One of this year’s most awaited comings in the business was surely the brand new line of race ready quads, from Austrian manufacturer KTM. Offered in four slightly different formats, these machines are all about high performance. For many years now, KTM has been well- known for its off-road successes on the race track, mostly in motocross and in other types of racing. The more recent growing popularity of ATV’s at the races has pushed them into this other very competitive segment, where their expertise in racing can
be put to very good use. It wasn’t easy to get our hands on one, the company just didn’t have all that many to throw around it seems. We were lucky to know racer Jonathan Beaupré, ex FMSQ enduro champ, who was kind enough to lend us one of his machines for a day. Of course, we would have liked the opportunity for a full out test, but this was better than nothing.
The model lent to us was the 2009 KTM 450 SX, specifically built for MX type racing. Sadly, we didn’t have access to a race track on that grey and rainy day, so we can’t really say all that much about its abilities in flight or how forgiving the suspension would be to our flawed landings, but still managed to get a good feel of its amazing power and almost perfect handling in varied trail conditions. All its parts exude obvious quality, greatly responsible for the visual appeal of this Austrian race-bred jewel. Breath-taking acceleration, massive torque and true race readiness is what is offered by 2009 KTM 450 SX. The competitor only needs to worry about choosing his competition number and slapping it on. With a wide axle and long chromed steel A-arm, special fully adjustable WP piggyback shocks on the front with high and low speed compression preload and rebound adjustments, DWT powder coated aluminum rims with beadlock designed especially for 2009 KTM 450 SX, Razr MX tires.
Magura factory installed parts, nerf bars, and tether cable kill Switch and you are ready for the official’s inspection to give you the thumbs up on lining it up on the packed line of hopefuls for racing glory. Packed with features only true race competitors can fully appreciate, the 2009 KTM 450 SX unleashes almost too much performance capabilities. Even experienced trail riders need to take time to get a hang of it, before they push it too hard in the trails. The option of changing the width of the rear wheels from 1213 mm (47.8 inches) to 1265 mm (49.8 inches) is a definite plus in that sense and we are anxious to get a true test unit to play with the multitude of different settings made available to the rider. For reduced weight, the rear uses a no-linkage design, with dual rate springs. As far as I’m concerned, the whole package was perfectly set, Jonathan and I are about the same tall size, but it was nice to know that the handlebar was also very precisely adjustable with the Magura four clamp tapered aluminum handlebar.
This quad is not only great in all-around performance, but also in its simplicity. Easy maintenance is another high point on the 2009 KTM 450 SX. The oil filter is easily accessible, the front brake pads are simple to service and clean, removing them takes a matter of moments using just a pair of needle nose pliers. This machine stops just as good as it goes with four-piston fixed calipers with 180 mm self-cleaning and ventilated floating discs doing most of the job up front. It is also fitted with a lightweight parking brake. The rear uses a Magura single-piston floating caliper with a larger 200 mm disc with integrated reservoir and master cylinder. Oddly enough, my very first few minutes felt like something was off. There was actually, and that was me! There is just no mistaking that such a precise and powerful machine demands a great degree of riding skills to truly and fully harness all its capability.
The physical condition and mindset of the rider determines how short lap times will be. At the very first, push of the thumb throttle, aggressively delivered low end torque was felt right away. So much so that it took some getting used to in tight trails, as keeping the front to the ground was almost a challenge, despite the fact that I rarely left 3rd gear through the corners. Power delivery is not only strong but also instantaneous. Up through the mid range, there was no quitting for the now growling motor at the peak of its power. This 449cc DOHC 4-valve liquid cooled single motor with a 97 mm bore, 60.8 mm stroke, and a compression ratio of 12.5:1 utilizes a Keihin FCR-MX 41 mm flat slide carburetor with an acceleration pump and TPS (Throttle Positioning Sensor) for a constantly perfect mixture, that will surely push this quad to numerous victories this coming season.
Reaching my own little secret track, right spank in the middle of the woods, in a wide and uneven clearing, where generations of trail riders contributed to its existence by merely just always doing laps there, following this randomly drawn line, I was now warmed up and ready to give it my best. No jumps of course, but a few cool lumps and some great curves. All of a sudden, I’m visualizing myself on the attack in a real race. Spewing a nice mix of low bass sounds and popping of peaks screaming my arrival at my rival up front, coming in for a pass, which is suddenly made easier by the clear intimidation the sounds and colors that my new racing machine create, I go for the inside line. Late braking, and then gunning it as I’m throwing myself down to almost sit on the nerf bar, I blast out of the curve to victory! If there would have actually been another quad there, I’m sure I would have passed him for real! Ok snap out of it Big Al, you can drop down your arms now, you are here all alone in the middle of nowhere, and this is Jonathan’s ride remember? It’s time to give it back now. Ehh, maybe just a few more laps!