This article talks about which KTM dirt bikes are the best.
Let’s start with a little history on KTM, for those who do not know KTM is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. Located in Austria they have been making dirt bikes since around 1992.
For years KTM made mostly offroad enduro dirt bikes and was not considered a mainstream dirt bike manufacturer in the USA for years.
The Austrians just didn’t get any of the prestige here in the States because they didn’t have a motocross or supercross bike. They really didn’t have very much success early on but at the time motocross and supercross were the benchmark of how good your bike was (Nothing to do with the rider wink, wink).
This was even the case for the hardcore offroad dirt bike rider. A ton of the offroad guys would take a full-fledge motocross bike and try and make it into an offroad bike that you could ride. This meant taking a 450F motocross bike and trying to make it work offroad…..this, in my opinion, didn’t work out that well. The suspension, chassis, gearing, and the motor weren’t set up for riding offroad let alone technical singletrack.
KTM makes a slew of quality dirt bikes but what dirt bikes are the best of the best in KTM?
I know this might be subjective and it all depends but I want to talk about the KTM dirt bikes that made the MOST impact on the world and KTM.
Below in this article, I will talk about what I feel is the best KTM dirt bikes ever made.
Table of Contents
Very Best KTM Dirt Bikes Made (Spolier)
- KTM 300 – 2 Stroke
- KTM 450F – 4 Stroke
While well known in the enduro single track world…
It wasn’t until KTM started winning more motocross and supercross races that they become a household name.
There are two dirt bikes that I feel really put KTM on the map in terms of becoming one of the big 5 dirt bike manufacturers (Was the big 4 in the early 2000s).
Early 2000s big 4 dirt bike manufacturers.
There is one dirt bike made by KTM that really made KTM what it is today. This is one of the best two-stroke dirt bikes made.
The KTM 300 two-stroke!
This dirt bike alone put KTM on the map so to speak. The 300 two-stroke is a legend within the enduro and offroad dirt biking world.
Known for hitting huge tractor low end the KTM 300 2 stroke is the ultimate hard enduro weapon. In fact, most professional hard enduro riders prefer the 300 two-strokes over the 4 strokes.
In the early ’90s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KTM_300) KTM got serious with the 300 motors that had great low-end RPM but did not rip your arms off in the mid to top end.
This 300 powerband made for the best trail bike known to mankind.
The longer KTM kept it in their lineup the more popular it got. While really popular in Europe, over here in the states, the 300 was slowly gaining popularity.
In fact, when the big 4 dirt bike manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) decided that they wanted to push 4 strokes onto the market in the early 2000s it caused a decline in the sales of 2 stroke dirt bikes overall. The top motocross racers were riding 450 four strokes and no longer racing the popular 250 two-strokes. Overall us two-stroke fans thought it might be the nail in the coffin for manufacturers.
Slowly one after another every one of the big 4 dirt bike manufacturers (besides Yamaha) dropped the 2 strokes from their lineup.
4-Strokes were the future.
At this time KTM wasn’t considered a major player here in the USA as they were mostly just considered an enduro dirt bike manufacturer and not a motocross/supercross contender.
However, KTM did not drop their 2-strokes from their lineup up. In fact, all of a sudden KTM decided to add an electric start to their 2008 KTM300 XCW bikes.
This started to get them a bunch of attention that they didn’t have before. No matter if you rode motocross or offroad usually KTM wasn’t the first choice.
But…..this all started to change. Slowly everyone in the offroad industry which turns out that more people ride offroad than motocross started to buy or ride these KTM 300 electric dirt bikes.
KTM didn’t give up when everyone else did. They continued to pour more money and research dollars into their XC and XCW 2 stroke lineup.
They started to get all the suspension, frame, motor, and brake updates of its motocross 4 stroke brothers.
Fast forward to 2023 we now have a KTM fuel-injected oil-injected counterbalanced 300 2 strokes.
KTM has built the lightest and most sophisticated 300 two-strokes on the planet.
