Saturday, December 1, 2012

KTM 350 EXC-F: A Conclusion


KTM’s “Ready-to-race” mantra sticks to the 350 EXC-F for sure - but this motorcycle is more than a race bike.

Every part of this motorcycle was designed to perform.  It sums up to a very agile, predictable and easy to drive off-road bike in all trail conditions.  Surprisingly, it also makes the 350 EXC-F an ideal motorcycle for off-road neophytes as it easily forgives mistakes.  However, there are fine prints: the bike does not fit everyone.  As an example, with my 5’9” frame, I had to adapt to the seat height.  But once you’re off, the experience is unique.

In 5 points, what I liked the most about this bike:

  1. lightness: at more than 10 Grand (Canadian), we may ask what exactly we are paying for.  The answer is rather unusual, but we are paying for something we don’t want: extra weight that would impact negatively the 350 EXC-F’s agility.  At only 240 lbs. (109 kg), this bike is the reference in the matter;

  2. the engine: I was surprised by the engine’s efficiency – a 350cc which has more punch than I originally expected.  This small mono is smooth at low RPMs and has enough torque to have fun.  There is also power in higher revs – I reached speeds that are way above highway limits.  On no occasion while riding the KTM was I under the impression that the engine was short on power or deficient – KTM announces an hefty 45 hp!

  3. ground clearance: it is huge, stratospheric, impressive.  The ground clearance on this motorcycle will let the rider go anywhere without the hassle of an impact with a big rock.  However you can’t have your cake and eat it too: because of the ground clearance, the rider must deal with a sky high seat;

  4. suspension: it absorbs obstacles on its path with disconcerting ease;

  5. narrowness: the bike is so thin that it sneaks in anywhere.  This was extremely useful on many occasions.

I could certainly add more items to the list, but it can be summarized to this: the bike has been engineered without compromise to excel in all off-road situations.

On the other hand, of course there are negative points.  So here is what I dislike in 5 points:

  1. seat: unless one rides nearby trails week after week, it is required to travel long distances on paved roads to reach new paths.  After a few experiences, the seat will gradually erode one’s enthusiasm.  There are aftermarket seats that could help in this area (SeatConcept manufactures one).  Towing the bike is an alternative solution;

  2. autonomy:  many bikes have an autonomy issue.  With only 112 miles (180 km) of autonomy, the KTM requires to carefully plan adventure rides according to the location of gas stations along the way.  Also, it runs on high octane fuel, some gas stations only offers regular – an issue I had to deal with on my test ride;

  3. wind protection: riding most dual sport motorcycles at 65 mph (110 km/h) for hours on the highway makes you feel like a fish out of water – it applies to the 350 EXC-F as well;

  4. maintenance: high performance parts of the KTM require rigorous maintenance.  As an example, the piston must be serviced after 105 hours of normal use.  Unless one is an advised mechanic, maintenance fees can escalate rapidly if the bike is used regularly;

  5. practical aspect: it is not possible to have a passenger and it is difficult to carry anything - this is simply not a bike designed with this in mind.

Despite the drawbacks mentioned above, riding the 350 EXC-F was a pretty satisfying off-road experience.  My only regret: I ran out of time due to circumstances out of my control and I could not ride the bike in all the trails I had planned…hopefully, the end of the world will be postponed again and I’ll get another chance.

I don’t think I exaggerated when I described the 350 EXC-F as the dual sport Ferrari.  The price tag is high when compared to other bikes in the same category, but considering this bike as the sum of KTM’s “savoir faire” accumulated over the years – just think about Dakar rally victories – it is possibly a bargain.

Thanks to KTM Canada loaning the bike and thank you for sharing!



  1. KTM has released their recommanded service intervals on all models here

  2. I own this bike, and agree with everything you wrote. Like you I'm 5'9" When I used to ride motocross on a kawasaki kx I don't remember that bike being as tall as this one. The sky high feeling takes some getting used to. As for the maintenance, sure be religious with your oil, and filters. Adjust the valves regularly, but rather then buy parts willy nilly on schedule. Buy measuring tools to check the spec first. The Manual recommends replacing the valves at 100 hrs along with all engine bearings, and piston just to name a few. Ok piston I would do that along with re honing the cylinder. That's just good insurance, But the other stuff really?? If you went by the ktm maintenance schedule word for word, inside 5 years you will buy this bike twice again in just parts.

    The valves cost $189 a piece, there are four of them. I'd be damned if I don't check them before I replace them. I also bought a 4 year insurance policy on the bike in the event of catastrophic failure. If the valves cost near $800.00 imagine what the whole engine would cost. I'm thinking the schedule is more for the benefit of KTM, and their dealers then for the their customers.

    I've heard that the hydraulic timing chain tensioner is the weak link in the top end which can be replace with a mechanical one from dirt tricks. This mod is one I plan on adopting fo sho. Thanks for the write up it was a really nice read.

    1. Thanks Pat for this great comment! I'm sure readers will appreciate the extra input.


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  4. Good! Read also my conclusion about motosport. I hope it will be helpful for you.

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