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My 300XC vs XCW comparison

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I am the proud owner of 2 bikes that I love dearly....

 

 

 

 

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My 11' xc  :cripple:

 

 

 

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....and my XCW  :devil:

 

 

 

 

 I decided I wanted to get into racing about 3 years ago.....and all roads led me to a 2T and namely a KTM 300 and that's where this journey began.  Instantly I fell in love with the light weight, 4T lug with the 2T snap.  I loved it so much that I decided my dream was to own 2 300's eventually.  One for racing....and one as my primary trail/ds/backup race bike.  And my dream was finally realized a few months ago when I was in my local shop getting ready to slap down a deposite for a new 300xc (I wanted a new race bike as my 11' had 300 hard hours on it).  And right as I was writing my check, an older guy looking to trade in his bike, wheeled in a pristine XCW that had everything done to it with only 16 hours on the meter.  I had a tough decision to make knowing that I was getting ready to either fork over $8500 cash for a brand new bike that would still need $2000-2500 worth of work and parts done to it to get it where I wanted it......or I get a smoken deal on a barely broken in XCW that needed barely anything done to it.  So I finished writing a check for $1000, gave it to my buddies at 3bros, and said "this deposit is either for that XCW or a new XC......I need to talk to a couple friends, my suspension guy and I'll let you know tomorrow morning what I decide".  They said "no problem Andrew, we'll put this bike in the back and we'll hold it for you until you decide"......

 

And the next day I came home with this:

 

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A pristine XCW to accompany my other baby  :D

 

 

 

 

 

To be 100% honest, I didn't want the XCW.  I wanted to try a linkage-equipped KTM, I had ridden a couple 250XCW's before and thought they were a little gappy in 1st-3rd...and there's almost no better feeling than a brand spakin' new bike in the garage.  But, the smart person in me decided to ask some of my friends who are faster than I'll ever be, and my suspension tuner what they thought.  And all of us pretty much came to the same conclusions

 

1.)  Either way you look at it, my 11' needed a major overhaul, and afterwards it would be like a new bike again.  I already had the suspension dialed, so why not refresh it and keep it as a race bike for a couple more years.

 

2.)  Linkage is only really an asset if you are strictly an MX guy (which I'm not)

 

3.)  The XC/sx tranny is good if you are an MX guy....but not really needed for offroad racing

 

4.)  This was primarily going to be my trail/DS project bike.....and an XCW, on paper, fits that bill perfectly.

 

5.)  Money talks.  This XCW was just too good of a deal to pass up

 

 

Sooooo......my XC has pretty much everything done to it minus an APT SMARTCARB and Slavens cylinder decking or Mule porting (it has the milled head).  

 

The XCW actually started off as a 250, but the owner decided at 6 hours he wanted more cowbell, and forked over $900 for a Slavens 300 kit complete with the milled head and cylinder decking.  The suspension was already done by RG3, but I wanted my buddy Travis at TBT racing's valving.  But more on the suspension side of things later

 

I'd say out of all my riding buddies, more than 3/4 of us are mounted on KTM 2Ts.  And I've had the opportunity to ride XC's, XCWs, offroaded SX's, 300's that feel like they run on nitrous, 300's that are pure electric, linkage bikes, PDS bikes, older style PDS bikes (pre 07-08)....pretty much everything.  And the best part is while we are all over the place on the age spectrum of things, we are all more or less the same speed, so setup differences are never that big of an issue when trying each other's bikes.  

 

I know that probably the most debated topic with the XC/XCW's is the whole linkage vs non linkage thing.  After talking too a lot of guys, and riding a lot of different bikes in a lot of different terrain, we've all come to the same conclusions

 

-  linkage shocks are better out of the box than PDS

 

-  linkage tracks better through nasty square edged braking bumps, big acceleration bumps, peaky MX-stlye whoops and/or big jumps, fast desert whoops and square edged chop (I'm talking like 5th and 6th gear type of stuff)

 

-  PDS is better for everything else in between

 

