MXA’S FIRST WEEK WITH THE 2015-1/2 KTM FACTORY EDITIONS

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fe106We know it might be a little cold where you are, but it has been in the 80s in SoCal this week — perfect weather for riding brand-new bikes.

Before we start, it is important to understand where the concept of the Factory Editions comes from. In the Good Old Days next year’s bike were not released in August, September or October of the year before. If you wanted a 1973 Maico, you had to wait until 1973 to get one. They didn’t come out late in 1972 and certainly not in the middle of the summer of 1972. Much like a bottle of milk—if they said 1973 on the inspection plate, they weren’t on the showrooms until 1973 rolled around. In fact, all the way through the 1980s, the biggest selling month for new models was April of the year on the frame number. Then, the men in the front offices realized that if they could get the 1985 model out in December of 1984, they would get a jump on the other manufacturers and sell some extra bikes to Sun Belt racers and people with Christmas money to burn. Pretty soon those December releases became November of the year before, then October, then September. And that is where the motorcycle industry took a stand. Thus, the 2016 bikes will most likely hit the showroom floors in September of 2015. At least for the vast majority of racers.

fe107Someone always gets to be the first man to ride the latest greatest machine and this time it was Dennis Stapleton. Here he flies the 450SXF Factory Edition over LACR on Wednesday.

MXA has always gotten next year’s models much earlier than the now standardized September release date. We will start seeing next year’s bike as early as April and start getting some of them by June or July. MXA gets the bikes early because most manufacturers want to have the bikes and the MXA bike tests hit the consumers at the same time. It’s good business to have magazines full of new bikes at the same time as the new bikes are at their newest.

fe108Okay, Dennis wasn’t the only man to be the first on a Factory Edition — Daryl Ecklund got to be the first to ride the 2015-1/2 KTM 250SXF Factory Edition. How deep into a berm can one man get?

When Roger DeCoster went to KTM, he remembered the AMA rule about what constitutes a production model. It is a simple rule — to be eligible to race in the coming season, there must be 400 units available to the public to buy. Thus, a manufacturer can only race a bike when, and if, it produces 400 production bikes to sell to the public (although there have been manufacturers who didn’t meet this requirement in the past—but they slipped through the AMA’s iron grasp of their own rules). With Ryan Dungey willing to join Roger at KTM in 2012, Roger knew that he needed a brand-new, race-ready, 450cc machine ready and waiting for Ryan. Roger asked the powers-that-be in Austria to fast track the 2013 KTM 450SXF. All Roger needed to get Dungey to join him at KTM was 400 of next year’s bikes.

fe103Former AMA National Pro Casey Lytle moved over from the Red Bull race team to product development last year — and the Factory Editions is his first baby. He came along to make sure that everything went well.

All credit to KTM. They said they could do it. And thanks to typically lax AMA rule writing, Roger didn’t really need 400 of next year’s bikes before the first Supercross of 2012—he only needed about 20 of them. Roger says that he could never find an actual rule that required him to have 20 bikes before the season started, but he thought it was one of those nebulous AMA rules that we call “pocket rules” — because its doesn’t exist in the rule book, just on a slip of paper in some AMA official’s pocket. Making life easier for KTM was the fact that the AMA rule only required the 400 bikes, in the form of VIN numbers, to be on the showroom floors by June 1 of 2012. That meant that Dungey could race the complete 2012 AMA Supercross season before the 400 bikes were available. That rule was tightened up to now read; 200 bikes by March 1 and 200 more by June 1— but it still meant that KTM could race with the 20 bikes, while the consumer waited for the 400.

FE101KTM’s Tom Moen and MXA’s Dennis Stapleton discuss some setup ideas, while, in the background, Husqvarna’s Andy Jefferson and Daryl Ecklund firm up their plans to have Ecklund race the World Two-Stroke Championship in April for Husky. On Thursday at Glen Helen you can find half of the motorcycle industry.

It might appear as though KTM has found a loophole in the rules that allows them to race a “works bike” for the first half of the 2015 season, while every other manufacturer is on last year’s bikes. That’s not true. KTM is not bending the rules. There is nothing stopping Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kawasaki from taking their 2016 models, producing enough bikes to meet the AMA rule (and the pocket rule) and doing the same thing as KTM. In fact, they have had four years to copy KTM’s Factory Edition idea —they just aren’t interested. KTM is.

fe102The MXA test riders changed the race sag from 98mm to 108mm, with stops all along the way. This is the point where we made the measurement — from the rear edge of left number plate (we suggest you do the same).

Now, we are on the fourth rendition of the “Factory Edition” — and this year there is 250cc version to go along with the 450SXF. At this moment, there are 40 Factory Editions in the USA (20 of each displacement). These bikes are set aside for the race teams to use and one of each size goes to MXA. These 40 bikes have VIN numbers and are counted as part of the 400 required units, but KTM will make approximately 450 of each size of the Factory Editions. The consumer bikes are on scheduled to start hitting the showrooms, where all of them have already been spoken for, in a couple weeks.

fe104MXA’s brand-new Factory Editions aren’t so new anymore. We put 4 hours on them at Glen Helen on Thursday (with four test riders). This hour meter mounts between the front number plate and the triple clamps.

For the MXA wrecking crew, getting our 2015-1/2 KTM 250SXF and 450SXF Factory Editions has been a long road. MXA went to the KTM factory in Mattighofen, Austria, in September of 2014 to see the Factory Editions being R&D’ed (and you can see all the photos that we shot of the prototypes in the March issue of MXA right now). Although we knew everything there was to know about the new Factory Editions for almost six month now — we were sworn to secrecy until the actual new model introduction in December of 2014 and now, in February, we have received our test bikes.

fe105Our plan is to rest the bikes today (Friday) and then race the 450SXF Factory Edition at REM on Saturday (with three different test riders), ride the 25oSXF at AV Motoplex on Saturday (with John Basher, Daryl Ecklund and Dennis Stapleton) and go to Milestone on Monday for more testing with KTM. But, before we left Glen Helen we changed the oil and oil filter. Once we feel we have a handle on the new bikes, that is when we will start testing in earnest.

We know that you want to know all the facts about the new machines — and we do also. But, MXA doesn’t test bikes in one week. We have a long road ahead of us, and after only a couple days of riding, most of that time spent trying every possible clicker, sag, map and balance setup, we only know a small portion of what we will learn in the weeks and months ahead. We will be as thorough as always. And, in truth, MXA’s interest in the 2015-1/2 Factory Editions isn’t so much on these 450 units, but on the future. Because later this summer KTM will be releasing the 2016 KTM 250SXF and 450SXF production — based on these Factory Editions. We aren’t downplaying the importance of the Factory Editions though. They are watershed bikes in that they are next year’s bike today – and a marketing coup that will be remembered for the foreseeable future. But, they are all sold. Unless someone drops off the list, it would be very difficult to walk into a KTM dealership and get your name on the 2015-1/2 Factory Edition list.

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To learn more about the KTM Factory Editions, pick up the March 2015 issue of MXA. It reveals all of the secrets behind KTM’s development of the Factory Editions. Including photos of KTM’s prototype aluminum frame, plastic swingarm, adjustable head angle chassis and much more.

 

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