We ride KTM’s latest formula for success, the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition.
Before the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition, KTM didn’t win supercross races in the premier class. It just didn’t happen. Ever.
Then 2012 showed up, and KTM came out with a homologation-rule-mastering, most up-to-date-as-possible SX-F weapon Ryan Dungey and Roger DeCoster could use to get on top of the box. These bikes were next year’s bikes, in essence. But the masterful way DeCoster and the KTM team used AMA Homologation rule deadlines and coordinated factory production proved to be crucial in getting to the front of the pack.
The first Factory Edition, along with a never-before-seen commitment from both Austrian and U.S. KTM management in investing in bikes and personnel, made KTM a supercross winner.
From 2012 to today, KTM has become an undeniable powerhouse in American supercross and motocross with an all-encompassing program of success primed by the release of seven consecutive years of Factory Edition machines, massive amounts of rider talent, integrated training programs and continued development commitment at the race-bike level. They are expected to be up front now. They are sweeping supercross podiums. None of this happened without the Factory Edition.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SPENCER OWENS
Factory Upgrades on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
For 2019, KTM has launched yet another Factory Edition machine to carry the torch. This bike is on the heels of 2018’s major 450 SX-F line update but still gets some significant upgrades. A new piston and connecting rod highlight the engine updates, while handling upgrades include new factory-machined triple clamps with a unique clamping surface and refined suspension settings all around on the newly re-branded WP XACT Fork (formerly AER48). The front brake is also updated to a floating rotor.
Like all Factory Editions, the bike has significant, exclusive add-ons. For 2019, these include D.I.D Dirt Star rims laced to machined and anodized hubs, and an Akrapovic slip-on silencer, as well as factory graphics, a Selle Dalla Valle seat, composite skid plate, front disc guard, and a flashy orange frame that makes you feel awesome. Just so you don’t have an excuse for getting to the first turn first, there’s also a holeshot device. There’s an orange rear sprocket, obviously, to make you feel awesome again.
Upgrades Equal Up-performance?
We enlist many test riders to bust out our reviews. It helps root out bias and personal gobbly-gook and gives us a chance to tell readers what they like or dislike about a bike much better. As usual, we let the fast guys go first, and our pro-level tester (and photo monkey) Derek Kelly was happy with the direction of the KTM Factory Edition development is going for all-out speed. Even so, from his pro-level speed perspective, the 2019 KTM FE isn’t as hard-hitting as he’d like off the bottom, but the midrange and top-end is nothing but sweet and actually seems better than ever. To him, it has a bit of a mellow initial delivery, and, in reading KTM’s press materials and riding it myself, this makes sense. KTM has developed a horsepower-making machine here, but they’ve been conscious of delivering that power to the masses in the most efficient way possible, and they want the engine to be less obtrusive to riding and more effortless to enjoy. That means the bars aren’t ripped out of your hands at the first crack of the throttle and the midrange and up is where the money is made without as many herky-jerky habits.
For ordinary people, this is pretty awesome. It allows the rider to drop into first and second gear in tight corners without the bike getting upset when your corner talent or concentration fades away. Power delivery can really disrupt a rider’s momentum in the turns if it picks the front wheel up or spins and slides the rear out. In KTM’s case, the bike seems to be made to carve turns with complete control at the rear wheel. It really allows the rider to focus on attacking the corner with the chassis and handling characteristics and using the throttle as a tool to finish the job. Likewise, if you’re really into being lazy, you can just keep the bike in third gear and cruise with the torque through just about every turn on an average outdoor MX track. The torque is nice.
What you don’t get with this KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition (or any KTM for that matter) is an obnoxiously loud ride. These bikes run with minimal excess mechanical noise. The clutches are quiet, and the entire engine seems to hum efficiently without a lot of rattling around. Even with the upgraded Akrapovic slip-on, the exhaust tone is nice and controlled in the noise department. It’s loud but not raspy or blown-out sounding. Many stock bikes don’t sound this good out there, for sure. It adds to the overall quality sensation of the ride; the same goes for the running gear. Chain guides and such do an excellent job at controlling the chaos of the sprocket interface and don’t leave you wondering if your swingarm is being eaten alive. In total, this quieter operation can have a perception effect of a mellow power delivery, and I think for some, that will undoubtedly be at play.
