Days in the office don’t come much harder. This year’s KTM enduro model launch was definitely a ride on the wild side. Heading to the Transylvanian mountains, knowing that the Red Bull Romaniacs course directors were to be our guides, we expected the worst - and we pretty much got that.
The pain in my shoulder, the sensitive elbow, the aching back, they’ve got just days to recover before the next launch. The bikes I broke, well… KTM had less than 24 hours to sort those out before the next group arrived for their torture test.
The riding was suitably epic and so often you only went where you did because the rider in front did first. That plan didn’t always work. On one huge rock step we wasted the plastics, an engine case, an exhaust and a radiator over six bikes. A few hundred yards later another big smash saw a man down and KTM’s ever-resourceful R&D guru ‘Barni’ Plazotta bandaging both rider and bikes. It didn’t stop there, in fact it didn’t stop until we reached the hotel at the end of the ride shortly before 7pm - nearly ten hours after we set off. An authentic extreme experience? Certainly.
And the stars? Easily the 350EXC. It had the measure of the terrain even given the most unskilful of rider inputs. The extra punch it has over the 250EXC-F was very telling in this environment, not necessarily where you’d expect (on the climbs) but batting its way through some of the treacherous slimy rocky stream beds.
The 200EXC also impressed. I’m getting to think this model is very sensitive to its jetting. Sorted by KTM for the 1500-3000m altitude, it was running on the rich end of the spectrum so was nicely torquey and easy to ride. Much better than previous years when we’ve ridden the 200 with probably a lean set-up that seems to just snap your arms out of their sockets. Lean, the 200EXC is like a hyped-up rabid 125.
I liked the 250EXC too, the power valve changes did seem to make a difference, it felt easier to control - even more like a 300 - and its super-light footwork was much needed in the tricky conditions. The others? Well, bike rotations were a problem on this launch as there were obvious favourites for this kind of terrain and getting a fellow journo to give-up a hot ride was damn near impossible.
Consequently I got lumbered with the 500EXC for longer than I cared for. It’s an awesome bike and is pretty good even in this going - but only up to a point. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve damaged a KTM in a decade of their launches but I did it good, as KTM will attest. And that liquid metal, why that’s great stuff, eh?
When we finished I ached, and even my aches ached. The small gash across my nose will heal, the tightness in my shoulder should wear off soon. But I appreciated the ride, I was tested. And the revised graphics for the 2015 bikes - I like them much better than the graphics on last years bikes!
I like the look of the Six Days model even more, and looking at the spec on those, and given the small price premium they ask, I’d be seriously considering one of those - and it’d be the 350 for me.
Yeah, the 2015 testing season is now officially open, pass the Ibuprofen… Jon Bentman