2016 KTM 450SX-F

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Tested: 2016 KTM 450SX-F
Vital Review

The past few years, KTM has definitely been the manufacture on the move, and 2016 is no exception as they released another all-new 450. The KTM has become more main-stream in its feel, but still carries a few unique items with its WP suspension, electric starter, and chromoly frame. Do these and KTM's other unique features make it a winner or just another bike in the pack? Check out some opinions from five of our test riders to find out.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name:Robby Bell/ Age:30
Height:6' 0"/ Weight:165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

What brings the KTM to the top, was how quickly I was able to feel comfortable and confident pushing the bike at pace. The handling felt balanced under braking and acceleration, and for me it had the best overall cornering characteristics. Though the front end maybe didn't settle quite as well as the RM-Z, it was wasn't far off and was very predictable when pushing the front end into and through the ruts. What put it over the top was that, unlike with the RM-Z, I could steer with the rear of the bike just as well as the front. I felt confident that the rear wheel would stay where I wanted it to when throwing the back end around a bowl corner or flat turn. Though some people seem to fear the WP 4CS forks, I felt they worked pretty well at Pala. Admittedly, it isn't the roughest track, but it was fairly rutted and soft while we were riding. There was a little bit of mid-stroke harshness initially, but stiffening up the fork compression a couple clicks helped keep the front end up in the stroke and created a smoother action.

The 450SX-F had great power all the way through the powerband, especially through the low-end and mid-range. It continued to make decent power into the upper RPMs, but I was happier riding it in the low-to-mid portion of the powerband. The motor didn't feel quite as powerful as the YZF, but had plenty of pull, especially for Pala, which features a lot of larger obstacles. For my height and riding style, the KTM seating compartment was very comfortable. I didn't feel like I was sitting too tall on top of the bike, and likewise it didn't feel like I was sitting too low, or down in the seat. The brakes felt really good and controllable, while the hydraulic clutch always offered a smooth pull. As a whole, the bike felt light and flickable in the air, and was also very easy to switch lines while on the ground.

For me, the KTM would need the fewest additions or changes to be race ready from track to track. For Pala, with near perfect dirt and minor sharp chop, it was tough to find too many faults with the bike. I could see adjusting the suspension further on a rougher track to dial it in, but for a stock bike it felt really good to me.

Name:Derrick Caskey /Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" /Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

First off, the electric start is very cool and just spoils you. Beyond that, the bike in massively better in all aspects when compared to last year’s model I tested. The biggest surprise was how light the bike felt, especially after coming off of the Suzuki, and I just felt very comfortable on it right away. That's a different sensation for me when compared to KTMs of the past.

The front forks and shock were a little soft for my weight. Since the KTM is on spring forks, I'd definitely say I'd need heavier springs to keep riding this bike. I immediately stiffened the compression two clicks on the forks, which was better, but I couldn't go much stiffer without creating a harshness in the forks. As for making adjustments on the 4CS forks, it's really nice to be able to use the quick adjusting knobs beside the track, instead of having to ride back to the van and grab a screwdriver.

On the engine, I as very impressed with responsiveness and strong bottom-end, which felt like it pulled all the way through the powerband. I switched back and forth with the stock and aggressive mapping, and found I preferred the aggressive map, as it pulled better off the bottom and into the mid-range RPM.

Front and rear, the KTM has awesome brakes, which really gave me some extra confidence to push deep into the inside lines around the track. Overall, the new KTM cornered well and I was really able to get the bike into any line, grab a handful of throttle, and stay in the corner without extra effort of input on my end. Additionally, I haven't been a fan of hydraulic clutches in the past, but I had no issues with it on the KTM this year. For me to keep the KTM, I'd at least want some internal work done on the forks and replace the bar bend to something a bit straighter than what is currently offered.

Name:Chris See /Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" /Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

For me, the KTM made the most gains for the 2016 model year. By far the biggest change was just how comfortable the bike is in the rider cockpit area. The other positive I immediately noticed on the KTM, are the Brembo brakes, hydraulic clutch, and of course the electric start. Once on the track, I was very impressed with the KTM's ability to turn just about anywhere. The front end feels so planted, and has enough traction, that I felt like I could put the bike wherever I wanted.

As for the engine, I chose to stick with the stock map as I liked the smoother bottom-end power, which increased into more of a noticeable hit as it reached through the RPMs. If I was looking for more hit out of the corners, I just reached for the hydraulic clutch and gave it a little tap, knowing it wouldn't fade throughout the moto.

