Factory Edition

2019.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition First Impression

It’s only February, but are we really seeing a 2019.5 model already? Yes, that’s right, KTM introduced the 2019.5 450 SX-F Factory Edition to us media dweebs out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California Tuesday morning. I have been putting a lot of time on an orange bike lately for an article that is up right here (50 hours on the KTM 450 SX-F) on keeferinctesting.com, so this model release came at a perfect time. A time where I can really dissect the differences between the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F and the 2019.5 KTM 450 FE. Now even though this is only a first impression, I managed to come up with ten things about this fresh orange model that you may be interested in. These beauties will be arriving in dealerships come early March. 


What are the changes to the 2019.5 KTM Factory Edition?   


Red Bull KTM Factory Racing graphics
New CP box-in-box piston & new PANKL connecting rod 

New Factory machined Anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Orange frame
Composite skid plate

 New Akrapovič Slip-On muffler
 New Factory D.I.D DirtStar wheels

 Factory seat with Selle Dalla Valle logo
 Semi- Floating front disc
 Front brake disc guard
 Orange rear sprocket 


Engine: On paper there are only two pieces to the engine that have changed… The CP box piston and the Pankl connecting rod with brass bushing. Now with those two things in mind I wasn't expecting much change from the 2019 version, but to me the free-feeling of the engine is very noticeable in 2nd and 3rd gears. When revving the Factory Edition out in second gear there is much less engine de-cel drag than the 2019 version. The FE also feels like it pulls farther in second gear than the 19, but the overall bottom end delivery is smoother because of the Akrapovic slip on muffler. The stock muffler has more bottom end hit, but the Akrapovic, along with the engine changes, make for a stronger pulling mid range. There are two points of the Fox Raceway track where the 2019 must be shifted to third gear (out of corners), but the FE doesn’t need to be shifted and can pull second gear to the next obstacle. The top end and over-rev seem to be the same as the 2019, but that is just fine with me as the KTM FE has enough power for me. 

ECU Settings: I was told from the KTM R&D staff that the FE’s ECU settings are the same as the 2019 and that left me bewildered. Why? Because out on the track the ECU settings are so much better on the 2019.5 version than the 2019 machine that there is NO WAY they could be the same. Now I am not into conspiracy theories, but to me someone from KTM Austria must not have passed on the “updated” ECU info to the guys at the North American office. On the track the rich low end 2019 feeling is not apparent on the FE and the lean top end de-cel pop, that comes standard on the 2019, is also not there on the FE (no matter how hard you rev the 2019.5 out). Map 1 (linear pulling power with less throttle response down low, but more top end pull) and Map 2 (more pulling power/RPM response down low and slightly less pull up top) also have a distinct difference on the track and are more noticeable than the 2019 mapping choices. This is all good news for future FE buyers.  

Chassis: If you're a KTM owner you know that it takes more time to break in the 2019 steel frame compared to a Japanese aluminum framed motorcycle. I have only a few hours on this chassis and it still has that firm feel. It takes a good 7-8 hours on this frame to feel broken in or “relaxed” on the track. The FE turns as good as the 2019 version and all the same excellent “change of direction” qualities are apparent on the FE as well. Straight line stability is not the best of the 450 bunch, but not the worst neither. You can drop the WP XACT fork down to the first line (2.5mm up) like I did to help straight line stability.  


Suspension: WP has changed their branding strategy so don’t freak out about the XACT name just yet (we can explain that one in another article). I do like the silver color change that WP has done for the FE line of suspension and that color change will also be on the 2020 production models. The WP AER fork has an updated piston that allows for a tighter tolerance along with valving updates. The standard air pressure fork setting has also now gone up from 10.5 bars to 10.9 bars on the FE. The rear shock likes a sag of around 106mm now instead of 105mm, but the overall feel of the FE’s WP suspension is slightly firmer with more hold up than the 2019 model. Would I rather have a spring fork? Of course, but the updated AER fork does have some qualities that I like. I like that the front end feels light (de-cel/off-throttle) while keeping front end traction high enough so I don’t have to change my riding style up. I am a front end steering rider and the AER fork will give you what you need on initial lean. The mid stroke of the FE’s WP fork has a free-er feel and the action seems smoother than 2019, which makes for a plusher ride. The shock doesn’t feel that much different to me than the 2019, but then again, I never had a problem with the 2019 shock.  


Gearing: It comes with a 13/48, but with this Akrapovic slip on muffler I think I want a 13/49 to help with throttle response to help with recovery and second to third gear pulling power. I have also tried a 14/52 with good results as well, so feel free to try that too. 


