The ORC Staff Tests the 2002 KTM 400 EXC

At the Push of a Button

Nov. 01, 2002 By Kevin Gorzny
The term "four-stroke" is something that we are all hearing more often than ever. Since Doug Henry debuted the Yamaha YZ400F in '97, the world has been on fire to produce the latest and greatest four-stroke motorcycle on the market. And speaking of setting the world on fire, KTM has made the "Big Four" become the "Big Five". They have rocketed into the charts with their efforts of producing excellent two and four-stroke motocross and off-road bikes.
The hydraulic clutch is a device that the "other four" companies should employ.

To boast their efforts, they manufacture a 400 & 520 EXC, MXC, and an SX. The EXC is their enduro related model, coming with a headlight, taillight, electric start, wide ratio transmission, among other features. The main difference with the MXC, is the 3.5 gallon fuel tank, close ratio transmission, and no headlight/taillight configuration. Lastly the SX is the full on motocross model of the KTMs. They feature 48mm forks, and a WP shock with high and low speed compression dampening.

We had the opportunity to test a 400 EXC in the woods of IL, home of the infamous Moose Run. And home of ISDE man, Tim Taber's
Fun Mart Cycle Center
, the KTM / Honda / Yamaha dealership that made this test possible.

Did we like it? Is all the hype of KTM's four-stoke prowess true?

 Before the Button was Hit

Even though the EXC has a few extra pounds of equipment, jumping MX style still wasn't a huge dilemma.

The KTM motorcycle has forcefully made it's mark in reliability and quality of the products produced. As we scanned over the bike before our initial test ride, we noticed the attention to detail, and the abundance of aftermarket components that come stock with the machine. For example: Magura oversize handlebars, a four-way adjustable handlebar mount, a fuel tank where the level is actually visible, o-ring chain, hydraulic clutch; we could go on for a while.

 4 Stroke Style; a Focus on the Motor

KTM needs to rethink their concept behind the seat cover. After a few rides, it looks 5 years old. On top of the fact that we didn't like the slick feeling of the vinyl.

Our immediate reaction after riding the bike for a short amount of time, was simply...WOW, this is fun! And wait until you get the bike into sixth gear in a field, the 400 flies. But once we had some time on the bike in the tight woods, the ORC testers had to rethink our initial reaction slightly. The 400 has a motor which is slightly difficult to describe. It has great torque, but it isn't an arm-pulling force. The KTM is mellow and controllable. What made the mellow characteristic obvious, is when we hopped back on our staff KTM 250. The 250's abrupt power will actually pull your arms out of there sockets (especially if you have the power valve set to activate very abruptly, as we do). This proves the user-friendly power of the KTM 400 4-stroke.

Where the motor would work the best is in fast 3rd-4th gear woods. If the RPM is kept high, this bike can be deadly. The 400 EXC really wants to run at high speeds. Much of our testing grounds consisted of tight 2nd gear timbers. In all reality, the 400 EXC's characteristic of agility allows the bike to be navigated through the tight woods easily enough to hang with the ever-popular, nimble KTM 200s. The useful torque comes in especially convenient when a sudden uphill comes out of nowhere; just lug the bike in any gear, and the obstacle will most likely be conquered easily. Personally, for the Midwest hare-scrambles and enduros, I'm not so sure a 250 or 200 2-stroke KTM wouldn't be the better choice.

 Page One Page Two Page Three

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

Off-Road.com Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!