KTM 300XC VS. 300XC-W: THE WRAP

In the U.S., there are two different 300cc two-strokes that carry the KTM name: the 300XC and the 300XC-W. Up front, the two bikes seem very similar. They both have the most successful motor in KTM history; the 300cc two-stroke. Both have Transfer Port Injection, oil injection and six-speed transmissions. According to KTM’s overall plan, bikes in the XC line are viewed as cross-country racers. Those with the “W” suffix are more trail oriented. That, however, doesn’t stop anyone from lining up with W models in enduros and cross-country events all over the country, most specifically in the east.
Here’s the short form of the tech differences between the two:

  • First and foremost, PDS rear suspension without linkage is used on the W. That means the WP Xplor shock is bolted directly to the swingarm. The spring is progressive and has dual rates of 60 and 66 Nm. The frame and swingarm are designed specifically to accommodate this system. On the XC-W, linkage is used to connect the Xact 5750 shock to the swingarm. A straight rate spring of 42 Nm is used.
  • The W uses a WP Xplor fork with 4.4 Nm coil steel springs. The XC-W uses an Xact 5448 air fork without springs. Standard air pressure is 139 psi (9.6 bar).
  • First and second gears are taller on the XC than on the XC-W. The final gearing on the XC is 13-51, whereas the W is 13-50.
  • Ignition mapping is slightly different on the two bikes. Both have a secondary map preprogrammed in the ECU, but it can’t be accessed without buying the optional handlebar-mounted switch.
  • The W comes with a headlight, a taillight and an odometer.
  • The fuel tanks have different capacity: 2.4 gallons on the XC-W; 2.25 on the XC.

Interestingly enough, the two bikes are almost identical in weight. On our scale with empty fuel tanks, the XC weighs 226 pounds and the XC-W is 227 pounds. The weight saved by doing away with linkage is cancelled by having coil steel fork springs and lights. Also, the prices are identical: $10,499.

The question of which KTM 300 all comes down to the speed of the trails you plan on riding.

In the big picture, you gotta know up front that these bikes are both pure magic. Setting aside the battle between fans of this or that suspension, the main point is still indisputable: When it comes to riding difficult off-road terrain, there’s nothing better than a modern 300cc two-stroke. They are virtually unstoppable at low rpm.  When the era of fuel-injection arrived, KTM’s 300s seemed to become more docile. The power became more linear and many people complained. In terms of measurable power output, there wasn’t any real change, but there was a slight increase in weight. Interestingly enough, we have heard rumors that there’s a new generation of fuel-injected two-strokes coming from KTM in the future, one that will do away with both Transfer Port Injection and oil injection. We will have to wait and see.

The KTM 300XC has suspension that is very similar to that of KTM’s motocross bikes.

When you ride these two bikes back to back, it’s clear that there is a difference in power delivery, but not a big one. The W seems to come on the pipe a little earlier and sign off sooner. The difference in suspension is, of course, much greater. The W is a creature of the tightest canyons and twistiest trails. It loves rocks, roots and trail junk. When a tight trail is littered with junk and it’s a struggle to just keep moving, there’s nothing better than the W. At higher speeds, however, the bike is bouncy and soft. The fork, in particular, dives when slowing from speed and make the whole package less stable. The XC thrives in this kind of terrain. It’s much more stable at speed and wallows less in big whoops.

The KTM 300XC-W has PDS suspension and a coil-spring WP Xplor fork.

In truth, this is all about the set-up choices that KTM made when selecting the spring rates and damping characteristics of the two bikes. The XC-W is a far softer package. Plus, the differences between the Xplor and the Xact forks go far beyond steel springs versus air pressure. They are completely different. The Xact fork is more sophisticated with more or less conventional base valves and mid valves. The Xplor fork doesn’t have a valve stack for compression damping, meaning that when you turn that clicker on top of the left legs to stiffen things up, it’s actually affecting the mid valve and not much happens. The Xplor fork is, however, a perfect match for the bike’s intended purpose of tight, twisty trails in first or second gear.
As for the PDS suspension, it’s aimed at the exact same terrain as the Xplor fork. It’s soft, comfy and cushy. As speed increases, it’s more out of its element. The linkage suspension on the XC came straight from the motocross world, so it’s a little harsh in rocks, but perfectly natural at higher speeds. And finally, there’s the ground clearance issue. The XC’s linkage hangs down about three inches, directly in front of the rear wheel. That’s a disaster when it comes to getting over big logs. The bike stops cold and leaves the tire spinning in empty air. The rear tire of the PDS bike will grab traction and send you on your way. In this one category, there’s really no contest. The PDS bike is an easy winner in extreme terrain. We will have more in the February, 2022 print edition of Dirt Bike.

