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ADV BikesCloser Look: KTM’s 450 Rally Machine Racing in Dakar 2020

Closer Look: KTM’s 450 Rally Machine Racing in Dakar 2020

 Team KTM chases 19 consecutive Dakar wins with its factory 450 Rally.

Published on 12.17.2019

It’s an impressive feat to win 18 years in a row in any motorsport. But with all the things that can go wrong in a two-week race like the Dakar Rally, it seems even more mind boggling that one manufacturer can keep their winning streak going year after year. Even after a 450cc displacement limit was instituted in 2011, meant to even the field by bringing in more manufacturers, KTM has still been unstoppable.

While Honda, Yamaha and Husqvarna have been nipping at KTM’s heels with podium placements in recent years, last year saw the top three positions go to KTM’s Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland, all past Dakar champions. We spoke to Toby Price last year shortly after his unlikely win with a severely injured wrist, and asked how does KTM do it? Toby cited the 450 Rally as the number one reason, “For sure the motorcycle is the main part for us. We’ve got a very strong and reliable bike underneath us.” While the rider and team are also important, there’s no denying the machine is an integral piece in defending KTM’s legacy at the Dakar Rally.

2020 Factory KTM 450 rally bike navigation tower
2020 Factory KTM 450 rally bike

Despite their continued success, KTM has not grown complacent. In their quest to stay on top, they continue to improve the 450 Rally. With a recent major revamp, KTM’s race bike is said to be the most nimble and maneuverable 450 Rally to date. Matthias Walkner and Laia Sanz claim it’s the most stable as well, thanks to updates like moving the swing arm to the inside of the chassis, reworking the suspension to include larger 52mm forks and completely redesigning the bike’s carbon-fiber subframe.

KTM 450 rally bike front
KTM 450 rally bike Akrapovic exhaust system

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In this video, KTM Rally Team Leader Stefan Huber gives a detailed technical overview of the 2020 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 Rally Bike. Designed to take on the toughest terrain imaginable, this powerful single-cylinder can cover 410 miles (660 km) in a single day of the race over rough roads, sand dunes, rocky sections, and more. 

2020 Factory KTM 450 rally bike bash plate
2020 Factory KTM 450 rally bike footpegs

With its aerodynamic windscreen, the Factory 450 Rally is capable of top speeds in excess of 110+ mph (180 km/h) and carries 8.2 gallons of fuel for extended fuel range. A carbon-fiber tower holds all the navigation equipment and aids in keeping the weight down at the high point of the bike. Handlebar controls let the rider effortlessly adjust traction control, speed limits, trip master and roadbook, all while traveling at race speeds. And even with the extra equipment the rally bike carries, the 450 Rally has a dry weight of just 304 pounds (138 kg). 

2020 KTM 450 rally bike fuel tanks

Helping ensure the bike makes it through thousands of miles of racing in the most brutal of conditions, the undercarriage is wrapped with a carbon-fiber skidplate and it receives a heavy-duty Hinson clutch for slip-free riding through the dunes and technical climbs.  An Akrapovič exhaust system made of titanium, along with factory mechanical tuning, ensures that horsepower and torque are maximized. Plus a Brembo brake system with 300mm front discs and 240mm in the rear give the bike powerful stopping force on a variety of surfaces.

Each bike is tailored to the rider as well with custom-tuned suspension, ergos, even the seat foam height and softness are unique to the rider. Michelin also provides two different tire treads for the bike: one specifically designed for sand; and another for the long marathon stages. Other unique components include rubber mounted bars and extra-wide rally footpegs.

KTM 450 rally bike seat
2020 Factory KTM 450 rally bike

This year, KTM will try their luck with the 450 Rally in a new location as the Dakar Rally moves to Saudi Arabia for 2020. With 1.4 million square miles of desert and mountains to play in, we’ll be sure to see many new dramatic landscapes the rally is famous for in this 42nd edition. Stay tuned for more details about the upcoming Dakar Rally as we get closer to the January 5th start!

KTM 450 Rally Specifications

Engine Type:Single cylinder, 4-stroke, 449.3cc
Engine Management:Keihin EMS with electronic fuel injection
Transmission:6 gears, final drive 14:48, wet multi-disc clutch
Cooling:Liquid cooled
Chassis:Chromium molybdenum trellis steel frame, self-supporting carbon subframe
Front Suspension:52 mm WP USD forks, 11.8 in travel
Rear Suspension:WP shock absorber with linkage, 11.8 in travel
Brake Rotors:Front 300 mm, rear 240 mm Moto-Master
Exhaust Silencer:Akrapovič, titanium
Fuel Capacity:Approx. 8.2 gallons (31 liters)
Dry Weight:304 lbs (138 kg)

Photos by Sebas Romero

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney
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