Kind of like those confusing Academy Award Best Picture nominations, in which year-old movies are often lumped in with newer releases because of some weird cutoff date, the 2013 KX450F was our best dirt bike pick for 2012 because of its early availability in Kawasaki dealerships last year. Surprise, or not, it also happens to be our top pick for 2013.
The 450F’s fuel-injected DOHC motor delivers awesome Open-class punch right at the first hit of the throttle, with amazing tractability and excellent throttle response, and its generous power curve is also easily adaptable to various tracks via Kawasaki’s swappable ignition coupler caps, which can alter the power character to suit the rider’s needs. Meanwhile, KYB’s 48mm Kayaba Pneumatic Spring Fork (PSF) contributes to the 450F’s excellent suspension package, which can efficiently handle any style of bump likely to be encountered on the track.
Combine these great attributes with a forgiving aluminum perimeter chassis that is both stable and willing to carve corners while offering excellent ergonomics and strong brakes, and the 2013 KX450F survives to earn our Best Off-Road honors for the second straight year. No Best Picture winner can ever claim that!
Best Dirt Bike Honorable Mention: 2013 KTM 350 XC-W
We could just as easily have thrown Kawasaki’s excellent KX250F in our Honorable Mention slot and been happy with the choice, but we wanted to give props to a true off-road machine, and the KTM 350 XC-W fits the bill perfectly.
Based on the 350cc engine package that factory riders Antonio Cairoli, Taddy Blasuziak and Charlie Mullins have used to dominate the ranks in their respective motocross and off-road disciplines, the XC-W’s fuel-injected, short-stroke, DOHC Single delivers snappy, high-revving Open-class power without being brutish like many of its 450cc peers, making it an excellent choice for riders stepping up from a 250cc machine or for mature Open-class riders looking for a more user-friendly motor.
All that sweet power is wrapped in a chassis that delivers the desirable attributes of a lightweight 250cc machine. Precise handling and a rail-thin layout make it easy to conquer all kinds of uncomfortable off-road situations that might be a chore on a 450. Featuring WP’s open-cartridge forks, CNC-machined billet triple clamps and a linkage-less Progressive Damping System (PDS), the 350 can handle the ruts and rocks on the gnarliest single-track trails in the universe.
The KTM 350 XC-W is capable of winning a National-level off-road competition right out of the box. So what’s not to love?