KTM 520SX TEST?DEC ?01
Once running, the Racing Four-Stroke motor shows its greatest attribute: power that?s friendly to novice and pro alike. Crack the throttle, and the awesome low-end and mid-range power make things happen in a hurry. It doesn?t have the hard hit of the Yamaha 426 or rev as freely as the Honda 450, but that next turn looms up larger and faster than with either Japanese thumper. It?s more forgiving power, too, all the way through the rev range. That quiet muffler probably chokes off some of the potential top-end ponies as well as toning down the bottom-end. Vibration is numbing at peak revs, so most folk simply short-shift the gearbox.
Gear spacing is fine for all but the tightest or loamiest tracks. Some riders prefer to swap the 48-tooth rear sprocket for a 49 or 50 to tighten up the gap between first and second for tighter courses. This was a viable mod in ?00 and ?01, but the ?02 doesn?t need it, in our opinion. Why, we haven?t a clue. Maybe the sealed cam bearing adds low-end. Anyway, GP riders can go up a tooth on the countershaft and drop to a 45 rear to attain a top speed of 90-odd mph. That?s versatile enough for our tastes.
Suspension is KTM?s greatest improvement to the 520SX for ?02. Most of the initial harshness experienced with past WP forks is eliminated with the switch to 48mm legs and the works-style cartridge. Initial action is somewhat more cushy, then the valving firms up to resist bottoming much better than last year. Damping feels light throughout the stroke. Most people will be happy with the 0.44Kg/mm fork springs, too. We also sampled the 250SX suspension this month, and the same fork struck us as harsh, choppy and unforgiving. We surmise it to be a weight and power-pulse thing; the legs are just more happy with the extra heft and fewer power strokes of the RFS. Really fast and/or big riders will probably want a revalve to hold the front end up on jump faces and such, but most of our testers were happy with the stock settings.
Although it?s actually not improved for this model year, much of the 520SX?s fine handling comes from its light weight (claimed 236, our nuclear-powered scales got 241 pounds with oil but no fuel) and excellent ergonomics and controls. The 520 is thin, light and fitted with Rolls Royce-grade features in a Geo Metro world. Even the brakes are powerful, with light feel at the levers. Last year we proclaimed the 520 the best motocross/off-road cross-over machine. We don?t see any reason that would change, but tune in next month to see how the open-class thumpers perform against one another.
Check Out The December Issue Of Dirt Bike For The Complete Test