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KTM 400 EX/C
The KTM 400EXC factory machine that won the 1999 World Enduro Championship in the hands of Italian maestro Giovanni Sala bears a striking resemblance to the standard, mass-produced 400EXC.
This bike has made a big impression on the 400cc four-stroke market. Simply swing a leg over one and you'll start to understand what all the fuss is about. It has the smooth and clean feel of a motocross bike and it's very easy to slide forward or rearward with comparative ease.
The kickstarter is on the righthand side on the EXC, and it's not a difficult bike to fire up. But hey, why bother when you can press the starter button to fire the engine? The purists who have developed kickstarting to a fine art may be horrified by this laziness but there's no way you'll get around it because electric start is standard equipment.
KTM has taken a slightly different approach to the configuration of the motor in 2000. While most manufacturers have used a 90mm-plus piston with a very short stroke of 60mm, KTM has leaned the other way with an 89mm x 64mm configuration. This tends to increase torque at the expense a more higher-revving incarnation.
The KTM doesn't go off with a bang like the WR or the DR-Z. It's a little slower to build revs but it is easier to regulate wheelspin and improve drive. This has its advantages when climbing ugly hills and those tight, tricky sections on enduro stages.
The power delivery is smooth - almost the same as the Husaberg. However, there is a noticeable peak/spike of power in the midrange and I can't help wondering if KTM put it there on purpose. This spike of power is in the right place to put a smile on your face when you give the throttle a big twist.
The WP suspension package is firm and aimed at the competition end of the market. I had a bit of trouble getting an even response from the inverted front forks on the first ride. The cause was some stiction in the forks that was noticeable even when the bike was stationary. You could push down on the forks and they compressed and extended in a series of steps rather than the smooth action you would expect. I suspect this was due to the fact that this bike had well and truly done the rounds before I got hold of it.
As stiction wasn't a problem on the Husaberg (which uses the same forks), I'm betting that it was overdue for a fork service.
With a bit more time in the saddle of the $9611 machine, I was able to ride around this problem (as you do) and truly appreciate its potential. It's a magic bit of gear when you get used to it - very similar to the Husaberg with powerful brakes that should be caressed rather than grabbed. The motor is exceptional for trail riding and enduro work - the power spread is an excellent compromise of excitement and predictability. I managed to pull off some of the best monos in second, third and fourth gears right up to the balance point, and a touch of rear brake would bring the front back down if things got too scary - it's the easiest 400 to practice the endless mono.
I took the bike to Louee motocross and enduro complex in Mudgee (NSW) and got some second opinions from average to good trail riders. They didn't know what to make of the front suspension, but they knew something wasn't quite right (the aforementioned stiction dilemma). They felt that the EXC had better mid-range torque than the WRs they were riding. They loved the ergonomics and felt that the KTM was much slimmer and lighter than their Yamahas.
Then there's all the nice little things that everyone noticed: the translucent tank and frame protectors above the footpegs. The exhaust is a also work of art (sounds good too) and the Magura bars are quality items.
This KTM has a lot to offer the trailrider and competitor. It's a factory racer that's looking for another victory on the showroom floor - and it's priced to compete well.