2011 KTM 450 EXC Review

2011 KTM 450 EXC MotorcycleThis is Part 3 of my 2011 KTM 450 EXC review. In Part 1, Deciding on the KTM 450 EXC, I discussed my research and evaluation behind the decision to purchase the KTM 450 EXC. In Part 2, KTM 450 EXC Enhancements, I talked about some mandatory and highly desirable changes to the bike to make into into a great off road motorcycle. In this last part, I’ll talk about my riding experiences with the KTM 450 EXC, both on and off road.

At about 15 engine hours and 300 miles, I’ve only begun to challenge the capabilities of the KTM 450 EXC. Despite that, here are my first riding impressions. I’ve also included some video reviews to provide more information on the capabilities of the KTM 450 EXC.

Off Road Riding

Although a dual sport motorcycle, the KTM 450 EXC really excels at off road riding. Compared to my previous dual sport, the Yamaha WR250R, the KTM 450 EXC feels very light and maneuverable. That’s because at a weight of 251 lbs (no fuel) it is considerably lighter than the WR250R at a dry weight of 278 lbs. Even with its dual sport components, it is comparable in weight to pure off road bikes, such as the Yamaha WR450F.

Riding off road, the 450 EXC has a ton of power. Far more than my riding skills allow me to leverage. But, the power does come in handy grunting up steep hills. Riding rutty trails on the 450 EXC is confidence inspiring since it holds a line very well, even through rocky areas. The suspension is probably what I notice the most. The bike just cruises over bumps. I’ve heard that the suspension is a little plush for motocross tracks, but that’s not where I ride.

Overall, the KTM 450 EXC is far more capable than my riding skills. I’ll provide more updates as the 450 EXC and I get more experience with each other.

Want to see the 450 EXC in action? Check out the following video by motorcyclenewsdotcom.

Riding the KTM 450 EXC on the Street

Although most of my riding miles have been off road, I’ve also ridden the bike around town, and even out onto the highway. This is definitely not a bike you would buy if you plan a lot of street riding. But, that’s primarily because the knobby tires, which are very competent off road, probably won’t support a lot of lean angle on pavement. I suppose you could ride this bike on the street supermoto-style by putting on some street tires. However, the race-bike maintenance schedule will have you burning through the service intervals rather quickly. Overall, I’d limit street riding to getting between trails or riding for gas and lunch will trail riding. If you want something more balanced between off road and on road, I’d suggest something like my Yamaha WR250R.

Maintenance and Repairs

I’m just reaching my first major service interval of 15 engine hours. So far so good. I haven’t had any problems. Changing the engine oil and transmission case oil is fast and easy. With separate engine and transmission case oil, the engine oil doesn’t get contaminated too quickly. I changed oil and filter at engine 3 hours, the break-in period, and the filter screens were very covered with metal shavings. I changed the oil and filter at 7 engine hours and the filter screens were totally clean. No metal filings. And, the oil still looked quite clean. The manual seems to suggest changing the oil anywhere between: every ride if you are racing, or every 15 hours if you are just trail riding. I’m guessing that I could go 7 engine hours or more between oil changes. I’ll have a better sense after a few more oild changes. And for now, I plan to take it into my dealer for the 15 hour and 30 hour maintenance work to check the valve clearance and other technical stuff.

I’ll keep you posted on my life with the KTM.



  1. A terrific series. And my story parallels yours. similar roots; 1969 DT-1 was my 1st off road type bike.
    After a long stretch of road riding picked up a DRZ400. Great in many ways, but heavy. My skill level had me picking the bike up off the ground all too often. I looked for something lighter and the 450 EXc was it. But when I got it home I was very disappointed. Tough to start, and would barely idle. My dealer offered no help at all. It took a while to resolve the jetting and emission issues. Big thanks to Thumpertalk and James Dean at JD Jetting. After that changed sprockets. uncorked the exhaust put on a set of MX tires and it has been a great bike since.
    I’ll look for more of your story.
    Jim Fitzgibbons
    Branchport, NY

    • Jim, I suspect there are many out there like us. It is just the nature of the beast. I think that KTM have nailed our demographic. Unfortunately for me, my bike is currently sitting waiting for its 15 hours service. Can’t believe 2 weeks until I can get a service appointment. Once the warranty is over, I’ll probably do all of the maintenance myself. Do you do all of your own maintenance? If so, anything I should watch out for?

  2. Mike Withrow says:

    Thank you for your articles! Here’s my question and challenge- being 6’7 limits most motorcycle choices and I would like to get back to riding back roads (under 40 mph) and a few mild trails. I know true trail enthusiasts hate this waste of technology, but I’m trapped. My question, if I make a few upgrade changes as you recommend and swap out tires…except for the hassle of changing oil/filter myself…will I damage the bike?

