At just 99kg/218lbs, this all-new KTM Freeride 350 is set to create a new type of dirt bike. Not only is this four-stroke’s weight roughly equivalent to the Austrian firm’s two-stroke 125 enduro, but it comes in a street-legal package fitted with high-end components like WP suspension and radial brakes. Think of it as the ultimate in accessible dirt performance, eliminating traditional barriers like high cost and high frequency maintenance and a focus on outright race ability at the expense of broad appeal. It’s headed to North America in 2013.
The Freeride achieves that extreme light weight by employing a hybrid steel tube/forged aluminum frame with a self-supporting monocoque tail. Think the Freeride name sounds familiar? That’s no coincidence. This is the exact frame and aluminum swingarm used by the upcoming KTM Freeride electric dirt bikes. That common specification is no coincidence, this 350 and those upcoming electrics were likely developed together. Shared R&D + shared components = lower cost. Come to think of it, it’s about time we heard something about those electric KTMs and the EICMA show is coming up next month...
This electric Freeride uses an identical frame, swingarm and self-supporting seat/tail.
Of this new Freeride 350, KTM says, “The aim was to create a bike on offroad wheels that could master the same challenges as a KTM EXC, but with significantly less effort and energy. So the Freeride 350 is a playful and feather light Enduro to really enjoy and no extreme competition machine.”
That’s not to say the bike isn’t capable, KTM addresses that fear by stating, “the Freeride 350 meets the expectations of a genuine KTM even during a hard ride on tough terrain.”
And discussing its potential market, KTM says, “the Freeride 350, available in Spring 2012, is an invitation to all those who have until now had no contact with this fascinating sport. Never has it been easier to get into riding an Enduro.”
And that seems like a currently unaddressed sweet spot in the market to us. Take me, for example. I’ve always dabbled in dirt bikes, but have never seriously pursued riding them on a regular basis. As a result I’m not what you’d call...good. I’d really, really like to get good, but there’s not a lot of a bikes out there that could help me. Smaller capacity KTMs aren’t road legal or would rattle apart even on short street rides, while the big 450s are simply too fucking scary. As someone new to the sport, the cost of getting involved is also intimidating. 40-hour engine tear downs add up. Small dual sports like the Yamaha WR250R aren’t quite as capable as I’d like while being tipping the scales at just enough weight (292lbs) to be intimidating on really difficult terrain (or at least difficult enough to scare this street rider).
Here's a quick performance comparison to other accessible dirt bikes. The three aren't exactly direct competitors as the KTM is more of an enduro than a dual sport, but this'll help provide context.
KTM Freeride 350
The light weight of the Freeride combined with an easy-to-use, flexible, low-maintenance four-stroke at, presumably, an accessible price and quality components just sounds perfect. Easy enough to get fast on and fast enough to ride hard once I am fast. Grant and Sean are snickering right now. If this Freeride is the bike I think it is, I’ll buy one as soon as it arrives on these shores.
That motor looks very, very similar on the exterior to that used by the KTM 350 EXC-F, but here makes only 24bhp and is equipped with two exhausts to bring down noise and emissions for the road. In comparison, the KTM 125 Duke makes 15bhp and weighs 282lbs. Returning again to the concept of sharing R&D, KTM has already gone through the expense and process of making this motor street legal and setting up production processes for it. With other 350s — the North America bound KTM 350 Duke and KTM Moto3 350 — on the horizon, it could make sense to share this motor across multiple platforms.