KTM 144SX – An Owner’s Review
When I first heard about KTM’s “New 144cc 2-stroke Motocross bike,” I didn’t think much of it, other than that it sounded really cool. I got my first taste of one at a local race, and I wasn’t even riding it!
A local A rider had been riding it and was keeping up, and passing, 450 four strokes…. I knew the rider was well-experienced, but to keep up on a tight track with a small-bore 2-stroke is hard enough. After I saw the damage that this bike could do, I was determined to get my hands on one, even though they often cost more than the average Japanese bike…
Let’s just say I was in love the day I bought my very own ’08 KTM 144SX. It was literally a dream come true, except for the fact that it pretty much destroyed my piggy bank. Oh well, it was worth it. If you think 2-stoke motocross bikes are dead, you better wake up and ride this bike.
Where do I start? It’s not a Japanese bike, which has thrown people off because they have a “distinct” feel and layout to their bikes, while KTM has a different set up. It really did not take long to adjust to this all-new bike, and in fact, it only took a couple rides for the 144SX to feel like home. That usually doesn’t happen on a big bike, considering I am only 5’6” (168cm).
The ride height was a bit high for me, but I could easily adjust the sag settings. Overall it wasn’t too far off from the modern ‘Jap’ bikes that I’m used to.
KTM’s suspension hasn’t been up to par in the past. After riding the 2008 144SX I can tell they put a lot of work into this department. It was a little on the stiff side for me, but I only weight 135-140lbs. I don’t think I ever bottomed out, even on the harshest landings, so that’s a plus! It didn’t do anything I didn’t want it to. Braking bumps were not a problem, and if you want to go through a rut, it’ll do that too without making you want to stand up. The only thing I really needed to do to make the suspension set-up for my racing is a few clicker adjustments and possibly softer springs, otherwise it worked great.
I couldn’t help but notice how light-weight this 144SX is when I lifted it up. This explains why it’s so easy to maneuver the bike in almost any situation. While riding this bike it reminded me of the CR125 I had because it handled so well. If you want to go somewhere, just point and it will do it. It can hit an inside rut, rail an outside berm, and scream down hills without hesitation. KTM knew what they were doing when they built this bike.
And now to the part that you’ve probably been waiting for….. No, I KNOW you’ve been waiting for. It’s no secret that KTM wins this category on almost every bike they make, and being a big bore from the factory, the KTM 144SX/150SX on the top of many two-stroke lovers lists.
Let’s just say that you shouldn’t need to modify the engine…… or anything that can give you more power. If you think you need a faster bike then you’re either a pro rider, or….. well….. you like looking at numbers. Now lets get to the point. Bottom-end power is nothing to brag about, but 125’s aren’t meant to be lugged around anyway. You’ll know when it hits the mid-range, because that’s when the 144SX starts to wake up. Whack that throttle wide open and hold on for the ride of your life. You’ll know when you get on the pipe because the power is unlike most 125’s.
It’s not unrideable like some 2 strokes, but it has enough power to do what ever you want, and plenty of it. The power-band is a little peaky combined with its tall gearing, and over-rev is great if you don’t want to shift into the next gear right away.
I was simply amazed at the pure horsepower it made, and how much power it put to the ground. There was a dyno test with this bike and KTM 250F, and the 144SX took home the trophy for peak horsepower, as well as being very close to putting out the same amount of torque. All I can say is, if you keep this sucker on the pipe, get out of the way because there’s not much that can stop this bike.
Aside from having the best engine in its class, excellent handling, and great suspension, it’s still not “THE BIKE” to get for everyone. It does have its drawbacks, but then again, what bike doesn’t? I knew going in that buying an Austrian bike would cost a little more. So, when it comes to rebuilding these KTM’s, especially a 144SX, parts aren’t always as easy and cheap to find as it would be for a YZ125.
There are other things about the KTM 144/150SX that make it unique; it’s really easy to work on some parts of the bike, but others you just ask yourself, “Why in the world did KTM do that?!?!”
All in all this is an excellent race bike, and can be used by a young rider coming up from 85’s that still wants a 2-stroke, an A class rider that likes a 2-stroke motocross bike to whip around on, or a vet rider that’s looking to re-live the glory days on a really fast and lightweight dirt bike.