KTM’s unmistakably diversified off-road competition lineup brings the 450 EXC and 530 EXC motorcycles in our attention for being both track and trail machines and for offering the possibility to be taken on the roads too. They’ll never perform like dual-sports bikes and, most likely, they’ll go in the back of trucks if there are even 15-20 miles in between riding spots, but once there it will be nothing to stop these blasts.
The Austrian manufacturer simply had to profit of the light and nimble chassis and address to more than one category of riders with it and so two different and strikingly similar models ended up being produced. Displacement is really the only difference though.
The engine powering the two EXCs is the same single-cylinder, four-stroke one displacing either 449.3 cc or 510.4 cc and being carbureted as well as mated to a six-speed gearbox. Now, a veritable motocrosser would have never featured a sixth gear so although the bikes are supposed to do well on track, they won’t be the dominating ones.
KTM’s EXC does get motocross chassis (the frame is made of steel though) with 48mm WP USD fork offering 11.91 inches of wheel travel and a WP PDS shock absorber offering 13.19 inches of wheel travel and 260 mm front and 220 mm rear petal style brake rotors. Also, with a 63.5-degree steering head angle, the 251 lbs weighing bike should never miss a turn if in the hands of the right biker.
Long story short, we’re dealing with pure adrenaline providers and difficult terrain traverses offering 15 inches of ground clearance and being specifically destined to experienced and preferably tall riders because the seat is positioned at 38.78 inches from the ground and the bike does need a steady foot in those tricky situations encountered on the rocks.
European bike manufacturers seem to follow approximately the same recipe and drift further away from Japanese ones that are not willing to create more categories than needed to. But, as KTM’s EXC package composed by the 450 respectively 530 versions is received as one, so is Aprilia’s RXV model available either as 4.5 or 5.5. Built for the dirt, gravel and generally messy stuff, the RXV features a headlight instead of a number plate and that’s the biggest sign of a bike being street legal in these cases.
Powered by a 77-degree V-twin four-stroke engine that is liquid cooled and features single overhead cams with rocker operated exhaust valves, chain timing drive and four titanium valves, the 450/550 cc Italian bike is clearly superior to that of the Austrians. That’s why it doesn’t need more than five gears especially as the electric started engine is fuel-injected. Furthermore, Aprilia has revised this bike for 2009 and the seat is now lower, the engine is even more responsive and, overall, the bike weighs 2 kilos less.
The most appropriate single-cylinder powered alternative for the 2009 KTM 450/530 EXC is the Husqvarna TE 450/510. Featuring a new frame, Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock absorber, the 2009 model year is claimed to be sharper handler while the updated gearbox with improved gear changing should make a difference as well.
With the battle between KTM and Husky going on forever and Aprilia now redefining the idea of a performance off-road bike with the ability to go on legal roads, we’re expecting the first two to redirect their route back to the drawing board…hopefully.
Because all bikes first blink an eye at us and only than show off their capabilities, it’s a must to cover the visual part before the adrenaline one. First thing first, the EXCs are imposing off-road bikes, but which don’t mind showing off their European manufacturer’s style with the Orange fenders, mudguards and headlight housing all characterized by aggressive lines. The seat is tall, the gas tank is positioned well down into the frame while the side plates blend perfectly in with the overall compact and contoured look of this bike. With black Excel wheels (21 inches front and 18 inches rear), the EXC is an invitation to ride.
But there’s more. Both the 450 and 530 are also available featuring the Six Days scheme with all the racy stickers and entirely white gas tank. Also, the skid plate and hand guards are standard equipment which adds on to the bike’s tough look.
During the ride that we had on our tester – a 2009 KTM 530 EXC – the bike did proof being tough, powerful, but also very nimble and responsive to the rider’s demands. As long as the rider manages with the 38.78 inches high seat, the bike feels like being built around him as the riding triangle (handlebars, footpegs and seat) is similar to that of the motocross models from which the bike was derived.
We’ll start with the engine and say that we couldn’t appreciate it more (for a single-cylinder, of course) from a variety of reasons: the electric starter is very helpful for those who don’t feel like going through the kick starting routine and response from the engine is always a twist of the throttle away, just like we’re expecting from KTM. Although not fuel-injected, the motor definitely meets today’s market requirements as the low end grunt can only be overdue by the strong midrange and healthy top end. Also, taking in consideration the fact that there is a six-speed gearbox (which we didn’t use for more than a cumulated half a mile or so), the maximum speed is greater, fuel consumption decreased and the rider is introduced to the first boring 100 mph riding experience of his life.
While off road, the bike feels in its natural environment and all joy factors such as acceleration, top speed, handling as well as braking are justified, on the road this thing is no fun and it is only now when we totally agree with those who carry these things in the back of their trucks. The only explication is the fact that one back must be “sacrificed” and the rider’s is the most important so…you get the picture.
Easy to through around and yet very stable around sharp corners, this bike gives thanks to good mass centralization and the proper suspension equipment. The 48 mm WP USD fork and WP PDS shock absorber ensure both a stable and plush ride as long as the rider doesn’t fall in the bike’s play and starts riding it like a maniac. That’s what a certain rider did and he’s not very proud to write about it. Not always the brakes are the solution when riding on rocks as things can always get slippery especially early in the morning! But if used as due on dust, mud, gravel and tarmac, the brakes make good team with the tires and stopping is always effective.
Overall, the EXC is a great trail companion and a real challenge for those who were used to riding dual-sport models. It feels inviting and it can provide most often even more than the required.
As much as we’d like the 2009 KTM 450/530 EXC we can’t help noticing how the lack of a fuel-injection system instead of the Keihin FCR MX 39 carburetor makes people raise a few question marks and go look somewhere else for a bike. It’s not the fact that the EXC is less of a performer because of that reason, but these days even 250 cc four-stroke bikes are fuel-injected, not to mention bigger ones, and that makes people wonder so fuel injection is a must on future model years as everything else on this bike is there for you to enjoy.
Engine and Transmission
Engine type: Single cylinder, 4-stroke
Displacement: 449.3 cc / 510.4 cc
Bore x stroke: 95/63.4 mm (3.74/2.5") / 95 x 72 mm (3.74 x 2.83")
Compression ratio: 11.9:1
Starter/Battery: Kickstarter/E-Starter/12V 4 Ah
Transmission: 6 gears / 6 gears wide-ratio
Carburetor: Keihin FCR MX 39
Control: 4 V/OHC with rocker levers
Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with 3 Eaton pumps
Engine lubrication: Motorex SAE 15W50
Transmission oil: Motorex SAE 15W50
Primary drive: 33:76
Final drive: 15:45 (14:52)
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Clutch: Wet multi-disc clutch, operated hydraulically
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 steel
Subframe: Aluminium 7020
Handlebar: Neken, Aluminium Ø 28/22 mm (1.10/0.87")
Front suspension: WP USD Ø 48 mm (1.89")
Rear suspension: WP PDS shock absorber
Suspension travel front/rear: 300/335 mm (11.81/13.19")
Brakes, front/rear: Disc brakes 260/220 mm (10.24/8.66")
Rims, front/rear: 1.60 x 21"; 2.15 x 18" Excel
Tires, front/rear: 90/90-21"; 140/80-18"
Chain: X-ring chain 5/8 x 1/4"
Main silencer: Aluminium
Steering head angle: 63.5°
Wheel base: 1475 ± 10 mm (58.0 ± 0.39")
Ground clearance (unloaded): 380 mm (15")
Seat height: 985 mm (38.78")
Tank capacity: approx. 9 liters (2.38 gal)
Weight (no fuel): approx. 113.9 kg (251 lbs)