Requested: Real-world Experience with 2017+ KTM 350/450 SXFs VS. Yamaha YZ450Fs and Honda CRF450s

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6/6/2020 1:14 PM
Edited Date/Time: 6/6/2020 1:18 PM

It's been asked a 1000 times, and there's a million viewpoints, but I'll pose it again …

I'd like to hear from those of you with experience with BOTH KTM 350/450 SXFs and YZ450Fs / CRF450Rs and explain how life is different with orange.

I've been riding over 30 years and have ridden all the Japanese brands over the years. My favorites for the past 20 years have been Hondas and Yamahas, but I've always been super hesitant with the KTMs given my perception that:
(1) I understand KTM frames stretch significantly within 100 hours (I typically keep bikes ~ 200 hours)
(2) KTM parts are more expensive
(3) The only riders I've personally known all had warranty issues with their KTMs (2014 models and newer)
(4) KTMs are finicky to own (a local motorcycle shop told me this) - there's always some little oddity you're fixing/dealing with

So … I am about to either pull the trigger on a new 2020 YZ450F or purchase a 2017-2018 KTM 450 SXF and add Cone Valve forks.

Let's hear your experience with KTMs vs. Yamahas/Hondas.

Thanks!

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6/6/2020 1:19 PM

Also … do any of you have experience with BOTH the KTM 350 and 450 SXF? If so, which did you ultimately prefer and why?

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6/6/2020 1:45 PM

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Two wheels, tacos, and tubes

6/6/2020 2:03 PM

Keep it coming guys!

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6/6/2020 2:18 PM

I didn't have a KTM 4 stroke but did have a 2 stroke but I'll try to answer from what I know
1) I don't know personally but I would guess the amount the frame stretches would be dependent on speed and use.
2) I found OEM KTM parts cheaper than Suzuki and on par with Yamaha overall. Some parts more expensive, some parts less and aftermarket parts are the same
3) I know plenty of people who have had trouble free runs with KTM. In fact, I personally don't know anyone who has had a warranty claim on any brand recently. The only bike I ever had that needed a warranty job was a 97 model kx 80 that had a faulty ecu
4) my mechanic hates KTM. He says one bike has an issue with this, one has an issue with that but then again he gets worked up pretty easy.

IMO, KTM is typically European in that you buy them new, keep them for a certain amount of hours (or the warranty period on their cars) and then sell them. The Japanese I feel, build longer lasting equipment that may be just a hair off in performer, IMO

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6/6/2020 2:34 PM

I found my 18 fc350 would flex in deep ruts at speed and was unpredictable. I crashed a few times because of it. Had cone valves etc too.
Liked the 350 power but in a longer moto you’d go slower as its hard to maintain tgat balls out rev approach, and each corner the 450 pulled that fraction away. I didnt ride the 19 up frame thats braced more though and that could be fixed in the newer ones.
Went back to a crf450, a 19 this time, and was faster right away. Notice the weight of the crf450 over the 350 yes but its not enough to make me change.
Could get killer starts on the 350. Started so well with the long rev.
With the long hours on the bikes id go the alloy frame as you know it wont stretch out like a 200hr steel frame.

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6/6/2020 2:46 PM

Awesomely helpful guys … keep it coming!

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6/6/2020 4:12 PM

Have some data for you:

Currently in the stable:
2014 KTM 150SX ~105 hrs with no major issues. Suspension is very good after revalve.

2017 Husky TC250 with 80 hrs and no major issues. This generation of KTM/Husky has better ergos and handling than the 2015 and earlier, FYI.

2019 Husky FC350 with 19 hours. Engine, suspension, handling, everything is great. Ergos on Husky feel better to me than KTM, and newer frame on Husky feels similarly better than my 2017.

Left the stable:
2018 Honda CRF450R for 33 hrs. Power was great, suspension very good, and handling was super sharp. Had more fun on my 2-stroke bikes so sold after a year. Sold after buying KTM450.

2019 KTM 450 SXF 22 hrs. Power was very linear, handling and suspension very good after setting up. Probably my favorite 450 ever, but just don’t like the 450 riding style (gear high, lower RPM). Sold after riding a Husky 350 at a demo day. The newer generation frame feels better than the 2016-2018, IMO. Tighter and more accurate feeling.

All that being said, I would buy a lower hour 2017 or 2018 350 or 450, add a spring conversion kit of your choice (or WP CC forks) and call it a day. If you like it keep for 100 or more hours. If not, sell without much fuss.

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6/6/2020 4:19 PM

Also to add, the 350 engine-wise reminds me of a 175-200cc 2-stroke: more bottom than a 125/150, not as much as a 250; and revs far like a 125/150.

If it were a little more 250 2-stroke I’d sell my other bikes. A little more torque at the expense of some rpm range would make it more usable IMO. The 2019 350 is better than the 2017 350 imo.

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6/7/2020 12:06 PM

Super helpful - really appreciate it guys!

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6/8/2020 4:20 AM

2017 fc 450 just. Hit 60 hrs. So far replaced spark plug. And serviced suspension. Oh and the chain and sprockets are about to be replaced. Everything else is stock and going strong not one problem.

