KTM’s Enduro Range receives a significant upgrade for 2020, 60% new, and there’s a new fuel-injected two-stroke 150, which joins the party along with a limited edition Erzbergrodeo 300 EXC TPI. Words: Adam ‘Chad’ Child – Photos: Sebas Romero and Marco Camelli
The location couldn’t have been more perfect. The Bassella off-road park in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees is an amazing riding venue. KTM had laid out the red carpet for us with a multitude of tracks and a specific skills area to test every model of its exciting and updated 2020 enduro range.
KTM Factory team riders, Johnny Walker and Taddy Blazusiak, were also on hand, as well as WP technicians and KTM staff. With the full fleet of bikes glittering in the Spanish sunlight, this was going to be one of those days you could only dream about.
The 2020 enduro range
The range for 2020 consists of seven models, starting with the all-new 150EXC TPI, which is homologated for Euro 4. The 250EXC TPI and 300EXC TPI complete the fuel-injected two-stroke range. If you opt for four-stroke, you have a choice of four different models; 250EXC-F, 350EXC-F, 450EXC-F and finally, the 500EXC-F.
KTM’s racing experience and expertise is unquestionable and continues to be at the forefront. The latest range of enduro bikes benefits from the innovations gained from competing; not just in enduro, but motocross and even Moto GP. For 2020, each model is around 60% new, with the 150EXC being an entirely new bike for 2020.
So, what’s new?
Although the 2020 bikes may not appear completely different to the untrained eye, they have a huge list of changes, which soon add up. The main ones are: New frame Designed to give more torsional stiffness, but more flex in places, the cylinder head to frame mounting is new.
On the 250/300 EXC models, the engine has rotated forwards to improve the front wheel’s grip. The rear subframe is lighter, but longer by 40mm to increase strength. WP suspension has been improved across all models, with new adjusters, a new mid-valve piston and revised settings.
Fork rings also come as standard on all models, which indicate movement and clean the stanchion at the same time. At the rear, the WP adjustable shock receives revised damping and the shock is still directly mounted to the rear shock.
It’s now been two years since the launch of KTM’s very clever fuel-injected TPI 250 and 300 bikes, which means the new range benefits from 24 months of development and real-world testing. According to KTM, the range of two-stroke engines are more eﬃcient, with improved performance and now feature a new air pressure sensor, which communicates to the ECU and compensates the fuel injection dependant on air pressure.
The four-stroke machines receive an increase in performance and not necessarily peak power. Interestingly, the kick-start has been completely removed from the four-stroke engines, it’s not even an optional accessory, which allows completely new exhaust routing and a cleaner appearance. Kickstarts are still optional on the 250 and 300 TFI models and they both receive completely new exhausts to improve performance and reduce noise.
The new exhaust comes with an easily distinguishable corrugated surface on the header pipes to add strength against debris. Radiators are new on all machines, with increased cooling and mounted 12mm lower, the big 450 and 500 are fitted with electric fans as standard. Airboxes are also completely new.
As you’d expect, there are new graphics, but also new, thinner sculpted bodywork and a new seat. The seat has more padding than before, more so towards the rear without compromising seat height, which is the same as previously. The bodywork is noticeably narrower towards the rear.
We could go on; the fuel tank is new, even the oil tank has more flexible mounting points for improved longevity, KTM has left no rock unturned. But the proof is in the riding, so let’s get going.
Less Talk, More Action
The completely new 150 TPI benefits from the engine and chassis changes mentioned above. It takes all the qualities of the proven two-stroke models with direct fuel injection and proven reliability. Interestingly, the kick start remains and it doesn’t have the corrugated surface on the exhaust.
I’d describe myself as a club level rider, which is why I loved the rev-happy 150 two-stroke, it felt like a very fast mountain bike, it is that light (a tiny 96.8kg) and manageable.
You can have fun, wring its neck and it’s not going to jump back at you and bite you in the arse. There’s even a two-way throttle map that softens the power further. The throttle response was impressive, in the tighter wooded sections it will happily pull you through, equally, out on the wider trails you can ride it wide open, clicking through the gearbox – I felt like a teenager again! I’m relatively light, and short, and prefer to ride more technical tracks, so the 150 won’t fit everyone, but I loved its toy-like ability to make me smile.