KTM has two power modes here, just like all the other SX-F models. Interestingly, all our test riders prefer the more aggressive mode number two. It just breathes more fire into the beast for the pro guys and gives more chuggability to those of us who are lazy and tired already.
The bottom line when it comes to power? While our top-level test rider wants more punch or aggression, our mortality conscious test riders like the power just the way it is, and we think the combination of dialing in mapping and the Akrapovic muffler make a nice power package for consumers all over the world. KTM has a more aggressive throttle cam you can drop on the twist grip to ramp up the throttle body opening if you simply must have more excitement, as well. These come in the bag of goodies when you get your bike. For most of us, we like it stock and just enjoy the ride.
Getting A Handle On It
Every year KTM updates its air-sprung fork. It just gets better. Initial movement and mid-stroke smoothness are improved over the previous editions and the regular 2019 450 SX-F. This is what you get when you get the absolute latest updates from the factory, and that makes the whole package really solid, again. There’s no denying the advantage of the lightest fork setup possible, you can really feel and enjoy the light front-end feel in the air and while lofting the front over out-of-corner cross ruts and such. It just has a great feel that only shows signs of harshness on slap-down landings or those pesky, repetitive stutter bumps that test the transition from initial stroke to midrange movement. The more you ride it, the better it gets.
The KTM shock has been predictable and performs well for us consistently. Its linkage ratio seems great at absorbing chatter and holding up to big landings, and it allows the bike to settle well in corners. Sag settings are crucial, and it can be a useful tool to set the bike up for specific tracks. We like the bike in the 105-109mm range, as it really settles in the ruts. The air fork reacts well here, too, applying down-pressure on the front wheel to give us cornering confidence even when we start sagging the rear more.
Where air forks became deal breakers and hindrances pretty quickly on the Japanese motocross bikes in recent past, the same is not true for KTM’s WP units. They are responsive to adjustments for personal preference or track conditions in very consistent ways and the package with the shock, frame, fancy triple clamps and swingarm creates a stable and predictable ride across the board. To us, the KTM air fork is not a questionable buying decision, at all.
If you’re coming to KTM from a Japanese bike, you can expect a different feel, for sure. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is not immune to this. The steel frame takes some getting used to, but by the time you’re changing the oil for the first or second time, the bike will likely become very comfortable to you.
2019 KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition Riding Review Summary
It’s important to mention what comes on both the Factory Edition and standard models. KTM led the electric-start race and have the systems dialed. Both models provide quick air filter access for maintenance and have an incredibly high-quality clutch and braking components that wear like iron and perform at the front of any class they compete in. The cockpit is massively adjustable with handlebar position changes done easily and switchable triple clamp offset. They have the simplest engine mode switch on the market that actually shows you, with a #1 or a #2, what mode you’re in. It also has integrated launch control and traction control. That’s unmatched. Great footpegs, high-quality componentry throughout. You get it. No, you can’t tune the ECU with your phone, which is sort of a shame because if you could, you probably would, right?
What the KTM SX-F Factory Edition series has done more than anything is showcase KTM North America’s commitment to winning at the highest level. Austria straight brings the goods to this cause every year. This program keeps working. Look at what Cooper Webb is doing with the infusion of KTM engineering combined with the massive focus of the entire team. That same formula for success is creating these bikes. That’s something you can take a lot of confidence in when you start shopping for a new ride.CN
2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-valve, SOHC, single
||Lithium Ion 12.8V 2Ah
||Keihin EFI, 44mm throttle body
||Wet, DDS clutch, Brembo hydraulics
||Central, double-cradle-type Chromoly steel
||WP, USD, XACT, 48mm
||WP, monoshock w/linkage
|FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL:
|REAR WHEEL TRAVEL:
||Single 260mm disc
||Single 220mm disc
||1.60 x 21 in.
||2.15 x 19 in.
||80/100 x 21 in.
||120/80 x 19 in.
|TRIPLE CLAMP OFFSET: