450 SML Shootout In-Depth | 2022 KTM 450 SX-F
THIRD PLACE | KTM 450 SX-F
Rider Scores: 1-3-4-3-4-5
The KTM 450 SX-F is like the Husqvarna’s and GASGAS’ more aggressive big brother in that it hits harder and is firmer suspended. For 2022, the KTM received only graphic updates, as 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 and GASGAS have big powerbands that are smooth and easy to make good use of, the KTM packs a bigger punch and offers a lot more excitement. The engine and map settings are identical to the Husky’s, yet we suspect the different subframe and airbox shapes on the KTM deserve credit for the added performance.
Power hits hard as soon as the throttle is cracked, and the pull never quits with a big mid-range surge, and a massive top-end pull follow. Like the Husqvarna’s, Map 1 yields a more well-rounded, rider-friendly powerband, and Map 2 yields more excitement with a harder hit and freer-revving feel. Most of our testers preferred the KTM in the Map 2 setting.
The WP air fork remains the only chink in the KTM’s armor. Not that they are bad, mind you– it’s just that we’ve ridden with the WP Cone Valve spring fork and know the true potential of the 450 SX-F. Still, 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, with radiator shrouds that have a slightly wider feel between the rider’s knees in corners. But, as always, we must make mention of the stiff Neken 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 ProTapers. Seems like an easy fix for ’23, guys…
We are excited to see the reveal of the 2022.5 KTM Factory Edition and Husqvarna Rockstar Edition bikes, as they are all-new from the ground up, featuring new engines, chassis, bodywork, and suspension. As always, they will be a precursor of what’s to come on the standard 2023 models.
TEST RIDER FEEDBACK
“The engine is strong and carries from low all the way to the top. Power rolls on smoothly and gives the bike a sensation that it might be slow, but it is actually a rocket ship. This bike really is ready to race and it is a great bike that could be solid for any rider of any ability.” – Connor Ericsson
“I love the feel of the steel frame and aluminum subframe and billet clamps. The chassis is comfortable and forgiving in all parts of the track. The suspension works great with a little more air pressure in the fork and a few clicks of added compression damping on the shock. Still, the bike could use some added bottoming resistance.” – Connor Ericsson
“The engine is very strong and it revs to the moon! The smooth map was nice and easy to control but I really preferred the more aggressive map. The bike as a whole is a lot of fun but I would never choose to race this bike.” Kordel Caro
“The bike is stable and corners well, but the fork can be harsh. I am not a huge fan of the air forks but they seemed to work okay around most of the track.” – Kordel Caro
“The KTM has really good bottom to top-end power, but I feel the bike has a heavy feeling over-rev and a lot of engine braking when you let off the throttle. I personally like Map 2 better because it gives the bike better throttle response that gets into the meat of the powerband quicker.” – Rene Garcia
“The KTM feels light on the track and the chassis has a good amount of flex for comfort. The suspension has good hold up and is plush under braking, but on hard landings and in big braking bumps the air forks tend to have unpredictable rebound.” – Rene Garcia
“The KTM’s power – and especially in Map 2 – is monstrous! The engine has a high-friction feel that I don’t care for, but I know from experience that this can be tuned out with the ECU settings. This engine has no weak spots and the clutch and transmission work flawlessly.” – Donn Maeda
“Oddly enough, though I preferred a lower rear shock sag setting on the GASGAS and Husqvarna, I was fine with the recommended 104mm on the KTM. The bike feels light on the track, has good balance, and corners amazingly well. The air forks lack some comfort…let’s see mechanical springs in ’23?” – Donn Maeda
“The KTM is smooth and easy to ride. The engine has good low-end, good mid-range, and very good top-end. It is such a friendly engine yet still very fast. The KTM has the most free-revving feel of the Austrian bikes. It does have some engine vibration when revved out.” – Kyle Puerner
“The 450 SX-F is very well balanced and responds well to rider input. I can ride the KTM for a long time without getting tired. The shock works well and the fork is the best an air fork has ever been as it soaks up big landings, and handles small chop and acceleration bumps well.” – Kyle Puerner
“The KTM power is great. I like Map 1 better because I was able to ride the bike more aggressively. Map 2 is so fast, I felt like I could lose control easily and crash. If I clutched it the way I like to, the KTM would hook up too much and I’d wheelie.” – Brian Smith