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2009 KTM 525 XC Review

2009 KTM 525 XC Review

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Table of Content

Anytime we stopped somewhere with this cute orange thing in the pick-up’s box, people would often walk up to us to ask all sorts of technical questions about it. Its aggressive cut lines and bright color just catches everyone’s attention, not just avid ATV users. One lovely elderly lady blurted out: “that’s a very nice looking motorcycle you’ve got there!” – “Oh this is no bike madam. It’s an ATV!”  Poor little old lady looked at me totally clueless saying: “A what? What in God’s name is that?” She was so short that she couldn’t even see there were four wheels on this little off-road marvel. I couldn’t help but picture this new found friend riding this beast and holding on for dear life.

Extra punch for the pros
Oh please! It was just a funny thought! Fact is, I wouldn’t even let any self-proclaimed expert rider hop on this beast before we’ve had a chance to discuss a little,this ride’s untamed character. .As is the case with its three cousins, the 450 or 505 SX and the 450 XC models, “power” and “precision” are words that re-surface frequently during dialogue about KTM quads. This one, the 2009 KTM 525 XC that is, does have extra punch to it, but it is no huge difference with the others and it is mostly noticeable at lower revs. The mid-range is just as surprising and tricky to manage on either model.  I truly had more enjoyment with this one in the woods, clicked into third and just having fun with its edgy throttle response out of turns, hardly ever downshifting to second gear.

Actually, it is fast and aggressive enough that amateur riders and racers might not enjoy this brutal power delivery.  They may have a hard time getting use to the precision of all controls and might also be overwhelmed with the suspension and ergonomic tuning possibilities of this quad. The potent SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 510.4 cc engine fires up efficiently at every push of the handlebar mounted electric start. Despite the fact that KTM is sticking to good old carburetor technology instead of fuel injection, the engine purrs nicely and response is lightning fast. This XC quad is equipped with Keihin FCR-MX 39mm flat slide carburetors with accelerator pumps.

If you are brave enough to just gun it hard, in the case of this 2009 KTM 525 XC, meaning pressing the throttle merely halfway, the back end will start to slide, even if you were right on the edge of stalling the engine, a second before. Meanwhile, the Maxxis® RAZR 20 X 11-9 at the rear, manage to bite just enough dirt as the linkage-less mono-shock rear suspension snugly compresses to its ideal gravity defying low stance, giving the whole package amazing all-around performance. The next thing you know, the front 21″x7″-10″ RAZR tires are dangling uselessly up in the air, and you are already out of the woods and done with the whole challenge.

One thing is for certain, it is also great fun out in the open, and this is a quad that likes to be turned from the rear in sweet and fun and long dust vortex forming power drifts. Unable to accept the fact that this joy of life is already over and done with, the rider, proudly clothed in orange, with a squeeze of the superbly responsive hydraulically operated wet multi-disc clutch, smooth yet decisive click of the shifter, and push of the perfectly positioned thumb throttle, will be back at it in no time, diving right back into the woods, willing and able to better himself.

Precise controls need a precise operator
The precision in the rider’s input becomes crucial, as everything operates so precisely on this machine; not just the thumb throttle, which by the way was made a little bit easier on the 2009 and was turned forward 10° for improved ergonomics, but also the clutch, brakes and shifter.  At first, it might be a challenge to get it into neutral, as will getting use to this touchy feel apparently present in many specific areas throughout the whole package, and also in general. Never did we miss a shift, though. The re-occurrence of precision makes the machine as a whole, precise in character. After a while, you will have no problem with this trait and we were more and more in agreement with it, every time we took it out for a spin. Even experienced riders will have to learn to manage this precision, to fully harness the true power of this great-looking quad, which is more than just its acceleration and speed. It has the power to turn an already good rider into a better one. That’s what this impressive enduro race-ready quad offers, fresh out of the KTM dealership. This ride, most definitely sets new standards in the cross-country sector, and is certainly not the ideal fit for beginners, but it is close to perfect for the pros.

Enduro trail specialist
KTM clients will have to base their choice, out of all four different choices on what kind of riding they do. The Motors are completely different, the suspension all around, and quite a few other things. The SX DOHC is very top-end based and loves to be reviewed high, while the XC has more torque put into it, a part of its very specific design for trail use. Power wise, the 2009 KTM 525 XC doesn’t feel much different than the 450, but does pull in front a little bit with what seems to be a little extra torque off the start, and a little more juice for top speed straightaway’s. The woods is where this baby truly shines though, it corners efficiently with great precision in its handling, with tons of rider feedback. Though I would recommend a steering dampener as a valuable mode, if you are going to be racing long endurance events, as this great amount of feedback also means more frequent kickback in the bars, and it can become a pain in the long runs. The fuel tank is larger on the XC, in keeping with its enduro calling. For the same reason, it is narrower than the SX with 45 inches up front, and a very cool choice of width of the rear axle between 45.5 and 48.5 inches of width.