    • Mike, I don’t think you should have any issues. As you said, the KTM is probably overkill for your type of riding, but you will appreciate its relatively tall height, light weight, excellent handling and suspension, and abundant power even if you are not pushing it to the limit. I’m nearing 55 years old, so my idea of a fun off-road ride may not be that much more challenging than your back road rides. I don’t push it to the limit, as I don’t heal as quickly as when I was younger. There are some advantages to the KTM 450 EXC for a 6’7″ rider compared to other small dual sports. The stock seat is about 39 inches tall, and you can buy after market seats from KTM, Enduro Engineering and others will add another 1″ to 1.5″. You can also get lower foot pegs to give you another 1/2″ more leg room. Lastly, you can get bar risers for the handlebars to stretch you out more. I’m not sure if this gets you to the ideal riding position for a 6’7″ guy, but I don’t know of any other dual sport that can offer this kind of adjustability.

  3. Fred Bilby says:

    I have a 2008 450sx-f. I am a mx guy riding 30+ & 40+ classes. My motor is the same as yours other than different cam grind and I have more compression. I have put 110 hours on this motor, check the valve clearance religiously and change the oil every 3 hours. to date i have replaced the clutch one time and put in one piston. The valves have never been out of spec. I live 10 minutes away from the KTM USA import headquarters in Amherst Ohio and with this kind of time on a mx bike its time for a crank valves, springs and piston. Trail riding your bike, the amount of time should be double before this kind of work on your bike is necessary. I never heard you mention air filter cleaning intervals? You should be servicing your air filter after every ride, its as important as changing oil. I usually change mine between moto sets. checking the valves is very easy, the only thing is make sure when it goes back togetherthe rubber washer over the spark plug hole doesnt fall out. Other than that its 30-45 minutes and the way you check the clearance is easy as pie for a novice mechanic. The last weekend I raced a two day event 8 motos, and with that many hours I had 6 straight holeshots. Keep riding and be safe!!

    • Fred, thanks for the info. It’s nice to know what to expect from our motor. Also, congrats on the holeshots. Were you able to carry that lead to the end? One of my considerations for getting the KTM 450 EXC was to progress from trail riding to doing some enduro races. It was supposed to be my “get in shape” and “lose weight” plan. My goal would be to simply finish the race. For now, life keeps getting in the way. Hopefully some day. Regards, Bryan.

      • Fred Bilby says:

        Yea I won a few times. My best friend and I practice and race against each other almost every weekend. Its the competition I love, but the whole experience with the camping and competition is what its about at this stage for me. I have raced for a long time. I have watched a lot of kids grow up at the track, and watching the kids and helping instill the passion to keep this going through the them is very satisfying. My wife is at every event, takes pics and helps the kids. The racing community, (my real family) is a tight knit bunch. Bryan, the thrill of rocketing your bike off the line with 20-30 others is unexplainable! And sometimes I race the kids and man is that fun!! 2012 will be the year KTM takes over all aspects of off road motorcycle disciplines. You made the right choice in off road bikes. Just get out there and race it, that is what its for!!

  4. Several months ago I go a letter from KTM for a factory recall on the handlebar mount. The letter said the mount might break. I was gone all summer on a cross country motorcycle ride on my BMW R1200RT. I finally took my bike into a KTM dealer yesterday to get the mount replaced. I picked up my bike and they showed me something quite scary. Both of my handlebar mounts were broken. How long I’d been riding with two broken handlebar mounts, I don’t know. If it broke on a crash, then I’d ridden the bike many times with broken handlebar mounts. I have no idea why my handlebars didn’t fall off in the middle of a ride. That would have been disastrous. I’ve always been told to regularly check over my bike looking for broken parts or loose bolts. I should have taken this more seriously. Thought I’d post my story as a word of advice to others. Stay safe. Check your bike.

    • @bknysh, what year is your EXC? What years does the mount recall cover? I’m thinking of picking up a used EXC, so I guess what I really need is to find out where all the factory recalls are listed.

      • My KTM 450 EXC is a 2011. The recall says it is for 2011 450s, 530s and 690s. Also 2010 690s. That’s the only recall I’ve received for my bike. I’m not sure where you can find complete recall notices for older KTMs.

  5. Great info.
    I have an 08 450 EXCR,,, my “Heidi”.
    Serves me well. I use it as my of road toy, but at 55 mpg, also transportation to-from work.
    I considering a trip from Oklahoma to Alaska with my bud who has a KTM 990, where he carries the luggage.
    Anyone know how well suited Heidi would be for such a journey?


  1. […] In part three, I’ll talk more about my riding experience and performance of the KTM 450 EXC, both on and off road. […]

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