2016 KTM 450 SX-F Test Ride

By Todd Kuli


2016 KTM 450 SX-F Highlights

If asked for maximum power there is no other way but the KTM 450 SX-F. This model has proven itself in championships around the world over the years. Thanks to its compact SOHC engine that delivers explosive but controllable power, it is the weapon of choice for the US KTM Factory Team’s successful 2013 & 2014 AMA Motocross Outdoor championships and 2015 AMA Supercross Championship. For 2016, the 450 SX-F presents itself with an all-new chassis and engine, reducing overall weight 7.9 pounds making the new model even easier to ride. All the while, setting a new benchmark of 62hp in terms of peak power. The 2016 KTM 450 SX-F is the lightest, fastest 450 MX bike on the track – consider the game changed.


2016 Highlights

  • The new 450 SX-F engine design is more compact, lighter and provides higher performance throughout the entire range of power
  • New engine cases redesigned to centralize the rotating mass of the crankshaft and clutch and reduce overall length and width
  • Completely reworked Keihin Engine Management System with new 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 combustion chamber geometry, optimized ports, shorter timing chain and friction reduced chain guides for improved power and reduced weight
  • New 6mm shorter cylinder, lightweight piston connected to a shorter con-rod and a crankshaft with 10% more inertia contribute to the compact design, light engine feel and massive power
  • New lighter 5-Speed transmission that is narrower and features a new surface treatment on 1st and 5th gears along with a special low-friction coating on the shift forks to provide precise and easy shifting
  • New “No Dirt” shift lever prevents dirt from fouling the lever joint to ensure proper shifting in any condition
  • DDS (Damped Diaphragm Steel) clutch has a new lighter basket along with a reworked inner hub and pressure plate providing better oil supply and improved cooling of the clutch
  • New super compact and lightweight 1.1lb Lithium-Ion starter battery
  • New WP flow optimized radiator design features a substantial improvement in engine cooling
  • New Flow Design Header (FDH) with an integrated sound resonator that is also designed to increase power along with a new lightweight silencer that is 40mm shorter than the previous design for quick throttle response
  • New lighter Chromoly steel frame provides higher torsional rigidity with less longitudinal stiffness resulting in improved handling and energy absorption
  • New smaller, lighter subframe design made with new aluminum profiles
  • 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 features a “scraper” to reduce dirt build-up in the hinge
  • 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 has been specifically designed for Motocross and features revised damping settings optimized for the new chassis
  • New generation WP shock has been developed in conjunction with the new frame and swingarm architecture including a new linkage/pullrod system
  • Super lightweight Galfer Wave rotors, CNC machined hubs, high-end Excel rims and are fitted with Dunlop GEOMAX MX32 tires are standard equipment
  • New airbox and airfilter design offers maximum protection for the engine while ensuring maximum airflow and providing quick “no tools” airfilter changes
  • New ergonomics and bodywork to centralize mass, improve handling and rider comfort
  • The new 2016 450 SX-F weighs only 224.7lbs / 101.9kg


Riding Impression

Back in the olden days, when men were men and sheep were nervous, a big-bore dirt bike was something to be feared! Only a proud (maybe crazy) few could really harness the demons within a 500cc two-stroke motocross bike. They produced power likened to a semi-controlled nuclear explosion with the handling of a broken garden gate. As time moved on we came out of those dark ages and thankfully ended up where we are now. The 2016 KTM 450 SX-F is a bike that even old ‘Uncle Todd’ couldn’t have dreamed up back in the 80’s!

With the world getting a sneak peek of what was to come in 2016 with the ’15 Factory Edition ridden by factory teams all over the world, there was much anticipation of what the ‘regular’ edition would be like. Let’s just say the ‘regular’ edition is pretty extraordinary! For 2016, KTM built almost a completely new motorcycle in the 450 class. It shares so few parts with the predecessor that it’s not worth mentioning. The bike was made more compact, lighter and more powerful. No things were left untouched to find either a performance increase, a weight reduction and in most cases both.

