This new KTM Freeride 350 weighs just 99.5kg/219lbs without fuel, which changes absolutely everything you thought you knew about dirt performance. That weight comes not from a kiddie-size mini dirt bike, but a street-legal enduro fitted with high-spec components like fully-adjustable, USD, 43mm WP forks. Together with all the other cleverness, that should open up the sport to more new riders and generally just make taking to the trails much easier for everyone. Of all the EICMA bikes, this is the one I’m most excited about.

A clever thing: the exhaust routes under the engine, but between the frame tubes, then out two exits within the width of the tail section. You’ll have to try very hard to damage that.

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 KTM Freeride E electric dirt bike. That common specification is no coincidence, this 350 and those electrics were likely developed together. Shared R + shared components = lower cost. No price has yet been set.

Another clever thing: the footpegs are mounted to an eccentric adjuster allowing you to move them fore and aft to alter ergonomics, traction and handling.

This is freestyle trials master Julien Dupont. Nice job hiring him for the Freeride's ad campaign.

The 350 four-stroke is in a fairly mild state-of-tune, developing just 23bhp. That’s no bad thing on a bike targeted at less experienced riders; maintenance intervals and intensity should be far lower than other more powerful, but also more high-strung KTM race bikes. More power should also be easy to find, each exhaust can contains a catalytic converter. Ditch that and you’ll save a healthy amount of weight while gaining appreciable power.

Yet another clever thing: a bar-mounted switch allows you to swap engine maps on the fly. This makes the bike simultaneously accessible to n00bs, responsive for faster riders and allows anyone to select good fuel economy or max power as needed.

KTM adopted a very practical approach to designing this bike. The seat is designed to be sat on over long distances, extra steering lock was built in for tight traffic or trails, contact patches between bike and rider have had their area maximized. The seat is a relatively low 35.2 inches, a height that keeps the bike accessible without making it too small.

Beginning with the 350 EXC-F motor, KTM engineers decreased the size of the airbox, swapped Ti valves for steel, ditched the kick starter, crank cases are now made from lighter die-cast aluminum. The result is lower power, but a healthy torque curve. Again, emphasis on the accessible. A new hydraulic clutch should have an extra-light throw.

The Freeride 350 isn’t designed to win an expert enduro, it’s designed to offer a less serious, more fun alternative without losing much in the way of capability. In making dirt riding accessible, it looks absolutely perfect.

comments powered by Disqus