400 or 520...need some advice

I'm getting back into riding after almost a 10 year break. I did my research and decided KTM was definitely the best bike available. I've been trying to find used 01 models and have now found a 400 and a 520 for about the same price. I am in Boulder, CO and frequently ride at pretty high altitudes. Even so, the 400 is probably more power than I'll ever need. That being said, would I be a fool not to go with the 520 at the same price? I could always just lay off the throttle i suppose. Frankly the 520 I got to ride scared me it was so fast, but i'm sure I would grow into it. I'm 6'2 175lbs. Hopefully that's enough info to get some good advice.




I, too have ridden very little for the past 15 years. I am 49, weigh 185 and am 6' 1".

I just bought a 520 EXC. If the bikes are the same weight, and the same in every other way except the displacement, I can see no reason to consider the 400. If you want less power, then back off on the throttle. If you are on the 400 and want more power, you are stuck.

Just my opinion. I just don't understand the rationalle for getting the 400.

One of my favorite (not) lines when considering which bike to buy. 'You'll grow into it'. Some of us only want & need so much hp! My first KTM was a 380 (a big Tool Time ugh). Guess what? 9 months later still too much power!

Lot's of hp will flat wear you out if you are not a rider that is comfortable with it! I do not need a 520. I climb every hill the 520's can climb, and unless it just wide open flat out the 400 is plenty for me. Granted, if I were younger and faster, give me a 520! :)

I ride a 520, and there are times when it is a handfull too much. I am 31, 6'3" and 220 lbs. If I had it to do over again, I would consider the 400, but probably still buy the 520.

Originally posted by Steve H:

I'm getting back into riding after almost a 10 year break. I did my research and decided KTM was definitely the best bike available. I've been trying to find used 01 models and have now found a 400 and a 520 for about the same price. I am in Boulder, CO and frequently ride at pretty high altitudes. Even so, the 400 is probably more power than I'll ever need. That being said, would I be a fool not to go with the 520 at the same price? I could always just lay off the throttle i suppose. Frankly the 520 I got to ride scared me it was so fast, but i'm sure I would grow into it. I'm 6'2 175lbs. Hopefully that's enough info to get some good advice.



I went through the same thing Steve re. 400 or 520. I was riding an "unplugged" DRZ400 (aftermarket pipe, airbox mod., rejetted), but still wanted a bit more "umff" (I also wanted a green sticker here in CA). My decision was sorta made for me when I found out the '02 400s were going to be delayed shipping into CA, and a dealer had a '02 520 sittin' on the floor.

To me, the 520 engine feels just like my DRZ up to about 1/2 throttle. After that, the 520 really shows what it's made of. It gets going, and quickly. The nice part about it, though, is there's no MX style hit (I have the EXC, not the SX), so it's not a brute to deal with. I can ride it all day long plonking along on trails, or I can take it on the MX course and scare the @#$&*! out of the 250s (and myself :) ). It's all a matter of the right wrist.

Bottom line, both bikes are great, and I'm sure you'll be very happy with either one. I know I am. :D


Hi Steve,

I work in Boulder and ride the Rockies... We have had this conversation a few times... Here is a topic to search that will help you.

Power of 400exc vs 520exc.

I ride with my kids on my 02 400EXC and it makes going SLOW much easier. But when I ride with my buds I get Rocky Mountain high... The 520 will bring the front end up faster if you get caught off guard on a big rock or root while looking a some of the pretty scenery around here...

[ November 14, 2001: Message edited by: ThumperX ]

[ November 14, 2001: Message edited by: ThumperX ]

A 520 requires a lot more throttle control.

Inexperienced riders or those returning to the sport generally do not have the necessary skill to properly modulate a 520's engine response.

Its not only how far you twist the throttle, but the rate at which you twist it.

I have seen 'new' riders battling to handle a powerful bike. The risk is they often hurt themselves and/or the bike before they learn proper thottle control. Some even give up, injured or despondent because they aren't enjoying their riding.

400's are way easier to ride than 500's (any make of bike). Dont overestimate your skills. 'New' riders will be faster and have more fun on smaller , less powerful bikes.

I think most riders have the small d!#k syndrome, thats why they want the biggest bike available .

Oops, I have a 02 520SX, wonder what that says about me?


I am sorry CraigW, I just don't agree with your statement.

I am a reletivelty inexperienced rider, and have had a 520 for about 3 months. As everyone else, I find the power awsome, but not at all intimidating.

The only time I have ever come off the bike, is through my own stupid fault, like picking a wrong line, not due to me comming into a corner to hot.

Overall though, a rider should ride both anbd then decide.

And the syndrome you are talking about.....I also drive a big V8 :)

Someone asked me for a comparison, and if they should buy a 520.

I am a third year rider, and I went with the 520 SX.

At first, people had to pry my hands off the bars, they would hurt so bad from holding on so tight. I have since gotten smoother, but I still pull an occasional superman out of a turn. You guys saw Ricky in the 125's at steel city, right? Well, that was me after every turn when I got the bike. Feet hanging off the back, on my belly. I learned to tame myself and the bike, and my speeds have increased over my old 95 KX 250 exponentially.

Lets just say I have wished I had less bike, SOMETIMES, but that ends as soon as I get off the novice track, which is about 1/2 mile long, and go to the inter and advanced tracks.

I love the bike in tight woods too, it is so maneuverable, it FEELS smaller than it is. It never ACTS slower than it is though!

If I had it to do over, I would have bought it months earlier, instead of fretting over if it was too much of a bike.

MXA's review of the power is very, very accurate.

[ November 18, 2001: Message edited by: Chris Slade ]


I was in exactly your situation back in September. Hadn't really been in the dirt in about 20 years (now 36 and 185lbs). I spent the summer riding a 2001 Kawasaki KLR650 in the dirt. That was too big to play on, so I set out to find a dirtbike. After a lot of reading I decided KTM was what I wanted, but I was afraid of giving up the 650 power. I went with a used 2001 520 EXC.

The bike is truly a rocket. It is impossible to over stress just how fast this bike is. It was way beyond my skill level, and I really wondered if I had made a mistake not getting the 400. Several times I have found myself hanging off the back of the handle bars trying not to fall.

That said, I can tell my skill is improving and I'm learning to properly manage the power at my command. It's more power than I ever thought I would need, but I believe there will come a day that I won't want to ride anything less.

Make sure you really want a super fast bike (I've still never gotten to 6th gear on it). This bike can go slow, but it's cleary wants to go fast.

Good Luck!

Dirtbike Dad

2001 KTM 520EXC

2001 Yamaha 125L

1996 Yamaha PW80

(Years past: Yam XT650/350, KE100)

Sorry to add a question mid topic, but here it goes. Most of you are saying that the 400 has more power than most people need. Would you still agree with this statement if the bike will be dual-sported? It just seems like it would be advantageous to have a bit more power on the street.



[ November 19, 2001: Message edited by: pw455 ]

Pete, I ride and race(MX) almost every weekend. I hang out with KTM(RFS) owners and racers of all levels here So. Cal.. I also do alot of desert and mountain trail riding. I have an 01 400sx that I race and ride, and I also race a 520 as a backup. I can tell you by experience that what Craig W said is true for the most part. I personally prefer the 400 for racing and trail riding just based solely on the handling and fatigue factor. Also it is MUCH safer to ride especially if you're just getting back into riding. The 400 is much easier to get the power to the ground than the 520 especially if you don't have good throttle control. Sure the 520 has mind blowing power, but that doesn't make it faster! Only fast experts and pro's really have the ability to make that power work to their advantage. The only other place that I'd want that power is for hillclimbing and drag racing. The 400 will instantly make you into a better rider. It is just easier to ride period.I

personally would suggest that you ride both bikes

before you buy, and check your ego at the door, and consider the tradeoffs with both bikes before you buy. You won't regret either choice.

Erik - very well put!

Erik is spot on. the 400 is much easier to ride and in my experience is also usually faster.

Back to back testing between my 520 and my friends 400 reveals the 400 turns nicer and allows you to get on the power earlier. The biggest problem we had with the 520 in tight rutted trails was wheelstanding on the exit of corners and losing the rut.

The 520 on open trails is absolutely awsome and the ability to wheelstand at any time at any speed is great. Unfortunately the reality is the trail riding and racing I do is usually in tight trails. Because of this I've sold my 520 and bought a 400.

Remember when test riding to ride the bike in the terrain you intend using it in. If you compare the 400 to the 520 on the street you will probably buy the 520 but for all the wrong reasons.

[ November 21, 2001: Message edited by: Craigy ]

I am a Beginner Motocrosser who got back into the sport after 19 yrs off. I have a 2001 YZ250 and I wanted to try a 4-stroke.I have ridden a 520,426,450f and 250f.I bought a 400SX.It is fast,light and incredibly easy to ride.Only the 250f was as easy to ride,but I felt to compete against 250 2-strokes I would need the power.I can't tell you how good I feel on the 400and how much more confidence and energy I have on the track.Remember, I ride primarily moto and am interested in getting around the track as fast as I can.

I had my front forks done by MX-TECH and the difference is dramatic.

Ah to chime in.....

Been riding open bikes most my adult life (well adult age, nothing to do with conduct ! :D ) actual 500cc two strokes.

1. They are a hoot, but I have also raced and owned 250s etc.

2. Bottom line, my laps were faster and the fatique less on the 250s. Period.

3. I am not small....6'3" 215 (or so at least) and in my 40s (no need to go there either) :)

Lots of folks have hit on what I have come to learn the hard way....mongo power aint everything, and it depends on what you want to do with it. (the Check the EGO was 100% steel on target!!)

Give me lower weight and smooth no rush even power with properly set up suspension ANY Day .... dont need the HP... I last longer, drive harder and run it smoother. (talking effeciency here....nothing but)

Put me on single track woods, trails and anything nasty on my WR250f and I will flat lay waste to any loop times vs my 500 or 650 berg....and will be able to stand when I am done. Big bikes are a hooooot....500%

You cant replace the feeling of watering your eyes with goggles on....nothing can...(well there is something but it aint that type of forum :D )

but with all my time in the sadle, power wears you out if you dont need it. Trust me with a 650 Berg....whew....thank goodness I lift weights!

Dirt Bike a year or so ago did a big test on 4 machines run in the offroad/woods/trails.

XR250; modded XR 280, XR 400 and modded XR 440. Top racers from Larocco to Summers.....in the end...the fastest laps were from the XR280, followed pretty close with the 250.

All the riders stated the 400 and 440 being heavier, and power had obviously had a lap time effect ... the 280 was smooth, no hit and had great suspension....but clearly no 520 power or CRF450 power either.

Not really a question if you will have fun on the big bikes, you will......they all are a blast. But I been ridin for a couple of years now, and up here in the Pacific Northwest...the WR250, or the KTM200 or 250 exc.....flat tear me up on the CR500 or Berg 650.

Dont need the power, and it plays against you after the first few miles.....that is unless your name is Roseler.....but I know it aint.

Bottom line, you will be ridin, and that is what is key!




Thanks for the replies everyone.


Craigy and Hawaii Rider are right - its all about how you get the power to the ground and suspension..no use going fast if you cant control it. You will find on a lot of tight tracks that a lighter/ smaller bike will be faster cause its easier to ride hard all day long - just ask Shane Watts!!! I have a 520 and have ridden both and trust me there is a small difference even though the bikes are almost the same - i have been told it is do with the motor inertia - a smaller piston going up and down creates less inertia - and there have probably been few times when i have got max power to the ground on the 520 anyway without wheel spinning. Hopes this helps!!

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now