KTM’s High Performance 450 and 520cc Race Quads
Exclusive First Look - Nowhere in the World but here!
October 17, 2006
Pro-Am front-runner Adam Clark of Lorain, Ohio recently rode the new KTM 450 in Austria. After talking with him, we're very excited to ride a new KTM for ourselves, we think you may be as well. In the past few years, the high performance ATV market has become a very important segment in they eyes of just about every motorcycle and ATV manufacturer. We knew it would only be a matter of time before Austrian-based KTM rose to the occasion and entered the exciting high performance sport quad segment.
Our predictions have been confirmed. A few short weeks ago we caught wind that KTM was indeed developing not just one, but several high performance ATVs.
KTM will in fact be releasing what looks to be two extraordinary high performance sport quads. One is a 520cc machine designed specifically for cross country racing, while the other is a 450cc machine designed for the motocross track. After hearing about this exciting news, we immediately went into action in an effort to get the scoop on KTM’s first-ever ATV offerings.
A little over a week ago, we received a tip informing us that a rider in our own North East Ohio neck of the woods had actually been to Austria to test ride one of the new KTM machines. Low and behold the rider turned out to be Pro-Am front-runner Adam Clark of Lorain, Ohio. Adam raced several years in the local ranks and started racing in the GNC series in 2005 thanks to the helping hand of another local by the name of Baldwin Motorsports. In his first year of national racing he ended the season with a collection of bad luck in the A class. That luck changed in 2006 when he chased points in the Pro-Am class. At season’s end he put several Pro-Am podium finishes on the board and proved to be a strong contender. With his impressive finishes and the fact that Adam lives near the KTM American headquarters in Amherst, Ohio, KTM secretly hired Adam as their test rider.
We asked our source if they would approach Adam to see if there was any chance that he might give us some insight as to which machine he rode and how it performed. Several days later, we received a phone call from Adam telling us that he had indeed spoke with KTM management and was cleared to discuss his impression of the quad with us, but was given limitations as to discussing the machine’s specs in detail.
As you’ll see below in our conversation with Adam, KTM seems to be very serious about their debut in the ATV marketplace.
What is your relationship with KTM?
I heard they were planning to come out with an ATV. Since I live very close to their headquarters in Ohio, I contacted their marketing department and told them about my racing endeavors. I made myself available to them as a test rider. Eventually they contacted me wanting to know if I was interested in traveling to Austria to test the machine. Of course I said yes.
We have heard that KTM is developing a 520cc cross country ATV and a 450cc motocross ATV. Which one did you ride?
I know that the cross country market is larger than the motocross market, especially if you take trail riders into consideration. While I am sure they will come out with something for woods racers, the machine I rode was the 450 which was set up more for a motocross track.
Do you feel the new KTM 450 can compete in the extremely competitive American ATV motocross scene?
Yes I do. With very few modifications, I think it will be extremely competitive in the Pro Am class where I compete.
Serious racers are spending a lot of money on A-arms, axles, swing arms, suspension etc. What will it take to get the KTM 450 up to par?
It will take very little to make this quad completely race ready.
Does this machine have a conventional chassis and suspension setup?
As far as having a dual arm front end and a solid rear axle, the machine is conventional. However you can expect some innovative things that may have been tried here and there but never on a production machine.
In your opinion, having ridden the machine, how does it handle compared to your Honda 450R when it was stock?
There is no comparison. They are going after the entire, “ready to race” market while Honda’s focus was much broader. KTM’s debut in the ATV market will be similar to the aggressive race-ready approach they have with their bikes. This ATV is far more at home on a motocross track than any stock machine currently available today.
Wow. That’s pretty bold, even compared to Suzuki’s LTR?
To be competitive on the LTR at the Pro-Am level people are still replacing their entire suspension system. With the KTM, I don’t feel that will be necessary at all.
How does the handling of the KTM 450 compare to your fully modified TRX450R?
I run long travel PEP shocks on my R, which I feel are the best shocks on the market. Even though my Honda was specifically set up for me, the handling of the pre-production KTM I rode was definitely in the ball park with my Honda.
How do you describe the machine’s overall handling?
The machine is very stable and has a low center of gravity. Turning was quick and precise in the tight stuff, but it still tracked well on high-speed straights. Overall it feels like a race quad should.
What can you tell us about the motor?
I can’t be specific. I can say that it is indeed a 450.
Okay then, can you describe the power?
The motor is extremely smooth. The power is almost electric, when you push the throttle the power just keeps coming. You can lug it out of corners or rev it way beyond what is necessary on a motocross track. Riding the other 450s stock, you run out of top end rather quickly, this is not an issue on the KTM.
How do you feel the KTM 450’s motor compares to the motor in your race quad?
My motor is fully modified for racing, that’s not exactly fair. I’d say my Honda is faster, but the KTM is still quite fast. In stock form there’s enough power on tap for any B or most A class racers. That’s more than can be said for any other stock machine. Just wait till a motor builder gets their hands on this thing.
What about the gear box?
I can’t be specific, but they are testing with several different configurations.
How do you feel this machine will impact the future of ATV racing?
It’s going to bring the sport much closer to that of the bike scene where people can race machines right off the showroom floor. I think this will really open the sport up to more people by making it more affordable to race. With all of the television coverage that is out there these days it’s important that the ATVs we race are as close to stock as possible. I think this really encourages manufacturers to get involved in supporting ATV racing. With their help and support it can grow enormously.
Do you have any idea when we might be able to run down to our local KTM dealer and pick one up?
KTM’s number one issue right now is making sure that all of the bugs are worked out before the machine goes into production. I can say that KTM is currently in the late stages of testing so be patient it won’t be long. Trust me it will be worth the wait.