2016 KTM 350 SX-F – We Ride the New 350
By Todd Kuli
With the new generation of the 350 SX-F the success story can go on. The dominance with which this machine has won one world championship title after the other is unparalleled. In his first year as KTM factory rider, Antonio “Tony” Cairoli managed to win the 2010 MX1 World Championship with just 350cc. Ever since, the Red Bull athlete from Sicily dominated the competition in his class at will. The results are five consecutive World Championship titles, won with ease in the top tier of MXGP by Cairoli and the KTM 350 SX-F. Almost as much power as a 450, but the agility of a 250 – the basic idea is easily summarized – a concept that has been successful from the start.
For 2016 everything is new: Chassis, suspension, bodywork and a more powerful fuel-injected engine. The all-new 350 SX-F is even faster due to an overall weight reduction of 6.8 pounds. An essential point in the new construction was to create even more compact dimensions in order to achieve a more effective centralization of mass for improved rideability.
This combination of low weight, playful agility and a high-revving engine will again be the right machine for Cairoli to defend his title in the new season, since the 350 SX-F provides the ideal characteristics for pros and amateurs alike.
- NEW lighter Chromoly steel frame provides higher torsional rigidity with less longitudinal stiffness resulting in improved handling and energy absorption
- NEW smaller, lighter aluminum subframe design
- NEW lighter swingarm features a revised internal structure to match the new frame characteristics
- NEW lighter “No Dirt” footpeg design that provides a larger surface area and improved grip
- NEW CNC machined upper triple clamp featuring a rubber damping system for the NEW Neken handlebar and ODI lock-on grips
- The advanced WP 4CS (Four Chamber System) Fork features revised damping settings
- NEW generation WP shock has been developed in conjunction with the new frame and swingarm
- Super lightweight Galfer Wave rotors, CNC machined hubs, high-end Excel rims and Dunlop GEOMAX MX32 tires
- NEW airbox and filter design provides maximum performance with fast “no tools” air filter changes
- NEW 350 SX-F engine design is more compact, lighter and provides higher performance throughout the entire range of power
- NEW engine cases redesigned to centralize engine mass and reduce overall length
- NEW Keihin EMS and 44mm throttle body featuring a lightweight direct-connect design
- NEW electronic Launch Control for efficient starts and multiple engine maps to control the overall power delivery
- NEW cylinder head design for improved power and reduced weight
- NEW lightweight forged bridged box-type CP piston, new shorter con rod with a shorter, stiffer crankshaft contribute to a strong power delivery
- NEW 5-speed transmission features wider gears with a new surface treatment on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears along with a special low-friction coating on the shift forks
- NEW CSS (Coil Spring Steel) one-piece clutch has improved oil supply for better durability
- The new 2016 350 SX-F weighs only 223.5 lbs / 101.4 kg
I have to admit, I’ve been a fan of the KTM 350 SX-F since it first came out. It was that perfect sized motor between the high revving 250F and brutally powerful 450F. While the first generation 350F may have lacked some torque down low, it made up for it with its mid-range and top-end power. They always seemed more like a 250 on steroids than a mini 450. For 2016, the 350 motor is right where I figured it should be. With a good strong pull off the bottom, through a strong mid-range and into a top-end that most won’t use, the 350 SX-F puts a smile on your face. If you want to short shift the bike and lug it in low traction situations or rev it because you’re too lazy to make that next shift before a turn, this motor has you covered. Then, to add to all the fun, you have the option of flipping the map switch on the handlebar from the ‘standard’ map to the ‘aggressive’ setting and you’ve added more boost across the range. While the 350 may not win a ‘through the gearbox’ drag race with a 450 SX-F, on a motocross track the 350 will not be at any sort of substantial disadvantage to the bigger bike. Launch control comes standard and is activated by using the map switch.
Since the 350 SX-F and 250 SX-F share suspension, chassis and transmission you can imagine the handling between the two is similar… you would be right. Getting in and out of turns on the 350 is a joy and the bike simply goes where you point it. Straight line stability is good and jumping is very neutral. With a little more rotational mass than the 250, some finicky riders may feel a little difference between the two. After riding the bikes back to back, I can tell you that there is only marginally more effort needed to ride the 350… but the 350 comes with the added power that more than makes up for the extra rider input required.
Suspension was well balanced front to rear with 105mm of sag and the clickers in the stock settings. The 350 SX-F comes with stiffer shock and fork springs than the 250 SX-F aiming at a little more ‘full-figured’ rider like myself… while not a monster by any means, I’m 200Lbs with gear on. Since the track wasn’t super rough, I was able to actually soften the compression on both ends to pick up the smaller bumps without sacrificing bottoming resistance on the jumps.
Like all the full-size KTM’s, the 350F comes with great wheels, quality components throughout the bike and the best brakes in the business. This was the by far my favourite of the MX line up. We just got along well. I was able to ride this bike faster, longer and more comfortably than the others. In fact, I think I ride this bike better than any bike previously ridden on an MX track. Remember in ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ when she found the bowls of porridge? One was ‘too cold’, one was ‘too hot’ and one was ‘just right’… let’s just say the 2016 KTM 350 SX-F is my ‘just right’ bowl of dirt bike!
*Fun Technical Tidbit*
For years, KTM motorcycle owners have had the ability to change air filters with no tools. It’s a brilliant idea and a huge time saver but, some people complained that filter alignment was sometimes a problem on previous air-box configurations. It was usually a problem if the rider was in a hurry to get a filter in and didn’t reach around the back of the filter to make sure the filter cage was engaged into the air-box. The 2016 KTMs come with what I would call an ‘idiot proof’ system. Simply flip down the lever at the bottom of the air filter, pull the filter and cage up and away from the sealing face and pull the unit out of the air-box. There is a pin on the opposite side of the filter cage that goes into a hole at the top of the air-box. To install a fresh filter you simply reverse the process. Just make sure the top pin is in the hole and alignment is perfect every time. If you screw this up… maybe dirt bikes aren’t your thing!
350 SX-F Specifications
Engine type: Single cylinder, 4-stroke
Displacement: 349.7 cc
Bore/stroke: 88/57.5 mm
Starter/battery: Electric starter / Lithium Ion 12V 3Ah
Transmission: 5 gears
Fuel system: Keihin EFI, throttle body 44 mm
Control: 4 V / DOHC with finger followers
Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Cooling: Liquid cooling
Clutch: Wet multi-disc CSS, Brembo hydraulics
Frame: Central double-cradle 25CrMo4 steel
Handlebar: Neken, Aluminum Ø 28/22 mm
Front suspension: WP-USD, 4CS, Ø 48 mm
Rear suspension: WP-Monoshock with linkage
Suspension travel: 300 Front/300 mm Rear
Front/rear brakes: Disc brake 260/220 mm
Front/rear rims: 1.60 x 21″; 2.15 x 19″ Excel
Front/rear tires: 80/100-21″; 110/90-19″
Steering head angle: 26.1°
Wheel base: 1,485 ± 10 mm (58.46±0.39 in)
Triple clamp offset: 22 mm
Ground clearance: 370 mm (14.6 in)
Seat height: 960 mm (37.79 in)
Tank capacity: 7L (1.85 US gal)
Weight, approx.: 101.4 kg (without fuel) (223.5 lb.)