FIRST AND FOREMOST, WHAT’S ALL THE HUBBUB ABOUT THE KTM 85SXS?
A: KTM is a very brave and aggressive company. While the uncertain economy has restrained the impetus of other manufacturers, the Austrians have been forging ahead, continuing to invest in research and development—and their market share has grown accordingly. KTM is succeeding in a bear market because they are listening to consumers, addressing their complaints and meeting their demands. Their SXS program is a shining example of how tenacity and intelligent innovation can trump a weak market. Ask any serious Amateur National racer (or parent of an up-and-coming Amateur) and he will extol the benefits of KTM’s special SXS models over anything else on the showroom floor. Why? KTM has single-handedly changed the landscape of Amateur motocross racing. KTM uses high-performance, aftermarket parts on their showroom-stock mini bikes, and then produces enough of these machines to meet the AMA homologation limit, making them legal in the Stock class. It’s no surprise that every SXS bike manufactured sells like hotcakes. Imagine lining up at the gate on a bike with gigantic technological and performance advantages over the competition. Therein lies the essence of KTM’s wildly successful SXS line.
Q: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE 85SX AND THE 85SXS?
A: The Austrians have done a masterful job of continuing to develop their line of two-strokes, and the 85cc is no exception. The overhauled 2013 KTM 85SX engine boasts a more compact cylinder, with a 47mm bore and a more efficiently designed, centrifugally controlled exhaust valve. The chromoly steel frame and aluminum subframe have been tweaked for more precise cornering. Additionally, the WP suspension has been updated for better control and more comfort. The 2013 KTM 85SXS includes all of these upgrades, plus a few other performance-enhancing perks.
KTM and FMF have joined forces to create a pipe and silencer combo that significantly boosts horsepower. By how much? Sources say that the FMF pipe/silencer pairing adds 1-1/2 horsepower to the package. That’s a significant advantage.
The 85SXS comes with an ignition module that is critical to getting the most out of this powerplant. The module has advanced settings built into it. The timing has been changed, and the rev limiter has been set higher.
(3) Billet parts.
Like the 50SXS and 65SXS, the 85cc version is littered with orange-anodized billet parts. Yes, they increase the bling factor, but they also serve a purpose. The billet ignition cover (which is personalized by KTM when you purchase the bike), the clutch cover and case guard are designed to protect vital areas.
(4) Holeshot device.
There’s a reason every professional racer uses a holeshot device. It works. While unnecessary for concrete starting pads, a holeshot device is a must-have for dirt starts. KTM equips the 85SXS with a very nice PowerParts starting button.
If you’re going to spend an extra $650 on an 85SXS, you want to publicize the fact that you have one of the most sought-after mini bikes made. The sleek, in-mold graphics tell the world that you’re serious about racing—or at least that you’re serious about spending money.
Q: CAN THE 2013 KTM 85SXS BE RACED IN THE STOCK CLASS?
A: Heavens, yes! Why would KTM go to the trouble of building an extremely limited run of bikes and jump through all those bureaucratic hoops if the 85SXS wasn’t eligible for the Stock class? To meet the homologation requirements, KTM built several hundred of the bikes, many of which sold before they hit showroom floors. The 85SXS is a guaranteed seller because it gives a young rider a significant advantage in the mini wars. AMA rules allow for very few variations to a production motorcycle, but KTM found a way to skirt the issue. The KTM 85SXS can legally be raced in the Stock class with an aftermarket exhaust and advanced ignition. Ingenious.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES THE 2013 KTM 85SXS RETAIL FOR?
A: Most mini parents won’t think twice about plopping down cold hard cash for a 2013 KTM 85SXS; however, it is far and away the most expensive 85cc two-stroke on the market. It retails for $5999, or $650 more than a standard 2013 KTM 85SX ($5349). Of course, none of KTM’s 85cc offerings are cheap, especially compared to the competition. The next most expensive bike in the class, the Honda CRF150 four-stroke, retails for $4990; the Suzuki RM85 is $4149; the Kawasaki KX85 is $4049; and the Yamaha YZ85 is $3900. Unfortunately, these inexpensive bikes are outdated and desperately need updating. You get what you pay for.
2013 KTM 85SXS: Would you spend an extra $650 on a bike equipped with aftermarket trinkets, yet is eligible for the Stock class? Mini parents are speaking with their wallets, because MXA’s test bike was the very last one available. These things sell like hotcakes.
Q: CAN ANYONE BUILD HIS OWN KTM 85SXS?
A: Yes. It is entirely possible, not to mention relatively easy, to buy a 2013 KTM 85SX and slap on the PowerParts items found on the 85SXS. With a fair amount of money and a bit of elbow grease, a mini parent could turn an 85SX into an 85SXS, but, there is one major problem with this scenario. It is not legal to build an 85SXS from an 85SX and race it in the Stock class. Even if a cheater tried to pass off his SX as an SXS, the AMA would check the serial numbers and disqualify him.
