On a seemingly relentless quest of continuous improvement, the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F is a nearly all-new motorcycle this year with a fresh chassis and significant motor upgrades. With the loss of the 250 EXC-F, the 350 is now KTM’s “entry level” dual sport motorcycle. While you might not think of a KTM EXC-F in those terms, the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F makes itself available for a wide range of riders looking for a dirt bike that happens to be street legal. Let’s dive in.
1. Taken from KTM’s off-road competition motorcycles, the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F’s new frame offers flawless handling. KTM upped the stability of the 350, and managed to do that without pummeling the rider. As the junior member of the KTM dual-sport line, as far as displacement and power, the 350 will put the fewest demands on the chassis. The result is handling that is precise without being edgy. Putting the motorcycle where it needs to be on the trail is entirely intuitive, and that’s about the most important thing a chassis can accomplish. The additional stability is welcome when the engine is allowed to sing, and it’s a happy short-stroke revver.
- KTM made countless small chassis adjustments, all of which add up to an easier motorcycle to ride. For instance, new engine cases move the crankshaft closer to the center of gravity. That helps in maneuverability, yet it’s a specific change that is difficult to single out. A new lithium-ion battery cuts high-mounted weight. Also carried high is cylinder head weight, and KTM responded by updating the design, dropping seven ounces in the process, as well as improving port flow. Forward weight has been lowered via the dropping of the new, more-efficient radiators by nearly a half-inch. Again, I can’t say I feel that particular change, but the cumulative effects of the chassis enhancements are undeniable. The exhaust system is more compact, enhancing mass centralization, increasing performance, and making maintenance easier.
- New bodywork, seat, and tank make the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F easier than ever before to move around on. For me, the big change in the bodywork is that my right Sidi X-3 Enduro boot no longer gets hooked up in the plastic. Otherwise, the 350 EXC-F feels exactly like a competition motorcycle. The seat is excellent for trail riding, as long as you are not sitting too long. On a freeway drone ride back from a riding area, the seat eventually became unbearable. However, when out on single-track dodging branches and rocks, you can move around on the 350 at will.
- While the motor changes on the 350 EXC-F aren’t revolutionary, they conspire to make for a better dual-sport motorcycle. Flow improvement was the focus, with the aforementioned porting improvement, which works in concert with the new airbox, velocity stack, and exhaust. A new piston works with a shorter cylinder to up the compression while maintaining a broad range of power.
- The powerband is vast, and the 350 motor is especially non-threatening. If you are looking for absolute power, you’ve come to the wrong place—make a beeline for the 500 EXC-F. Instead, the DOHC 350 pulls controllably from the bottom and has a wonderful overrev. Even with the blocky-not-knobby Continental TKC 80 tires—employed for bureaucrat-pleasing quietness rather than off-road traction—the 350 motor never spins up without warning. There’s no hit in the smooth power, and the torque curve feels lovingly gentle. Although the 350 engine is corked up for emissions and sound, KTM turned that into an opportunity to produce a motor that is undeniably user friendly. This isn’t a race motor—it is a tremendous dual-sport power plant.
- On single-track trails, you will be singing the praises of the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F. At 251 pounds with the conveniently semi-transparent 2.2-gallon tank full of high test, the 350 EXC-F is at your beck and call. Tell the chassis where you want it to be, and it obliges without delay. This makes it possible to enjoy long off-road rides, as fatigue is kept at bay. The tires never do anything unexpectedly negative, and they find traction where you will think they shouldn’t. The confidence transferred to the rider by the 350 EXC-F is impressive. Be sure to remove the cumbersome mirrors—they’ll get hammered immediately. Also, an extension of the rear subframe helps keep the license plate and lights where they belong.
- Although the WP Xplor suspension has been massaged to run higher in the stroke this year, it is still pleasant on technical trails and doesn’t get deflected by rocks. Most importantly, the WP suspension doesn’t draw attention to itself. It gets out of the way and lets you do your thing on the 350 EXC-F. Plenty of adjustment is available, so it can be dialed in to the preferences of all but the widest outliers. Some will be unhappy about the lack of linkage, but the Progressive Damping System takes care of business while reducing maintenance and increasing ground clearance.
