2016 KTM 350 SX-F | First look and first ride

2016 KTM 350 SX-F | First look and first ride

This is a bike I have been eagerly awaiting for a long time, because I have seen it being developed during the past years and known full well how much R & D has gone into it. With the team they have in place at KTM USA and in Austria there has been no doubt in my mind that it was always going to be a winner. It’s not that the old KTM SX-f’s are bad, but rather that with this bike the KTM engineers really had carte blanche to pretty much rethink every single aspect of the bike.

The previous generation of bikes have been around since 2010, when the 2011 models were released, and of course the development of them goes back a lot further than this. What this means is that there has been a lot of time since then to study and think about what has worked and what hasn’t worked so well on the older models, on many continents and in many different championships, because KTM is first and foremost a company dedicated to winning, and to win, things need to work, and they need to work better than the other bikes on the racetrack. The 2016 KTM SX-F is a tool to do a job, and a dam good one at that. We have this 350 SX-F on loan for a long term test and plan to use and abuse it as much as possible during that time.


The attention to detail stretches all the way down to the tip of the shift lever, cleverly engineered so that it doesn’t collect mud. We will bring you a full review once we have had some proper seat time on the bike. This was just a warm up, short shifting to get everything nicely run in. I had to soften both the front and back suspension quite a lot to feel comfortable. It was set-up as stock for either someone much heavier, or much faster than me. I have been riding an enduro bike for the last 6 months though, so for sure that also made it feel very stiff. Once it was softened up though, it just felt incredible. Like no KTM I have ever ridden before. Dry WEIGHT is now only 99.9 kg for the 350! Can’t wait to go ride it again.

I made some custom number plates for the bike because the airbox side looks pretty heavy as stock with no GFX on, but should have really done a full kit. Will try to sort one out at some point.

Huge thanks to Chris Iovescu for taking so many photos of me riding. I was only planning to shoot the bike, but he did a great job making me look fast. Also some photos by me of Jason Moriarty (green ONE industries gear) who was looking really at home on the bike.

The main target for the KTM engineers when developing the new SX generation was a massive weight reduction in conjunction with an improved handling. The result of between 4 and 5 kg is outstanding making the new KTM models the lightest bikes in the competition, even though the 4-strokes are equipped with a super-beneficial electric starter as a standard feature, while the competitor models need to be kickstarted.

The new frame design provides approximately 20 % higher torsional rigidity and 30 % less longitudinal stiffness, with newly designed engine stays for less vibration. This increased flexibility results in better absorption of the energy created from the front and rear wheel loads supporting the suspension for more comfort and less rider fatigue. A 0.4° steeper steering angle and a 10 mm shorter wheel base contribute to better handling and last but not least it´s around 380 g lighter than the previous model.


High-tech Brembo brakes have always been standard equipment on KTM offroad bikes, and are combined with newly designed and weight-reduced Wave discs made by GALFER featuring also an improved heat resistance. The ultimate solution in braking technology. Weight reduction front 63 g, rear 32 g.

Top quality, CNC-machined triple clamps have been something of a KTM trademark for years. Ensuring a precise handling, they perceptibly support the flex characteristics, and with it, the action of the forks. For MY 16 the upper triple clamp features a newly developed rubber damping system for the handlebar clamp in order to reduce the vibration level of the handlebar. The clamps retain their forward and back adjustability for any rider preference.

A new sophisticated “No-Dirt” footpeg solution prevents dirt from blocking the pegs in order to bring them back into position, even when digging in deep ruts. In addition the new footpegs are larger and more stable, provide better grip and they are also lighter than on previous models.

The KTM SX models are fitted with a revolutionary new and super-lightweight WP fork, a 48 mm USD air-sprung fork developed by WP Suspension in close collaboration with KTM. It is a split fork with separate functions for each fork leg. The damping functions are on the right side, whereas the air spring is in the left. The left leg features a capsuled air cartridge. This air spring is easy to adjust to any rider weight via a single air valve and a standard fork air pump. The right fork leg integrates a completely new damping cartridge to fit single damping leg requirements, and the damping can be adjusted to the track conditions or the rider’s preferences with a twist of a dial. The new fork with approximately 300 mm travel has outstanding response and excellent, very consistent damping characteristics, while also with a reduced weight of 1.4 kg compared to its predecessor.


