First Test of the 2021 KTM 350 SX-F
Presented by OGIO Powersports
The 2021 KTM 350 SX-F is one of the most fun bikes we’ve ridden this year as it has just the right amount of power, handles amazingly well, and has improved suspension componentry that allows the bike to ride higher in the plush portions of the suspension stroke. CLICK HERE for a technical breakdown of the new-for 2021 changes!
Last week, we met KTM out at Cahuilla Creek MX Park to take delivery of our 350 SX-F test bike, and man, did we have a blast on it! Unlike the 450 SX-F, which produces boatloads of power and must be respected, the 350 SX-F can be ridden aggressively in all track conditions as it produces more power than a 250F, but not as much brute power as a full-sized 450.
When people who have never ridden a 350 ask us what it’s like, they most often assume it’s like riding a super-built 250F. Our reply, however, is a frustrating,
“It rides like a 350!” To be honest, it’s not like a built 250 or a slow 450 – it’s just like Mama Bear’s porridge – just right. The 350 powerband is very broad and versatile. It can be revved to the moon aggressively like a 250, or short shifted like a 450. In fact, the fast, flowy Cahuilla Creek MX track only required a couple of shifts per lap as the bike pulls quite far in each gear, and also boasts enough torque down low to pull a tall gear in the corners.
The two map setting offer distinctively different powerbands, as map one is broad and easy to control with plenty of top-end overrev. Map two, meanwhile, hits much harder down low but tends to rev out and go flat more severely than map one. Map two is certainly more exciting, but it does require more shifting to keep the bike purring in the sweet spot of the rpm range. Traction control is still available as always, and riders will need to decide whether or not they enjoy the sensation of the exclusive feature.
While the 350 SX-F only weighs one pound less than the 450 SX-F on paper, it feels much, much lighter on the track, thanks to its quick-revving engine character and smooth power delivery. The bike’s center of gravity even feels lower! The 350 SX-F corners like a dream and maintains a light, flickable feel in the air that inspires plenty of confidence. The bike’s handling has been further enhanced this year by the new WP fork and shock settings, which give the bike a firmer overall ride, but with more comfort in the initial portions of travel.
The improved suspension also affords the bike better front-end traction in corners. The KTM fleet has always been praised for its prowess in directional changes, and this year is even better as the front end sticks to the track’s surface like glue. While the bike obviously corners great in ruts and berms, it is also quite adept at sliding through loose corners.
Last year, we spent a lot of time on the KTM’s half-brother, the Husqvarna FC 350, and when jumping on the orange bike for the first time this year, it was obvious that thanks to its exclusive mapping and air intake system, the SX-F boasts a peppier powerband. Once we are through the 2021 250 and 450 Shootouts in a few months, we’re planning to do an all-displacement shootout with a 250 two-stroke, 250F, 350F, and 450F. Which do you think will win?