250 and 300TPI
The 250 was my first choice of bike for the day ahead as I’d ridden the now ‘old’ model many times before. KTM has made the 250 easier to live with, it is manageable at lower rpms when you’re negotiating tight sections. Considering it’s a 250, it’s not the animal you’d expect, however, higher in the rpm it is still aggressive, more motocross than enduro.
Again, like the 150, there are two rider modes, which soften or sharper the fuelling and can be easily switched over on the fly, as long as you’re below 4000rpm.
The 300 felt a little easier to ride, not as motocross-like, which may sound strange but, as it has more torque, I found I wasn’t chasing the revs as much. In more experienced hands the opposite might occur. Both are manageable and light, which encouraged me to push my skill levels, taking on trails I wouldn’t normally. The slimmer rear end allows you to really hang off the rear end down deep drops and the seat feels grippier and softer than before.
The 250 four-stroke is the friendly dog of the bunch. I raced one last year and it was a doddle to ride, the perfect beginner’s bike and in many ways is actually easier than the lighter two-stroke 150. The feeling the 250 provides inspires confidence, the power in the low rpm is lazy, like an old diesel Land Rover it’s happy to plod along and pull you out of any scenario. When the pace picks up the 250 will pick up her skirt and run. Yes, you must use the gearbox a little more, but arguably that makes it more fun.
It’s easy to see why the 350 is so popular. Its all-round ability is a clear highlight. For many of the riders on the world launch; from club level riders to former international racers, the 350 four-stroke was always in their top two. It has the ease-of-use of the 250, even inexperienced hands won’t find it intimidating, and equally more experienced riders will appreciate the extra grunt the 350 delivers, without being scary.
It’s quick but still manageable, I didn’t find myself simply being a passenger and I always felt in control, up to a point. The 350 is the perfect all-round bike, ideal for a leisurely ride with mates, yet can compete the next day.
450 – 500 EXC-F
For me, you really notice the increase in weight and power. I’m only 5’7 and, at clubman level, I felt a little intimated by the 500. Saying that, at low rpm, you can tickle the big girl around and it’s not the animal you’d expect. It leads you into a false sense of security thinking ‘this 500 isn’t all that’, then you tickle the throttle a little bit more, listen to the airbox gasp for air, and you’re propelled forward at an alarming speed.
On the open trail, I loved the power, it was like riding a superbike on the road. But, I could see myself getting into a messy situation on the 500. The ride quality is impressive, the suspension feels plush, and there are traction control and two rider modes to select from; you can tame the beast. It’s impressive that KTM can produce such a powerful bike which is rideable even for inexperienced hands. But if you poke the 500 in the eye it will bite you.
You can afford to be lazy with the 450 as, like the 500, it will pull up a mountainside. It does feel physically smaller and lighter than the 500, there’s less tendency to miss apexes and ride wide as I did on the 500. The brakes are impressive on both models, but I felt I could physically get the 450 to turn easier than the 500.
In many ways, the 450 makes a lot more sense than the 500, but for me, if you’re going to go big, you may as well go big. If you’re going out for a few drinks, have a few and don’t come home ‘til sunrise.
So, which should you choose?
When choosing an Enduro bike, be honest with yourself. Assess your abilities, where you ride, and how many road miles you cover to get to your favourite routes. You don’t need the big 500 EXC-F if you’re just pottering around on green lanes on an occasional basis, but equally, if you travel down to Spain occasionally or ride anywhere with wide-open spaces where you can let the dog off its leash, then go for it.
The new 150ECX TPI is the perfect entry-level bike if you’re just starting out, however, if you’re on the large size and prefer steak over salad, it may feel underpowered, and you might want to up to the 250, over even 300. As an occasional club rider, whose green lanes are on my doorstep, I’d personally opt for the 250EXC-F. It’s the friendliest of the bunch, easy to ride, but still has a kick to it. Plus, I’m 11-stone and 5’6, therefore the 250 will pull me up the side of a skyscraper.
I can see why the 350EXC-F is so popular, that’s the bike Jonny Walker uses for practice and it’s hard to fault. Again, be honest with yourself, your abilities and what you hope to achieve. Trust me, you’ll have more fun overriding a small bike, than scaring yourself on a big bike.