In my opinion, the whole problem with PDS is that it needs work from the getgo to get it performing at its full potential.  And I don't think there are a lot of tuners out there who fully understand the benefits of the system, and know how to navigate around its weaknesses.  I've had and ridden quite a few bikes, and one inherent characteristic that I'm sure pretty much everyone will agree on, is that 2T's are just busy in the handling department.  It doesn't matter if it's a YZ 250 or a KTM with Ohlins or Showa A-kit suspension.....they just move around a lot.  And on the same note, you are never going to get YZ performnce out of a KTM.  Once you realize that, everything just gets easier :cool: .  But back to the whole PDS thing.  IMHO, if you want good performing suspension from a KTM, you gotta send it out.  And the smartest thing to do, is go to a race (if you don't race) and see who all the racers are using.  If there is one thing that serious racers don't skimp on....its suspension.  That's the main reason I use my tuner.  He does all the top guy's work out west, he's at alll the events, does hands on testing sessions out in the field, and is a good rider/racer himself.  If setup properly, PDS can be very good in braking/acceleration chop and big fast desert whoops...it just takes some unconventional methodology (so I'm told) to get it there.....but the linkage shock is still a little better.  But most offroad guys will tell you that your shock is only going to be as good as your forks.  It doesn't matter if the shock can handle 70mph 3' whoops if you're forks are valved primarily for 2nd-4th gear singletrack.  In the rocks/roots and slow to very brisk offroad riding pace, nothing beats PDS.  It is honestly one of the best systems out there for hardcore riding.  

 

My next question mark about going to an XCW was the OC fork.  In every forum and magazine article I've come across, the general consensus is the CC fork is better for racing and the OC fork is better for casual trail riding.  And my first outings to the track and trails on my XCW confirmed this.  Its happy spot is in the rocks....not rough MX tracks or fast, rough trail riding.  But I will say that this was my opinion before I had Travis redo my suspension.  I have my race buke setup to where its comfortable on trails if I'm riding at a very fast trail riding/full race pace, and with a few clicks it can handle the roughest MX tracks out there.  But it will beat you up if you just lazily plug along on the trail.  Its set up to be pushed.  But I have also ridden a lot of bikes with CC forks that are as plush as can be.....so I understand why people say the CC fork is the more versatile of the 2.  This all concerned me to the point that I was gonna swap out forks with an extra set of CC forks I had before I sent the suspension out.  But after talking to Travis and a lot of my really, really fast buddies who also use TBT, they convinced me to go with the OC forks and let Travis work his magic.

 

A week later I got the suspension back and bolted it up to see how it worked.  I decided to put it through the ringer right away and test it out at my club's H&H in Johnson Valley where I was one of the sweep riders.  I rode it on a National Caliber course that had everything from 70 mph whoops, rock mine fields of death, and everything in between.  After 80 miles of riding, I came back to camp shaking my head.  I immediately called Travis up and said, "whatever you did to these forks......is friggin' magic!!!!!".  They ate up all the trail junk, and reacted waaaaay better than I expected in fast whoops.  They honestly gave me trail speed comfort at a race speed pace in the rocks, and I couldn't get them to bottom in the whoops or big travel-eating g-outs.  I still prefer my CC forks for fast whoops, but the OC aren't that far off and I think they make up for it in pretty much everything else which equates to 90% the rest of your typical H&H course.  

 

My next test to see how well this suspension package worked, was to moto with it.  And for that I decided to go race REM at Glen Helen this past weekend License plate and all!!!  For those of you that don't know, Glen Helen is notoriously a very rough track that develops some of the nastiest square edges out there.  Its a big, fast, natural terrain old-school track that isn't in the least bit jump heavy.  The only thing I did before lining up for my first moto was go in 2 clicks on the compression on the forks, and left the shock as is.  And to my satisfaction, the bike did great.  It would get a little divey in the really big square edges that developed at the bottom of the super steep GH hills, causing the rear end to spike a tad....but it tracked well in the acceleartion/braking chop and did very well on the jumps and the "slap landings" out there.  In fact, the only time I got both ends to bottom was when I flat landed a jump from about 10' off the deck.  I knew I bottomed pretty good but I didn't slam like I thought I would.  I do still prefer my other suspension for moto, but the setup with the OC forks is more than manageable....and I don't even done any real track testing with it yet (I'm planning on doing back to back testing at Glen Helen this Thursday).  

