Can It Be That Good?
Story/Photos by Trevor Hunter
KTM’s newest generation two-strokes are here and in a big way. KTM changed the game a few years back when they introduced TPi (Transfer Port Injected) technology into their XC-W lineup, followed soon after by the XC two-strokes. With mixed reviews on the performance of the TPi system (we could appreciate the benefits of TPi technology and how it worked on the trail), KTM unveiled their new Throttle Body Injected (TBi) two-strokes in the 2023 SX and XC two-strokes and have now transferred that over to the 2024 XC-W’s. With an all new motor cradled inside the next generation chassis, KTM swapped out the XPLOR suspension components for a new XACT closed-cartridge spring fork and matching shock for an entirely new bike. How does the 300 XC-W perform on the trail? To sum it up, we’re impressed.
The 300cc two-stroke motor is something else. In short, it’s like a mix of the best traits of the TPi motor and a carbureted motor. It has a smoother roll on and torquey feel similar to the TPi, but with a lot more spunk and character like a carbureted two-stroke has. Like the TPi motor, you can open up the throttle more aggressively at low RPMs without bogging or killing the bike. Likewise, you can putt through technical sections at the slowest speeds and have little worry about stalling the bike. A stronger hit down low makes the bike more lively and exciting than the TPi, and it carries well into the mid-range with a smooth and consistent pull. Like most 300cc two-strokes, and trail bikes in general, it falls off early on top, but these bikes aren’t really designed to be ridden up there. For what it’s designed to do, the new motor is quite impressive and one we prefer in most scenarios over the outgoing TPi two-stroke.
The transmission ratios felt spot on. First gear is low enough for some really tight riding without having to abuse the clutch, and as you shift up into each gear, we felt we were right where we needed to be. We didn’t ride any fast terrain, mainly 2nd-4th gear singletrack and fire roads, but the spacing feels as it should. Clutch feel is typical KTM – very good for a hydraulic clutch with an easy pull and good actuation.
We really didn’t get much of a test on fuel mileage today, but we didn’t burn through that much gas for the amount of time we put in on the bike today. We hope to get one of these bikes for a long term test soon to see how fuel mileage is in comparison to the TPi counterparts.
The cylinder itself and port timing is different from that of the SX bikes with more of an emphasis on low end power and torque – something that is needed for true off-road riding. In addition, the airbox is much more closed off than that of the race bikes which tames the power slightly. Lastly, unlike the XC model, the XC-W still retains an oil injection system with a fill tube similar to the TPi bikes. KTM claims it burns very similarly to the TPi bikes and you can expect ~five tanks of gas before having to refill with premix.
Although the KTM’s don’t come standard with it, the Orange Brigade installed the optional map select switch for us (retails for ~$150) with a standard Map 1 and a more aggressive Map 2. Map 1 limits the power valve to open only to 80% while Map 2 allows it to fully open to 100%. The only difference really felt is on top end and our young, aggressive riders preferred the green map in the more open terrain.
One of the hot topics with all of the new KTM off-road bikes for 2024 is the new XACT closed-cartridge coil spring fork. A lot of riders complained about the characteristics and performance of the old XPLOR fork, so KTM followed suit with OEMs like Honda and Yamaha who equip their “trail” bikes with the same components as the “race” bikes.
Is the new fork as good as one would hope? We say yes. All day long, we never felt the need to really mess with clickers or make any changes. The fork had a nice supple feel through the small chatter and edges, while soaking up the larger hits rather well for a trail bike. Front end traction was good and the overall balance of the bike felt at home. We didn’t have that KYB plush feel that you might get out of a Yamaha, but more of a Showa feeling fork (which is still great) that gives you a little more feedback and precision. Whether it was warranted or not, a lot of riders disliked the old XPLOR components and would heavily modify or replace the internals. With the new closed-cartridge spring fork, we feel very confident in a simple revalve and/or respring will be all that’s needed at most — but don’t sleep on the stock valving as that too felt more than rideable on this day.
Like the fork, the rear end worked really well. In the small chop and square edges, the PDS shock follows the ground and tracks straight. As we hit some bigger sand whoops, the bike’s softer nature became more apparent as it would wallow and wander a bit, but anything but a race bike would struggle through terrain like that at speed.
Typical for a KTM, the 300 XC-W felt light and nimble, easily being thrown around in the singletrack and rocks. It felt responsive to rider input through the pegs and maintained stability (though we never rode anything truly high speed). It doesn’t handle like a bigger two-stroke, but rather more playful than some past 300’s.
At the end of the day, the 2024 KTM 300 XC-W left us wanting more as we drove out the exit gate. The motor is so easy yet so fun to ride, the suspension is very capable in stock trim, and the overall bike just works as a package. If mountain trails and singletrack is on the agenda, this would be one of the first bikes in line to get the nod for a day in the dirt.
Do You Like DBT Bringing You Fresh Content? Search and Shop Through the Links Above or Below: