Story and Photos by Kevin Novello
In terms of feel, the ’15 won’t feel any different from the 14, or the 13 for that matter. In fact, we could largely dust off the report we filed last year with a few exceptions – the first being the new jetting specs. We ran the stock set up and felt no need to change it. The 300 barks off the bottom with authority and doesn’t let up until it runs out of legs around 8500 RPM. From the first crack of the throttle the 300 rolls smoothly through the RPM range with an absence of flat spots. The jetting really is quite complete. We almost always tweak the jetting, but this time our 45 degree weather was a fine match for the stock specs. In fact, these are close to the same jetting specs that we ran most of last season on our race bike – a bit rich, but KTMs respond surprisingly well to this. No, you won’t foul plugs and the bikes won’t be blubbery – quite the opposite. The obvious caveat is that they drink fuel. For testing on leaf-covered trails, we kept the yellow power valve spring in there.
We ran the 300 through a variety of terrain that included tight loamy single track, some cart roads and a few hills with some neat off-camber sections. It’s no secret that the 300 has the most complete spread of power in the two-stroke lineup and is well suited to rumbling along through slimy, technical terrain or ripping from corner to corner. Where the 300 really shines is when the rocks and roots start protruding through the ground and when the terrain includes elevations changes. The 300 requires little shifting and even less clutch work; tractable power is always there for you, and when you’re ready to rip, just roll the throttle back and hang on! We described the 300 as the “best of both worlds” last year and nothing about this 300 changes that. It will rip from corner from corner with purpose and then chug down low in a way that leaves you thinking, “If there was only bike I could own, this would be it.” You need to be careful as the 300 can be a handful when ridden aggressively – especially with the red power valve spring inserted. It really is an excellent all-purpose eastern woods bike.
The only area the 300 isn’t quite as effective as the 250 is in terms of agility. Despite the modest, seemingly negligible difference in weight, the 300 just isn’t quite as a nimble and agile as the 250. This is not to suggest the 300 is cumbersome. It is not – in many areas it takes less effort to ride, but it does give up points when things get twisty. The 300 also peters out sooner than the 250 in the upper RPMs. But how often does that matter?
All that quickness and power are supported by a well-balanced suspension system that is comprised of smooth, open cartridge forks and a PDS shock. We ended up with both the forks and shock in about the middle of the compression settings. We ran about 115mm of sag on the shock and raised the forks to the second line on the fork tubes. We then increased the rebound slightly to handle the rough terrain. The forks are supple initially with a slight mid-stroke firmness – they were also brand new and needed to be broken in. The shock was surprisingly good. We took about two turns out of the high speed adjustment and were pleased with it. Overall, the suspension system inspired confidence throughout the entire pool of test riders. It’s plush enough to handle the rough terrain when crawling along yet firm enough to keep you going straight at a good clip. The 6.7 spring rate for the shock worked well with all but the heaviest test rider.
Other notable characteristics include a starter that easily starts with the bike in gear –which has not always been the case. We are all generally fans of the 20mm triple clamps for our terrain. The W was also fairly neutral in the corners, meaning it didn’t “over” or “under” steer the corners once we got the sag (107mm was about perfect) and fork height dialed in. Out of the box, the W turns quickly and tracks cleanly through the corners.
So what’s not to like? Nothing too significant; I do wish the W came with a spark arrestor as it’s always so annoying to have go buy one after plunking down a large sack of money for the bike. I am also less than enchanted with the Dunlop 81 tires in greasy, rocky terrain. The forks works well for their intended purpose but a fast rider will use all the travel when things open up. That’s less of a complaint and more of an observation as I wouldn’t change them.
The truth is that the KTM two strokes are so easily tunable that with just a little work, the average rider can get it working well off the show room floor. My ’14 XC-W was pretty much stock last year and I don’t see myself doing anything differently for 2015. Between the tunable motor, 20mm triple clamps and plush suspension, there’s little to fret about with the W line up. I will be riding another XC-W for 2015.
Here’s what the other test riders had to say about the 2015 XC-W 300.
I liked this bike! The 300 power is buttery smooth when you want it to be. My friend Raffy Peterson, said it’s like a 3 stroke and I have to agree. It’s got four stroke-like power but without the weight. The 300 doesn’t spin the tire quite as much and goes from point A to B with less effort. KTM has the jetting figured out, years ago that wasn’t the case. The suspension out of the box is impressive. They have the open cartridge forks really working well. The bike is impressive stock and needs very little. I liked the 300 the best out of all of them. You can tune it to have YZ like power or de-tune it the way you like. Overall this was my favorite bike of the four we tested (KTM Freeride, Husqvana TE 125 and the XCF-W 350).
Ability: Vet Expert
Great bike for the tight, slippery and rocky trails we were on. Suspension soaked up everything whether I was sitting or standing. The 6-speed had the right gear for whatever I was doing. I could ride this bike a gear high and just dab the clutch to get moving again. I could not get this bike to stall even if I crept around a slow corner without touching the clutch. Brakes were a perfect blend of stopping on a dime without locking up. The worse the conditions are the better this bike would be.
Ability: Sand Bagging Amateur/Head Case.
What I like about the KTM’s is that you can quickly tune the delivery of power any way you want to. Our test bike was tuned for an aggressive delivery of power, so it ripped. Had I wanted to tone it down, cranking in the power valve spring would have changed this quickly. This set up was quick like a 250 but with noticeably more bottom end lug. The suspension was plush and soaked up the trail junk. I’m starting to really like the 20mm triple lamp off set, it makes for a quick turning bike.