 

 

Another topic that I see a lot of people talking about with the XC vs XCW thing is the gearing splits.  To test this most accurately, I ran the same gearing (14/50) on both bikes.  Most every racer will tell you they prefer the closer splits of the XC tranny and I must say I agree.  Personally, I don't really like to ride a 300 on the pipe.  I prefer to hover in the midrange and let the motor pull me around, and if I want to go faster I just shift up.  The only times I'm ever on the pipe is in long straightaways when I want to stretch a gear, hillclimbing, or if I'm in deep sand coming out of the corner and need to be on it to get myself out and up on top the soft stuff. And despite what people may say or think of themselves, the only riders who are able to ride a 300 on the pipe for 2+ hours straight in an offroad race already have factory contracts from KTM.   Back to the gear splits between the two, I feel that the splits are very noticieable and kind of a hinderence on the 250, and not much of a relevant factor with the 300.  The only time I really noticed it was in the type of corners that you should downshift to 2nd, but can manage to do in 3rd by rolling on the throttle 450 style and nipping the clutch to get the R's up.  These kind of corners on the track or tighter, flowing trails did require either a downshift to second (which led to me almost immediately grabbing 3rd out of the exit.... or just a little more cowbell and clutch in 3rd than I'm used to with my XC.  Its honestly not that big of a deal at all.  I would even go as far to say that in a long distance offroad event (~100 miles with varied terrain), the XCW tranny might be the hot ticket for when you get tired and have only so many clutch pulls left in you.  In this case, you can just leave it in a tall gear for that much longer and let the motor pull you around.  FWIW, 1st gear is lower on the XCW as well...its a true granny gear.  4-6th seem to be about the same and both bikes tap out right around 86mph.  

 

Bottom line is they are both great bikes.  I do truly believe that the best bike is the one you can get the best deal on.  If you are a racer and a suspension revalve isn't in your budget, or you're a GP guy who doesn't know what technical riding is....the linkage-equipped XC might be your better bet.  If you are a trail rider, I wouldn't even bother with linkage.  Too much maintenance and it hangs down too low in my opinion.  And for the record.....NO, the weight difference between the linkage and PDS bikes is not a legitimate gripe.  None of us are good enough to even feel a 5lb difference that low in the chassis.  

 

If you get the XC, you'll think its the best power-spread ever created for offroad.  If you get the XCW, you'll think its the best power-spread ever created for offroad.  Regardless of what bike you end up with, do your research when it comes to sending the suspension out.  I personally went through 3 tuners before I found one that got how KTM's work and just didn't throw generic offroad specs and methodology in.  I'm gonna continue to work with Travis to get both of these bikes as dialed as possible and I can't wait to see the results!

 

 

Thanks for reading  :ride:

 

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 8.31.07 AM.png

Edited by andrew34
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Thanks for taking the time on your comparison write-up! Enjoyed reading it and your screenshot at the end was entertaining! :cool:

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Quote all the above +1!!

I think I'm going to keep my eye out for either a deal or a leftover if I can wait that long! Sounds like fate rolled you a nice deal!

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Nice Andrew.  As you know  I have an 06 300xcw that I just got.    But its so, so, so easy to ride that I feel stupid for not buying one earlier.

 

Took the third ride this past weekend.   Sag was way off so I set it to about 115.   I think I'm going to 110 or 105.  I also changed the gearing from 14/50 to 14/48 and I really love the bike even more.  Its hard to stall unless I am being a spode, the throttle is smooth and it turns really well.   It feels real balanced.  The forks are perfect and the shock feels great, although I'm going to go two clicks stiffer on the low speed.

 

I'm not much of a racer anymore  (except the occasional enduro).  If I was, I would certainly gear it down to a 49 in the rear to give it a little snap.  But I am a very spirited trail rider, that's for sure.

 

I was originally considering a rekluse, but I am not sure that the bike needs it.   It really doesn't.  My last couple of bikes had a rekluse and I will admit that there is a part of me that loves having a little more control over the rear wheel.   But I have not taken it down one of those gnarly rock canyons yet.   I would need estart before I need a rekluse.   But that's not available for an 06.

