a review that breaks everything down.