Outstream Test

REVIEW: 201616 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
The ’16 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is so light you’ll want to do this on it all day long.

Story and Photography By Adam Booth

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s hard to deny that the 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition isn’t the most visually appealing motocross machine available to anyone with $10,299. Cresting the 10 thousand dollar mark, the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is $1000 more than the standard 2016 450 SX-F. That extra dough can be considered fair trade for the orange frame, the Akrapovic Ti slip-on muffler, ODI clamp-on grips, gold-anodized triple clamps, pleated seat cover, Red Bull team graphics, D.I.D rims and the new WP AER 48 air fork.

The highly anticipated all-new WP AER 48 air fork is an impressive 3.1 pounds lighter than the WP 4CS fork it replaces. The Akrapovic Ti slip-on muffler is about a pound lighter than stock, knocking a total of four pounds off the overall weight of the 450 SX-F Factory Edition. History has proven that the KTM Factory Editions are an almost certain preview of the next model year, which means the 2017 KTM 450 SX-F will come with the WP AER 48 fork and tip the scales at three pounds lighter than in 2016. KTM was already the lightest 450 by a huge margin, now it is down into the weight numbers of 250F machines.

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

You can read the original magazine story by clicking HERE.

In The Dirt

We spent a day at Cahuilla Motocross track, riding the easy-on-the-eyes 2016 KTM 450 Factory Edition with a variety of riders, ranging in age and skill level. The 2016 450 SX-F Factory Edition is nearly identical to the 2016 standard 450 SX-F model, minus one big difference, the AER 48 air fork. The Factory Edition does have some sweet additions, but the major performance difference comes from the WP AER 48 air fork. After a full day on a fairly rough track proved that KTM made a great decision in ditching the 4CS fork for the AER 48 air fork.

On the track, the lightweight feel of the 450 Factory Edition is instant and throwing around the 450 SX-F FE feels more like riding a 250F. The ultralight weight makes initiating direction change easy and the silky smooth power delivery provides awesome traction in any condition. 250F riders who are intimidated by 450s should give the KTM a try, 450s aren’t as mean and scary as they once were. This doesn’t mean the KTM 450 SX-F FE is slow, just the opposite, it has a friendly bottom-end pull, then makes huge power through the mid and top-end. It delivers the impressive power in a very smooth and usable method, equaling forward drive. The Akrapovic Ti muffler is a beautiful addition and does a great job in keeping the exhaust note pleasing while further helping to provide ultrasmooth power delivery. Carving corners on the KTM is pure bliss thanks to the wide powerband. The 450 SX-F FE never wants to unexpectedly explode break traction at inopportune times.

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

Just Add Air

The WP AER 48 air fork is a split-function design, each leg handling different functions. The damping leg (right) is where you find the compression adjuster on top with rebound adjustment on the bottom. The left leg holds the air, which acts as a spring. The air spring is encapsulated and isolated from the fork seal so even if the fork seal leaks, the air spring pressure isn’t affected. The standard setting for the air fork is 157 psi (10.8 bar) and is a good place to start. It is very easy to adjust. The WP AER 48 air forks weigh three pounds less than the 4CS fork they replace. That’s a big number and worth repeating.

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With positive buzz surrounding the AER 48 we were anxious to get time on the new Factory Edition and the new air fork. We tested the AER 48 for a day with WP earlier in the year and were pleasantly surprised by the performance. Air forks in general, from any brand don’t have a huge following of fans, so when rumors KTM would be equipping the SX-F motocross machines with an air fork doubts arouse as to how they would work. Well, the WP AER 48 air fork is without a doubt the best production air fork available. It is leaps and bounds better than the 4CS it replaces and is on par with many standard non-air spring forks.

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

The KTM’s WP AER 48 air fork is what an air fork is supposed be.
2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

One of the perks of the FE is the Akrapovic muffler.
2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

The FE’s orange frame easily visually sets it apart from the standard SX-F.

The first few inches of travel from the AER 48 is plush, way better than any other air fork and feels much more like a well set up spring fork than any air fork we’ve ridden. The AER 48 stays up in the stroke nicely while still absorbing small bumps and chop, both under braking and acceleration. Through the midstroke the AER 48 provides a progressive and predictable feel. Unlike the 4CS fork that had a tendency to bottom easily, the AER 48 offers excellent bottoming resistance. All the way through the stroke the AER 48 is smooth without any harshness. They work as a fork is designed and every tester was very impressed. As the track developed bigger bumps we played with the air pressure in the AER 48, going down to 144 psi (9.9 bar) for our test riders in the 150-pound range. Our lightest tester also went out eight clicks on compression for a more plush and planted feel. Being able to easily adjust pressure depending on the track conditions and rider weight is a key feature of the air fork.

The overall balance of the 2016 KTM 450 SX-F FE is excellent and charging into braking bumps never resulted in a twitchy front end or the back end stepping out unexpectedly. We are also very happy to report that the amazing cornering characteristics of the KTM have been retained and the smooth action of the AER 48 air fork provides excellent front-wheel traction. The reality is the KTM 450 SX-F FE feels and performs like a bike with excellent traditional suspension. It doesn’t feel like your riding a motocross bike with an air fork. Home run for WP and KTM.

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

The 450 FE has tons of power but it’s all ultra manageable.