 

Regarding the gearing... like you said, the xcw has the best powerspread for offroad.

 

I have a slavens suspension on it.  After having both a TBT and and ESR suspension in the past  (loved both), I am now thinking this is the best suspension I've ever felt.  Its just amazing, it really is.  And this bike is an 06!    SUSPENSION IS EVERTHING!!!!!!!!!

 

I am now wondering what the 2014 300xcw feels like. 

 

Great write up.  I agree with everything.

Edited by mauricedorris
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Great review! You're making my patience for one of these bikes run awfully short, though, with all the oohing and aahing. What do you think of the XC-W as a dual sport? I'm contemplating replacing my XR650R with an 08-09 XC-W(e). I'm just not sure how tolerable it would be on the road at 50-65mph. Otherwise, I'm very excited to get one out on the trail where I know it's at home.

Edit: sorry to hijack your thread, but I received no replies in the "Which bike should I buy" forum. Love to hear good things about a bike I'm considering, though.

Edited by Willix

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Nice Andrew.  As you know  I have an 06 300xcw that I just got.    But its so, so, so easy to ride that I feel stupid for not buying one earlier.

 

Took the third ride this past weekend.   Sag was way off so I set it to about 115.   I think I'm going to 110 or 105.  I also changed the gearing from 14/50 to 14/48 and I really love the bike even more.  Its hard to stall unless I am being a spode, the throttle is smooth and it turns really well.   It feels real balanced.  The forks are perfect and the shock feels great, although I'm going to go two clicks stiffer on the low speed.

 

I'm not much of a racer anymore  (except the occasional enduro).  If I was, I would certainly gear it down to a 49 in the rear to give it a little snap.  But I am a very spirited trail rider, that's for sure.

 

I was originally considering a rekluse, but I am not sure that the bike needs it.   It really doesn't.  My last couple of bikes had a rekluse and I will admit that there is a part of me that loves having a little more control over the rear wheel.   But I have not taken it down one of those gnarly rock canyons yet.   I would need estart before I need a rekluse.   But that's not available for an 06.

 

Regarding the gearing... like you said, the xcw has the best powerspread for offroad.

 

I have a slavens suspension on it.  After having both a TBT and and ESR suspension in the past  (loved both), I am now thinking this is the best suspension I've ever felt.  Its just amazing, it really is.  And this bike is an 06!    SUSPENSION IS EVERTHING!!!!!!!!!

 

I am now wondering what the 2014 300xcw feels like. 

 

Great write up.  I agree with everything.

 

 

Suspension is everything.  One of the best suspended 300's I've ridden was my friends 09'....and it was done by Trail Tricks of all people.  It was great for everything except JV whoops....but he's 57 years old so its not like he's blitzing 5th gear anymore. If we're ever out in the dez at the same time, you are more than welcome to take my XCW for a spin.  Its pretty much the same as a 14'

 

Great review! You're making my patience for one of these bikes run awfully short, though, with all the oohing and aahing. What do you think of the XC-W as a dual sport? I'm contemplating replacing my XR650R with an 08-09 XC-W(e). I'm just not sure how tolerable it would be on the road at 50-65mph. Otherwise, I'm very excited to get one out on the trail where I know it's at home. Edit: sorry to hijack your thread, but I received no replies in the "Which bike should I buy" forum. Love to hear good things about a bike I'm considering, though.

 

 

I don't think much of it as a true dual sport bike.  Honestly, anything more than 15 miles on the slab sucks ass on this bike.  Before this bike, I had a 570 as a DS....and it sucked ass for anything more than 30 miles of pavement.  Unbalanced knobbies and pavement make for a rough ride....and its even worse with a 2T that is known to vibrate a little bit.  Admittedly I'm not one of those hardcore dual sport guys that insists on riding their bike everywhere.  I don't want those kind of miles or hours on my bike (although I have a speedo that says ~ 7800 miles that will come in handy in about 6 months  ;) ) and I'd much rather truck my bike to the riding area, unload in a discreet place....and go poaching.  I got this bike plated mainly because I had the means to do it, and as a bike to connect trail heads which is somewhat of a necessity in Southern California.  And no worries about the thread hijack.  The whole reason I wrote this was so I can at least share my insight on the 2 bikes and maybe help someone out in the process.  Looking back, getting this XCW was the best possible outcome.  I got it for cheap, and the garage of KTM parts that I have accumulated over the last 3 years for my XC is all interchangeable with this bike.  Suspension, Pipes, Silencers, Radiators, wheels, Plastics.....everything!!!  

 

I just ripped apart my XC motor and sent it 3 ways yesterday (I put probably 10-15 more hours past the 300 doing testing).  I'm hoping to get it all back  in time for next weekend being that I'm racing moto Saturday and an Enduro Sunday.  My plan was to moto with my XCW again and race my XC sunday.  But there's a real good chance that everything won't be back together in time so the XCW will be pulling double duty next weekend.  .....More testing to come  :thumbsup:

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Excellent post - thanks for sharing all that.

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Nice write up! im thinking on switching over from a 09 ktm 400 xcw (4 stroke) to a 2011 or newer 300 xcw, my riding is more endure,technical,rocks and roots,live in New England area,,i just need to be able to PLATE the 300 xcw,lots of road crossings where I live,,im hoping that will be an easy task just like tmy 400 xcw 4 stroke,,thanks!

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Nice write up ! Anyone considering getting one of these bike should if you want to have the best off road experience possible !! My 13" xcw has enspired me to ride much more often and now I'm in much better shape because of it. This bike has built my confidence level up to like when I was in my 20's , I'm 38... I climbed a mountain yesterday that I haven't done since I showed off for my cousin 9 years ago !

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A little but the brake has been working great and I go down very long steep mountains, not hills .. Ha ha

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A little but the brake has been working great and I go down very long steep mountains, not hills .. Ha ha

That's one of my big big hurdles I'm trying to work on, steep ups downs.

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That's one of my big big hurdles I'm trying to work on, steep ups downs.

I do cover my my rear brake much more but that's a good thing when it comes to controlling your bike as far as reaction time. Really long steep down hills I try to stay locked up when posible and let off the rear brake lever when I need to get the back end tracking where I want it to then I re apply a lock up . This stops heat build up when the rear is locked up . Can't always lock em up though, it's just a tip to cut down on heat with any bike. ... The back pressure only ads extra wear to your drive train :) Edited by Rearwheelin
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I hear you but for me it seems like life and death! I need to ride more and with other people more.

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For me, it was all about retraining my brain how to ride when I gave up 4T's to get back on 2T's.  

 

In my first 2-3 year riding stint in my late teens-early 20s I had a CR125, CR250, 04'CRF 450 and an 05 CRF450 (which I still have).  When I first tried a 450 I was amazed how much easier they were to ride compared to my 125 and 250.  The power was so much more manageable, I didn't have to do nearly as much braking, they tracked better ect ect.  So when I got back into riding....and tried a 300, I knew I liked the power but hated how it danced around a lttle bit and how it was so hard to brake with. Nonethelss, I took a gamble and still bought a 300 after riding one for 30 minutes because I know I could learn how to do all those things again.  And it honestly took me 3 good rides until I felt somewhat comfortable on a 2T again.....and about a year and a half until I felt I was faster on my 300 in every type of rising compared to my 450's.  Now whenever I ride a 4t, they just mess me up.  I don't know if its my whole "roll of the throttle, brake, then grab a handfull of throttle again" braking routine that I've developed the past 3 years or what......but I hate how a 4T wants to spit me over the bars evrytime I downshift and roll off the throttle.  It seriously messes with my timing and I hate riding my 450 because of it.  Buuuuuuut, I do know that I could probably readjust my style in a few rides if I had to.  

 

Bottom line is YOU WILL readjust your style once you get on a 2T.  You're forced into it really.  And to be honest, once you relearn how to ride a bike again....you will not want to go back to a 4 stroke again.  With a 300, you are not really giving up any usable horsepower to a 450.  But you do gain distinct handling advantages.  Even when racing moto....I cac cut inside of any 450 out there all day

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