ASK THE MXPERTS: WHEN IS KTM GOING TO COME WITH AN AIR FORK?
Although my suspension tuner has done wonders with my KTM 4CS forks, I have to ask when KTM will step up to the air fork movement? I know that Andrew Short raced over the last two seasons with KTM’s air shock and air fork, but when will it come on the production bikes?
Immediately — if you live in Europe. All of the European-spec 2016 KTM SX models will be fitted with WP’s new air fork, although it is not internally the same as the air fork that Andrew Short raced with this year and at the Monster Cup last year. In fact, they are quite a bit different, with Short’s fork having multiple air chambers that allows the air pressures to interact against each other, while the 2016 Euro-production air fork is a simple single-pressure air fork. The 48mm air-sprung fork is a split-damping design much like the Showa and Kayaba air forks, but without the adjustable balance spring feature of TAC. The damping functions are on the right side, with the air spring in the left. The left leg features a capsuled air cartridge that is adjusted via a single Schrader valve. The right fork leg has the damping cartridge. This SFF-style fork will come stock on European models, but not in the USA, Canada or Australia—which will get the revised coil-spring 4CS forks. Since we have never tested the WP air fork, we cannot report on whether it is good, bad or typically WP. However, the big plus of all air forks, TAC, PSF-2 and WP, is the weight savings. The WP air fork weighs 3 pounds less than the conventional WP coil spring fork. That would ice the cake on the already lightweight 2016 KTMs. Saving that much weight on the frame, engine or wheels would be very expensive. Plus, air forks have less parts, come down the assembly line faster and cost less to produce (not that consumer would see those savings on the showroom floor). Thus, air forks, once they have enough development to overcome their limitation will become standard a feature on all bikes in the near future. The factory teams are filled with riders who questioned their air forks because of the way the air spring interacted with the ground in comparison to coil springs — and many returned to coil springs or switched to fork brands that don’t come OEM on that model. However, remember that air forks are by no means new. Yamaha had them as a production item almost 40 years ago and many enterprising local racers in 1975 and 1976 made their own air forks by drilling their fork caps and installing Schrader valves. The first of the modern-era air forks, Kayaba PSF, only lasted one model year on the KX450F and the Honda CRF450 before being replaced by updated air fork designs that were completely different. Obviously rushing into making air forks OEM equipment turns the consumer into a guinea pig. Oh yeah, we almost forgot, it is important to note that the best production forks on the showroom floors over the last decade have been old-school Yamaha SSS forks…and we mean “best” by leaps and bounds over SFF, TAC, PSF and PSF-2.