Q: CAN THE KTM 85SXS BE TURNED INTO A BIG WHEEL?
A: Yes. This is a real advantage for riders contesting both the 85cc and Supermini classes. It’s possible to swap wheelsets between motos on race day with nary an issue. The 85SXS comes with a 17- and 14-inch wheel pairing, but the stock swingarm is long enough to house a 16-inch rear wheel. Clearance is not a problem.
The KTM 85SXS is a jack of all trades. It can be raced in the 85 Stock, Modified and Supermini classes. Yes, it will require an investment in larger wheels, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying another bike.
Q: HOW FAST IS THE 2013 KTM 85SXS?
A: According to our Munchkin test riders, the KTM 85SXS is the fastest bike in the field, bar none. It has an advanced-level powerband that caters to riders with a zest for speed. A shortage of bottom-end hit will stymie slower riders, and staying on the pipe requires judicious use of the clutch; however, these shortcomings shouldn’t come as a surprise. KTM is lauded for building potent engines bred for racing, so, naturally, the performance-enhanced 85SXS works best in the hands of faster, skilled riders.
Lightning in a bottle: The 85SXS has an explosive engine that, in the hands of a competent rider, rips around the track.
Q: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO RIDE THE SXS?
A: The best way to ride the 85SXS is to stay in the meat of the powerband and rev the engine to the moon. Slam the six-speed transmission into the next gear only when the engine is wound out, and howl with laughter as you blow by the competition. Test riders noticed that the SXS ignition module allowed the powerplant to rev slightly higher than a standard 85SX. This is a good thing.
Q: HOW DOES THE KTM 85SXS HANDLE?
A: We’ve long praised KTM for sticking with steel frames when many manufacturers were hopping on the aluminum bandwagon, but every manufacturer uses steel for its 85cc bikes (save for the very rare 2013 TM 85MX). So what makes the KTM stand out? KTM has continued to update its chassis, while other manufacturers have rested on their laurels—for years. As a result, the KTM 85SX is very nimble and handles like a modern bike. Test riders consistently described the handling as neutral and aggressive. They raved about how narrow the KTM felt, and even tall riders were pleased with the ergonomics.
Q: WHAT DO WE THINK ABOUT THE WP SUSPENSION?
A: The Dutch-built WP suspension came with settings that provided a good starting point for our faster test riders. The spring rates and valving specs were in the ballpark, so we were able to fine-tune the 43mm forks and PDS shock with just a few clicks. Very fast riders will notice that the thick fork stanchion tubes prevent flexing, providing a more stable feel in the front end.
Meanwhile, out back, the beefy shock reservoir can handle the heat of a long moto without fading. In the words of a tester, “I can heat up the shock in 20 minutes with every other bike. As a result, the rear tire feels flat at the end of a moto. I tried as hard as I could to overheat the shock on the KTM 85SXS but couldn’t do it. That’s awesome!”
Not extinct: The carburetor is king in the mini bike ranks. A Moto Tassinari VForce3 reed block comes stock. Very nice.
Q: WHAT DO WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
The Renthal Fatbars are a nice touch, but testers complained that the handlebar bend was uncomfortable.
(2) Supply and demand.
KTM sells their complete supply of 85SXS’ in short order, leaving many riders bitterly disappointed. KTM should up production quantities for their SXS line.
(3) Front number plate.
The 85SXS’ highlights are prominently displayed on the preprinted front number plate. It looks great on the showroom floor, but it renders the graphic useless on the track. We cut out the verbiage and kept the graphic outline.
Getting a leg up: KTM has done a brilliant job of meeting consumer requests by selling a race-ready bike that puts the competition to shame. Other manufacturers had better step up to the plate or else the 85cc class could turn into a sea of orange.
Q: WHAT DO WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
Our testers rated the KTM 85SXS number one in the powerband category. This engine rips and roars, especially with the different ignition and FMF pipe and silencer combo.
(2) Big wheel.
It’s nice to know that Junior can race the 85SXS in the 85cc and Supermini classes. The swingarm is long enough to accept a 16-inch wheel. Very cool.
The KTM hydraulic clutch is slicker than the non-caloric, silicone-based kitchen lubricant that Clark W. Griswold used to set the amateur recreational saucer-sled land-speed record.
(4) Stock class.
Imagine a mini bike that’s littered with aftermarket goodies and is still legal to race in the Stock class. That’s the KTM 85SXS.
The 85SXS is a mini bike, but it looks like a 125SX. We love the look of KTM’s line of junior motorcycles.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: Have you ever dreamed that you were in school, standing in front of the class giving a presentation, when you suddenly realized that everyone was laughing at you because you had no clothes on? The minicycle engineers at Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki must wake up in a cold sweat every night. The KTM 85SXS makes all the other minis look naked.
KTM Motorcycle tests