Chad heads to Spain to test the new Enduro range from KTM and discovers a surprising new bike!
The conditions and surrounds couldn’t have been more perfect. The Basella off-road park in northern Spain, at the foothill of the Pyrenees mountains just short of Andorra, was the perfect venue. KTM laid out the red carpet with a multitude of tracks, and a specific skills area to test every model. KTM Factory team riders Johnny Walker and Taddy Blazusiak were on hand, as well as WP technicians and KTM staff. With the full fleet of bikes glittering in the Spanish sunlight, this was going to be one of those days you can only dream about.
What are our choices for 2020?
Considering KTM made a move to TPi 2-stroke models only two years ago, the fact that the enduro range features almost 60% new parts is an incredible job, showing that the Austrian firm is keen to remain at the front. In fact, the entire KTM range has received a significant upgrade for 2020, plus there’s a new fuel-injected two-stroke 150 which joins the party, along with a limited edition Erzbergrodeo 300 EXC TPI.
The enduro range for 2020 consists of seven models, starting with the all-new 150EXC TPI, which is homologated for Euro 4. The 250EXC TPI and 300EXC TPI complete the fuel-injected two-stroke range. If you opt for 4-stroke, you have a choice of four different models, 250EXC-F, 350EXC-F, 450EXC-F and finally the 500EXC-F.
KTM’s racing experience and expertise is unquestionable and continues to be at the forefront of all racing, and the latest range of enduro bikes benefit from the latest innovations gained in racing, not just in enduro, but motocross and even MotoGP. For 2020 each model is around 60% new, with the 150EXC being an entirely new bike for 2020.
What’s new for 2020?
Although the new 2020 bikes may not appear completely different to the untrained eye, they have a massive list of changes, which soon add up. Underneath the bodywork is a new frame, designed to give more torsional stiffness but more flex in places. The cylinder head to frame mounting is new, and on the 250/300 EXC models, the engine has rotated forwards to improve the front wheel grip by transferring more weight towards the front of the bike. The rear subframe is lighter but longer by 40mm to increase strength. WP suspension has been improved across all models, with new adjusters, a new mid-valve piston and revised settings. Fork rings also come as standard on all models, which measure movement and clean at the same time – it’s the little things that make a good bike great… At the rear, the WP adjustable shock receives revised damping and, being the Enduro range, still runs the linkless PDS system directly mounting to the rear swingarm.
Engine-wise, it’s now been two years since the launch of KTM very clever fuel-injected TPI 250 and 300 bikes, which means the new bikes benefit from the 24 months of development and racing. According to KTM, the range of 2-stroke engines are more efficient, with improved performance and now feature a new air pressure sensor, which communicates to the ECU, that compensates the fuel injection dependant on air pressure. The four-stroke machines receive an increase in performance and not necessarily peak power. Interestingly the kick-start has been completely removed from the four-stroke engines, not even an optional accessory, which allows completely new exhaust routing and a cleaner appearance.
Kick-starts are still optional on the 250 and 300 TPi models, and they both receive completely new exhausts to improve performance and reduce noise. The new exhaust comes with an easily distinguishable corrugated surface on the header pipes to add strength against debris, (see pic). Radiators are new on all machines, with increased cooling and mounted 12mm lower, the big 450 and 500 are fitted with electric fans as standard. Airboxes are also completely new.
Appearance, as you’d expect, involves new graphics, but also new thinner sculpted bodywork and a new seat. The seat has more padding than before, more so towards the rear without compromising seat height, which is the same as previously. The bodywork is noticeable thinner towards the rear. We could go on for pages with the list of changes there has been so many, with parts like the fuel tanks (which are new), even the oil tank has more flexible mounting points for improved longevity, demonstrating that KTM hasn’t left any rocks unturned. But the proof is in the riding, so let’s get going.
Less talk. Let’s ride
The completely new 150 TPI benefits from the engine and chassis changes mentioned above. It takes all the qualities of the proven 2-stroke models with direct fuel-injection and proven reliability. Interestingly, the kick start remains, and it doesn’t have the corrugated surface on the exhaust. I’d describe myself as club level rider, which is why I loved the rev-happy 150 2-stroke as it felt like a very fast mountain bike, it was that light. You can have fun, wring its neck and it’s not going to jump back at you and bite you in the arse. There’s even a two-way throttle map that softens the power further.
The throttle response was impressive, in the tighter wooded sections it will happily pull you through the tight sections, and equally, out in the open you can ride it wide open clicking through the gearbox – I felt like a teenager again! I’m relatively light, and short, and prefer to ride more technical tracks, not wide open, so the 150 won’t fit everyone. But I loved its toy-like ability to make me smile, and if you were a fan of the old 200 XC-W, then this could well be the bike you were waiting for.
250 and 300TPI
The 250TPi was my first choice of bike for the day’s riding. I’ve ridden the now ‘old’ model many times previously. KTM has made the 250TPi easier to live with, and it’s so manageable at low rpm when you’re negotiating tight sections. Considering it’s a 250, it’s not the animal you’d expect. However, higher in the rpm it is still aggressive, more MX than enduro. Again, like the 150 there are two ride modes, which softens or sharpens the fuelling which can be easily switched over on the fly, as long as you’re below 4,000rpm.
The 300 felt a little easier to ride, not as MX like which may sound strange, but as it has more torque, I found I wasn’t chasing the revs as much. But in more experienced hands, the opposite might occur.
Both are manageable and light, which encouraged me to push my skill levels, taking on trails I wouldn’t normally. The slimmer rear-end allows you to really hang off the rear down deep drops, and the seat feels grippier and softer than before.