- You’re never fighting the 350 EXC-F, so you can ride as smoothly as the motor. The Brembo clutch feel is light, and the front end can get lifted and placed as needed. Racer-types will turn their noses up at the lack of bottom end hit, and KTM has the 500 EXC-F there to keep them content. The 350 EXC-F satisfies those who want to go at a good clip confidently, but don’t try to ride as if they’re in a competitive environment.
- Fire roads are also great fun, as you can let the 350cc motor spin up as needed. Once you get used to the traction limitations of the TKC 80s, you can settle into a good rhythm. Feel free to steer with the back end as you see fit, and squaring off a corner when necessary, keeping in mind the front tire’s traction capabilities. When the road straightens out, acceleration is insistent up to about 60 mph or so. Just as it shines on the technical terrain, the Pankl six-speed transmission is flawless.
- Desert riders and long-distance dual-sport riders will want to go with the 500 EXC-F, or the equivalent open-class model from other brands. Although it will run at over 70 mph, the 350 EXC-F isn’t all that happy doing so. The smooth motor becomes buzzy and fatigue-inducing. Keep freeway runs to a minimum, and remember that the seat works better when you stand frequently.
- Dual sport bikes have specific braking needs, and the KTM 350 EXC-F satisfies them. Braking on pavement at freeway speeds is quite different from slowing down on a slick off-road downhill. The Brembo hydraulics and Wave rotors make it happen with a light initial touch to keep traction, yet enough grip to stay safe at speed. Never did the braking system call negative attention to itself, and the rear brake works well in concert with engine compression braking. ABS is nowhere to be found, apropos of the 350’s almost exclusively off-road focus.
- As long as a new rider is comfortable with the 37.8-inch seat height, the 2020 KTM 350 EXC-F is a fantastic first step into the dirt-oriented dual sport world. The motor, handling, suspension, and ergonomics couldn’t be friendlier. It will hook any new rider into the dirt-bike-with-lights genre. The street legality is about tying together trails, rather than the ability to use the 350 EXC-F as a commuter motorcycle—you don’t want to do the latter. The secret bonus is that with the infusion of some money, the motor can have considerably more power extracted from it. That makes the 350 EXC-F a great first dual-sport motorcycle, as well as your upgrade path. Sure, the KTM 350 EXC-F is a premium entry-level motorcycle at $10,999, yet its wide-ranging potential makes sense for a buyer willing to cut to the chase.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Shoei VFX-Evo
- Goggles: Fly Racing Zone
- Pants and jersey: Alpinestars Supertech
- Gloves: Alpinestars Techstar
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
2020 KTM 350 EXC-F Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder
- Displacement: 350cc
- Bore x stroke: 88 x 57.5mm
- Compression ratio: 13.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4 valves
- Starting: Electric w/ Lithium-ion 12-volt 2 Ah battery
- Lubrication: Pressure Lubrication with 2 Pumps
- Fueling: Keihin EFI w/ 42mm throttle body
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multi-disc DDS clutch w/ Brembo hydraulics
- Final drive: 5/8” x ¼” chain
- Frame: Central double-cradle chromoly steel
- Subframe: Aluminum
- Handlebar: Neken aluminum
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable WP Xplor inverted 48mm fork; 11.8 inches
- Rear suspension: Linkage-free fully adjustable WP Xplor shock w/ PDS; 12.2 inches
- Wheels: Giant
- Front wheel: 21 x 1.60
- Rear wheel: 18 x 2.15
- Tires: Continental TKC 80
- Front tire: 90/90 x 21
- Rear tire: 120/90 x 18
- Front brake: 260mm Wave disc w/ Brembo caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm Wave disc w/ Brembo caliper
- ABS: None
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.3 inches (± 0.4 in)
- Rake: 26.5 degrees
- Triple clamp offset: 22mm
- Seat height: 37.8 degrees
- Ground clearance: 14 inches
- Fuel capacity: 2.2 gallons
- Curb weight: 251 pounds
2020 KTM 350 EXC-F Price: $10,999
2020 KTM 350 EXC-F Review Photo Gallery