The KTM 350 dirt bike models are quite a bit different, so how do you know which is best for you? Or maybe you shouldn’t even be considering one…
Either way, you’re in the right place if you want to know what kind of bike the KTM 350 is, why it may or may not be right for you, and what to expect when buying and riding one.
What is the KTM 350?
It’s a 350cc liquid-cooled 4 stroke Enduro bike, which is basically a high-performance trail bike. The engine is based on the motocross race bike, but there are a few different models for the KTM 350 that are tuned slightly differently.
Who’s it for?
Depending on which model you get, which I’ll cover the differences in a minute, the KTM 350 is great if you’re an adult that’s at least 5’8” tall and want a 4 stroke dirt bike with aggressive characteristics for racing, trail riding, or dual sport riding.
Is it good for beginners?
If you’re riding on the road or easy and flat gravel trails, you might be able to handle one, but for the most part, I do not recommend buying a KTM 350 if you’re a beginner or just getting back into dirt bikes after 20+ years for a couple of reasons.
The 350cc 4-stroke engine has a lot of power, so if you start riding in the woods or on tight and technical trails, it’s very easy to grab too much throttle and have the bike jump out from under you – I hear about this happening way more often than I’d like.
If you’re a complete beginner or want a trail bike that will help build your confidence faster, then I highly recommend starting on a dirt bike that’s made for beginners – they’re cheaper, easier to ride, and easier to maintain.
350 EXC-F vs SXF vs XCF vs XW-F
- EXC-F: Street legal dual sport with power tuned down and softer suspension – full lights and plate for road and dirt riding
- SX-F: Motocross bike with the lightest and most aggressive power and suspension package
- XC-F: Cross-country race bike with close ratio transmission and stiffer off-road suspension
- XW-F (replaced XCF-W): Enduro bike with wider ratio transmission and slightly softer suspension with headlight/tail light
KTM 350 vs Husqvarna 350 vs Gas Gas 350 – is there a difference?
Since KTM bought Husqvarna and Gas Gas within the last several years, many of the dirt bikes between these two companies are very similar, and their 350cc dirt bikes are no different.
Other than the different colors of plastics, there’s very little difference between each brand’s 350 – Suspension components, airbox design, and other minor parts to slightly affect the price (Gas Gas is typically the lowest MSRP out of the 3 sister brands.
KTM first came out with the 350cc size dirt bike in 2011 to bridge the gap between a 250F that’s slightly underpowered for bigger or more experienced riders and the 450F that’s too exhausting to handle if you’re a weekend warrior. It’s a liquid-cooled, 4-valve, liquid-cooled engine that has decent torque at low RPM, but still likes to be revved high like a 250.
What to expect when riding the 350
The 350 EXC-F is the smoothest and tamest engine out of the 350 models, but even it has some “snap” to the throttle response, making it harder to control and more exhausting if you don’t have proper riding technique and good throttle control.
With that said, once you get into the midrange RPM, it really starts to pick up acceleration and pulls hard almost to the rev limiter around 12,000 RPM, which means it has a broad power curve, but you have to get above 4,000 RPM to get into the meat of the power – lower than that and you’ll feel it “chugging” and begging to downshift so that you don’t flame out/stall.
The KTM 350 SXF and XCF are very similar when it comes to the engine package – they both make about 50 rear wheel horsepower at just under 9000 RPM, according to Dirt Rider’s dyno, while the EXC-F model makes about 35 HP – yes it’s about 15 HP less than the other 350 models.
Why is the 350 EXC-F so underpowered compared to the SX-F & XC-F models?
Even though the engine platform is essentially the same as the MX and enduro race bike engines, the EXC-F is a dual sport motorcycle, which means that it’s street legal, which also means there are much stricter requirements to be legal.
This forces KTM to “choke up” the intake, engine, and exhaust to meet EPA and/or other regulations to make it legal to sell in every state or country.
Can the EXC-F be “uncorked” to be like the SXF and XCF?
While it’s much easier to start with a race bike if you want all that power, maybe you want the street legal benefit of the EXCF – then yes, you can modify or upgrade certain parts to bring that 35 horsepower up close to 50 HP.
The main things you need to uncork your KTM EXC-F 350 are:
- Tuning or replacing the ECU/ignition – Athena Get (Amazon)
- Better flowing exhaust (Amazon)
- Euro air boot
- Smog block off kit
Why HP doesn’t mean much
If you’re a trail rider like me, you’re not going to use half of the horsepower 90% of the time because you’re only ¼ to ½ throttle and in the midrange of the RPM, which means that most of us could get away with a 20 HP trail bike.
Unless you have the experience and skill to keep the RPM in the 7000-10000 RPM range, the low-end and midrange torque numbers are much more important because that’s where most of us spend the majority of our time while trail riding on single-track trails.
If you’re racing motocross or high-speed off-road courses, such as desert/hare and hound, then the peak horsepower is necessary.
Much like peak HP numbers don’t matter, dirt bike top speed doesn’t mean much unless you’re drag racing or holding it wide open in the desert. With that said, depending on which KTM 350 model you choose, the max speed is about 70 mph on the SXF (MX bike) model and about 90 mph on the EXC-F (dual sport) model.
A simple gearing swap will change the top speed and acceleration of your dirt bike. For example, going to a smaller rear sprocket (Amazon) will increase the top speed while losing a little bit of acceleration – a good compromise for dual sport riding if you want to cruise at a lower RPM and don’t need a really low 1st gear.
There are 4 KTM 350 dirt bike models with slightly different transmissions. The wide-ratio transmissions have gears that are spaced further apart, making each gear more usable (less shifting), while the close-ratio transmission has gears that are closer together.
This makes it easier to keep the power in the meat of the RPM range and have better acceleration as you’re upshifting, but it also requires more frequent shifting.
These are the KTM 350 transmission differences:
- EXC-F: 6-speed, wide-ratio – 1st gear is fairly low for some moderate trail riding, while 6th gear is taller than average for higher cruising speeds on the road.
- SX-F: 5-speed close ratio – 1st gear is fairly tall with all 5 gears being closer together so it’s easier to stay in the right RPM for racing motocross
- XC-F: 6-speed close ratio – 1st gear is fairly tall with all 6 gears being closer together so it’s easier to stay in the right RPM for racing off-road
- XW-F (replaced XCF-W): 6-speed, wide-ratio – 1st gear is fairly low for some moderate trail riding, while 6th gear is taller than average for higher cruising speeds on dirt roads
Being a high-performance engine that’s made for racing, the KTM 350 will require noticeably more maintenance than a beginner trail bike in the long run, but that doesn’t mean it’s noy reliable. In fact, if you’re doing regular oil and filter changes and keeping the air filter clean, all KTM 350 models can be surprisingly reliable – depending on how you ride it.
How long will the engine last before needing a rebuild?
If you’re an expert rider that rides at high RPM and is constantly hitting the rev limiter, you’re going to need the engine rebuilt sooner than later – no matter what dirt bike you choose. You can expect to need a rebuild in the 20-50 hours range with those conditions.
However, if you’re a casual trail rider or dual sport rider that is easy on the throttle and rides in the low to midrange RPM, you could easily get 200+ hours or 3000+ miles before anything needs to be done to the engine, assuming you’re doing proper maintenance.
Once again, there’s a range of differences between each KTM 350 dirt bike model, but they’re all high-performance compared to a beginner trail bike. That’s not necessarily good, especially if you’re new to riding dirt bikes off-road.
Why? These “race bikes” are made to be ridden fast, so if you’re riding too slowly, the suspension will feel stiff and harsh, making it uncomfortable and fatiguing on your arms, wrists, and hands.
Front forks & rear shock
KTM has made small and large updates to each 350cc model over the years, so I’m just going to compare the main differences of what you can expect for any year 350 based on the type of dirt bike you pick.
Here are the practical suspension differences between each KTM model:
- EXC-F: The softest suspension out of the group – it’s made for dual sport riding, which is a wide range of pavement, gravel roads, and mild to moderate trail riding
- SX-F: Stiffest suspension that’s made for one thing – racing motocross with big jumps, whoops and rough terrain on MX tracks
- XC-F: Stiff for racing, but slightly softer than the SXF model because it’s made for off-road riding and can handle small jumps and whoops before bottoming out
- XW-F (replaced XCF-W): Noticeably softer than the XCF model – made for the more casual trail rider while still being stiff enough for experienced riders.
All of these KTM 350’s are made for the average person that’s about 5’10”-6’0” and 160-180 lbs. You can adjust the compression and rebound damping to get a slightly stiffer or softer feeling, but if you’re much lighter or heavier then you will probably need different springs and/or suspension re-valve.
When should you consider a suspension re-valve?
With that said, I highly encourage you to ride the stock suspension settings before sending your forks and shock out for a $1500+ re-valve. If you don’t know how the stock suspension components perform and how you want them to perform differently, then the tuner is not going to know what “better” means when you tell them to “make it better”.
This goes for any dirt bike – it can save you a lot of time and money if you just spend a little bit of time trying to understand your dirt bike. It’s also a fun challenge and makes it exciting when you can make a change on your dirt bike and notice a positive difference that makes you more comfortable while riding!
Size & Handling
All KTM 350 models have around the same seat height (37.6”), which is about as tall as it gets for a dirt bike and is a comfortable size if you’re 5’10”-6’2” depending on your inseam length. With that said, the seat height doesn’t matter as much once you’ve mastered the basic techniques for trail riding.
If you’re a beginner and have short legs like me or are under 5’10”, this full-size dirt bike will feel tall – as in it’s easy to tip over when you come to a stop if you don’t have good balance.
Once you start moving it’s not a problem and you shouldn’t be putting a foot down while riding because you don’t have full control over the bike, but it does give you more confidence if you’re just starting if you can put a foot down without worrying about falling over half the time.
Weight specs between the models
KTM has always been at or near the top when it comes to having the lightest dirt bike in its class. However, I believe they can be a little deceptive or just not even list the specs when it comes to the actual weight of their dirt bike models.
For example, all four of the KTM 350 dirt bikes range from 225-232 lbs according to the specs I could find on their website. That’s very light for a 350cc dirt bike, but there are two problems I see…
Are the weights accurate?
The listed weights are “without fuel”. That means you can add 12-15 lbs to each bike for the actual “wet weight” – a realistic number for riding because you don’t start riding with an empty fuel tank.
The other potential problem is that the 350 EXC F dual sport model is the 2nd lightest out of the 4. It SHOULD be the heaviest because it has the most equipment to make it street legal (lights, blinkers, horn, mirror, exhaust, etc…)
Model year history & changes
- 2011: First year of the 350 SXF (Motocross bike)
- 2014: Reliability updates to the engine
- 2017: Major update to all bikes (more power and less weight)
- 2020: Chassis updates to make it turn and handle better
- 2024: EXC-F model gets similar updates to previous year other 350 models to improve overall performance & handling
MSRP ranges from $10,699 for the 350 SX-F to $12,149 for the EXC-F model, but then you also have to add dealer fees and taxes, which could be another $1-2k out the door.
If you don’t mind buying a used dirt bike, you can find them in the $4000-8000 range depending on the year, condition, and model. You’re local market supply & demand also play a role in the value of dirt bikes.
Is it street legal?
The only KTM 350 model that’s street-legal from the factory is the 350 EXC-F if you register it for the road. The XF-W (XCF-W) model has a headlight and tail light, but it’s made for off-road use only and requires a few other parts to meet the street legal conversion checklist.
Is the 350 EXC-F good for riding on the road?
For a dual sport motorcycle, the 350 EXC-F is extremely light, which makes it a good off-road bike if you’re a more experienced rider who can handle 35+ horsepower. It can handle riding on the highway, but it’s not the most comfortable dual sport bike for long pavement rides for a few reasons.
Lightweight dual sport bikes get pushed around more, which is more tiring while cruising at 55+ mph. The engine is also fairly “buzzy” at higher speeds, which can get annoying and exhausting as well. There’s also no real wind protection, so you’re going to get a lot of wind (and bugs) in your face.
Any common issues?
There are occasionally some issues with the first model year of a new generation (when 90-100% of the bike is new/updated), but for the most part, all KTM 350 dirt bike models are good if they have been well maintained.
Specs & dimensions
These are the most accurate specs I could find for all four KTM 350 models:
|350cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke
|350cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke
|350cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke
|350cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke
|6-speed wide ratio
|5-speed close ratio
|6-speed close ratio
|6-speed wide ratio
|Weight (w/out fuel)
|229 lbs (104 kg)
|225 lbs (102 kg)
|230 lbs (104.5 kg)
|232 lbs (105.2 kg)
|2.38 gal (9 L)
|1.9 gal (7.2 L)
|2.24 gal (8.5 L)
|2.24 gal (8.5 L)
|Price (New MSRP)
Is the KTM 350 the right dirt bike for you?
Still can’t decide if the KTM 350 dirt bike is right for you or which model to choose?
Here are some practical pros & cons of these bikes:
- Power to weight ratio is great – plenty of power and good handling
- All years have EFI and electric start
- EXC-F is a great dual sport bike if you want to do more challenging trail riding
- XW-F (XCF-W) is great if you’re a skilled rider who likes tight & technical trail riding
- XC-F model is great for expert racers or high-speed trail riding
- SX-F is great for motocross
- More power than 250 but is less tiring than a 450
- 4 strokes can last longer before needing a rebuild
- No mixing gas
- More power than any beginner needs – easy to twist the throttle and lose control
- Slightly more maintenance compared to a lower-performance trail bike
- Parts can be more expensive than Japanese-brand dirt bikes
Six Days model – what is it?
Every year KTM releases a new & unique-looking “Six Days” model that doesn’t perform differently than the standard model but looks different. They model it after the country colors that is hosting that year’s International Six Days Enduro race (ISDE) with different plastics, graphics, and some anodized parts on the bike.
350 EXC-F vs 350 XC-F
The main difference is that the EXC-F 350 is a dual sport bike that is street legal with full lights, softer suspension, and a milder engine tune, while the XC-F 350 is an off-road race bike with stiffer suspension and an aggressive and powerful engine tune.
What to look for when buying a used KTM 350
There are so many things to inspect on a used dirt bike, but there are a few specifics that people often forget to look for that end up with you buying an unreliable dirt bike. Check out this video below for the first things I look at to know if a used dirt bike is good or bad.