The 250 4-stroke is the friendly dog of the bunch. I raced one last year, and it was a doddle to ride, the perfect beginners’ bike and in many ways is actually easier than the lighter 2-stroke 150. The feeling the 250 provides inspires confidence. The power in the low rpm is lazy like an old diesel Land Rover; it’s happy to plod along and pull you out of any scenario. But when the pace picks up, the 250 will pick up her skirt and run. Yes, you must use the gearbox a little more, but arguably that makes it more fun.
It’s easy to see why the 350 is so popular – its all-round ability is a clear highlight. For many of the riders on the world launch, from club level riders to former international racers, the 350 4-stroke was always in their top two. It has the ease-of-use of the 250, even inexperienced hands won’t find it intimidating, and equally more experienced riders will appreciate the extra grunt the 350 delivers, without being scary. It’s quick but still manageable. I didn’t find myself simply being a passenger but always felt in control, up to a point. The 350 is the perfect all-round bike, ideal for a leisurely ride with mates, yet can compete the next day.
450 – 500 EXC-F
For me, you really notice the increase in weight and power. I’m only 5’7 and at Clubman level and felt a little intimated by the 500. Saying that, at low rpm you can tickle the big girl around and it’s not the animal you’d expect. But then it leads you into a false sense of security, kinda thinking ‘this 500 isn’t all that.’ Then you tickle the throttle a little bit more, listen to airbox gasp for air, before you’re propelled forward at an alarming speed. On the open section, I loved the power. It’s like riding the same adrenalin rush you get from riding a Superbike on the road. But I could easily see myself getting into a messy situation on the 500. The ride quality is impressive, the suspension feels plush, and there is traction control and two rider modes. You can tame the beast, and it’s impressive that KTM can produce such a powerful bike which is rideable even for inexperienced hands. But if you poke the 500 in the eye it will still bite you.
You can afford to be lazy with the 450 as, like the 500, it will pull up a mountainside. It does feel physically smaller and lighter than the 500, and I had less tendency to miss apexes and ride wide as I did on the 500. The brakes are impressive on both models, but I felt I could physically get the 450 to turn easier than the 500. In many ways, the 450 makes a lot more sense than the 500, but for me, if you’re going to go big 4-stroke you may as well go big. If you’re going out for a few drinks, have a few and don’t come home ’til sunrise.
Chad had his views of the range, but what about from a serious extreme enduro competitor? Wayne Braybrook has five ISDE Gold medals, is a Scott Trial winner, Hells Gate Extreme Enduro winner, and was 4th at Erzberg in 2007.
The 150 is the new kid on the block, and the 250 and 300 have received updates. The 150 surprised me as you tend to think of it as an over-bored 125, you’d think you’d have to be in bottom gear all the time, but you don’t. When you crack the throttle it’s a busy little bee; you can get on with it and have some fun, weight wise like a 125.
The 250 is the MX bike of the bunch – loads of punch, strong power but easy to manage, as like the 300 easy to manage. There’s no power valve hit anymore with these bikes as the new mapping is excellent – almost seamless. The new TPI means you don’t have to precise with the throttle, you can ride them both hard. The 300 will pull a gear stronger than the 250, making it easier to ride.
The 250-F is your benchmark bike, the Clubman hobby bike. It does everything, pulls everywhere and just does its job. The 350 in the right hands is the weapon of choice. It’s what Johnny uses. It has heaps and heaps of torque, pulls super strong, but is very easy to ride. The suspension is super plush, it’s not aggressive, and you don’t have to be careful with it, you can ride it hard.
The 450, for me, was the disappointment of the day. It was aggressive and seemed super quick off the bottom. I know it’s a shorter stroke than the 500, which would lead it to be more MX, but it had too much lower down. The 500 was a big donkey! Heaps and heaps of torque, but it’s a big lump there’s no hiding the fact. To get it turned, you need to be physical with it. On the open fast stuff, that’s fine, but the stuff we had today, not so much.
Changes At A Glance
All the new EXC models feature a 12mm lower radiator location, with the radiators themselves a new shape with new spoilers.
The frames are still chrome-moly, but have been redesigned with the cylinder head connected to the frame for optimised stiffness. The engine is rotated downwards by 1-degree for increased front wheel grip, and the sub-frame is 40mm longer
Completely new for 2020, the 250 and 300cc models receive heavy duty pipes, with the corrugated outer shell of the expansion chamber a lot more resistant to impacts. They’re quieter, too, along with being 200g lighter. The 4-strokes now get two-piece headers for easier removal, with the shorter end-can improving mass centralisation.
A new design increases airflow and therefore throttle response. The 2-strokes get a new intake funnel which houses the new air temp sensor, while the rigid cage makes filter changes a doddle.
All models get a new polyethylene fuel tank with enhanced ergonomics and slightly more capacity, with all models getting a fuel level sensor.
All models get a super lightweight 2 Amp-hour lithium battery for reliable starting and reduced weight, while a reworked wiring harness sees most of the electrical components in a single area beneath the seat making them easily accessible and more reliable.
The graphics are ‘sportier’, while the bodywork has been redesigned to offer ‘complete harmony between rider and bike.’ The wheels get newly designed aluminium spoke nipples meaning less frequent tightening of the spokes is required. A new seat features more padding and is held on using one lateral screw. Finally, the bars are tapered Neken featuring four different positions, while the grips are from ODI with the left side a lock-on grip meaning no glue or lock wire is required. Two different interchangeable throttle cams are available on the 4-strokes.
All models get WP XPLOR 48mm USD items with a new calibrated mid-valve position as well as new upper fork caps with new clicker adjusters for easier adjustment. Forged triple clamps with 22mm of offset allow four different handlebar positions. The rear sees the WP XPLOR PDS shock fitted with a second piston and cup for further bottoming resistance.
Words: Adam ‘Chad’ Child Pics: Sebas Romero and Marco Camelli