450 SML Shootout In-Depth | 2021 KTM 450 SX-F
KTM 450 SX-F
Rider Rankings: 1-3-2-4-4-3
The KTM 450 SX-F is much like the Husqvarna’s more aggressive big brother as it hits harder and is firmer suspended. For 2021, the KTM received a suspension and graphic updates, but the rest of the bike remains unchanged. And that’s a good thing, because the KTM is potent, confidence-inspiring, and – well – ready to race.
While the Husqvarna has big power that’s smooth and easy to make good use of, the KTM packs a bigger punch and more excitement. (Though the engine and map settings are identical to the Husky’s, we suspect that the different subframe and airbox shape that comes with it are to credit with the added performance.) Power hits hard as soon as the throttle is cracked, and the pull never quits as a big mid-range surge and massive top-end pull follow. Like the Husqvarna’s, map one yields a more well-rounded powerband that is rider-friendly, and map two yields more excitement with a harder hit and freer-revving feel. Most of our testers preferred the KTM in the map two setting.
The new WP fork internals yields better mid-speed control and improve the bike’s overall balance. The KTM handles hard landings quite well and the flex of the steel chassis adds to the bike’s overall comfort. None of our testers had any handling issues with the SX-F.
Ergonomically, the KTM is spacious and comfortable, but the radiator shrouds do have a slightly wider feel in between the rider’s knees in corners. As always, we must make mention of the stiff Nekken handlebars that KTM specs on its bikes. In addition to having a strange, sweeping bend, it translates much more track feedback and engine vibration to the rider’s hands than the Husqvarna’s Pro Tapers. Seems like an easy fix for ’21, guys…
“The power rolls on smoothly and this makes you think you’re going slow, but you’re actually hauling. It is quiet and controllable, which is deceiving.” – Ericsson
“Both ends of the suspension have great hold up under braking and on landings from jumps. The bike is very stable and predictable, yet great in the corners, too.” – Ericsson
“KTM’s map switch provides an extremely quick map two setting without alienating its core ‘smooth and manageable’ fan base. While most would consider the KTM’s powerband flawless, I would prefer a little more hit right at the crack of the throttle.” – Foster
“I don’t believe the KTM has a handling weak point. Although it doesn’t lead the class in stability, cornering, comfort, or suspension action, it is pretty adept in every category with no glaring deficiencies.” – Foster
“The power rolls on hard and pulls through the entire rpm range but I would still like more bottom-end hit.” – Garcia
“The KTM has great balance, but I don’t like the front-end feel on corner entry. The stock fork is too soft for my tastes.” – Garcia
“The KTM feels as if it has more internal engine friction than the Husqvarna, which makes it have a heavier feel on the track Map two is freer revving and reduces this sensation.” – Maeda
“I trust the KTM suspension and handling, but I don’t have the same feel for the track surface while riding that I do on the other bikes.” – Maeda
“The overall handling is great. It has a very predictable feel and is one of the best-handing bikes when the track is dry and rough.” – Puerner
“The stock suspension settings are a little soft for me. I went up in air and compression clickers on the fork and a half turn in on the high-speed compression on the shock for better balance.” – Puerner
“The Chromoly chassis delivers a predictable ride and the bike is very stable.” – Sleeter
“The engine is very easy to make good use of. It produces a ton of power that is spread nicely. The weak point is the vibration at high rpm.” – Sleeter
“The overall balance of the bike was great once I went to 106 mm of sag. Comfort could be better, but on the other hand I had no problem with bottoming either end of the suspension.” – Sleeter
“I love how hard I can push the bike in stock trim. I would just love a quicker, freer revving engine.” – Sleeter