Mark Stenberg has had the long term KTM 350 EXC-F for the last month and talks first impressions, riding thoughts and second opinions. Review by Mark Stenberg
With the Bike Review KTM 350 EXC-F arriving for an extended stay and testing, I had a few initial impressions, even before taking the bike out for the first test ride, with the 350 going on to impress with some minor tweaks within standard settings.
First up, the KTM Orange colour is either brighter or my 2016 model has faded! The switch blocks have also improved compared to my older 500, including having a separate starter button to the on/off/kill switch, as the older unit does have a history of failing.
The seat is smoother and less grippy than my 2016 Selle Dalla Valle (a KTM seat cover accessory) and doesn’t have the “step” available as an accessory from KTM Power Sports Catalogue. Another noticeable difference is the air cleaner cover will be a little harder to remove without a tool, and while a horn is provided, like mine it should be directly connected to the battery so as to be audible at all times irrespective of ignition.
The rear hanger for ADR approval was also too long and was half torn off by contact with the rear tyre on the second ride, and has since been shortened to just below the number plate, but that comes down to KTM meeting the ADR requirements and is an easy fix at home in the garage. A kickstart is also missing, which may be a sticking point for some, but personally in four years with one on my KTM, I’ve never actually needed it…
So onto the actual ride. My first time in the saddle was a two kilometre bitumen ride, which was actually amazingly smooth, to my surprise. The only difference with my ‘sand truck’ 500 EXC-F is the 350 has Maxxis and tubes versus Pirelli Scorpions and Mousse tubes.
Mousse tubes are essentially an inner tube replacement with a honeycomb structure that ensures punctures aren’t a concern – particularly important when you’re out having fun and don’t want to get stranded or spend ages replacing a tube. However, KTM don’t want us to fit them, leaving us open to punctures. While on this point, on dirt both combos work well, however after 225 kilometres the rear Maxxis is already looking tired.
When it came to having some fun and testing out the 350, all rides were predominantly tight single track, the first being at the Pines in the Wattagans, NSW totalling 1.6 hours and 33kms.
My first impressions from this ride were positive, with the engine proving strong, with more power and torque than I’d expected. In comparison to my 500 the handlebars were too low and too far back for me, while the stock suspension settings needed adjustment, with the forks bottoming out.
An auto retract side stand was also annoying, no doubt intended to prevent people from taking off with the stand down! Luckily KTM does give you the choice with a simple collar on the side stand bolt. With the collar fitted it automatically retracts, remove the collar and you’ve got a common sense side stand!
So after my first proper ride, in summary, if this were my bike and paid for by me, I would have been happy from my initial impressions, with plenty of room for adjustment among the standard settings.
I did take advantage of that, making a number of changes after that first ride, to address some of the issues mentioned above. This included making the side stand non-retracting, and adjusting the handlebars, which I moved and also rotated forward.
My second ride was at same venue two weeks later and consisted of 1.6 hours and a 39km loop, where I instantly noticed that the handlebar adjustment seemed to make a big difference to my mental and physical comfort. The 350 EXC-F felt great and much better than the first ride.
This time there were no negatives worth mentioning, while the engine power and torque were really satisfactory, with me using the same gears as on the 500, with bit of clutch on the gnarly bits.
What was highlighted as excellent traits was the bike feeling light and nimble, with very good steering and turning. The hydraulic clutch is also very light and engages early, making it a joy to use. I checked static sag which was spot on at 35mm, while the sag was 117mm, rather than the ideal 110mm with my 94kg weight, which I put on the list to alter when I had time.
The third ride was 100km and over three hours, at Letter A at Kulnura, still in the Wattagans, and this time there was just a few minor adjustments made to the bike.
These included adjusting the gear lever up one notch, and adjusting the suspension. The rear end was too soft, with not enough rebound, so I added two clicks compression and two clicks rebound, which just needed the flat blade screwdriver in the toolkit. On the front end, which was a little hard, I took off one click of compression, which can be adjusted by hand. I also had to straighten out a slight bend in the gear lever when I got home.
