350 Words: Email XChange

350 Words: Email XChange

October 26, 2013 5:00am
Once again the America Online mailer demon has intercepted our dial-up transfer and stolen secret interoffice emails. And we were even running at 56k! This time it’s Jason Weigandt, Steve Matthes and David Pingree battling over the viability of KTM’s 350 SX-F.

Weege: You know what has quietly put together a pretty good month? KTM’s 350 four-stroke, the experiment everyone here in the U.S. wrote off as a failure two years ago. Antonio Cairoli hopped on a KTM 450 at the final GP and won it, but then decided to reselect his trusty 350 for the MX of Nations, where he promptly went 1-1. And remember, freaking 250s went 1-2 in the other moto. Sure, the Teutschenthal track seemed to work better for the smaller bikes, but the 350 scored another solid hit at the Monster Energy Cup, when Marvin Musquin collected second in the first moto on one. Don’t forget Ken Roczen has been up front in supercross each time he jumped on that bike, too.

We know, we know. Andrew Short and Mike Alessi struggled with the first-gen of that bike back in 2011. For vet riders, the 350 is a solid pick, but that rough first year really scarred the 350’s rep at the elite level. Is it time to revisit this topic?

Antonio Cairoli has had tremendous success on the 350 in GPs.
Ray Archer photo

Matthes: In a word? No. The 350 was the future, blah, blah, blah and yes while there is a market for the bike and I applaud KTM for all the things they’re doing these days the bottom line is that the 350 does not have a place at the highest levels of racing. “What about Cairoli and all his wins Matthes?” you say. And to that I raise an eyebrow towards the claim that bike is a 350. The GPs have very few rules when it comes to the bike so that KTM AC races can be any cc amount under 450 and I believe it to be somewhere around a 400 (like what Antonio rode when he raced a Yamaha). I have no proof of this, just visual conformation of watching the KTMs of Alessi and Short over here versus other 450s and then watching Antonio’s bike against 450s over there.

Regardless, there’s no replacement for displacement. Stamp that.

Weege: I really don’t think Musquin would have been any better at the Monster Cup on a 450, nor would Ken Roczen have been any better at the Seattle Supercross that he almost won in 2012… against, of all people, Andrew Short! Shorty was back on a Honda 450 at that one and grabbed his first career SX win by fending off his buddy who happened to be riding the same bike that almost did him in a year earlier. Ironic, that.

Back when Shorty and Alessi were trying to make the 350 work, KTM folks theorized that if a rider straight out of the 250 Class jumped on, still fresh with aggression and ready to rev and clutch the thing to the moon, he could be effective. By ’11, Short and Alessi had logged years on 450s, so they weren’t the right fit. I think we need to take someone straight from the 250 Class (ahem, Roczen and Musquin, who have both gone really fast on that thing) to know for sure if it can or can’t work. Might I add that the stock 350 has come along way on power in the three years it has been out?

Anyway, you do know that Shorty himself even has a 350 at his farm that he and his wife Jackie can rip around on? Even he still likes the bike. The 350 has come along way since it started.

Why don’t we ask someone who has ridden one. Ping?

Ping: I’ve ridden the stock 350 and 450 and the smaller bike has definitely come a long way since the first version. There is less torque from the 350 but a surplus of over-rev, a character trait that requires a certain type of rider. The biggest plus is the smaller, lighter feel of the bike. While it actually isn’t much lighter on a scale than its big brother, it feels like it is. I think it is a competitive option for the right rider. A lighter rider, maybe somebody who is shorter and doesn’t have the leverage of a taller rider to throw a bigger bike around, would be a good fit on the 350. The 450s have so much power these days that tuners aren’t trying to wring every last horsepower out of it, but rather trying to move it around and make it more manageable and useable. That means that at a factory level there shouldn’t be a problem getting the 350 numbers close to the 450. I have never ridden a factory KTM 350 but I’m sure it’s a bullet. And despite Steve’s skeptical viewpoint I think we can point to the scoreboard in GP motocross [as well as the MEC] and see that it does work, even at an elite level.

Marvin Musquin rode the 350 at the Monster Energy Cup and finished fifth overall, including a second in the first main event.
Simon Cudby photo

Weege: Suck it, Matthes. But for Ping’s sake, I hope the factory bikes have clamps that can handle casing a triple in supercross.

Matthes: Next up I’m going to hear all about how Ping was doing starts next to a 450 ridden by Tyler Keefe and he was winning on the 350… Oh wait, I’ve already heard all about it. Ping makes some valid points, I’m sure the new bike is better than the first generation model but all you have to know is this: When KTM was trying to get Ryan Dungey on the team they built him a brand new 450 to entice him and not one rider in three years has been signed to a 350-only ride. The proof is in the pudding, folks.

Weege: Hey did you know the actual phrase is “The roof of the pudding is in the eating?” You might like that. Anyway, I remain unconvinced, and the 350 could be a viable choice for a 250 rider graduating… Oh crap, Roczen already chose a 450 for Monster Energy Cup, didn’t he? Darn it!