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6/19/2020 3:24 PM

Much appreciated guys!

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6/19/2020 4:35 PM

erik_94COBRA wrote:

Also to add, the 350 engine-wise reminds me of a 175-200cc 2-stroke: more bottom than a 125/150, not as much as a 250; and revs far like a 125/150.

If it were a little more 250 2-stroke I’d sell my other bikes. A little more torque at the expense of some rpm range would make it more usable IMO. The 2019 350 is better than the 2017 350 imo.

Drop a tooth on the drive sprocket....voilá

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6/19/2020 6:48 PM

2016 KTM 125 with mod motor built from Pro Circuit- Raced hard during it's life in dusty nasty hare scrambles in Florida by me and never left me stranded on the trail. 156.8 hours later crank bearing blew out.

2016 KTM 125 with stock motor raced HARDER by a GNCC level A200 rider. I would guess around 200 something hours, again never left him or me stranded through the time I have owned it. Decided to tear it down and make it nice looking again.

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6/19/2020 7:14 PM

I have a 17 crf450r, and also a 18 fc350. Vet rider, not super fast!

I’ve always been a Honda guy in the past. I love honda’s engineering and general attention to detail.

I bought the 18 fc350 as a runout. Was super cheap for a new bike and I’ve always been keen to try the 350. This bike replaced my 15 crf250r, which I loved, but the 250f just lacked a bit in the motor department at times. The current 450r is frankly too much motor for me. It’s amazing to ride (for a few laps) but it wears me out way faster then the 250f did, hence my interest to try the 350.

Well, my biggest hesitations regards the 350 were twofold.... one, it’s not made in Japan !! Two, the reviews which say you need to rev the motor hard to get the best from it. I prefer torquing lower in the rpm range, higher gear where possible.

Firstly, build quality of the husq is generally excellent. Have been pleasantly surprised how well it’s built. There is room for improvement of course. The use of tiny (loose) spacers on the seat bolt and right side cover bolt drive me crazy, but overall, it’s a very well constructed bike.

Power wise, I just love it. It is close to perfect for me. Do not believe everything you read that says you have to rev it like a 250f to go fast. It has way more torque than a 250f and works fine short shifting if you prefer. Of course the rev is super impressive if you like to ride that way also. The only complaint I have that keeps this motor from a perfect rating (for me) is the “slow revving” nature of the engine. It’s hard to describe it any other way. Anyway who goes from a modern japanese bike to an Austrian one probably knows what I’m talking about. Drilling the air box does help (and is the best mod you can make, considering it costs nothing), but it still doesn’t have the free revving feel of my 17 crf450r.

The other aspects of the Austrian bikes... the air fork is a downer. I struggled for 4 months with it, then just gave up and paid up for dal soggio inserts. Expensive, but really essential for the tracks I ride (hard pack, choppy) which the air fork just does not work on.

My Crf, I still love it, but only take it out when conditions are perfect really. The motor on the latest gen really is too much for an average guy like me. I’m flying for the first three laps, then drop away pretty quickly after that. I can string 8 laps together on the fc350 pretty comfortably. The best mod for the Crf is simply to re-torque the engine mounts. I couldn’t believe the difference this made. Reduced the harshness I was feeling not only in the frame, but the suspension worked better after this change. I think Honda way over torques the bolts on this bike from the factory. Other things to love about the Honda... you get excellent suspension components, stock. The bike holds up to riding so well. The plastics look good after many hours. The aluminium frame is so easy to clean up back to new. The husky, the white plastics look old after only a few hours. I love the feel of the steel frame whilst riding, but it will start to look very old with the amount of hours you are talking about putting on a bike.

Bottom line, I love my husky 350, it’s not a perfect bike, but I think 350cc is the perfect capacity for me.

I love my crf450r also, but 450 is just too much for me at this stage of my life (45yo). I appreciate it for all the reasons above, and it’s just a blast to feel the power when you’re fresh.

The real bottom line... If Honda built a 350f, I’d sell my husky in a heartbeat to buy one... if only...

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6/19/2020 9:34 PM

Had a 17 CRF450. Fast, to much for me. It was a challenge to find consistency in comfort, and trust it from track to track. Mostly when the tracks got hard packed mid day, resulting in nasty square edge chop. Wasn't having much fun, sold it.

Then bought an 18 YZ450, as I was looking for comfort and consistency. It provided both, but felt like a boat to me. A little bigger, wider than the Honda. Often I felt like it was riding me, me not riding it. Wasn't having much fun, sold it.

Currently on a 2020 Husky FC350. By far the funnest bike I've had in the last 3 years. It took me a couple rides to get use to the power after coming off of 450's. It's actually making me a better rider, as I tend to roll my corners faster knowing that It doesn't have the grunt of a 450, although I still lug and short shift periodically.

After 11 hours I did dump the air forks, and went with the KYB conversion from Technical Touch. It's the cat's meow.

I'm now looking forward to the next ride, before I even finish loading up from the current day's ride.

Simply put, I haven't had this much fun motoing in several years!

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