The 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W features an all-new chassis and electronics updates, and it is now the lone four-stroke in the enduro-friendly headlighted off-road lineup. We provided an exhaustive rundown about what’s new on the latest 450 XCF-W, so we won’t be repeating ourselves in this test. Instead, we took it to Millfield, Ohio, to ride it on The John Penton GNCC racecourse, complete with single-track through the woods and wide-open grass-track sections. This is only fitting, as John Penton first imported KTM-built dirt bikes into America in 1968, with his design specs and last name on the tank. Let’s push the start button and go riding.
- The big thumper’s power delivery is as smooth or sharp as you like. By using different combinations of engine maps and traction control, there are effectively four noticeably different modes available for the short-stroke 450cc SOHC motor. There is a catch, however. To access the features, you need a KTM PowerParts switch that should run you less than $200—we haven’t gotten a final price from KTM. That’s kind of a nickel-and-dime thing, as it adds less than two percent to the $11,999 MSRP for the 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W. The switch also unlocks the switchable quickshifter function, so consider it a must-have option.
- Picking the ride combination of traction control and engine mapping is something of an art. Understanding how the traction control and engine maps interact, and where each pairing is most appropriate, takes some time. KTM makes learning more difficult than it needs to be, unfortunately. The power mode switch requires a hard push and gives little haptic feedback. A white light tells you you’re using the standard map 1, while a green light indicates the aggressive map 2. The light is easily seen in the woods, but not in direct sunlight. Also, switching on and off the TC and quickshifter are side-by-side and require a learned thumb—it’s not a natural movement. So, although all the changes can be made on-the-fly, it’s neither easy nor intuitive.
- On the grass track, the 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W gives you two ways to attack. Certainly, in wide-open conditions like this, the demonstrably snappier map 2 is the go-to mode. It’s great fun to use all 50 horses in an open pasture, letting the 450 gallop unrestrained. The quandary is whether to use traction control or not. With TC on, steering with the spinning rear wheel is limited, though that is made up by the power being put to the ground on exit. When you turn off the TC, the motor spins freely and you get to practice your drifting skills; it’s hard to tell if it’s faster or not. Your results will heavily depend on exact conditions and your right wrist’s ability to monitor delivery. Regardless, with the TC off and map 2 engaged, it is a shot of adrenaline.
- Map 2 is for top riders in the woods, though intermediates can make use of it. The highly skilled rider will select map 2 and never look back. The throttle response is authoritative, though not notchy and abrupt. Things are fairly tame in the low-rpm range, ramping up strongly in the midrange, with plenty of overrev to the 11k sign-off—that’s a lot of revs in the woods on a 450. Torque is always available, so you can run a high gear without concerns about bogging. However, less-committed riders will have to be careful, as a handful of throttle demands the pilot’s immediate attention, as things start happening on the trail quickly. The use of TC will be about how much wheelspin you prefer.
- For many riders, the tamer standard map 1 will be faster in sloppy and technical woods courses. With a smoother power delivery, it’s easy to glide through the rough stuff. Less abrupt acceleration means less fatigue, and you’ll find yourself working on corner speed rather than working out the superb Brembo brakes. Over the length of a GNCC race, map 1 starts looking like the way to a trophy. Traction control may smooth out the power delivery too much for well-conditioned racers who appreciate a snappier throttle response.
- With the broad torque range, the 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W has no problem rocking the wide-ratio transmission. The right gear is always there, no matter how fast or slow you need to go. We didn’t test it in the desert, where we can wind out sixth gear, but we hope to do so soon.
- The quickshifter is worth the cost of the PowerParts button on its own. We ride street bikes with quickshifters frequently, so we’re used to them and love them. The quickshifter on the new 450 XCF-W does have its limitations. It’s only for upshifting, and only from 2nd gear up to 6th. Once you remember it’s there, it works like magic. On the grass track, the shifts with the throttle wide open mean uninterrupted acceleration, especially in the green map 2—just click and shred. In the woods, it isn’t used as often. However, when implemented, it’s one less thing to think about. You don’t have to grab the clutch lever or cut the throttle for an instant. A quickshifter is one of those features you have to try to truly appreciate. Once you’re accustomed to it, you will not want to go without.
- The clutch doesn’t get much of a workout with the quickshifter and the broad four-stroke powerband. That didn’t stop KTM from equipping the 450 XCF-W with an excellent self-adjusting hydraulically actuated clutch. The diaphragm steel spring gives great feel, and the damper smooths out shocks you can feel from abrupt power delivery and interruptions.
- Now that we’ve exhausted the various options for the motor, it’s time to dig into the new chassis. As mentioned at the start of this review, there are quite a few changes, so please read our First Look coverage for every detail. Basically, the frame, subframe, and swingarm use the latest KTM technology, and the WP suspension has been upgraded. The result is a platform that does complete justice to the fantastic powerplant.
- The big step up is in the action and convenience of the WP suspension. At 160 pounds sans gear, I’m right in the sweet spot for the stock suspension setup. Sag was spot on out of the box, and I simply could not justify sticking with any damping settings other than stock.
