[KTM]

KTM’s 2020 EXC Range: Observations

6 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Sebas Romero, Andy Wigan, KTM Images

Back in late May, immediately after KTM’s 2020 enduro range media launch in Spain, you will have seen our ride impression on these much-evolved bikes, and watched the video edit, where we offered broad feedback about how in the 2020 machines’ performance, feel and character have changed. But what else stood out with these 2020-model KTMs? What are the small but significant changes that the KTM design team made to these machines? Glad you asked, cos we made a bunch of notes at the launch about the subtle tweaks we thought worthy of mention. Here they are:

THE ENGINES…

  • By adding a mid-pipe section to the four-stroke models’ exhaust system (ie, a two-piece header pipe), it means the exhaust flange is moved forward – the main join is now adjacent to the cylinder head, not near the rear brake master cylinder. And, thankfully, that makes the removal of the shock absorber removal much easier. You no longer have to go through the annoying process of removing the muffler and loosening the header simply to drop the shock out of the bike. The exhaust junction is now supported by a nifty little bracket that hangs off the engine mount, and combines rubber bushes and an eyelet for the exhaust spring to attach to.
  • The new oval-section expansion chambers on the 250 and 300EXC TPI two-strokes are works of art. In addition to the oval design allowing them to wrap more snugly around the frame (which offers noticeably better ground clearance) without losing power; the 3D stamped corrugations in the 1mm single-skin metal not only strengthens those sections, but also works to dampen noise emissions.
  • As the expansion on the 150EXC TPI is all-new for 2020 (designed specifically for the 150, rather than being adapted from a 125 and/or 200cc pipe), it didn’t get the fancy ribbed look this year. But it is expected to get the corrugations for 2021.

  • The two-strokes’ reworked idle system definitely gives you more precision when it comes to setting the idle speed via the bypass screw.
  • No doubt, there will be people who complain about the fact the kick-starter boss on the four-strokes’ engine cases is now gone (saving about 300g in the process). Really? Does your car have provision to retrofit a kick-starter? With lithium-ion battery technology coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years (and KTM’s much more robust starter-motor now integrated into the two-strokes’ cases), the need (and ability) to kick-start your bike is gone forever, friends. Expect the boss on the two-strokes’ cases to follow suit in the next year or two. Yep, Ronnie Mac will be furious!

THE ROLLING CHASSIS…

  • The move back to a black frame is good news in our books. Aside from its being more practical (in the sense scuff marks aren’t as obvious), there’s a running joke in KTM dealer circles at the “orange-frame bikes” indicate the model is the last of its generation (implying that the orange frame was a last-resort addition to an otherwise unchanged machine).

  • On KTM’s 2019 MX models, the swingarm was lengthened by 5mm (behind the rear axle) to accommodate a bigger range of wheelbases (with previous year-models, if you wanted to add another link or two to your chain, you couldn’t move the rear axle back far enough to get the correct chain tension). We would have thought that convenient mod would have been passed on to the 2020 enduro models (seeing as these bikes are used for everything from tight bush to super-fast desert racing, which calls for vastly different final gearing). But it hasn’t.

THE ERGOS…

  • The colour of the plastics and graphics used on the 2020 enduro range do a good collective job of differentiating these machines from their MX cousins. On the MXers, everything that’s not orange is white. Whereas on the enduro models, everything that’s not orange is black. The black is practical in that it doesn’t show the dirt as readily, and the 2020 bikes’ graphics are more minimalist and stylish in our view. But is it an optical illusion that the excess of black (including the new black hand guards for 2020) creates a slightly beefer, dare we say heavier look to these 2020 bikes?

  • The bike’s standard hand guards can be quickly and easily converted into full-wrap units with the simple addition of PowerParts plastic piece that fits into the bar ends and screws to the inside of the standard guards. Ingenious!
  • The new extended frameguards are similar to those that appeared on the MX models a year ago. In addition to offering better protection to the rear brake master cylinder, they now come with a textured finish (much like the Acerbis units that have sold well for years) that gives your boots much better grip and purchase over the bike.
  • KTM’s seats have not been everyone’s favourite perch over the years. They’ve always been either too slippery or too hard and abusive on your arse. The 2020 enduro models have been the beneficiaries of a heap of R&D that was done 12 months ago on the MX models’ seat. The 2020 seat has got more depth and padding, and is noticeably more comfortable than its predecessor. It doesn’t get the silicon strips found on the MX models’ seat, but the gripper cover offers grip without tearing the arse out of your nylons. Also, the seat is now secured by just one bolt, which makes it quicker and easier to remove.
  • Unfortunately, the hard plastic bashplate will no longer be standard on the four-stroke models (bashplates have not been standard on the two-stroke EXC models since 2017). Why? Because the 2020 bikes Australia will get are EU-spec (rather than the AU-spec units we used to get). Yep, you’ll be able to buy one from the KTM PowerParts catalogue.
  • The subframe (which now weighs less than 900g) has been extended slightly to give the rear guard more support when it’s laden with mud. Plus the rear guard’s plastic itself is more robust. This comes in handy for lifting the bike on and off the stand, or out of bog holes, because the new plastics make it impossible to get your fingers into those seams on the edges of the rear guard.

  • The Six Days models look sweet (with the exception of the orange frame?). The limited edition Erzbergrodeo XX5 model (only 500 of them will be produced), on the other hand, seemed to be more of an acquired taste among journos at the launch in Spain.

MISC

  • In spite of the airbox design being modified for better airflow, you’ll be happy to know that the existing air filters still fit the 2020 models.

  • The reworked throttle cable mount creates a smoother routing of the cables and better access for maintenance.
  • The electrical harness now all sits on the one plastic tray, including the capacitor and reg rectifier. This makes it easier to remove the bike’s entire wiring harness in one hit, and KTM claims the relocation of capacitor and reg rectifier will eliminate the failures they’ve experienced in these components (previously caused by vibration).
  • Everywhere you look on these new machines, the quality of finish is just incredible. There’s daylight between KTM’s (and Husqvarna’s) quality of finish and what you find on other European brands (though some will point to the brands’ price differential when you make that argument).


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