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By: Jason Giacchino

November 2007 - Off The Pegs

A Few New Contenders

If you’ve taken a moment to follow the recent adventures of Austria’s KTM, then you’ve most certainly noticed an explosion of late.  The company has really made a name for itself in the off-road ranks, dominating the two-wheeled market for the past decade.  Already known for having the most engine configurations of any manufacturer in the known Universe (as well as one of few companies holding strong and continuing development of two-stroke mills), it appears our European friends have finally taken notice of the powersports world beyond.  Supermoto, performance street bikes, race cars, mountain bikes, and quads have all appeared on KTM’s “To Do” list.  Also, if past efforts are any indication, KTM will not compromise on any of these fronts.

Of course, we here at ATV Source are most directly connected to the quad efforts at hand.  In fact about five years ago there was talk among those in the industry alluding to the potential of slapping a KTM 520 4-stroke engine into a 250R Walsh racing chassis.  Apparently the quad was off the hook in terms of handling and usable power, but KTM wasn’t yet in the mood to consider ATVs at that production level.  Something happened between then and now that changed their collective mind; and if we were to venture a guess, it was probably a result of the newly-born 450 class.  KTM is nothing if not extremely competitive, and suddenly there was a new test of might in town.

In addition, their rocky road collaboration with Polaris caused many to speculate an interest in the quad market.  Released as 2008 models, KTM has dropped two stunners on an eagerly awaiting performance ATV industry; the 450 and 525XC.  While the 525 is going to appeal to desert riders, trail bums, and weekend warriors everywhere, the 450 is going directly to the front lines to do battle against Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Can-Am’s entries.  Like the Kawie, the KTM will come with reverse.  Other box-stock options include Maxxis Razr tires mounted to Douglas aluminum rims, Magura hydraulic discs all around, Ohlins suspension, and a tether cable/ kill switch.  Considering this modification is mandatory at most sanctioned racing events around the globe, it’s great to see that KTM is paying attention to the little details that constitute a stock machine’s race readiness.

Interestingly, riders who wish to experience the KTM way of doing things will have a few other choices to pick from in 2008. Polaris, never a company known for following the traditional path, has decided to end production of their 500cc Predator sport quad in favor of a bunch of Outlaw models that will have stock KTM power plants. Nothing against the oft-heralded Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) equipped model, we’re particularly excited about the two straight axle (shock and swing arm) versions of the 2008 Outlaw. Again, like the KTM models, these bad boys will be offered in 525 and 450cc variations. The 525 will be slightly more trail-friendly with 20-inch rear tires, and 21-inch fronts, while the chassis and spec sheet are otherwise identical to its 450cc sibling.  The Outlaw 450MXR, like its KTM cousin, is focused on the highly competitive 450 class and brings some interesting features to the table: Electric start, reverse, Maxxis Razrs all around, hydraulic clutch, steel-braided brake lines, and Fox suspension components.

We often discuss the simple truth that these are great days to be involved in ATV racing and the manufacturers only continue to back up these statements with their production lines.  In case you’ve lost count, this means that there are now seven 450cc race quads on the market for 2008.  In what used to be considered the glory days of ATV racing (in the late 1980s) there were only three 250cc models to choose from.  We’ve more than doubled that figure, and it appears the manufacturers are just getting started.  Plus, and in taking a cue from other forms of competition equipment, the days of squeezing twenty years out of a model without changes are long gone.  Expect tweaks and component variations for each model year in an effort to get an edge over the competition.  Exciting times indeed; about the only negative to this turn of events is that indecisive purchasers (I’m not mentioning any names) really have a lot to consider.  I guess it’s true what they say--when companies compete with each other for our business, we all win.

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