- The new WP Xact fork is all about feel for the trail. The new WP Xact is a spring design (we’re good with that), and the damping is now a closed cartridge design. While DIYers may not like that switch, the performance enhancement more than justifies the complication of advanced maintenance chores. The front end is plush without even hinting at being mushy. On some brutal downhills, I tested the new hydrostop system’s resistance to bottoming, and it works without feeling notchy as you get to the limits of the 11.8 inches of travel. There’s never any weirdness from the front end. It feels as good at speed on the grass track where air is to be had, as it does working its way through rocks, roots, and ruts in the woods. The Xact fork is nothing less than outstanding right off the showroom floor.
- KTM worked hard to improve the action of the rear suspension, and it shows. The rear suspension eschews linkage, which is great in the rocks and around logs. The Xplor shock uses progressive damping that provides a keen sense of what’s happening underneath you. The balance with the front is uncanny. The rear end has the same near-floating sensation, while never leaving you feeling disconnected from the trail. Traction is always essential to going fast, and the Xplor shock allows the Dunlop Geomax AT81 to constantly drive as the rear settles in confidently. Bottoming isn’t an issue, as the damping firms up seamlessly as you move toward the end of the 12.2 inches of travel. The Xplor shock is the perfect complement to the power delivery, including the traction control. The balance also helps the superb Dunlop Geomax MX33 do its job up front.
- The frame is new, with optimized flex patterns throughout the design. This is something that’s hard to quantify as you’re riding. Managing chassis flex and the rotating mass of the big four-stroke is vital to preventing rider fatigue during grueling GNCC races. I put a race’s worth of time on the chassis and felt no worse for wear at the end of the day. It’s a comfortable motorcycle to ride, with as much credit going to the sweet engine as the supple chassis. Even when I was pushing hard in the woods with the intense map 2 engaged, the 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W did its best to prevent me from getting worn out. The steering stem gets more flex this year, providing further fatigue relief. Those flex characteristics also make for a forgiving chassis, which aids in good results at the end of a long, hard race.
- New ergonomics are part of the frame chassis. The new Neken handlebars have the same KTM-only bend as the bikes in the SX lineup—it’s definitely a comfortable choice with outstanding control. Larger footpegs give your boots a more secure platform—that makes me confident about going faster. At the same time, the design of the footpeg shape has been altered to provide more clearance in ruts. New frame protectors are higher traction for better control of the 450 XCF-W. The flatter seat profile makes it easy to move around on the bike when needed, while the seat cover is grippier than previously—these are welcome complementary changes.
- KTM’s positioning of the 450 XCF-W constantly changes, but we like where it sits right now in the off-road range. With the 500 EXC-F handling dual-sport duty and the new 500 XW-F filling the slot for 50-state legal off-road bikes, the 2024 KTM 450 XCF-W takes on more of a competitive personality without compromising its capabilities as a high-performance trail bike. For those who ride in conditions that benefit from a wide-ratio transmission, the latest 450 XCF-W gives you all the performance you can handle, and is willing to tamp things down when you need a less belligerent power delivery.
- Helmet: Alpinestars SM5
- Goggles: Progrip 3450 Light Sensitive
- Pants + Jersey: Alpinestars Fluid Narin
- Gloves: Alpinestars Full Bore
- Body armor: Alpinestars Bionic Pro V2 Jacket
- Knee braces: Alpinestars Bionic-10 Carbon
- Socks: Fly Racing Knee Brace
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro
2024 KTM 450 XCF-W Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder 4-stroke
- Displacement: 450cc
- Bore x stroke: 95 x 63.4mm
- Valvetrain: SOHC; 4 valves
- Fueling: Keihin EMS w/ 42mm throttle body
- Muffler: Aluminum; USFS-approved spark arrester
- Cooling: Liquid
- Starting: Electric
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ optional upshift-only quickshifter
- Clutch: Diaphragm-spring wet-multiplate w/ Brembo hydraulics
- Final drive: 520 X-ring chain
- Frame: Double-cradle chromoly steel
- Subframe: Polyamide reinforced w/ aluminum
- Handlebar: Neken tapered aluminum
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 48mm inverted WP Xact fork; 11.8 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-less, fully adjustable WP Xplor piggyback-reservoir shock w/ progressive damping; 12.2 inches
- Wheels: Giant
- Front wheel: 21 x 1.60
- Rear wheel: 18 x 2.15
- Front tire: 80/100 x 21; Dunlop Geomax MX33
- Rear tire: 110/100 x 18; Dunlop Geomax AT81
- Front brake: 260mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.6 inches
- Rake: 26.1 degrees
- Triple clamp offset: 22mm
- Seat height: 37.9 inches
- Ground clearance: 14.7 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 2.2 gallons
- Wet weight: 250 pounds
2024 KTM 450 XCF-W Price: $11,999 MSRP
2024 KTM 450 XCF-W Review Photo Gallery