WR450F Dual Sport or KTM 500 EXC? Which one should I get?

I have a unique opportunity to purchase either a 2014 WR450F, new with plate, with the addition of a Baja Creations type kit, DOT tires, mirrors (not in CA of course). Or I can buy a KTM 500 EXC fully street legal 50 state model. Here is my delemna: Everyone who owns a KTM tells me how great they are, but I just am not 100% convinced that the 500 EXC is truely a great off road bike. I know it is good, but does it compare to the Japanese bikes, from a handling/suspension/smoothness standpoint? I can purchase a new Yamaha, and after getting it plated, add the ECU, race tuner, FMF silencer/spark arrestor, throttle stop modification, and end up with a motocross type bike that I am comfortable with, only with a wide ratio gear box, and a plate (which with the amount of fenced off property I have to deal with has become almost manditory). My main riding buddy has a KTM 500 EXC 2013 and he has put thousands into it making it "better", and he is not done yet. If anyone out there has a 2012-2013 WR450F that could give me some input, I think the changes for 2014 are mostly cosmetic, maybe a little suspension tweaking, which is really personal preference anyways. And possibly someone who has compared their ride to a fuel injected KTM of late?


Current ride: Honda CR450F with desert tank, skid plate, scotts steering damper, boysen water pump, heavy flywheel, trail tech computer, fmf silencer/spark. Issues: mx gearing is too short, no licence plate.

I owned a 2012 500, and sold it in a 20 weeks. It was that bad.


I've owned a good deal of the dirt bikes available in the last 10 years, and the KTM's I've owned were the only bikes I could not get rid of fast enough.

I really wanted to like them, and poured money into them trying to make the power less soft, and the suspension more controlled.

They are very light feeling on the trail, but extremely squirrely when you push them, or go down hill with engine breaking.

In my opinion, you should be able to wheelie a 500 without using the clutch in at least 3rd gear, and you should be able to run a dirtbike through 3' whoops. 

Neither was possible after several attempts by world renowned suspension and motor tuners.


My 2012 450 SXF got to the point that it was acceptable to ride at a 70% pace, but I was unable to make it stable in rough terrain at speed.

The list of upgrades and changes is a page long, for both the 450 anmd the 500.

I bought it from Daryll Eklund, the MXA test rider/editor. It was given to him by Curt Kaselli, who trained him for the last 4 years. It was a gift.

Daryll rode it twice, his dad once, and got ride of it to me.  " Couldn't stand to go fast on it ".


The KTM's are extremely cramped, flexy, soft power, brittle, and handle very strangely. 

If you are small and light, they work pretty well.

If you are a Vet, and are tall, good luck getting it to work out........


The WR is heavier, feels heavier, and is soooo much easier to ride at any speed, especially when you have the suspension tuned for your weight and riding style.


Do you own a CRF450R or X?

Krannie is right on target. I am just glad I took the 500 out for a ride during the local "KTM Test ride" weekend before I laid down the cash. The other thing I noticed was that the EXC had a crap load of vibration... the bike just annoyed the hell out of me. For the same price as the stock 500, I was able to buy the WR450, have the suspension professionally tuned and install the Rekluse clutch and other performance goodies. I'll never look back.

I'm on the other side, I own a 500exc, ride it, race it etc etc. I have not ridden a new WR but I have tried a few older ones and have been impressed with them hands down. I think for the right amount of time and money they can be made into a incredible bike. I really think the only true advantages KTM brings is the 6spd and the fact that it's street-legal right from the get go. Maybe a bit lighter too...

I really enjoy my 500. It runs like a champ, gets incredible fuel mileage, has plenty of options when it comes to making it more specific to the riders needs and in some respects a little simpler to work on (non-link and lack of twin spar frame). The brakes and hydraulic clutch are quite a bit nicer then what Yamaha offers too.....

I've seen brand new 2012/2013 WRs going for $5999 plus tax where's as the 500exc is $10k+. That's a lot of money left on the table for mods with the WR....

Im also 270+hrs deep into myy 500exc which is quite a bit more then most guys who own them.

Edited by originalmonk

Oh yeah, I left out the terrible brakes: very strong but zero modulation down hill.  Never did get any feel out of them........

There is a good long term updateon the 2013 WR450F in Dirt Rider this month.


Bang for buck and value for money....there is no comparison.

Edited by JDLowrance

It's a shame it's not as easy to test ride a dirt bike as it is a car. I have 2 friends that have KTM 450 SXF's, the Dungey wanna be bikes. 1 guy is a 70's-80's ex-Open Expert desert racer, 6'2. Suspension is stock. He rips on that bike! There isn't any type of terrain that he just doesn't flat out haul ass in. My other friend is a novice rider and loves his bike. Of course, he's coming off a 1989 CR500.

Thanks for all of your input. In response to Krannie, I have a CRF-450R motocross model. The X model is too whimpy in both suspension and motor tuning. But the gears are so short that you have to gear it down to make it pick thru the rocks without stalling. 5th is too low for any kind of fire roads or wide open stuff for anything more than a mile. As far as the 6 speed goes, I wouldn't mind the extra gear, but in all honesty, the 6th gear is really only necessary if you are riding wide open roads. As far as fit goes, I am 6'1", long legs and arms, and a vet rider. My buddy with the '13 KTM 500 EXC is around 5'9" and younger than me. The salesman at the KTM dealer told me that the only thing he didn't like about KTM's were the vibration you feel in the handlebars. He says the solid billit bar mounts make them buzzy. Not real good for high speed stuff, if that is the case. It's hard to get an honest assessment from someone who dropped 11K down on a new KTM, and then put another 2 grand into it making it right to tell you they don't "love" their bike.  

The bike vibrates, never heard of solid billet mounts being any reason for feeling it in the handlebars though....

But you kinda contradict yourself saying 6th is only good for real high speed, which you like but you don't run that fast. Then you say the bike vibrates at high speed so it would bother you?

Edited by originalmonk

And the WRs are farrrr from being a motocross bike....

To be fair, my needs are not average.

Being 6'4" and 250lbs, I need way more powerband breadth and width than most riders.

I also ride standing/sitting 50/50 so if standing up puts my center of gravity in front of the crank (KTM, Suzuki) due to cockpit size, the transition is pretty squirrelly, and standing up riding cannot be done at the attack position, for me.  I also like long desert rides averaging 35mph+ which I found  impossible on the KTM due to the suspension and very 'swappy' nature. The KTM's always gave me really bad blisters, which I've never had before, cause of the 'death grip' I needed to keep it on line.


A stock CRF450X is soft in power, but is far from whimpy. They have the second best forks of any bike offered (other than the KYB SSS on the Yamaha and Kawasaki's)

They just come radically de-tuned, just like the Yamaha...but that is the state of tune of anything other than a motocrosser.


I have a 2008 CRF450R, geared 14/50 with a Rekluse Core EXP, and it will run comfortably at about 55mph, topped at 68, and with the Rekluse, climb anything.

I had to change the damping on the suspension, cause I didn't ride it aggressively enough ( I couldn't do it for more than 20 min before passing out) and put on a much taller seat, to compensate for the really high pegs and low seat.


My X is WAY faster than my R, cuase of the motor work, but it noticeably more top heavy in all situations.


You can tell that I enjoy modifying bikes just as much as I enjoy riding them.  I like solving the puzzle....

Edited by Krannie

The X model is too whimpy in both suspension and motor tuning. But the gears are so short that you have to gear it down to make it pick thru the rocks without stalling.

It would be best to know what type of riding you plan on doing because in your title you say dual sport and what you are describing here is everything these bikes are. Regardless of which offroad bike you get the susp/motor will need to be adjusted to get it where a an mx bike is and 5 or 6 gears offroad bikes will have way more top end speed as well.

Original Monk, On the issue of vibration, that was the explanation given to me by a KTM / Suzuki / Honda / Kawasaki dealer's saleman, who races motocross, and has a '13 CR450F. He tried all 4 - 450's and his major complaint with the KTM was excessive vibration from the handlebars. He also said, that the KTM has a "different feel" than the Japanese bikes, which are pretty similar, each having their pro's and cons. He bought the Honda because of reliability.


On the issue of 6th gear, I really don't like shifting all the time, that is why I have always preferred open class bikes over 250's. A wide ratio 5 speed with a strong motor still gets you a low enough 1st gear, and a top gear that will do 80 comfortably. WR guys have told me that 80 is comfortable. My CR450F cruises at 55-60, but will go 70-74 ish wound out, but the motor won't last if i do that, so the guys with the wide ratios leave me in the dust in the easy stuff. We're not racing, so I really don't need a 100+ mph top gear, which the KTM 6 speed is the only way to go for doing that, and still maintaining a 1st gear low enough for technical stuff.


All the "enduro" bikes I have ever ridden are too soft in the front end for me, and usually in the back as well. I don't know how i am going to like whatever I get stock, because both bikes I am considering are "enduro" bikes, they just now have the latest technology. Since I want fuel injection as a deal breaker requirement, and I want something I can plate, the KTM and Yamaha appear to be my only reasonable options. From what I have heard, the KX450 has the best power for off road of anything out there but you just can't plate those bikes, and they need so... much to convert from MX to Enduro. I ride with a guy who has a 2012 KX and he smokes everyone up to about 70 mph.


From what I have been told, the WR can be made really fast, by just replacing the ECU ($100 plug n play item), along with the throttle stop  tweak and a new muffler, If fact, the complaints I have heard from offroad guys on the late model WR's is that they hit too hard. Having owned 9 MX bikes, and 5 Enduro bikes I much prefer the "hit" of a MX bike. With the little hand held programmer, I understand that the Yamaha can be tweaked on the spot for woods riding, then changed back for desert or grand prix style riding.

To be fair, my needs are not average.

Being 6'4" and 250lbs, I need way more powerband breadth and width than most riders.


I think Krannie hits on a big point about most recent KTMs, and even the newer WRs.  I've done test rides / rode buddies KTMs and I've always walked away with the same feedback, they are small and twitchy.  I am by no means a fast rider, but being a bigger guy (6'3", 210) I feel that I have a lot more leverage on the bikes.  That leaves me wanting bikes that are more stable and almost "heavy" because I can still throw it around easily compared to the 5'8" 160lb guy.  Hell, I kept my steel frame WR because it had better feel and stability than the aluminum frames.  Big guys need stable bikes, smaller (IE - "normal") guys need more "flickable" bikes.

Sounds like you would be a out a grand regardless which of the 2 you went for just getting the suspension and motor tuned to what you want. After that the KTM will be a little lighter and have a little more top end. The WR will have a better/more forgiving suspension and IMO better reliability in the long haul. My WR is geared 14/49 and can cruse mid rpm's at 65 down the highway no problem. I could probably push it to 70 mph but wouldn't go much above that for any descent amount of distance. I'm 5'-10" and IMO both bike are going to have a smaller riding compartment compared to the CRF, all of which can be corrected on both bikes.

The only thing the KTM has the WR does not is a 6 speed. I have my 06 geared 15/48. Any time im looking for 6th and going fast enough that I wish I had a 950 S (which I may get soon to replace my caponord). 

The only thing the KTM has the WR does not is a 6 speed. I have my 06 geared 15/48. Any time im looking for 6th and going fast enough that I wish I had a 950 S (which I may get soon to replace my caponord).

And it's lighter, and it comes street legal.....

If you live in a place like me, I have to drive 40 miles to the nearest ktm dealership and that's the closest one in a 300 mile radius... Which means it's going to cost more for parts and labor just because it's a ktm... I have at least 5 other shops I can go to that are yamaha/ Kawasaki/ Honda/ Suzuki dealers and they are great for what I need... Never ridden the ktm 500, and after riding the wr450, I never felt I wanted to ride the ktm...I will probly own a wr450 my whole life I like it that much... My friend even got a drz400 because of the high rating of dependability, but after riding the wr450 he sold the DRZ because it was heavier, less powerful, and really couldn't out perform my 450 on any aspect... Granted I have put a little more money in mine than a stock one, but it sounds like the 450 you are looking at has some extras as well... If price isn't the issue, go with the yamaha

Oh and yes the wr450's do hit hard... I am 5'11 210 and when I race my friends, initially I lean forward into the tuck position to keep the front wheel on the ground, and it still pulls up in the first three gears when I go wide open throttle, even with me leaning forward. I could do mods like intake, exhaust, and hot cams to name a few, but honestly the bike has plenty of power and then some as it is

6 months later..... I bought the KTM 500 EXC. I definitely made the right choice for ME. Best bike I have ever ridden. Stock, it felt near perfect, stealthy fast, easy to control, quick steering, great rock absorbing suspension, gearing a little too high, and too much junk hanging off the bike for the street legal part. Well, I couldn't leave well enough along... I started with fender eliminator kit, acerbic disposable mirror, sickass light and blinker switch, billet end cap with Euro map, fastway evolution pegs, Scott's steering damper off my Honda CRF with BRP undermount and rubber isolators, and finally went from a 15T to a 14T sprocket.. I liked the bike even better, but just by a little. Then I found Nirvana. I put in a Rekluse clutch. All I can say is I'm sorry for anyone who doesn't have one. Rocks, ruts gnarly uphills, dead end canyons, trials type obstacles, what was a challenge is now a treat. The new Core EXP adjusts from the outside with a 4 mm Allen wrench. And while I was at it, I replaced front and back fork/ shock springs for my 205 lbs with gear.. I am still tweaking the suspenders.. One month, I set of tires, and 300 miles of fun.. Used to ride 60 miles each way in the back of the truck. Now I can ride out my driveway and be on the trails in 10 minutes. 20% of my riding is now connection trails with pavement to expand where I can ride..

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