First Impression: 2020.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition and PODCAST

Factory At Your Fingertips

Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Trevor Hunter/Jimmy Lewis/Scott Hoffman

They say to save the best for last, and that’s exactly what KTM and Husqvarna did with their 2020.5 Factory and Rockstar Edition models. We got our chance to ride the 450 SX-F FE and the FC 450 RE at Glen Helen and we took advantage of it putting in over 3.5 hours on the KTM and even more on the Husky. The track was beat with seemingly everyone in SoCal riding GH today, so we were able to get a very good feel for how the bikes handle all conditions from smooth to rough. Now let’s dive in!

Listen To The Podcast below:

First, let’s start with the changes for the new bike. The Factory Edition usually gives us an indicator of the changes that we’ll see on the next model year bikes. The most significant changes that we’ll see translate over are the internal changes to the XACT fork and shock along with the updated bearings and seals in the swingarm. In a sense, both changes are designed to give the KTM a smoother and plusher feel. Additionally, the mapping has been updated and it still retains the Map 1/2 and Traction Control switch. More on both of these changes later.  Also to note, the rebound adjuster on the bottom of the fork is now toolless similar to the compression adjuster up top. Other changes that are Factory Edition specific include KTM Hard Parts Triple Clamps, DID rims and an anodized orange hub that boasts a triple cross lacing pattern in the front, an Akrapovic slip-on muffler, a Renthal sprocket, a Sella Della Valle seat cover, and of course the Red Bull graphics. 

KTM’s 450cc motocrosser has a very potent motor right out of the gate. The 2020.5 edition retains the same KTM motor characteristics that we’ve come to know over the last few years with a very linear delivery. It kicks off with a good, but not great, bottom end and steadily climbs the ranks as RPMs increase. The KTM does this in a very smooth and controlled way where more often than not, you’re going faster than you feel. The motor is also very versatile in that you can rev it and go fast, or you can ride a gear high and comparatively lug the thing around the track with ease. But it’s most responsive when you rev the bike out and prefers this riding style, but it’s certainly capable of being ridden a gear high especially in the aggressive map mode.. With that being said, it’s an easy to ride platform that mimics the power style of a 250F/350F and if transitioning up to the open class, would make for a seamless transition.. 

The mapping options were noticeable and surprisingly, we all like a different combination.

KTM also updated the mapping options on this new model with Map 1 being standard and Map 2 being aggressive, along with a Traction Control option. They are noticeable changes and for KTM that is a big departure from the past. We had 5 riders out at GH today, and we all preferred a different mapping combo. Our younger, lighter riders preferred Map 2 with TC on. This let them ride a gear higher through corners and gave them enough power to do so while still maintaining control and rideability. Jimmy preferred Map 2 with TC off, allowing him to also ride a gear high, though the TC took away his ability to correct the bike on his own power when needed. Finally, Scott Hoffman preferred Map 1 with no TC as it was smoother power that he could control and ride for a duration of time. There’s a noticeable difference between the maps and even having the TC turned on/off, so spending the time to fine tune what combo you’re looking for is certainly worth doing. The Brembo hydraulic clutch is one that most of us liked and actually prefer over the Magura unit. The actuation point is much easier to find and we never once felt the need to mess with it. The transmission ratios were on point today and shifting was as smooth as butter. 

Onto the suspension, all of us were very pleased in our short time with the orange brigade. As we said before, Glen Helen was very very rough this Thursday and there were no shortage of bumps and grooves out there. We all ran the air pressure at the recommended stock pressure and our riders ranged from 160lbs to 200+. Sag of 105mm was met with every rider, though it was a bit of a stretch on both ends for the spring. Overall, most of the riders were complacent with the suspension in stock trim. Only our heaviest rider was in search of more, but a shock spring was really needed to get a fair shake at it. As for the rest of us, we were all looking for something to settle the front end down upon corner entrance. We felt it wasn’t planted coming in and a little vague feeling. Initially, we thought to go to sag; however, the techs on hand slowed the rebound down 2 clicks and softened the compression two clicks in the forks. This helped tremendously and pleased all three of us that were looking to remedy the same feeling trying to settle the front end down. 

The KTM’s light scale weight is apparent on the track.

Handling wise, the lightweight nature of the KTM is apparent on the track. It’s light and nimble  and its ability to change directions is as good as any. Once in a turn, you can lay it over and with help from its motor, it just pulls you through corners with ease. We found it to be well versed in the cornering department as well as it appeals to both front end and rear end steering riders. It’s more than capable of either method and with Glen Helen’s mix of turns, both methods were employed today. It’s also good to note that its agile nature allows you to turn on a dime. Where you might want to cut down early to avoid bumps or pass some guys, the KTM is good for a quick pivot and acceleration out of the corner. With the fork clicker adjustments we made today, we were able to find a good balance with the chassis and didn’t have any issues in the stability or cornering departments. 

The updated suspension was well received by all of our testers when GH got rough late in the day.
Cornering is made easy on the orange machine.

In conclusion, KTM’s 450 SX-F Factory Edition is a winner in our book and is improved over last year’s model. The motor is strong and is now controlled with updated mapping that has a more noticeable difference allowing riders to really go in one direction or the other. If we had the ability to remap the bike with our smart phone like we do with the Yamaha’s, this bike would be very tough to pass up. Likewise, suspension performs better than ever and for those of us that were relatively in the target weight range, we were able to find comfort and control after only a day of riding. 

Is it worth the $1,100 larger price tag over a standard bike? Well, that depends on your intentions. If your style is to leave a bike completely stock and only perform the routine maintenance, then waiting for a 2021 model might better suit you. Unless you’re into the bling factor and you want to throw some mods at the bike, then the extra components are well worth the extra dough. Triple clamps alone make a noticeable difference for the better, and the wheels and Akrapovic exhaust are common additions for most. Not to mention, you get an orange frame which in our opinion, is an upgrade in itself. 



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