KTM 450 SX-F

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. 

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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 

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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.  

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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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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.   

2019 KTM 450 SX-F Review

 

We got our hands on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F recently and wanted to divulge some quality testing information to all of you interested orange brigade riders out there.... 

 

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Engine: The new 2019 KTM 450 SX-F engine isn’t any different than the 2018.5 machine besides mapping. I do feel with the updated mapping you’re getting a little more mid-range pulling power and a slightly added RPM response (at mid-range rpm) increase over the 2018.5 model. The 2019 is still silky smooth and has a very linear power, which doesn’t wear the rider out easily like some other 2019 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 1 in 2019 as it’s still linear enough on hard pack portions of the track, but has a cleaner hit down low to get me out of soft pockets of the track better than map 2. 

 

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FI Setting: I do feel KTM missed the mark when it comes to the ignition/fuel mapping. The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels a little rich/dirty down low and a little lean on top end (de-cel popping). If KTM can get their mapping figured out, the already great engine character would be even better. I am going to go test some other maps and see if it helps with a cleaner power delivery. I know going to a Vortex ignition, that is mapped by Jamie Ellis of Twisted Development is a thing of beauty on this machine. Just FYI….

 

Chassis: This is where most of the changes (from the 2018) are felt on the track. The 2018 450 SX-F flexes a little too much at times off throttle (de-cel bumps) especially 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 2019 KTM 450 SX-F 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 (yes, even with the AER fork). Did I mention it was light feeling? The 2019 KTM 450 SX-F feels like its five pounds lighter than the 2018. It’s only one pound lighter, but it feels much more lighter on direction changes. I am able to feel this on tip in leading 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 orange brigade is reading your mind coming into or through corners! Straight line stability is as good as the 2018 standard model, but everything is better on the 2019 model once off-throttle, which I prefer.

 

Suspension: I told this to Dave O’Connor at KTM. “If this bike came with a spring fork, every shootout would be yours”! You all know I am not an air fork kind of guy, but the WP AER stuff is pretty damn good (for an air fork). 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 isn’t atrocious like the Showa SFF-TAC Air fork was. Where the AER fork suffers is the consistency over a long day of riding. When I am riding the track at 3PM and have been there all day, the AER fork doesn’t react the same as it did at 1:30PM. 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 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 flat corners where this is nothing to bank off of. Like I said, mid-stroke comfort is good on straight-line and the KTM 450 SX-F reacts well on braking bumps. The WP AER fork does have a little harsh spot on the top of its stroke when accelerating, but that is only when I went to a stiffer air setting (10.7 bars versus 10.5 bars). I would like to see a little less deflection than the KTM front end has (on acceleration). The shock is quite good on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F and as usual has a dead feel to it. This is a great feeling on the track! Tons of rear wheel traction and less side to side movement is felt on the 2019, which gives me a feeling that I can twist the throttle harder and sooner out of corners. 

 

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Ergonomics: The 2018 KTM 450 SX-F had a bend in the shrouds that annoyed my legs 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). The 2019 KTM doesn’t have that fat feeling or that bend any more in the shrouds! Hallelujah! The 2019 bike is very narrow feeling in the mid section and you are now able to ride up on the tank even better with the lower mounted radiators. The rider triangle (peg/seat/handlebars) is both short and tall rider friendly, but KTM needs to cut their bar width to a 803mm spec. The longer spec of the Neken bar gives me a wide feeling when I am cornering and makes me feel uneasy. I cut last year’s handlebars down to 803mm and it gave me an even better feeling coming into corners without my arms resting out too wide. You would think 7-10mm 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. I am not a huge fan of the looks of the new seat cover, but it is much friendlier to the butt on longer rides. 

 

Things To Check/Carry On A Consistent Basis: I have put many hours on the 2018.5 Factory Edissssssh and know a few things that you want to check/carry more often than not. Check your spokes after break in, check your sprocket bolts every other moto or so (and blue or red Loctite them), carry a couple fuel filters in your toolbox and make sure to have an array of torx bits in that toolbox. You're welcome! 

 

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Black Throttle Cam: The stock “gray” throttle cam to me uses a long pull (twist to full throttle). I almost have to double chicken wing it to get there at times. In order to combat that and get some more bottom end feeling, install the black throttle cam that KTM offers you. Doing this will make the KTM 450 SX-F feel more exciting out of corners and hit slightly harder/sooner. I stayed on map 1 when using the black throttle cam. 

 

Pankl Transmission: Under load the new 2019 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 on, in the past. Another thing that I noticed that the 2019 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. However, while riding I have yet to hit a false neutral! Knock on wood! 

 

Adapting To A KTM: If you're thinking about making the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F your next bike, but are nervous about that European feel, don't stress on it. The newer KTM’s feel less foreign then they did just a few short years ago. I am able to adapt to the orange machines after coming off of Japanese machines easier than ever. 

 

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Specs: Here are some baseline settings to start with on the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F:

 

Fork:

 

Air Pressure: 10.5-10.7 bars (depending on weight, I am 170 pounds and I like 10.7 bars to keep the front end up a little more de-cel)

Compression: If going with 10.7 bars try softening the compression up a 2-4 clicks to aid in mid-stroke comfort. If going with a stock air pressure reading go up 1-3 clicks on compression. 

Rebound: Standard

 

Shock: 

 

Sag: 105mm

Low Speed Compression: 2-3 clicks stiffer

High Speed Compression: Heavier riders (180 and up) might want to try and go with a 1/4 turn in (stiffer) on high speed compression. If you’re less than 180 pounds you can stick with stock to 1/8 turn in.

Rebound: Loamy/deep tracks go with 1-2 clicks slower. Hard pack tracks, stick with stock to 2 clicks faster.