The Ultimate Crosser?
Photos by Simon Cudby
At first thought I figured the 350XC-F would be my least favorite bike of the 2016 KTM XC lineup. Why ride a big bike without the 450 power? Well my thoughts quickly changed with only a little time on this machine. Straight away I was able to put this KTM anywhere I wanted and still have plenty of power in every section. Now I see why some think a 350 four-stroke is the ultimate woods weapon. It for sure does not feel like a big over-powering 450, something that a lot of cross country courses don’t favor.
Just like its smaller brother the 250XC-F the 350XC-F felt very light on its wheels in the high rpm range. No matter how hard you push the bike into rough choppy sections it seemed to stick to wherever you wanted it to go. Revving the 450XC-F in comparison, the bike has a lot more say in the matter, someone my size is along for the ride.For the casual Open vet rider/weekend warrior all the way to the XC1 class pro the 350XC-F is one of the top contenders for the ultimate woods weapon due to the balance that KTM has found between power and handling. The engine size, for sure, is the biggest factor in this but making the bike have the right power to work with the right suspension settings to match the handling is key. KTM really strived to make the suspension setup versatile. Even when this bike is put on the motocross track with big jumps, it still them handled quite well with its softer setting that are needed for the woods. The initial compression and rebound valving is a lot more free to let the suspension move, but not so loose that the bike feels soft or springy. In the trees the setting is way better than a motocross bike because it absorbs stuff instead of deflecting off of it.
The bike has a small feel when you are on it but it is not a cramped up feeling even for my 6’0” frame. I felt loose on the bike and could move all over it. KTM’s brakes are really strong and have good feel plus the levers are really easy to adjust for position without tools to find the perfect position.
The overall power is pretty awesome. It has chuggy torque and then revs to what feel like a million RPM producing more power than most fresh tires can handle. It does not rev as fast as a 250F but pretty close and it makes most 450’s feel lazy. It is more comparable to the boost you get out of a 250cc two-stroke–you just do not have to shift nearly as much. Coming off a 250F it is the power you wish you had, especially off the bottom or rolling on the throttle under a load. One thing I did wish the bike had would be the adjustable map (like the SX) for just a little bit more grunt for some steep hill climbs. It would also be nice for different track conditions as you could use the standard map on a slick course just to get a little more traction without spinning out too much. You don’t know you need this until you play with it then it really makes sense. Luckily the parts from the SX will plug right in and likey be offered through KTM Powerparts.
The KTM 350XC-F is a great platform for a rider coming up from a 250F where they need more power but not quite a 450. I felt very confident and could ride the 350XC-F just like a 250 and not worry about it getting away from me like a 450 would. Riders familiar with KTM’s older 350XC and especially the EXC or XCF-W could not believe how much lighter the bike felt and the boost in mid-to-top power when on the gas, basically how hard and fast the bike pulled. And even if this is supposed to be a woods bike, it still pulls duty on the motocross track just fine.