So after over eight hours and 225km in four enduro outings, the 350 EXC-F continues to improve and impress, not only me, but also my regular riding crew, the hard to please Dirty Boys, who’s second opinions you’ll find below.
If there is a question mark about the bike it may be the new light weight battery. It failed in the garage (luckily) and after the third and fourth rides needed recharging, but the bike did start with a hill start on the first occasion.
Overall the 350 EXC-F has exceeded expectations and proven a great machine, and it’ll now be heading to Tony ‘Pommie’ Wilding for further testing, with some genuine KTM accessories also to be fitted to the bike, check out the list below.
– Mark Stenberg
KTM 350 EXC-F Second Opinions
The 350 EXC-F is a great bike, being both user friendly, with amazingly linear power delivery. The front end is incredibly nimble, with much better turn in than my 2014 model, and the bike finds traction where there isn’t much available. The 350 suits beginners to advanced riders alike, and is the bike to have to learn on.
While the engine is linear, it’s also a bit dull in stock form, and really needs an exhaust pipe to liven the bike up. My 2014 is punchier and more exciting thanks to a full system. The 350 also sounds like a muffled two-stroke when you are on the rev limiter. Other areas of note were the standard bark busters and the stock seat being slippery, and could do with a thermo fan as standard fitment.
– Levi, 36, 66kg, rides a 2014 KTM 350 EXC-F
The 350 was a pleasant surprise, my expectations were that it would be quite a bit less powerful and maybe feel a bit lighter than my 2014 500 EXC. It turned out to be more powerful than I expected and quite a lot lighter feeling. The bike doesn’t have the low down grunt of my 500, but surprised me with what was there, and when it came right down to it, if you used a few more revs, the effect was much the same, with good, snappy and controllable power.
The biggest impression though was the way it felt to throw around. Light and agile, with a very precise feel on the single track. Just the sort of bike you want to be on at the end of the day, when the energy levels are dropping. I’ve had a 525 EXC, then the 500 EXC, and have been very set on the 500 capacity. Would I consider the 350 instead for my next bike? Yeah, maybe. I’d certainly like to try the 350 again.
– Brett, 47, 82kg, rides a 2014 KTM 500 EXC-F
The 350 EXC-F has sufficient power to do everything you want it to do, but you need to be ready to be a bit busier on the gears than if you are coming from a bigger bore bike. The bike really wants to turn in to corners and the smaller engine really makes itself noticeable here. The smaller 350 also doesn’t punish you as badly for making mistakes going into and out of corners like a 500 can!
The bike will also be comfortable and familiar to both KTM and Husky riders, and while it sounds a little bit dull, to someone on a 500 with an FMF, it just needs an exhaust I reckon. Overall the 350 EXC-F really is a do it all bike, and this is the bike that beginners and intermediates really should be looking at, if they can afford it. In fact I think in hindsight that I should have gotten a 350 as my first bike.
The 350 EXC-F has the agility and power to keep up with everything else, but it doesn’t want to punish you for sloppy riding, and after riding it, I will definitely be taking one out for a test ride when I replace my bike next year.
– Ed, 37, 110kg, rides a 2015 Husky 501
Wow, the 350 EXC-F feels lighter off the stand than the last two-banger I owned! While lacking the outright punch of its larger siblings, it’s certainly no slouch. Get the 350 revving and you have everything you need to go very, very fast, yet calm enough for a beginner to purchase and never ‘need’ to upgrade.
I felt immediately at home on the 350 and easily rode the same the pace as I normally would. The suspension was excellent and only required a couple of clicks to get near perfect! At the end of a long ride or race, the bloke who chose this little gem will still be setting lap records, while everyone else is loading their bike for the trip home.
– Rob, 43, 100kg, rides a 2017 Husky 450.
KTM 350 EXC-F Modification List
As we write this update, we’ve just had a care package arrive from KTM for our Long Term 350 EXC-F, with a number of accessories that have been on our wish list included.
- Anti vibration handle bar brackets
- Traction control switch
- Bark Busters
- Thermo fan
- Sump guard
You can check out the full range of KTM PowerParts on their website.