Community Commentary 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W Review | Off-Road Test

2014 KTM 350 XCF-W Review | Off-Road Test

2014 KTM 350 XCF-W Test

When it comes to alphabet soup for cross-country riders, the 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W may be the tastiest recipe of all. Rather than going with the traditional 250cc or 450cc motor, KTM taps into the mid-size powerplant that has been so successful for Tony Cairoli on motocross tracks around the world.

Certainly, the 349.7cc motor in the 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W is not suffering for power. With 45 horsepower on tap when revved, you might expect it could be weak off the bottom, doing it to failure. Certainly, with the wide ratio transmission, the KTM needs to pull to work.

Rest assured that KTM dialed in the motor. It puts out more power off-idle than a 250, yet approached 450-class power with you let the motor spin. If you ride it in the 250 class, you have the ultimate cheater bike, and the same goes for the 450 class. While everyone else is out there wrestling with more power than they know what to do with, you’re putting the XCF-W’s power to the ground in virtually all conditions.

EFI is a big part of the 350 XCF-W’s success. You can let the revs drop when needed and then twist the throttle as hard as you please to get things moving. Try as we might, we could not trick the XCF-W into flaming out. The fuel-injection package is flawless, with due respect given to the 42mm Keihin throttle body. If you do somehow stall it, electric starting comes to the rescue immediately.

Matched perfectly to the wide powerband is the XCF-W’s wide-ratio transmission (the W in the name – XC is cross-country and F stands for four-stroke). The stock gearing can handle everything from technical single-track to wide-open desert conditions. If you don’t need the top end, a tooth or two in the rear will make it work just that better in “hard enduro” situations – most won’t need to touch the sprockets.

The Damped Diaphragm Steel clutch (DDS) is outstanding. It’s rubber damped for traction, and the lack of coiled steel springs gives it a light touch at the lever. This reduces fatigue, making it a superb long-distance race bike.

With the power sorted out so nicely, KTM has a much easier job of giving the 2014 350 XCF-W great handling. KTM took advantage, and the XCF-W has the feel of a 250 to go with its 450 power. Truly, this is the best of both worlds. It doesn’t deflect like a 250 can, yet you can still flick the 350 with much more abandon than you can a 450. Whether picking our way through rock gardens or screaming acrossa open terrain, the XCF-W responded confidently to our input, without being overly demanding.

Great rubber comes into the equation, and the new Dunlop Geomax MX51s are premium intermediate terrain tires. They work in a wide variety of situations, but not as well as a specific-terrain tire if you ride in odd areas.

Suspension plays a huge part in any race bike, and the 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W is ready for everyone, save Baja racers. It’s slightly soft for hitting the nastiest whooped out terrain wide open in top gear – a stiffer spring rate is needed for that. There is quite a bit of head shake under hard deceleration, so you will definitely want a steering damper for wide open riding. For the rest of us, it’s perfect right off the showroom floor.

We experimented with the WP inverted 4860 MXMA PA forks, and returned to the stock damping settings as the best. In the back, the high-speed compression damping circuit was pumped up a single click – that was it for the WP PDS 5018 DCC shock. Sag was set at 110mm, though your weight and riding style will help determine that.

Hauling the KTM XCF-W down from speed is easy, yet you can control the braking completely at slow speeds, too. In the past, KTM has been rightfully criticized as being touchy. These floating caliper Brembo brakes have outstanding feel at any speed. That’s a good thing, because enging braking is light – more like a 250 than a 450.

Thanks to a great motor, superb handling, and flawless suspension, the 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W does not beat you up. The last part of the puzzle is the ergonomics. Again, KTM gets it right. The rider’s triangle is flawless, and the firm seat works for all-day riding or racing. You can move about on the bike effortlessly.

KTM gets most of the 350 XCF-W’s details right. You can get to the airbox and battery without tools. Handguards are standard. The USFS-approved spark arrester has a great sound. All good. We think the XCF-W should have a skid plate of some sort stock – it doesn’t. Also, we’re not fans of the non-standard quarter-turn fuel cap – it’s not great for muddy or grimy conditions.

With a price knocking on the door of $10k for a dirt bike, we expected quite a bit from the 2014 KTM 350 XCF-W, and it delivered. Powerful enough for racing, yet manageable as a high-end trail bike, this is an outstanding and versatile off-road machine.

Photography by Don Williams

Photo rider: Jess McKinley

RIDING STYLE

Helmet: Bell Moto-9

Goggles: Smith Optics

Pants and jersey: Axo Haring

Gloves: Axo Padlock

Boots: Sidi Crossfire TA

2014 KTM 350 XCF-W Specifications

ENGINE

Design: DOHC 4-stroke single

Displacement: 349.7cc

Bore x stroke: 88mm x 57.5mm

Fuel: Super unleaded

Starting: Kick starter and electric starter

Engine lubrication: Pressure circulation lubrication with two Eaton pumps

Cooling: Water cooling, permanent circulation of coolant by water pump

Clutch: DDS Multidisc clutch in oil bath/hydraulically activated

Ignition Contactless controlled fully electronic ignition with digital ignition adjustment

CHASSIS

Frame: Central tube frame made of chrome molybdenum steel tubing

Front suspension: WP Up Side Down 4860 MXMA PA

Rear suspension: WP PDS 5018 DCC

Suspension travel front/rear: 11.81 in./13.19 in.

Brake system: Disc brakes, brake calipers on floating bearings

Rake: 26.5°

Wheelbase: 58.35±0.39 inches

Ground clearance unloaded: 13.58 inches

Seat height unloaded: 38.19 inches

Total fuel tank capacity, approx.: 2.25 gallons

Weight without fuel, approx.: 236 pounds

2014 KTM 350 XCF-W MSRP: $9499

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