Big Dollars

Even if you take away the orange frame, the Akrapovic Ti muffler, pleated Selle Dalla Valle seat cover and anodized bling, simply having the new WP AER 48 fork makes the $1000 increase in price well worth it based on the performance of the new fork. The rest of the Factory Edition extras are just a visual bonus! If you can wait for the 2017 KTM 450 SX-F, which will more than likely come with the WP AER 48 air fork, but probably won’t have the sweet orange frame and for sure won’t have the Akrapovic muffler, you could save a decent chunk of money.

Even at $10,299 it could be tough to find a 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition to purchase. KTM, as they do every year produces about just over 400 to meet the AMA homologations rules and they sell quickly!

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

At $10,299, the FE isn’t exactly cheap, but you’ll quickly forget about that big check you just wrote as soon as you ride it.

What Our Test Riders Think

Kai Mukai

Kai Mukai

5’5”/130 lbs/Pro

My first impression of the 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is, wow, this bike is light! It now weighs a claimed 221.3 pounds, lighter then most of the 250Fs. The suspension at the end of the day was a little too stiff for my weight even with the shock spring all the way out and lower air pressure in the forks. I went out 4-8 clicks on compression, which made it easier for me to come in to the breaking bumps with confidence. It also made the entrance to corners smoother.

It comes with an easy to use map switch on the handlebars and I prefer the stock mapping because the 450 has a lot of power and the stock setting provided a smooth power delivery, which made it easier to ride coming out of corners and didn’t want to rip my arms off.

Trevor Stewart

Trevor Stewart

6’/155 lbs/Pro

My initial impression of the 450 SX-F FE is that the suspension changes are a big improvement. Cahuilla isn’t the roughest track out of the handful we are offered in Southern California, but it’s no freeway. As the day went on, we made some air-pressure changes, going down a bit on pressure and the bike improved.

Also, the bike handled great through the loamy sand, and through the hard pack. The bike is very light and easy to throw around. It’s safe to say the all-new 2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition is a step in the right direction for KTM.

Jesse Zeigler

Jesse Zeigler

5’10”/175 lbs/Vet Expert

The KTM 450 SX-F has evolved into an ultralight feeling, nimble-handling and efficient motocross machine over the past 4-5 years. It’s gone from tractor to sports car, NASCAR to Formula One. The newest Factory Edition is taking that one step further by including the quick-to-impress WP AER 48 Air Fork front end. That’s pretty much what you’ll talk about to the curious posses of onlookers if you own one of these bikes. Sure, conversations will fade to the shock performance and engine character/durability/looks/logos/brakes and your income-to-debt ratio, but all talks will probably start with the front tubes. Here, it will be your job to tell everyone you meet to throw their preconceived opinions about air fork hassles out the window. This new KTM has none such nonsense thus far revealed. And the bike handles better than the previous generation by a leap. The addition of the plush-yet-strong suspension character and intense front-wheel traction slides itself nicely into a chassis already mating stability and precision very well. Gone are the harsh spikes in valving or oil-flow I felt regularly on the 4CS-equipped SX-F models. With the AER 48 I set the pressure down a bit from stock recommended settings. Ride the bike. Small bump absorption is awesome, bottoming out is controlled, in-between is smooth and solid. It also has the benefit of incredible front-end traction so you can carve turns like a go-cart. They’re ultra-light, too. So lofting the front end mid-drift to avoid a high-speed roller is completely possible and super easy with a little body english.

The rest of the bike follows its lead. Motor character is great. 450s have come a long way from trying to rip your arms off—they’re now delivering massive traction and smooth power. So much in the KTM that I actually preferred the aggressive map setting over stock so I could “make up” for some corner talent deficiencies and wouldn’t have to rev the engine—I do the same on the current Honda CRF450R. As an owner, I’d switch back-and-forth, track-to-track and see what worked best where.

If I owned this bike, I’d work on replacing the cost in my bank account before I modified a single thing. And I’d buy a lot of gas. Because it’s sooooo addictive. CN

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 KTM SX-F 450 Factory Edition

Engine:

Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-stroke, single

Displacement:

449.9cc

Bore x Stroke:

95.0 x 63.4mm

Compression Ratio:

12.75:1

Starter/Battery:

Electric starter/12V, 3Ah

Transmission:

5-speed

Fuel System:

Fuel System: Keihin EFI, 44mm throttle body

Final Drive:

13:48

Clutch:

Wet multi-disc DDS clutch, Brembo hydraulics

Front Suspension:

WP Suspension AER 48 air fork

Rear Suspension:

WP Monoshock with Linkage

Front wheel travel:

11.8 in.

Rear wheel travel:

11.8 in.

Front brake:

Single 260mm disc

Rear brake:

Single 220mm disc

Front rim:

1.60 x 21 Excel

Rear rim:

2.15 x 19 Excel

Front tire:

80/100-21 Dunlop MX32

Rear tire:

120/90-19 Dunlop MX32

Ground Clearance:

14.6 in.

Seat Height:

37.8 in.

Tank Capacity, approx:

1.9 gal.

Claimed Dry Weight:

221.3 lbs.

MSRP:

$10,299

 

2016 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

It’s amazing that KTM’s 450 SX-F FE is as light as some 250Fs.

You can read the original magazine story by clicking HERE.

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