The motor is the closest thing to perfect you will find in a 450. There is loads of power, from idle all the way through to a screaming top end that only the bravest will ever utilize. While the ability is there to make bike horsepower numbers at higher RPM’s, the best way I found to ride this bike was to work the low end to mid-range and shift just often enough to keep out of the ‘danger zone’ were most ‘non-professionals,’ like myself, end up getting into trouble. There is also the option of going from the ‘standard’ mapping setting to the ‘aggressive’ mode with the flip of the handlebar mounted switch. The aggressive setting gives you more of an already good thing. I found this motor was a pure joy for a guy who has never really felt that comfortable riding 450’s. If you ride smooth and find flowing lines you can really impress yourself with some good lap times.

Handling was greatly improved from the previous generation chassis. The ’16 450 SX-F handled impressively. It was stable at high speeds and would still get through corners without much effort. Rutted turns were not a problem and the bike changed direction without having to fight the front end. I found the secret in flat turns was simply weight the outside peg and be smooth with the throttle. Rolling it on would result in a controlled power slide and forward motion. Hammer on the throttle and the back end was coming around on you.

While the track was relatively smooth I was happy how the suspension worked. All the jumps were soaked up comfortably and even after coming up short a few times I never had any concerns. I can’t give a full opinion on the shock and fork until I get it into some big breaking bumps or rough sections. Playing with the rear sag will get you were you want for a front to rear balance and other than that…play with the clickers. There is loads of potential in this WP suspension package.

KTM dropped the gloves in the fight to make the best 450 for 2016. An all-new motor with increased power, a new chassis that handles better combined together for nearly an 8-pound weight loss, the 450 SX-F is going to be tough to beat by the other brands. It’s nice to live in an era where men can still be men but the sheep can relax a little!


*Fun Technical Tidbit*

The Map Select Switch provides access to different power curves built into the EMS. The three available maps are soft, standard and aggressive. How do they have three maps on a handlebar switch that only has two settings, you ask? Position ‘one’ on the switch is always the standard map. Position ‘two’ can be chosen by the rider. This selection is made by a small dial switch in the airbox which allows you to choose from either the soft or aggressive mapping. Sounds a little confusing I know but is really simple once you see it in person.



Engine Type: Single Cylinder, 4-Stroke

Displacement: 449.9cc

Bore/Stroke: 95.0/63.4 mm

Compression Ratio: 12.75:1

Starter/Battery: Electric Starter / 12V, 3Ah

Transmission: 5 Gears

Fuel System: Keihin EFI, 44mm Throttle Body

Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps

Primary Ratio: 31:76

Final Drive: 13:48

Cooling: Liquid Cooling

Clutch: Wet Multi-Disc DDS-Clutch, Brembo Hydraulics

Ignition: Keihin EMS

Frame: Central Double-Cradle Type 25CrMo4 Steel

Subframe: Aluminum

Handlebar: Neken, Aluminum Ø 28/22mm

Front Suspension: WP Suspension USD 4860 MXMA 4CS

Rear Suspension: WP Monoshock 5018 BAVP DCC with Linkage

Suspension Travel Front/Rear: 300 mm/11.81 in; 300 mm/11.81 in

Front/Rear Brakes: Disc Brake 260 mm/10.24 in; 220 mm/8.66 in

Front/Rear Rims: 1.60x 21, 2.15 x 19 Excel

Front/Rear Tires: 80/100-21”; 120/90-19” Dunlop MX32

Chain: 5/8 x 1/4 in

Silencer: Aluminum

Steering Head Angle: 26.1º

Triple Clamp Offset: 22 mm

Wheelbase: 1,485mm ± 10 mm / 58.5 ± 0.4 in

Ground Clearance: 370mm / 14.6 in

Seat Height: 960 mm / 37.8 in

Tank Capacity, Approx: 7.2L / 1.9 gal

Weight (without fuel), Approx: 101.9 kg/ 224.7 lbs