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ADV BikesCloser Look: KTM’s All-New 450 Rally Machine Racing in The Dakar

Closer Look: KTM’s All-New 450 Rally Machine Racing in The Dakar

KTM Factory Team chases 17th consecutive win on a fully-updated 450 Rally.

Published on 01.12.2018

To understand the all-new KTM 450 Rally you have to understand KTM’s dominance at Dakar. A machine of the Austrian company’s creation has won the bike class every single year since 2001. You read that correctly; for sixteen years in a row they have bested every other motorcycle manufacturer entered in the competition.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that they have managed to do it with bikes of all different cylinder capacities. In 2001 they won with a 660cc, then the following year a 950cc, the four years after that they did it with 660’s again, then three 690’s and seven consecutive with the current 450cc regulations. When KTM says “Ready to Race” they mean ready to win!

New 2018 KTM 450 Rally motorcycle making its Dakar Debut


Despite their continued success, KTM has not grown complacent. They continue to strive for excellence in their quest to stay on top. The 2018 450 Rally has been years in the making and aside from some aesthetic similarities to its 450cc predecessors, this bike is a whole new animal. It’s also an integral piece in defending KTM’s legacy at the Dakar Rally.

What the specifications don’t tell you is that this 450 has a whole new chassis, engine, suspension, fuel tanks and exhaust system among a host of other improvements. The specs also don’t allude to the fact that the new rally is the most nimble and maneuverable KTM 450 Rally to date. According to reliable sources like Matthias Walkner and Laia Sanz, this is the most stable rally bike KTM has ever produced. This is accredited to measures like moving the swing arm to the inside of the chassis, reworking the suspension to include bigger 52mm forks and completely redesigning the bike’s carbon-fiber subframe.

New 2018 KTM 450 Rally motorcycle making its Dakar Debut

New 2018 KTM 450 Rally motorcycle making its Dakar Debut

“I think with the input of the younger riders, the bike has progressed a lot and suits the riding style of today. The old bike was a product of the racing as it used to be five or six years ago. Riders like Marc Coma and Jordi Viladoms, who were used to riding the larger capacity machines, perhaps had a different style to how we ride now,” says Matthias Walkner.

Another vital upgrade that aids stability is dual electric fuel pumps allowing riders to distribute weight as circumstances require. With all that has changed, KTM still managed to shave 22 pounds (10 kilos) and make the ergonomics more suitable for the rigors of rally. Simply put, this bike was created from the ground up with the sole purpose of aiding the world’s best riders in winning the most extreme race on the planet.

New 2018 KTM 450 Rally motorcycle making its Dakar Debut

“It’s not only lighter and faster but it’s more stable and that makes such a difference on the stages.” – Laia Sanz

The new KTM 450 Rally is truly an impressive feat of engineering and a worthy successor to KTM’s dominant Rally Bikes of the past. No doubt, it should be more than capable of bringing the brand their 17th win in a row at Dakar. As of Stage 6, Honda and Yamaha hold the #1 and #2 positions in the overall lead and the 2016 Dakar Champion riding for KTM, Sam Sunderland, went out in Stage 4 with a back injury. Can the Red Bull KTM Factory Team pull it off again this year?

2018 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 Courtesy Marcin Kin

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.

Author: Spencer Hill

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4 thoughts on “Closer Look: KTM’s All-New 450 Rally Machine Racing in The Dakar

  1. Of course KTM will come through. Their strategy is to stay behind the leaders, conserve energy, and not take unnecessary risks in trying to win stages. Then in the final stages go for the win.


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