The XC’s Magura four piston (180mm) floating hydraulics with wavy rotors, give it incredible stopping power, but it is up to the rider to learn not to make them lock up, as both the brake lever and foot pedal are quite sensitive. Cool thing, if you do lock up the front and slide out of the trail, you have a reverse gear on this one, which the SX models don’t have.

Find your sweet spot
The greatest thing about the KTM XC quads is that they are among the most customizable machines; the camber and caster of the A-arms, the positioning of the Magura tapered aluminum handlebars, the nearly infinitely tunable Öhlins suspension. This means that a rider can truly grow with his ride and fine tune every little aspect according to his taste, needs, riding style, weight and so on. The Öhlins suspension worked extremely well for us, never bottoming out, despite the fact that we had softened up the compression, in search of more comfort in the rough. We had slowed down the rebound a tad for the same reasons. Finding my sweet spot was of course a bit challenging, but fun and interesting, as I quickly realized I was getting closer but would need a lot more riding time to achieve true harmony between me and my sweet ride. Actually, the XC’s set of Öhlins suspension units seems better than anything stock out there.

A whole bunch of stuff
We all know how prepping up for racing can be costly, when pumping up the usual stock 450 racer. An obvious strong point to this gem is in the number of things you won’t need to add to it. At the heart of it all; the frame is made of sturdy yet flexible chromoly steel tubes, as are the a-arms. However, the easily accessed sub frame is aluminum. This means the whole thing is very strong, yet lightweight. At the rear of the machine, you find a chromoly steel  linkless swingarm that uses an Öhlins shock which provides 10.4 inches of travel. The PDS or Progressive Damping System designed by KTM, allows the shock itself to influence proper rising rate and adds additional clearance by freeing up the space beneath the swingarm, where you would usually find a bulky linkage assembly.

You already have the smooth yet precise Magura clutch with steel braided hydraulic lines, performance-oriented aluminum exhaust system with spark arrestor that is borderline legal in some places, and definitely too loud in others, which is sweet to hear rumble over many aftermarket pipes lined up at the start. You also have the kick-up foot pegs, gripper seat cover, killer graphics, 3.5 gallon fuel tank, and even a stock mandatory for racing tether cable/ kill switch. Add to all this: fully adjustable piggyback reservoir suspension, adjustable preload, compression, and rebound settings, caster and camber adjustable A-arms, which mean you can pretty much just put fuel in and go kick some dirt up in a lot of faces at the races. Mind you, you will have to buy nerf bars, they are stock just on the SX models.

All this was already true about the XC in 2008, but the 2009 KTM 525 XC is a little bit better; with a redesigned seat cover for optimal comfort and feel, 13 different modifications made to the suspension like new valving, increased shaft travel, improved handling, 0.5″ lower ride, and more comfort.

The good, the bad and the ugly
Issues with the rear brake calipers that caused the recall of some units have been well- taken care of. Consumers with the recalled ATVs have been directly contacted regarding this, but if you have just bought it used, check with the owner if that has all been taken care of. There are a few other issues with the quad, but nothing major. Every once in a while, mostly after jumping and landing on the flat, or when going through some very rough stuff, the flimsy plastic thing for the indicator lights came loose. That part just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the quality components of this ride and we hope KTM will soon come up with a better way to anchor it down. During one very wet and fast- paced trail ride, water got into the system and the motor obviously didn’t like it. We suspect our cover was warped a bit and it was always keeping a corner up off the seal.

Adding some sort of seal trim all around might be something we would have tried if it was ours, or maybe sticking shims at the right spots under the seat, since no clips are used and the seat itself is the only thing used to seal the air box. If you are riding in dunes or in dusty dry conditions, it might be a good idea to add a filter skin like device, to keep sand and dust out of your air filter. While we are at it, might as well suggest a few other things you can do to protect your investment. Add adhesive (Loctite®) to your rear axle nuts and shift lever bolt, some have been reported getting loose. The engine backfired quite often too. Check the seal where the head pipe and head meet and watch for any leak in the headers, it’s a known problem with KTM’s.

Love it, if you can
The 2009 KTM 525 XC is exactly what one should expect from such a race proven and experienced bunch of off-roaders that are KTM. It’s an aggressively powerful quad with true race-readiness, offering extremely high performance and cut like a knife handling. Yes, the amateur and maybe even the intermediate riders were not taken into consideration when designing this quad, the pro rider was. Despite its very young age, the KTM quad is technologically sound and right up there among the best. The 75-year-old Austrian company which oddly enough started out as a small metalworking shop, has been manufacturing motorcycles since 1953, so they might be new at building quads but certainly not in creating awesome motorized machines. The 2009 KTM 525 XC, is definitely another fine example. If you can manage to tame it, you will absolutely love it!

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Alain Assad

Alain Assad

Off-Road Powersports Journalist
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