Is the 2024 KTM 350 EXC-F better suited to trailriding or racing? We test the latest mid-cap machine to find out.
For years we’ve been saying the 350cc capacity is the best all-round trailbike motor. It produces plenty of usable power for any size human without the dangerous inertia found on bigger bikes. Any time I’ve been asked what’s best for a good trailrider I’ve typically just told them to buy a KTM 350 EXC-F, you can’t go wrong. That might be different for the 2024 KTM 350 EXC-F.
For a trailrider looking at picking up a MY24 KTM, I’d still suggest the 2024 KTM 350 EXC-F but for the first time in over a decade, I’d actually suggest the 2024 KTM 350 EXC-F for racers too. Sure, you’re giving up 100cc to other riders on 450s in the E2 class but the MY24 KTMs are now more powerful than ever so the 2024 KTM 350 EXC-F is closer in power to a 450 than it ever has been. The new motor is complimented by a firmer, closed-cartridge fork which makes it safer at race-pace too.
While the MY24 350 EXC-F is more powerful than its predecessor according to KTM, (we haven’t got one on a dyno in Australia yet), it’s not an out-of-control power, like you’d find on the 350 SX-F if riding in the bush. The power doesn’t hit hard off the bottom. You can pretty much keep it in any gear you want and rev it or lug it. If you’re a decent trailrider you shouldn’t have any problems. It may not pull the torque you need in the sand at Finke doing 180km/h but for the majority of trailriders the torque in every other scenario is enough.
For MY24 the chassis engineers positioned the engine closer to the centre of gravity which has made the 350 EXC-F even better balanced. This was achieved by tilting the engine two-degrees backwards and repositioning the front sprocket 3mm lower. KTM claim the engine weighs 28.8kg and pumps out over 51hp, that’s an awful lot for a mid-capacity machine.
The suspension for MY24 is firmer than previous years which, depending on your trail speed, might make for a slightly more uncomfortable ride than last years’ 350 EXC-F. An all-new 48mm WP XACT Closed Cartridge fork finds its way onto the 350 EXC-F, with a new mid-valve piston concept. Typically, closed-cartridge forks in standard trim seem to be manufactured a little firmer than open cartridge systems but that’s not to say an open-cartridge system can’t be firm without some modification.
The downside to the new suspension as a trailrider is that making changes is a little harder. A lot of people didn’t think making changes to the separate functions on each fork leg in the previous generation 350 EXC-F really made that much of a difference on the old open-cartridge system. I felt like the changes were noticeable and there was more room to play with the open-cartridge system. Plus it was easier because everything was at the top of the fork legs for the rider to make changes.
For most trailriders not familiar with precise suspension tuning, this is key. On the new fork you can adjust, the rebound and compression via hand-adjustable clickers on the bottom of the fork shoe and on top of the fork cap.
Purchase the map switch, flick it to Map 2 and rev the tits off this thing and most mere mortals will hit warp speed in no time. While it can be lugged for trailriding in tall gears, the MY24 350 EXC-F is more electric than ever and can still be raced hard against 450Fs. The power is controllable but still so strong all the way through the rev range. That power combined with the narrower frame on the 350 EXC-F makes riding this as easy as the 250 EXC-F is but with the kind of power that makes it stand on its own.
It has way more over-rev than a 250F and finds power in the middle of the revs, something 350Fs in the past have struggled a little with. While the motor can be ridden hard for a racer, any motor can be ridden hard enough to compete I guess. That’s not what makes the MY24 350 EXC-F a good racer all of a sudden. It’s the new suspension, especially the mid-valve and hydro stop.
The mid-valve optimizes the oil flow within the cartridge for fast, consistent damping characteristics and avoids any unwanted foaming of fork oil that can lead to an unwanted change in the damping characteristics. It holds the stroke up so well in the mid-part when the old model would start to blow through when hitting braking bumps. It feels firmer through the ‘bars but not harsh.
The new hydro stop works in the last 68mm of the stroke and helps to keep maximum compression in reserve when tackling big obstacles like steep drop-offs. If you send it off an erosion hump, you won’t get that clunk from the fork going metal on metal if you’re a bigger bloke. The oil does the final bit of work and makes for softer bottoming-out. That’s good news for racers holding it pinned and sending it off ski jumps! The fork protection rings have been updated, too, with a new design that stops grime getting in your seals.
Overall, the total fork length has increased from 928mm to 940mm, while the stroke has increased from 292mm to 300mm. The longer travel just helped the fork from bottoming out when tackling things at race pace.
The MY24 KTM 350 EXC-F still runs the WP XPLOR PDS shock but it’s pretty much all-new. It’s a different size and weight (overall length has been decreased to 402.7mm, compared to 415mm in the previous generation and the stroke has decreased from 105mm to 102.7mm, with a 380g weight reduction) with a new piston, bearing seals and more. The shock felt a little firmer but I actually liked the old shock so I didn’t really notice a significant improvement.
One thing that was improved for racers in the rear-end is the ease of adjustment. Unlike the fork, which is now harder to make small changes, the WP XPLOR PDS shock now comes with adjustable hand clickers, allowing riders to change settings on the fly without the need for any tools. Compression is adjusted on top of the shock, rebound on the bottom. Preload can also be adjusted for rider weight and preference by opening the securing ring with an Allen key and tightening or loosening the rear shock spring.
MORE RACEY THAN EVER
After chatting with ADB’s Enduro Editor, Geoff Braico, when he returned from the MY24 Husky launch I asked him if he thought they were more racey? His answer was an emphatic, yes! In fact, Braico, a multi-time AORC class-winner and International ISDE veteran said he could almost race the new suspension and motor on the MY24 Husky range straight out of the box, and the same goes for the KTMs.
They’re firmer, more powerful and more agile than they have been in the past making them even better for racing. Some might think the changes across the entire range would make the 450 EXC-F even faster too, making the 350 EXC-F redundant as a racer but I’m yet to find a person outside of Toby Price who can hang onto a 450F at the same pace as they would a 350F.
The MY24 350 EXC-F is still a great trailbike but for those racers who used to want a little more from their mid-cap, KTM have given you the solution.
Type Single-cylinder, four-stroke
Bore & Stroke 88mm x 57.5mm
Starter Electric starter
Clutch Brembo hydraulics, wet, DDS multi-disc clutch
Tank capacity (approx.) 8.5-litres
Front 260mm disc
Rear 220mm disc
Front WP XACT-USD 48mm, 300mm travel
Rear WP XPLOR PDS shock , 310mm travel
Ground clearance 347mm
Seat height 963mm
Tyres Maxxis MaxxEnduro
Warranty Six months
WORDS | MITCH LEES
PHOTOS | SEBAS ROMERO