After riding mainly Motocross during 2015/2016, we have picked up a 2017 KTM 300 EXC for the next year and will shift our focus more to the world of Enduro, and if all goes to plan, will end the year on the 2017 KTM 300 EXC by riding Romaniacs on it! For a race like that, you better get prepared early, so last Friday we eagerly loaded up the KTM for a first ride on the Enduro loop at XBOWL arena, and a few laps on the MX track.
Coming off of the 2016 KTM 350 SXF and onto the 2017 KTM 300 EXC we felt immediately at home with the ride position, the grips and the feel of the levers. The tail seems to sit higher at the back than the SXF, although it’s a lot plusher so it sits low with some weight on it and the head angle feels a bit steeper too. Apart from that the footpegs and the plastics are the same as the 2016 SX-F models, giving the bike a familiar feel between the knees.
If you were coming off a 2016 EXC it would be a different story though, because the bodywork as well as the rest of bike are 90% new! The first thing which quickly becomes apparent is how amazingly light the bike feels! 100kg dry. Start it up with an easy press of the electric start, and the next thing you notice very quickly is how much vibrations have been reduced compared to old 2 stroke models. Up to 50% apparently! There is a great interview with Bernhard Platzotta, who is one of the top guys in KTM’s offroad R & D team, on the Transmoto website and he talks through many of the major differences in the new 2017 generation of bikes. One of which is this huge reduction in vibration. There are many benefits to this, including the fact that they can now setup the rear shock a lot better. Have a read of the interview for the full info, but in short it has been 25 years between major upgrades to KTM’s 250/300cc two-stroke engine, so to say these new bikes are a new generation model is really a huge understatement!
There is also another very good interview with head of KTM Offroad, Jochi Sauer here, talking about the 2017 models in detail. For example about why they have moved to a new XPlor fork and shock for 2017 in order to save weight (600g for the shock and 200g for the fork) and allow easier adjustment of the compression and rebound clickers. Both dials are now within easy reach at the top and require no tools. Talking of the bikes suspension, it really was exceptionally good. By far the best feeling Enduro suspension I have used so far. Riding PDS after linkage on the 350 SXF I found the bike to be more nervous at high speed, especially when hitting big tabletops, but that might also be me just getting used to riding a 2 stroke again too.
What an absolute joy it is to ride a 2 stroke! The motor on the new 300 is super strong, It will take some time to get used to it for sure, but when you crack the throttle open the sound of the bike on the pipe is just epic! It felt very refined too, probably down to the reduced vibration. Cornering was superb, especially on the MX track. Was so good at cutting corners tightly. Apparently the geometry is one thing which did stay the same from the old generation of bikes, simply because it works and even with extensive testing by KTM R & D of other setups, the old one offered the best all around package. Being on the short side at 175cm I always struggle a little with the seat height of EXC’s when I am in the rocky stuff, so will probably see about fitting a lower saddle.
If I had one criticism of the 300 EXC it would be that it does seem to use a huge amount of fuel! I used a tank and a half on my first ride. Granted my hands were totally blistered and my muscles cramping so it was probably time to stop anyway, but the bike is so fun to ride that we basically used all of the fuel we took with us and were still lusting for more! Planned updates include a Skid plate ASAP before we crush the frame (not available until September apparently??) and of course some new graphics. Another essential change is to get Moosse instead of inner tubes and probably some GoldenTyres for more traction. We were really struggling for traction with the stock setup on the rocks.
A full review will follow eventually, but for now we can’t wait to get some more seat time on the bike! Congratulations to all the guys at KTM for creating such a great motorcycle and once again helping to progress the sport and the level of equipment available.
All of the excellent action photos were taken by @zajcmaster, the rest by PSP.
Some official info on the 300 EXC:
For MY17, KTM has continued their commitment to two-stroke technology by re-designing their 250cc and 300cc powerplants. An all-new design with a new shaft arrangement ensures improved mass centralisation.
There is a new cylinder with a twin-valve controlled power valve, a new counter balance shaft and both the 250 & 300 feature a newly developed cylinder with a bore of 66.4mm (250 EXC) and 72mm (300 EXC) with all-new ports. This system features a sophisticated mechanism for the lateral support exhaust ports, providing smooth and controllable power on tap at all times.
The crankshaft’s 72mm stroke remains the same, but otherwise, the component has been fully re-designed, which includes re-balancing and setting it up with a counter balance shaft against vibrations.
Compared to the SX range, it has more inertia due to a heavier ignition rotor. This helps the rider remain smooth and roll on the power for maximum traction in difficult conditions. The 250 and 300 two-stroke engine is equipped with a new electric starter located below the engine. Compared to previous models, the new starter system is less complex and more reliable.