KTM’s fuel-injected XC 300 TPI two-stroke blends the ideal mix of speed and agility—smoothly!
Photography by Sean Finley and Ziegler
The KTM XC line of two-stroke competition dirt bikes is a case study in specifics. The bikes that live here are precision tools meant to compete. I’ve raced them plenty and also owned them as everyday trail rigs. They are the right bike for me most of the time and that trend continues with the 2021 KTM 300 XC TPI.
Let’s first confess our love to all that is XC. It has six speeds in a masterful “semi-close” transmission that gives trail-crawling and desert-blitzing speeds on-demand. The large, translucent fuel tank will make you wonder why your MX bike has a black one. Compliant but capable suspension settings and rear linkage performance blur the line of track and trail days, and the fat 18-inch tire out back means your choices of off-road tires and mousse inserts is as wide as you’d ever need.
Flag-style hand guards are stout enough for GNCC and NHHA race action (I’ve done both in the past months). Finally, it has an electric starter as the only choice, which makes dead-engine start procedures as simple as it gets. It is a very real off-road bike and a helluva race machine with a convenient kickstand.
Suspension duties come from KTM’s SX-model specs of WP Xact 48mm AER fork and Xact shock. The air-spring fork features some significant updates for 2021 that you can feel in most impact situations as a big improvement. The lightweight benefit of them is undeniable, but many still want the softer initial stroke of a spring fork for off-road. I tend to agree. The AER system is better than ever and hasn’t beat me up at all, but for hidden rocks and trail obstacles, I’d prefer a little less feedback before the mid-stroke.
The XC power comes straight from SX bikes. Or at least they used to. Back in the day the XC two-stroke had the engine character of an SX tuned down a bit, but with the advent of TPI fuel control, that trend has somewhat shifted in the 250 and 300 models. Here, both the XC and softer more compliant XC-W trail weapons share engine mapping/tuning. This means your XC is more aggressive everywhere, except in the motor department. Is that a bummer? Sort of. It’s supposed to be the leading edge of off-road, open-course racing, and it shares engine tuning with the trail bike/headlight model?
In KTM’s defense, the XC-W is a very capable racebike. And for the root-infested world of enduro, it is an absolute weapon. But we still feel the XC model should be cracked free a bit more with SX-style power delivery (even though we don’t personally need it).
When it comes to racing, there are a few boo-birds out there pecking at TPI (Transfer Port Injection) as not being aggressive or snappy enough. That may be true for some—TPI-equipped bikes are remarkably smooth and sort of on the boring side when compared to a finely tuned carbureted machine. But, for me to say a smooth, consistent-yet-boring power delivery is negatively affecting my race results or ride enjoyment is a load of baloney. There are racers out there that could use more snap and grunt down low than a 300 TPI, I guess. But those are the elites. And TPI has likely beat them, too.
The only big issue we feel TPI brings is a fueling scenario that leads to what certainly sounds like detonation in the cylinder at lower rpm. And it gives the bike a lethargic, wheezing feel off the bottom. We’ve had great luck mixing in race fuel to eliminate the detonation sensation and we’ve also used a power-valve tuning tool to get some more aggression where we felt it lacked. Those two steps alone make this bike more than competitive for us.
As mentioned, we’ve raced these bikes considerably. Most recently we entered the opening round of the National Hare & Hound Series held in Lucerne, California. Open desert and surprisingly technical trail were on tap for more than three hours during an event that will test the limits of any machine. I was sure glad I was on this 300 the entire time. From the open bomb run (through the snow!) to some of the best gnarly trail riding I’ve done in a race, the bike was just an awesome mix of speed and agility. I only longed for a steering stabilizer and a pile of energy/more muscles during the race.
XC models will continue to be my go-to two-stroke in KTM’s lineup for any use out West. If I’m in the trees and roots and rocks, I long for an XC-W’s compliance more, but in the open terrain and for a more competitive setup, I think the XC is where it’s at! CN
2021 KTM XC 300 TPI Specifications
||Wet, DDS, Brembo hydraulics
||WP Xact-USD, 48mm, AER (air), fully adjustable
||WP Xact Monoshock, linkage, fully adjustable
||21 in. (front), 18 in. (rear)
|Weight (wet, actual):