Radiator fan required
What’s new in 2023?
The KTM 300XC-W has not received any updates this year other than the looks. XC-W models continue to use TPI (Transfer Port Injection) fuel injection instead of the new throttle body injection introduced on off-road and motocross models. Why? “Smooth” and “usable” are the buzzwords here. The new 300 XC and 300 SX have more bark, while the XC-W has more control, enhanced feel and tractable power for off-road terrain.
It retains oil priming, with the frame mounted oil tank and oil pump, and using data from engine RPM and TPS, you always get the exact amount of oil delivered. With an average fuel-to-fuel ratio of 1:80, you’ll get about five tanks of fuel out of the tank. This is a wide ratio 6-speed transmission manufactured by Pankl Racing systems. The clutch is a DDS system, using a large diaphragm spring instead of multiple coil springs. Light action and ideal engagement.
All XC-W models feature a high-tech, lightweight chrome-molybdenum steel frame. This includes hydroformed elements produced by state-of-the-art robotic welding. They have kept their race-proven geometry, but by redesigning certain areas, stiffness has been optimized to give the rider better feedback and increase stability. On the KTM 300XC-W TPI frame, the engine is lowered 1 degree around the swingarm pivot for better front wheel traction.
It matches the newly designed transverse frame guard with improved grip and serves as a heat protector for the right muffler.
A few years ago they reinforced the exhaust by using a 3D stamping process that produced a ribbed surface finish. This makes the pipe stronger, better resistant to rocks, and helps reduce noise. The aluminum muffler is compact, long and fairly quiet. It has no spark arrestor.
Suspension is WP front and rear, no link PDS in the rear with KTM system. The XPLOR fork received a valving update last year and keeps the focus on the trail by changing the damping easily at the top of the fork. The WP XPLOR PDS shock features new internal bushings for less fade and better wear. Of course, maintenance is a breeze without the low-slung linkage shocks, and ground clearance is better.
The clamps are forged with four-position adjustability, the handlebars are Neken, the grips are ODI, and the brakes are Brembo. KTM outfitted the 300 with machined wheels, Giant rims, and this year Dunlop MX33 front tires and AT81 rear tires. It is equipped with a dual air filter with convenient side access. The lithium-ion battery and ECU unit are located under the seat.
The 300XC-W is packed in a compact and focused package. Dunlop MX33 and AT81 fit front and rear, the chain is an o-ring unit and the sprockets are of good quality. Ergo-wise, it’s tight for tall people, but the handlebar clamps have great adjustability, and there are better, taller saddle options for riders who need more legroom . No need to worry about Brembo brakes; they are the best in the business.
Ok, let’s start testing
Instant gratification at the touch of a button. The clutch pull is fairly light, and the power is very smooth down low. It’s strong in the low end, with a very linear and rich midrange, but sometimes a bit flat on top. To counteract the flat feel of the top and ends, we recommend checking your power valve adjustment. KTM seems to be running the regulator all the time, which puts extreme tension on the springs and doesn’t allow the valves to open, resulting in a stale, soft feel when you open the throttle. Our aggressive test riders pulled the adjusters back to the flush position, which allowed for maximum hit while maintaining the 300 lugs and lugs. The 300XC-W is impossible to stall. You can basically experiment with a machine without it stalling, or worrying about a four-stroke stalling.
The expansion chamber is strong and will take impact. The KTM has a terrific electric start system, a nice plastic skid plate that’s easy to remove, terrific footpegs and a side stand that tucks in nicely.
With TPI, we still love oiling. We’ve put over 200 miles on one tank and it’s not even halfway there. Fuel mileage is very good, and in the past we have found the TPI to have better fuel economy than some of our four-stroke test bikes. No matter the abuse, the clutch on the Austrian machine features zero fade and precise engagement. With a push-pull throttle cable, it does make the throttle a bit stiff, which is a big disappointment. We also regret the lack of a spark arrestor and starter. There is an option to fit one on the XC-W, but that would add hundreds to an already pricey motorcycle. On a side note, for three years we’ve only needed a button to start them.
The wide-ratio transmission is welcome in all off-road conditions. First gear is an extreme enduro low gear for crawling, while sixth lets you cruise at speeds over 60 without accelerating the machine. The biggest game changer is still the balance motor. No other two-stroke comes close to being so smooth.
Neken bars, DI grips and a sturdy flag-style handguard looking at the cockpit. The headlights work surprisingly well. The fuel tank holds 2.4 gallons and has a stimulating gas cap.
XC-W chassis remains the same and retains PDS and no links. Speaking of the new XC line having a stiffer chassis, it will be interesting to see if this reduces the handling of the bike for the average rider. Having said that, the XC-W chassis is compliant, with a light feel and good maneuverability. We are fans of the PDS system for several reasons. Maintenance is plain yogurt, as it takes less than a minute to remove the shock. In terms of performance, there are no linkages hanging on rocks and logs, and the bike turns quickly, post-purchase.
It starts to feel a bit loose as speed picks up and the rear end tends to ride high on the downhills. In both cases, the linked bike feels better by staying lower and less responsive to high-speed feedback.
All WP fork adjusters are on top, And within easy reach for curbside changes. The oil fill port is located above the air cap; pour in the injector oil slowly, as it fills up quickly and makes a mess.
The XPLOR fork has an open design and its joy is speed Slower off-road operations and technical obstacles. This year it seems to hold up better through the stroke than it has in years past, and is aimed at riders up to 170 pounds. Thicker than that and you need to increase the spring rates front and rear. We like that the fork adjustments are tool-free. We have few complaints about the XPLOR shock, and mid-size riders can adjust the sag with the standard spring rates (100–104mm). It gets a little loose at speed, but does pack rough terrain. We’re not big fans of the Dunlop AT81 rear tire in dry conditions. The tires seemed to keep lighting up and spinning no matter what tire pressure we were running. The MX33 front is great and a better choice than the old AT81. Brembo brakes are at the top of our list, and we’re glad KTM didn’t switch to the Braketec units used on Husqvarna or GasGas.
The KTM has ribbed chambers to make the damage-prone pipes more durable, the rear shock has no linkage, and there is no kickstarter or cooling fan. We haven’t needed to start any of the 300s we’ve tested since 2019, but we’ve cooked them up.
We really like the little details on the XC-W, such as Quick access air filter and easy access transmission oil drain plug. The half-turn push-button fuel cap can be a bit annoying if it behaves stubbornly, and the cap was prone to leaks on previous models, so be aware of that. ODI locking handles are standard equipment and our favorite. Down low, the pegs are nice and sharp and the platform is wide. Digital trip meters are great devices that keep track of miles, hours, speed and clock. We’d like to see the cooling fan standard, as it comes with the four-stroke enduro model. Bikes boil over in extreme conditions. Another nod is the stock skid plate. While thin and plastic, at least the bike comes with one, as well as flag-style handguards. Headlights and taillights are always popular with trail riders, and the lights work well with adjustable lenses. Finally, we need bigger brake pedal tips. You need a needle-nose foot to find the brake pedal, and it’s super easy to miss.
Has the development of the 300XC-W TPI machine come to an end and the new throttle body injection system will appear on the XC- and SX300? Most likely yes. But, for now, for dirt bikes with a passion for the compact stuff, for rough and smooth all-around juice, the 300XC-W is not just better than most, it’s the best.