The 2020 KTM 450 SX-F came to us with only minimal changes from the 2019 version, but since then we have gained some more knowledge because I have spent so much time on the 450 SX-F. Here are some baseline settings, suggestions, as well as some tips/modifications you can do to help increase the comfort of your new orange brigade machine.
Engine/ECU: For 2020 KTM fixed most of the 450 SX-F’s ECU problems with the help of some of us media testers. Last year the 2019 ECU setting was rich off the bottom and slightly lean on top, which made for a lethargic/inconsistent throttle delivery. For 2020 the ECU is better and has a more lively feel coming out of corners and still has the super connected rear wheel feeling. I am usually a “map two” kind of rider due to its increased pick up/recovery feel, but sometimes I am looking for that extra puling power that is needed when the track is tilled deep or soft. I have been on the Vortex ignition bandwagon for a couple years with this machine and for 2020 it hasn't wavered. If you want the same great rear wheel connection as well as more pulling power everywhere, look into a Vortex ignition from Chad at XPR Motorsports or Jamie at Twisted Development. I have turned a lot of KTM riders onto this mod and have had a 100% approval ratio. What I like about this modification is that it doesn't hurt reliability and makes for a very usable yet powerful engine for almost every type of rider. Yes, it will set you back around $800.00, but to me is much better than slapping on a muffler system and will do more for your engine.
Suspension: If you haven't listened to my WP XACT Pro Components suspension podcast you may want to at least check that out, but if you're sticking with the stock suspension for a while, you can try this setting to see if this helps comfort when the track gets rough. This setting below should be in the ballpark for riders around 165-200 pounds, but if you’re heavier than 200 pounds going to a stiffer rear spring wild help the ride attitude of the KTM. I have went to several tracks and tried many different settings, but this specific setting had the most “track toughness”. The KTM’s stock WP suspension doesn't quite have the comfort like the Husqvarna does, but the KTM/WP set also holds up more in the stroke. To get some added comfort back with the added hold up, try this setting.
Fork (Stock Triple Clamp):
Air Pressure: 10.7 Bars
Compression: 14-15 clicks out
Rebound: 16 clicks out
*With KTM Hard Parts Triple Clamps*
Air Pressure: 10.7-10.8 Bars
Compression: 12 clicks out
Rebound: 15 clicks out
Low Speed Compression: 13 clicks out
High Speed Compression: 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 turns out
Rebound: 12 clicks out
Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your KTM. I will say that I don’t feel like the KTM chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other vet riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the KTM to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction (as well as an overall more planted feel). You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the KTM 450SX-F through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out (you should do this regardless if you keep all the bolts in or not). You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).
Handlebars: The stock Neken handlebar is too stiff and doesn't offer too much comfort. Get yourself a set of Pro Taper bars and make your arms and hands happy again. The Pro Taper SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better “stand up feel” from your KTM look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try the Pro Taper Husqvarna Stock bend.
Triple Clamps: After riding back to back with the stock triple clamps and the KTM hard parts clamps I have realized that the stock clamps are stiffer. I have since installed the KTM Hard Parts triple clamp (or the 2019.5 Factory Edition clamp) on the 2020 KTM 450 SX-F with excellent results. The front end has more of a softer initial touch on slap downs and the fork action is smoother on de-cel bumps. It’s crazy to think that the fork feels softer now with the “Hard Parts” clamp installed, but that is exactly how it feels when going to the “Hard Parts” clamp. I was able to increase my compression damping a little to help hold up off-throttle and kept more comfort through the entire stroke (with the stock AER fork) with the “Hard Parts” clamp. I also get slightly more lean angle front end traction (or cornering stability) with this “Hard Parts” clamp because the front end isn't bouncing around inside long/choppy ruts.
Rear Brake Pedal Spring: Purchase a Honda CRF450R rear brake pedal spring with the rubber around the spring. The KTM rear brake pedal spring vibrates and will break every 3-4 engine hours. Orrrrrrrrr. Get a KTM rear brake pedal spring and wrap it with plastic tubing, but to me it’s easier just to get the Honda spring and be done with it.
Gearing: I like the stock 13/49 gearing, but for sand I prefer the 14/52 gearing for mid rpm recovery and chassis feel. Yes, going to a 14/52 will put your rear wheel back more than the 13/49 and get you some extra high speed stability with the 14/52. At tracks like Glen Helen I go with a 14/52 because I get that extra planted/stable feeling coming down hills.
Rear Axle/Axle Blocks: Going to a Works Connection Elite axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock KTM’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Both are great, but you will have to decide if you want a complete axle/axle block kit like Ride Engineering’s or just the blocks themselves like WC’s.
Muffler: To me FMF makes the best muffler system for the KTM 450 SX-F. There are some other companies that have other bikes dialed in more, but on the KTM, FMF has got it dialed. You will get more low to mid RPM response as well as more mid range pulling power. Top end is increased plus the over-rev is as good as stock. It is one of the few times that I was impressed because it was actually better than stock in almost all areas. The downside is that you must keep up on muffler packing (every 10-12 engine hours) because the FMF will blow out and that could damage your expensive titanium can. Did I mention that you will lose almost two pounds with this system? If you slap on spring forks you will be gaining almost three pounds. You can get most of that back with a 4.1 Titanium FMF Muffler system.
If you have any questions about your KTM please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.