I feel like the KTM 300 really is what saved KTM and allowed them to be now considered one of the best dirt bikes manufacturers on plant earth.
In fact, KTM has pushed its 300 motors into its cross country and enduro lineups.
Best KTM 300 dirt bike lineup:
- KTM 300 XCW
- KTM 300 XC
What other KTM dirt bike put them on the map?
One of the best KTM dirt bikes is the KTM 450SXF…
Let’s back up a little bit. Like I mentioned earlier KTM wasn’t really well known in the motocross or supercross world. They did have some success but lots of the pro riders didn’t like the PDS suspension setup.
It wasn’t until KTM made a bold move and hired “THE MAN” Roger De Coster. Roger was the head honcho over at Honda, Suzuki, and then KTM. With Roger as the team manager, he and his teams won a ton of supercross and motocross races and championships. In his day Roger was one of the best 500cc dirt bike riders and won A LOT.
In 2011 Roger De Coster joined KTM as the Team Manager for the RedBull KTM team.
At the time KTM was asking their pro supercross riders to ride a KTM 350SXF dirt bike when all the other supercross factory teams were on 450Fs.
When Roger joined KTM the rumor is that Roger only would join them if they switched from the 350F to a 450F. Also, they would need to agree to re-design the 450 dirt bike with linkage instead of KTM’s PDS rear suspension.
Whatever the influence we started to see a new KTM 450 bike every year. Lighter, more power, better power, better suspension, electric start, and more advancements.
Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki would normally release a new 450F every 2-4 years.
KTM would release a special edition with a limited run of 400 dirt bikes. This allowed them to race their new bikes in supercross.
Pretty soon KTM won its very FIRST 450 Motocross race and also 450 Motocross championship.
This also lead to multiple 450 Supercross wins and 450 championships.
Roger and KTM build one of the strongest 450 teams in the industry. The KTM450SXF is one of the best KTM dirt bikes to date.
All the Best KTM 450’s:
- KTM 450 SXF
- KTM 450 XCF
- KTM 450 XCW
KTM has pushed the 450 motors across all of its dirt bike lines. It’s in their XCF which is a closed course cross country race dirt bike. They also have the 450 Motor in the XCW which is a hard enduro race dirt bike.
The KTM 450 and the KTM 300 are the two best dirt bikes to be built by KTM.
Where they are always as good as there are now (2023)
But KTM didn’t give up and really built the company off the back of the KTM 300 and the KTM 450.
The hard enduro world rode the KTM 300 to multiple championships but more importantly, the everyday single track rider felt like a champion riding the KTM 300 in the technical singletrack.
While the KTM 300 and the KTM 450F are different dirt bikes and are used in completely different dirt bike niches. Both had a MAJOR part in making KTM what it is today.
These are the best KTM dirt bikes because of the impact they have had on the dirt bike world.
KTM continues to be a leader in the two-stroke dirt bike world and the four-stroke dirt bike world.
In fact, I credit KTM with saving us from the decline of the 2-stroke.
For quite some time they were the only manufacturer really producing a high-quality updated 2-stroke. Yamaha just slapped new graphics on their 2006 model and call it a 2023 model.
I would like to see other dirt bike manufacturers setup up to the plate and build high-quality 300 or 250 two-strokes. One with a counterbalanced motor to get rid of the vibration. It’s gotta have electric start….as it’s no fun trying to kick your bike on the side of a mountain.
I know that companies like Beta, Sherco, and GasGas all have been trying to cash in on the two-stroke revolution. To be quite frank I love it. The 2 stroke motor is one of the simplest easiest-to-work-on motors in existence. More importantly, 2-strokes put a HUGE smile on my face and that’s the most important thing to me.
Let’s hope that KTM continues to lead the way with the 2 stroke revolution and that we continue to get 2-strokes and 4-strokes that are ready to race.
As I mentioned the above article is my opinion on what I feel are the best KTM bikes in the KTM’s stable.
Do you agree or disagree with me?
Let me know in the comments below.