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KTM 350 EXC-F Long Term Update #7 | Back End | Bike Reviews

The seventh update for the ADB KTM 350 EXC-F long term test bike as printed in issue #456 - September 2017.

Hours: 44
Mods this month: Mapping, tyres
Mods next month: none

EVER HEARD THE saying as happy as a pig in mud? If not, let me spell it out. Pig loves mud. Pig gets to roll in fresh mud. Pig is very happy. That’s about where I’m at with the KTM 350EXC-F. In fact, I’m loving this bike so much I actually asked KTM if I could hang onto it for three more months. They said yes.

For the first time in nearly a decade working on ADB, I’ve found a long-term test bike that needs nearly no modifications. The engine, suspension and even the ergonomics are all standard, even the handlebar and handgrips.

Obviously I’ve opted for a set of graphics to keep it fresh, an orange sprocket because I just wanted it to look trick (I retained the standard gearing) and a flash seat, but that was just to fit in with the new Holeshot Graphics decal set.

In fact, the only performance modification I’ve made was to the ECU (see sidebar). I’ve fitted the optional map and traction control switch, plus an SX-F starter button but they are accessories that haven’t necessarily improved the performance, just made it easier to live with.

What’s impressed me most in nearly 45 hours of testing is the suspension. I’ve only used the 350EXC-F for trailriding and, for the first time ever, I have not felt the urge to tune the suspension to suit my riding or weight. The new WP gear is seriously impressive for a stock machine and, thanks to the compression and rebound damping adjustment on the top of the fork legs, tuning this bike is easy.

One of the first things people do when they get a new bike is slip a pipe on it. I say, don’t waste your time with the 350EXC-F. Since having my ECU adjusted, I do not believe I would gain anything by having a pipe. Sure a faster rider might get some benefit but, for the average trailrider, I don’t see the point.

There are some dealers offering $1000 worth of KTM parts when you buy a 2017 machine. So, if I had $1000 to spend, here is where it would go. The PowerParts traction control and map switch, not because it significantly improves the bike but because it’s fun to play with and the adjustability helps in suddenly changing conditions.

And to suck up the rest of the coin I’d select items prone to wear and tear, such as sprockets, a chain, plenty of oil and air filters, ’grips, lubricants, levers and anything else you think you might break or wear out. I’ve just slid on a set of Pirelli Scorpion Mid-Hard rubber so stay tuned to see what we think next issue.

Torquing Fuel

I’D BEEN EXPERIENCING a little bogging and flaming out when low in the revs and blipping the throttle. I had a few moments where I caught the handlebar in the guts as the bike stalled and my body did not. So I was keen to stop this without spending big bucks on a new ignition or exhaust system.

I decided to send my ECU to Rex Fleiter from Fuel Torque in Qld as I’d heard he had a solution. It took less than three days to unbolt the ECU, mail it to Rex for adjustment and get it back.

The gains Rex found are huge! My 350EXC-F feels twice as strong, but still has that mid-cap accuracy and balance. So just what does Rex do?

“The 2017 bikes appear to be a little lean, the long fuel range suggests this, so I richen it up a little.” Rex said. “In basic terms I richen the base fuel map across the entire rev range, but it is tailored to the riding conditions for each rider. This can be adjusted for race or trailriding situations.

“It doesn’t take long to upload the map. However, it takes weeks of testing to build it.”

On a four-hour ride with the altered ECU my bike only bogged once. There’s mountains of useable power right through the rev range. I don’t think I’ve felt a 350 this strong. It’s incredible.

According to KTM’s Rob Twyerould, ECU mapping is always a compromise with differing fuels, regulations and conditions around the world, so the manufacturer has to cater for a bunch of different scenarios. A savvy tuner armed with the UST (User Setting Tool), KTM’s tuning tool, can make gains in throttle response, by better matching the fuelling requirements to local conditions.

It’s an easy fix that even your dealer might do, providing they have the right software. Remember they’re low on fuel, so let the thing drink!

Editor Mitch Lees