WALKER WALKS AWAY WITH A FREE BETA

Beta East Coast Race Team Manager Cory Buttrick presenting the Beta Cup trophy to Jhak Walker

Congratulations to Jhak Walker for winning the Beta Cup aboard his Beta 200 RR. Jhak had an outstanding first season at the National Enduro. He dominated the B 200 class, winning every race but one for a total of 8 wins. He claimed the title of Beta Cup Champion by earning the most points in his class compared to anyone else in their class competing on a Beta Motorcycle. With the victory, Jhak gets his choice of any Beta RR 2-Stroke model for free.

“This year went just as planned! My local dealership, Halls Cycles started selling Beta Motorcycles and from then on I knew my goal was to win the Beta Cup! We bought a 200 RR and raced 200 B class. I won 8 out of 9 NEPG races. The bike ran flawlessly throughout the whole year! I am super pumped to be able to finish this season with the Beta Cup win! Thank you Beta, Halls Cycles, and my father for building an amazing bike!” – Jhak Walker

ABU DHABI

Matthias Walkner won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge this week for KTM: “It was really close today! The stage was really long without a refueling point and so towards the end I had to slow down a lot to conserve fuel. It’s part of our sport that you can have four good days and then nearly be caught out in the last few kilometers. Thankfully, I made it to the finish line and am really happy to win the last race before Dakar. The team did a really good job all week and the bike has been perfect. The whole year has been fantastic for me – with the help of the team, we have all worked really closely to bring the success we’ve had. I have ridden well and not made any big mistakes, or suffered any injuries. I’ve learned a lot, even from this week riding in the sand, which is normally not my best terrain to race in. My riding has improved, and we’ve found some good set-ups for the bike, too. Overall, it’s been an incredible season and to top it off by winning the last race really helps my confidence. The big goal is of course now Dakar, it’s not far away, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Best American and fourth overall was Andrew Short on his Yamaha.  “Today was difficult but it was definitely rewarding to reach the end of the rally and finish the final stage in fourth. This was a great event to compete in because of how close it is to the Dakar and also because the terrain is very similar to what we can expect there. I feel like everything is coming together, I just need to improve my pace a little and then I’ll be back to where I should be. Overall, it’s been a solid year. I’ve learned a lot this season and I’ll apply everything I’ve learned when I line up for the Dakar in January.”

EVAN SMITH JOINS BETA

Evan Smith will be on a Beta 250RR in the XC2 class.

Beta Racing is excited to announce the signing of Evan Smith. The 26-year-old Jefferson, GA resident will ride for the Beta Factory Race Team in 2022. Evan will compete in the XC2 class at the GNCC, alongside his teammate Jon Johnson, aboard a Beta Factory 250 RR. He’ll also race the National Enduro Series in the Pro class on a Factory 390 RR. Smith has raced both series and has several top-5 finishes. His experience, coupled with the support of the Beta Factory Race Team, will help drive a successful 2022 campaign.

“I’m super pleased to be joining the Beta USA race team. I’m both proud and honored to be a part of the team. I can’t wait to utilize the top-notch support and products they provide to put Beta on the podium and to the forefront of American offroad racing.”

NORDEN RECOVERY

The introduction to the 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 was held place in the Azores last week. Where are the Azores? I had no idea until I stepped off the plane. This is a chain of volcanic islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  The islands belong to Portugal, so in order to get there I had to first fly to Lisbon.  It poured rain for most of the trip and I was tested for Covid 19 so often my brain has scar issue forming. But what a great place to ride! The whole island of Sao Miguel is like a big flower garden, and they love dirt bikes there. What about the bike? You can’t help but love a motorcycle when you ride it in paradise. Check out the review of the Husqvarna 901 Norden here.

That’s all for now!

–Ron Lawson

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