The KTM still has one major lacking point, which are the forks. For me, it still feels like the 4CS forks fall through the first part of the stroke, then get into the mid-stroke and become extremely harsh. Stiffening the forks would help the initial hold-up, but create an even harsher feeling in certain situations. As for the rear shock, I didn't have any real issues to complain about, as it seemed like this issue was reserved for the front end. Overall, the newest WP shock actually works quite well and was quite predictable. If KTM could just solve the harshness in the forks, this bike could easily take the number one spot.

Name:Michael Lindsay /Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" /Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

Not having the all-new KTM at the top of my list doesn't represent how far this bike has come. Not to say last year's model was any slouch, but everything about this bike is so much better. The most immediate standouts were the light weight and new chassis. It's really impressive how small the chassis is, but also how stable it is. The bike feels planted, like a much heavier bike with a long chassis, but it has the snappy response of the Honda when being thrown into a deep rut or off the face of a jump. As most riders have been saying the past few model years, the feel of the controls and the rider's cockpit has reached a much more normal feel when comparing it to its Japanese competition. At this point, the days of adapting to a KTM are nearly gone. As for the engine, the KTM did top our dyno results, but it didn't feel as arm-wrenching as the Yamaha. Overall, the KTM powerplant can be a bit deceiving, with moderate roll-on power that builds into an aggressive mid-range and decent top-end, which drops off a bit, but pulls well until it revs out. Running the aggressive mapping creates a more responsive roll-on hit, which carries better into the mid-range. That makes it easier to pop obstacles right out of corners, but also creating a more linear feel which was easier for me to ride for multiple laps.

KTM's most questionable components of the past, their suspension, have also been largely improved the past few years. The newest WP shock has impressed me the most, as the bike does what I love; squats down and stays down under heavy acceleration. But it also has just enough movement that there's comfort when sliding across chatter chop on the exits of corners. With this, the KTM has the planted front and light feel to carve into the corners, and the rear-end feel to slide around on the exits if needed. Now the downside with the suspension still lies a bit with the 4CS forks. Overall, this setup is a bit softer and more comfortable than even the FE models I rode earlier in the year, which worked well for my weight. But up front, I needed a bit more hold up under heavy braking to keep the bike's balance. To do this, I stiffened the fork five clicks, which helped the overall action and hold up. I still felt like I could use a bit more, but if I went farther than this I noticed a bit of initial harshness on small bumps entering corners, especially at low speeds.

A other few small things that pulled the KTM down a little were the pegs, which I don't seem to have consistent traction on and the thin seat which doesn't offer much give when seat bouncing. I do want to give KTM some applause for their tire selection, however, if a brand is going use Dunlops, please follow KTM's lead and use the MX32, not the MX52 for everyday riding.

Name:Ricky Diaz /Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" /Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

The KTM was my first bike of the day, when the track was very soft and smooth, so I made sure to take it for another spin after things got rougher. I noticed in the early session the bike felt a bit underpowered, which surprised me considering how much I've heard about the KTM creating some big power numbers. Once I rode it later in the day, I was still a bit surprised. Yes, the bike was fairly quick, but didn't feel as responsive or powerful as the YZF. I enjoyed riding the SX-F in both of the power settings, as both had their positives so I didn't really choose one over the other.

In regards to the suspension, I didn't enjoy the feel of the forks. As I went stiffer with the forks, they held up better so I could try to push into corners but it still didn't offer enough confidence. The front end felt a bit harsh in certain sections, which would make it hard to get into the corners. The KTM felt quite planted but the fork issues made it a bit hard to maximize its cornering capabilities. As for the shock, it felt great and I made minimal adjustments to it. I felt confident in it at low and high speeds, along with accelerating out of corners due to its consistency.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.


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Model Year
Engine Size
Engine Type
Engine Displacement
Bore x Stroke
95.0/63.4 mm
Compression Ratio
Fuel System
Keihin EFI, 44mm Throttle Body
Keihin EMS
5 Gears
Final Drive
Suspension Front
WP Suspension USD 4860 MXMA 4CS - 300 mm/11.81 in
Suspension Rear
WP Monoshock 5018 BAVP DCC with Linkage - 300 mm/11.81 in
Brakes Front
Disc Brake 260 mm/10.24 in
Brakes Rear
Disc Brake 220 mm/8.66 in
Tires Front
Dunlop MX32 80/100-21
Tires Rear
Dunlop MX32 120/90-19
Overall Length
Overall Width
Overall Height
Seat Height
1,485mm ± 10 mm / 58.5 ± 0.4 in
Ground Clearance
370mm / 14.6 in
Fuel Capacity
1.9 gal
Curb Weight
224.7 lbs
More Info
What do you think?
Where To Buy
Free shipping on orders over $85.
Free 3-day express shipping on orders over $79.

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