As on the predecessor models, the new SX generation features a reworked cast aluminum swingarm. The updated design offers reduced weight and an optimized flex behavior supporting the frame and suspension created with a single-component casting process. The weight reduction is 250 grams.

The new generation SX models are equipped with a new tapered handlebar made of high-strength aluminum by NEKEN, which is fixed in a new rubber damped handlebar clamp allowing the handlebar to be mounted in two different positions.
All 4-stroke models feature a new throttle assembly with exchangeable throttle cams for different opening characteristics and new ODI grips featuring lock-on fixing clamp on the left-hand side. In addition a map switch allows the selection of different maps and the activation of a launch control.

The new DOHC (Double Overhead Camshaft) engine of the 350 SX-F features a completely new construction in order to make it even more compact and powerful than before. Fitted with the latest electronic fuel injection system and electric starter, it has a very wide usable speed range, high performance and incredibly efficient rideability. The new design made the engine 20 mm shorter than previously, while reducing the weight by 1 kg to only 27.2 kg.

The new cylinder head features an improved combustion chamber geometry, two overhead camshafts with a friction-optimized super-fine surface, new finger followers with a 30 % harder DLC coating and high-flow ports. In conjunction with new valve springs and retainers for the four lightweight titanium valves (intake 36.3 mm, exhaust 29.1 mm) the flow rate has been maximized for an optimal power band, with more performance across the entire range, which ends at an engine speed of 13,400 rpm. The peak performance now is at 58 hp.


In the redesigned and shorter cylinder, with a bore of 88 mm, works a weight reduced forged bridged box-type piston made by CP. Its new piston crown geometry is adapted to the new high-compression combustion chamber and stands out with its extra rigid structure, combined with a low weight. The compression ratio is at 14:1. Thanks to the low oscillating masses, the engine offers extremely lively characteristics.

The new 350 SX-F’s crankshaft is lighter and features a stiffer design than previously. It utilizes a shorter connecting rod, contributing to the compact and light engine with a typically snappy power delivery. This design is a major prerequisite for the extremely high engine speed levels and the unrivalled maximum power of the 350 cm³ engine. Not only that, it enhances the engine’s durability, allowing long crankshaft service intervals.

In order to balance the mass-forces, the new 350 SX-F engine also uses a multifunctional counter balance shaft, which at the same time drives the water pump and timing chain. It features newly designed sprockets fitted to the new timing chain.

The completely new design of the die-cast engine cases allowed for a much more centralized shaft configuration, raising the crankshaft by 6 mm closer to the bike’s center of gravity. Newly designed engine covers made of magnesium feature an advanced surface structure, which reduce the wear caused by the rider’s boots.

The completely reworked Keihin Engine Management System, with electronic fuel injection, features an all-new 44 mm throttle body, which provides a spontaneous response and maximum performance thanks to a revolutionary injector position. The new ECU (Engine Control Unit) includes a launch control for more efficient starts with the provision of different maps according to the gear sensor selection. In addition, the rider can activate an optional map for a different power delivery via the map select switch on the handlebar.

The new airbox design offers maximum protection of the air filter against soiling, while ensuring maximum airflow in conjunction with new and 300 g lighter intake snorkels that are made of a new material (reducing the deformation due to air intake pulses) for improved performance. As found on previous models, the new Twin Air filter is easier and safer to mount and can be changed without tools in seconds, a standard, original feature by KTM.

As in the past, all new SX-F engines are fitted with the proven electric starter – a unique KTM feature and a major benefit at all levels of motocross racing. For MY 2016 the SX-F range fits a super compact and lightweight 495 g lithium-ion starter battery into a standard motocross bike, providing safe starting of the engine and reducing the weight by 1 kg over MY 2015!



  1. Tyler 8 years ago

    Awesome write-up! Looking forward the long haul updates, as well as hearing how the Sx-f fair for woods riding.

    • Author
      admin 8 years ago

      Thanks. Not sure I will get much woods time on it though, because there is nowhere nearby Salzburg to ride in the woods unfortunately!

  2. mark s. 8 years ago

    how is the feeling of the air front to that of the old fork ?

  3. Author
    admin 8 years ago

    It was a lot harder as stock, but I let some air out and went softer 4 clicks and now it feels smoother and more progressive. Will make a full review after a few months when we have some more time on the bike.

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