Lightweight Feel: You would think with an engine character that is so smooth down low and linear feeling that the orange machine would feel heavy on the track, but it feels quite the opposite. It’s light, flickable, and if you want to make a sudden line change, it can do that exceptional as well. Leaning into corners and keeping it leaned all the way through the corner is the KTM FE’s strong suit. No one in the class can beat an orange bike in this category. 

Dunlop MX3S Tires: Even though you can’t purchase them anywhere anymore, these tires are still going strong on the KTM production machines. Well…. At least for another year anyway. 

Vibration: Every time I get back on a KTM from a Japanese bike I notice more vibration. The updates that KTM have made to the FE internally have improved the vibration slightly. The 2019.5 doesn't give you as much feedback to the hands as the 2019 does. Good news!  

Selle Dalla Valle Seat: This factory seat is very grippy, but also will eat your butt cheeks up on a long day of motos. The foam itself is not the problem, it’s just that the pleats on the seat are very aggressive. Just be ready to spackle the cheeks up with some Bag Balm if you're riding sand or plan on doing a long day of riding. 


Factory Trips Clamps: The KTM Hard Parts aluminum Factory CNC-machined triple clamps feature optimally tuned steering stem stiffness, in order to try and achieve perfect alignment and precise fork clamping for a highly responsive and smooth fork action. They can be adjusted to an offset of 20 or 22mm that gives you the option to change your KTM FE for different track conditions. I noticed zero added rigidity riding with KTM’s Hard Part FE clamp compared to the stock 2019 clamp. I also didn’t notice any improvements on the track (with the the FE clamp), but the orange does look factory!    

If you want to learn more about this 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, here on pulpmx.com, and or keeferinctesting.com right now. We try hard to give you a couple different avenues to diet your dirt bike information.   

First Impression: 2018.5 KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition

For those of you that don't like listening to your bike reviews via podcast, have no fear, I have smashed the computer keys for you all, so that you may read what it's like to ride the 2018.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. KTM did a ton of revisions and have even made the bike slightly lighter than it already was in 2018. The frame, swingarm, engine, muffler system, suspension settings and bodywork all have been changed on this 2018.5 FE. Here are more than a few key attributes of the new KTM Factory Edition.  



1. Engine: The new Factory Edition engine isn't that much different than the standard 2018 version KTM 450 SX-F. What you’re getting is a little more mid range pulling power and a slightly added RPM response (on low rpm) increase over the 2018 model. The FE is still silky smooth and has a very linear power, which doesn't wear the rider out easily like some other 450cc models can. The map switch is a great tool for riders that want a more smoother roll on delivery (map 1) or want a more frisky and peppy bottom end hit (map 2). I prefer map 2 as it’s still linear enough on hard pack portions of the track, but has better “hit” down low to get me out of soft pockets of the track better than map 1. 


2. Chassis: This is where most of the changes are felt on the track between the standard 2018 and FE models. The standard SX-F flexes a little too much at times off throttle (de-cel bumps) when the track is tilled deep or very loamy. I noticed this more when I went back east to go race than I did on the west coast. The FE version is stiffer, but not harsher on choppy de-cel. This is important! Stiffer doesn't always mean harsher! This creates a more precise feel coming into corners and also a better planted front end on the Factory Edition. Did I mention it was light feeling? Well stand by because this new FE feels like its five pounds lighter than the 2018 not one pound. Where you feel this on the track is on tip in coming into corners or on longer ruts. For example, a Yamaha YZ450F feels planted coming into corners, but also takes some effort to be able to lean it over (and keep it there) on longer ruts. The KTM just needs your body positioning to think about leaning over and it does it ASAP. It’s like the FE reads your mind coming into or through corners! Straight line stability is as good as the 2018 standard model, but everything is better on the FE once off-throttle, which I prefer. 


3. Suspension: Let’s not beat a dead horse here….You all know I am not an air fork rider, but the WP AER stuff is pretty damn good! Does it have the front end bite of a spring fork? No, it doesn’t. Does the AER fork have mid-stroke comfort? Yes, it does. Now don't get me wrong, the Yamaha KYB SSS fork is still better, but the AER fork is not that far behind it. Where the AER fork suffers is the consistency over a long day of riding. When I am riding the track at 2PM and have been there all day, the AER fork doesn't react the same as it did an hour or so ago. It’s not as drastic as it used to be, but I still want a little more consistency in my front end. I am however getting used to how much front end feel I have now with the AER and trust it more than I ever have. It gives me decent front end grip on lean in, but I would like a little more grip on corner exits. Like I said, mid-stroke comfort is good on straight-line and the KTM FE reacts well on braking bumps. The KTM FE WP AER fork does have a little more comfort on the top of its stroke compared to the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition, but I am looking for that supple feel when accelerating while hitting those bumps at speed. I want a little less deflection than the KTM front end has (on acceleration). The shock is quite good on the FE and as usual has a dead feel to it and is not reactive. This is a good thing! Loads of rear wheel traction and less side to side movement on the FE, which gives me a feeling that I can twist the throttle harder and sooner. 


