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2017 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition Test

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This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Dirt Rider.

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-to-side 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.

Check out the 450's FE's little brother, the 2017.5 KTM 250 SX-F Factory Edition:

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.