Back in 2019 KTM hit the big reset button on the two-stroke world with the introduction of the 300 TPI machines. They had already shaved down the engine size and owned the small-engine, big-power zone. And, their 250 and 300 benefited from an advanced hydraulic clutch, almost zero vibration through the bars and a superior electric-start design.
The addition of fuel injection, along with oil injection monumentally elevated the clean running side of the machine by controlling the loss of unburnt fuel and monitoring the oil lubrication to the engine. They ran hygienic, making immediate and meaty power, manipulated through an excellent Brembo hydraulic clutch and a well-focused wide-ratio transmission.
There were some teething issues with the early models, as the ECU came mapped on the super-lean side, and the machines struggled with an occasional bog.
Since then, there have been changes with suspension valving, a frame tweak and minor ECU updates. All have been positive and have elevated the machine to a superior trail-machine status. It owns the technical world of extreme enduro, with the machine’s ability to chug down to zero without stalling, and still make torque its superpower.
- Superb and versatile off-road “enduro” power
- Plush suspension
- Excellent brakes
- No vibration
- Great clutch and clutch action
- No spark arrestor
- Needs radiator fan
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2023?
The KTM 300XC-W didn’t receive any updates this year other than cosmetics. The XC-W models have continued to use the TPI (transfer port injection) fuel injection over the new throttle-body injection being introduced on the cross-country and motocross models. Why? “Smooth” and “usable” are the buzz words here. The new 300 XC and 300 SX have more bark, while the XC-W has more control, enhanced feel and tractable power that targets off-road terrain.
It retains oil injection, which feeds through a frame-mounted oil tank and through an oil pump, and using data from the engine speed and TPS you always get precise oil delivery. With an average fuel-to-oil ratio of 1:80, you’ll get about five tanks of fuel out of the oil tank. It’s a wide-ratio 6-speed tranny made by Pankl Racing systems. The clutch is a DDS system, using a large diaphragm spring rather than multiple coil springs. The action is light and the engagement ideal.
All XC-W models are equipped with high-tech, lightweight chromoly steel frames. This includes hydro-formed elements produced by state-of-the-art robot welding. They retain their race-proven geometries, but by re-designing certain areas, the stiffness has been optimized, resulting in better feedback for the rider and improved stability. On the KTM 300XC-W TPI frame, the engine is lowered by 1 degree around the swingarm pivot, improving front-wheel traction.
It’s fit with newly designed lateral frame guards with improved grip and serves as a heat protector against the muffler on the right side.
A few years back they beefed up the exhaust pipe by using a 3D stamping process, which produces a ribbed surface finish. This makes the pipe much stronger, with better resistance against rocks, and helps to reduce noise. The aluminum muffler is compact, long and rather quiet. It lacks a spark arrestor.
Suspension is WP fore and aft, with the KTM’s rear-end linkless PDS system. The XPLOR fork received valving updates last year and remains trail-focused with easy damping changes on top of the fork. The WP XPLOR PDS shock has new internal bushings for less fade and better wear. Naturally, with no low-hanging linkage shock maintenance, it’s a snap and you’ll have better ground clearance.
The clamps are forged, have four-position adjustability, the bars are Neken, the grips ODI, and the brakes are Brembo. KTM fits the 300 with machined hubs, Giant rims, and this year Dunlop MX33 front and AT81 rear tire out back. It is equipped with a Twin Air filter that has easy side access. The lithium-ion battery is located under the saddle, as is the ECU unit.
OK, LET’S GO TESTING
Starting is an immediate gratification with a brief stab at the button. The clutch pull is decently light, while the power is very smooth down low. It comes on strong on the bottom end with a very linear and meaty midrange, but falls a bit flat at times up top. To counter the flatter top-,end feeling we recommend checking to see where your power valve is adjusted. KTM seems to run the adjuster all the way in, which is putting extreme tension on the spring, not allowing the valve to open, therefore creating a stale and mellow sensation when you crack the throttle. Our aggressive test riders back the adjuster out to flush, which allows for maximum hit while still retaining the 300 chug-and-lug. The 300XC-W is impossible to stall. You can basically ride trials with the machine and not stall it, or fear four-stroke flame-outs.
With the TPI ,we still love the oil injection. We put over 200 miles on one oil tank before it even got to the halfway mark. Fuel mileage is superb, and in the past, we have found the TPI can get better fuel economy than some of our four-stroke test bikes. The clutch on the Austrian machines featured zero fade and precise engagement no matter the abuse. With the push-and-pull throttle cables, it does make the throttle a bit stiff, and that is a thumbs down. We also lament the lack of a spark arrestor and no kick-starter. There is the option to install one on the XC-W, but that’s tacking on hundreds more to an already premium priced motorcycle. On a side note, in three years we have never needed anything other than the button to get them fired up.
The wide-ratio transmission is welcomed in all trail conditions. First gear is extreme-enduro low for crawling, while sixth will get you cruising at speeds over 60 without revving the machine out. The biggest game-changer remains to be the counterbalanced motor. Not one other two-stroke comes close to being this smooth.
The XC-W chassis remains the same and retains PDS and no linkage. With talk that the new XC line has a much stiffer chassis, it will be interesting to see if that makes the bike less manageable for the average rider. With that said, the XC-W chassis is compliant and features a light feel with good maneuverability. We are fans of the PDS system for several reasons. Maintenance is pure yogurt, as removing the shock takes less than a minute to finish. Performance-wise, there’s no linkage to hang up on rocks and logs, and the bike steers quick and with purchase.
When the speeds pick up, it starts to feel a little loose, and the rear end tends to ride high on downhills. In both cases a linkage bike feels better by staying lower and less reactionary to high-speed feedback.
The XPLOR fork is an open-cartridge design, and its happy place is slower-speed trail work and technical obstacles. This year it seems to stay up better in the stroke versus years past and targets riders up to 170 pounds. Thicker than that and you need to bump up the spring rate, both fore and aft. We love that no tools are needed to make fork adjustments. We have few complaints with the XPLOR shock, and average-sized riders can dial in the sag (100–104mm) with the standard spring rate. It gets a little loose at speed, but really embraces hacky and rocky terrain. We aren’t huge fans with the Dunlop AT81 rear tire in dry conditions. The tire seems to remain lit up and spinning no matter what tire pressure we ran. The MX33 front was superb and a much better choice than the older AT81. The Brembo brakes are at the top of our list, and we’re glad KTM has not switched to the Braketec units being used on the Husqvarna or GasGas.
We really love the little details on the XC-W, like the quick-access air filter and easy-to-access drain plug for the transmission oil. The half-turn, push-button gas cap can be a bit annoying if it is acting stubborn, and the oil-tank cap has been prone to leak on previous models, so keep an eye on that. ODI lock-on grips are standard equipment and our favorite. Down low the pegs are nice and sharp with a wide platform. The digital trip meter is great equipment and tracks miles, hours, speed and a clock. We would like to see a cooling fan standard, since the four-stroke enduro models come with them. The bike will boil under extreme conditions. Another nod goes to the stock skid plate. While thin and plastic, at least the bike comes with one, as well as the flag-style handguards. The headlight and taillight are always welcomed for off-road riders and the light works quite well with an adjustable lens. And last, we need a larger brake-pedal tip. You need a needle-nose-shaped foot to find the brake pedal, and it is super easy to miss.
Is the 300XC-W TPI machine at the end of its development with the new throttle-body injection system coming on the XC- and SX300s? Down the line, most likely. But, for the moment, the off-roader who has a passion for the tight stuff, for the gnarly and for smooth, do-it-all juice, the 300XC-W isn’t just better than most, it’s the best.