4. Ergonomics: The 2018 KTM 450 SX-F had a bend in the shrouds that bothered the crap out of me when I cornered. People complain about the Yamaha YZ450F being fat in the middle, but the 2018 KTM 450 SX-F was as fat in the shroud area (with that bend in it) than the Yamaha. The new FE doesn't have that fat feeling or that bend any more in the shrouds! Hallelujah! The FE is very narrow feeling in the mid section and you are able to ride up on the tank even better with the lower mounted radiators. The rider triangle (peg/seat/handlebars) is short and tall rider friendly, but KTM needs to cut their bar width to a 801mm spec. The longer spec of the Neken bar gives me a wide feeling when I am cornering. I have cut last year’s handlebars down to 801mm and it gave me an even better feeling coming into corners without my arms going out too wide. You would think 9-10mm isn't that big of a deal, but once you cut them and see, you will thank me for your new found confidence in corners. The Selle Dalla Valle gripper seat keeps you in place so good that it will eat your ass up! Literally! Seriously guys, I am typing this with Bag Balm on my butt right now. Dear KTM, make the seat a little less aggressive. Thank you, -Keefer’s Ass. 

5. Expected Release Date: Eaaaaaaasy tiger, pump the brakes! Don't expect to go to your local KTM dealer and grab one of these bad ass machines right away. Make sure to talk to your wife about this purchase (I know I may have to as well) first and expect these beauties to be in dealers in early March. KTM only brought 500 of these suckers in so you might want to get that deposit sorted out ASAP. MSRP is going to be around the mid 10’s (yes, that’s ten grand), but to me the extra grand or so is worth it if you were going to buy an 2018 KTM 450 SX-F anyway. To me, the chassis improvements alone is worth the extra money. Basically you are buying a 2019 model in March, look at it that way. 



6. KTM Vs. Husqvarna: “Keefer….Isn’t the 2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition and 2018.5 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition the same bike, but different colors”? That is the question on the heading of hundreds of emails that I get. On paper they are very close, but have differences. Just think of that movie “The Interview” with James Franco and Seth Rogan. “We are same, same, but different”. Here is the deal guys…..The KTM has a different spec muffler, airbox, swingarm, handlebars, plastic and of course color/graphics. They feel different on the track and if you listen to my podcast you will hear Eric Grondahl and I talk about which bikes we prefer. I chose the KTM because it has a little more hit down low, while coming out of corners. Eric chose the Husqvarna because he likes that smoother delivery and feels the front end is more compliant on steeper downhills while turning. The bikes are very close and it wouldn't matter to me which one I would get, because if I wanted more throttle response out of the Husqvarna, I can drill holes in the airbox and run some race fuel. Boom! Done! I do like the orange color way better, but like I said we are splitting hairs here. 


7.  Things That I Didn't Like: No bike is perfect right? The KTM FE has a long throttle pull. It feels like I have to chicken wing it to get it to the throttle stop. If I want to hold the KTM FE wide open I almost have to do a double twist of the throttle in order to get it to full throttle. I tried the black throttle cam that KTM and Husqvarna offers, but it made it too jumpy rolling the throttle on through corners. However, if I was riding sand or a soft track I would stick with the black throttle cam. If you're having that problem, look into that option of a different throttle cam. I mentioned the seat and how it eats up my rear end, but it also loses it’s color quick as well. It seems the sun fades the seat cover out within 20 hours of use. I am not a huge fan of lock on grips yet, as I can feel some handlebar stiffness compared to standard half-waffle soft grips. The spokes still need to be checked constantly, so make sure you are on the ball, at the track, with that. 


8. Pankl Transmission: Under load the new FE transmission is much easier to shift. Not to say that the transmission on the 2018 is bad, but the buttery smooth shifting is somewhat reminiscent of some factory transmissions that I have spent some time with in the past. Another thing that I noticed that the FE does better than the 2018 is that I am able to find neutral much easier when at a stop, before I put the machine on the stand. While riding I have yet to hit a false neutral, so that is a great thing! 




9. Conclusion:  At the end of the day I am very happy with the changes KTM did to the 2018.5 Factory Edition. It makes me smile when I ride it and it opens up the track more for me to explore new lines. When you have a bike that is this easy to ride, with tons of rear wheel traction, is lightweight, it lets you explore options on the track that you normally wouldn't otherwise. It’s pretty damn cool! KTM sets the bar high for other manufacturers R&D departments and forces them to keep evolving their motorcycles. This is great for all us moto heads out there! Look for more setting tips and tricks as I get more time on this orange number 1 steed. Stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for continual developments with the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition.