Need help with bike choice (KTM 300 vs. KTM 450; 2 vs. 4 stroke)

I've been looking for some help on deciding on a good dirt bike for riding trails. I've been doing my best by reading all the information I could, and even talked to a non-helpful dealer. Unfortunately I'm no closer on making my decision.

I'm looking for a dirt bike to ride Washington State's Cascade Mt ranges and the Olympic Mountains. I like riding in areas around Cle Elum, Gifford, Walker, and Naches. Lots of dense woods, steep hills, tight "z-turns" in the hill. Dirt, mud, rocks, trees, tree roots. I'm a trail rider, not interested in racing. I also like to cautiously climb the long steep hills.

I've been trying to narrow down some choices, and I think I've come down to the the 2008 KTM 300 (and it has to be the 2008 since I hear it is quite different than previous years) and the KTM 450. But I cannot decide between a 2 stroke or a 4 stroke.

From what I've read, the 4 stroke has a better powerband for trails. It has more traction, easier throttle control, more tractable, and can go up hills better at lower speeds. This is very appealing to me.

Since I currently do not own a bike, I'm not used to a certain weight. Not sure if I'll notice the weight difference of the 300 or 450.

Here's the confusion. I've heard similar opinions about the KTM 300 2 stroke being good for trails, hills, and traction, but not quite sure how it has really been compared. Most of the reading is from riders who enjoy going fast and racing on the trails. They seem to prefer the 300 or 2 strokes. But I'm 100% a trail rider.

I also hear the 300 will require modification to make it as good as a 450 for the hills and traction. If that's the case, why not just get the 450? Or do people want the 300 for the racing?

Also, the people who describe like the 450 over the 300 are usually heavier people. I'm 6'2" and 175 lbs.

Maintenance costs is a concern. I don't mind doing the work myself, and would enjoy it during the times I don't ride. But I'm not exactly sure of the cost difference between the 2 stroke and a 4 stroke. Plus 4 stroke bikes are more expensive. I won't be riding every weekend either. And I won't be riding the bike extremely hard, except for when I need to climb hills.

I'm looking for some advice and opinion. I'm hoping to find someone that can relate to my riding experience and my purchase dilemma.

Thank you,


Both of the bikes you've narrowed down to are excellent choices.But to clarify the 450, KTM has the 450 EXC which would be a street legal dual sport w/a single cam, 450 XCW that is a green sticker 6 speed wide ratio single cam, and the 450 XCF which is a 5 speed semi-close ratio dual cam red sticker, basically a 450 SXF w/18 rear wheel and 5 speed.

All the above bikes including the 300 have open cartridge forks w/suspension geared more towards off road riding as opposed to mx (more plush).The exception being the 450 XCF which has a closed cartridge fork same as the SX.

I've had 250 2strokes in the past, went to '04 450 SX then ,06 450 SX, now I have a 08 505XCF mainly for the 5 speed and I couldn't be happier! I mostly ride fast desert and trails, some mountain single track and occasional mx. I'm 5'9" and 180lbs.

I dont have direct experience w/the 300 but I remember reading somewhere, (Dirt Rider?) that the 300 was extremely tractable and could be lugged even lower than the 450! Top end power being about the same!

For the type of riding you describe, it sounds like the 450 XCW or 300 XCW. I think you would have a blast on the 300, the 450 might be a bit of a handful on very technical stuff. I know that I wouldn't enjoy riding my 505 for very long in the slow and nasty! And the 300 weighs about 20lbs less!(I think)As far as BIG hills the edge goes to the 4 stroke.

And the 2 vs. 4 debate goes should see what the local guys are riding on your type of trails. Which ever bike you end up getting, you'll be very happy w/KTM. This is my fourth KTM and I've never had any problems, they're pretty much bulletproof.

I hope I didn't add much to the confusion...:thumbsup:

So is this your first bike? If it is they could both be a handful for the beginner.

I've ridden both bikes, both great bikes. I prefer the lighter feel of the 300, it is plenty luggable for getting up those big hills slow, but will wick it up fast when needed. The maintenance costs will be lower on the 300, but the KTM 450's aren't quite as maintenance intensive as some of the other 450s.

For the dense woods like you described I do not like the 450's, its just to much bike to throw around in my opinion, but others swear by them. I'm not a big guy so that could be some of it.

I might would consider picking up a used smaller bike in good condition as your first bike, just to get the hang of it, then you can sell it for little to no loss, and then know better what you want your bike to be, if it is in fact your first bike.

The 300 for sure. Which one will you be looking at? The 300XC or the 300XC-W?

Either way, I would go for the 300.

If you will be doing trail riding then both would be awesome. I like the XC-W because it has a little different gearing for technical stuff, and as of '08 and E-start!

Lots of power, easy to maintain. Thats what sells me on it.

If you are new to dirt riding I would go for the lightest bike you can find. I would also make sure you don't get too much power, it'll get you into more trouble than it gets you out of. I would not even consider a modern 4 stroke (and yes, I own one) I would follow the advice above and get a 2 or 3 year old 2 stroke 200/250 KTM (maybe a KDX200/220) The area you want to ride in is very much like BC where I live and you won't find a better woods bike than these models. If you feel you must buy something new then consider a 200 XC-W before you commit to a larger bike.

300 with e-start is the only choice!

it has the torque of thumper, and power of smoker!!!

I agree with both bikes being just about too much bike for a beginner, or someone that has been off the bike for awhile.

I would ride both, the 250 and 200 also in W trim. I think your decision will be clear then.

I have been searching for MY perfect bike, you see what I am on now and what I have owned. It's been a costly ride, but I'm there. I don't know why everyone always starts at the top of the displacement dept.?:ride:

The 200W with a FWW, gnarly, and possibly a trials tire would kick some serious butt in the NW. I know it does here in the mountains of NC.

It's ultimately YOUR choice.:thumbsup:

300 with e-start is the only choice!

it has the torque of thumper, and power of smoker!!!

Don't worry about the 300 not being able to lug up hills, thats what it known for along with tractable. It's a brilliant bike in the engine department plus its lighter and waay cheaper to maintain. :thumbsup:

Go with a smaller bike, I know a good rider that got rid of his 300 cause it got him into more trouble on the tight stuff than got him out of, meaning just a touch of the throttle and your on the moon, wicked quick bike, the bike will shoot out with barely a pinch of gas, 200/250, youre a firstimer right? You`ll have a blast, then when ready move up... Used to ride a Suzuki 185 in Kodiak on really tight/steep stuff, Id blow the bigger bikes away and be fresh when we got to the top.

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