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2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition First Ride Review

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The KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is the pinnacle of the Austrian manufacturer’s motocross lineup and serves as the basis of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Marvin Musquin’s and Cooper Webb’s racebikes for the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series.

The 450 SX-F Factory Edition engine has a new CP box-in-box piston, a new Pankl connecting rod with a bushing in the small eye for reduced friction, and new topology optimized rocker arms. In the suspension department, the WP XACT air fork and WP XACT shock feature updated settings. The Factory Edition has several trick components including CNC-machined triple clamps that have an adjustable offset of 20mm or 22mm, an Akrapovič slip-on muffler, D.I.D. Dirtstar rims with orange hubs and orange spoke nipples, an orange frame, holeshot device, front disc guard, composite skid plate, orange rear sprocket, and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing graphics.

The updates made to the engine were worthwhile, as they’re noticeable on the track. The low-rpm roll-on is easy to control with a smooth transition into the midrange, and it still has KTM’s trademark over-rev. KTM told us the mapping on the 450 SX-F Factory Edition is the same as the standard 450 SX-F model. We preferred map 1 over map 2, which is the opposite of the standard 450 SX-F we tested a few months ago. We preferred map 1 on the Factory Edition because it offers a smoother power delivery and less engine-braking. Also, the throttle pull is too long. We found that switching to the included optional black throttle cam got rid of the “chicken wing” feeling we had when holding the throttle wide open with the stock white throttle cam installed.

In 2019, the 450 SX-F came with a new chassis that included a stiffer frame, a more rigid upper triple clamp, and revised suspension settings. We spent multiple days leading up to and during our 2019 450 MX Shootout working on the settings to try and find something we were comfortable with, and never really got to a point where we could say we were satisfied with the stock suspension. This was something most test riders struggled with, and KTM made a very focused effort on improving these areas with the Factory Edition.

The WP Xact fork’s and WP Xact shock’s revised settings are a significant improvement. Rider comfort is much better and suspension control is more in the range of the stock adjusters. The fork is somewhat stiff in stock form, and we found that lowering the air pressure to 10 bar, down from the stock 10.9 bar, helped soften them. Raising the fork in the clamps to the third line helped lower the front end of the bike too. From there, we worked with the compression adjuster, softening it four clicks from the stock setting. This made the fork slightly busy, so we added four clicks of rebound to help settle down the front end.

Satisfied with the fork settings, we began to work on the shock. It was performing fairly well, but we wanted a little more comfort. Six clicks out on low-speed compression helped in the small, choppy bumps. With the softer compression, the shock had a bit of a bouncy feel, so we went three in on the rebound adjustment to gain back some control. With these changes, the shock’s low speed and small bump absorption was within range. Not wanting it to ride too low in the stroke, we made one last adjustment, a quarter turn in on the high-speed compression, as this not only helps on bigger loads but can improve hold-up in corners by keeping weight on the front wheel.

The 2019 450 SX-F standard model is good, but KTM missed the mark on some of the base settings. The 2019 450 SX-F Factory Edition addressed all of those issues, which makes this new bike a more well-rounded machine. We were able to get comfortable fairly quickly and easily make changes to the bike that suited the riding styles of the test riders we had on hand at the intro.

Also, the CNC-machined triple clamps have an adjustable offset, which can save you from buying an additional set of clamps if you wanted to change a major handling characteristic of the bike. Some test riders also felt they would want to cut down the stock Neken handlebar by a few millimeters on each side.

RELATED: 2019 KTM 350 EXC-F vs. 2019 KTM 500 EXC-F Comparison Review

In addition to the performance-enhancing features, the add-ons the Factory Edition comes with make it look awesome. We love the full race team graphics, orange frame, and high-quality Akrapovič muffler. Add the Selle Dalla Valle factory seat, composite skid plate, front disc guard, and holeshot device, and you have a bike that is very close to race-ready in stock trim.