After spending about four decades riding dirt bikes, you could assume that I’ve seen it all and ridden just about anywhere and everywhere. Well, up until last week I was under the assumption that this was true. I thought this was true until I flew to Austria for the media launch of the new 2018 KTM250 XC-W TPI. This revolutionary off-road motorcycle is KTM’s latest masterpiece, and it has the one feature that everyone in the riding community has been waiting for: fuel injection! The TPI stands for ‘transfer port injection’ and it’s the new technology that is the centre piece of this ready to race motorcycle. Actually, during the opening presentation of this new bike in Austria, here is exactly what KTM had to say. “In short: TPI means a new dimension of READY TO RACE DNA in every detail. And more than that, TPI is living proof that KTM’s ongoing commitment to off-road racing in general will never stop, and its dedication to 2-stroke technology in particular is alive and well. In fact, the state of the art R&D department in Mattighofen is expanding, while the new motorsport division demonstrates KTM’s growth and continuing investment.” With the incredible gains that KTM has made in the past five years with their new motocross and off-road line up, it comes as no surprise that they are the first to produce a fuel injection off-road machine.
After a good night’s sleep, all of the journalists were loaded on to a bus to make the 45 minute drive to the famous Erzberg Iron Mine. This 130-year-old active mine is of course the site of next month’s Red Bull Rodeo Enduro, one of the toughest two-wheeled events on earth. The race itself takes place on terrain that most of us have never seen before, in fact my first thought was it resembled something from another planet. With steep elevation changes, jagged rocks and just about everything else that you could think of, the only obstacle that was thankfully missing was deep water. Before we started these new bikes for the first time, all the media guys (and girls) were split into four different groups based on their riding skill. Since I had never ridden in any conditions closed to what Erzberg presented us with, I chose to be in group two. I figured this would be a little more relaxed and it would allow me to really take my time and feel what this new bike was really like. So, with our trail guide, factory Red Bull KTM Enduro star, 19year-old Manuel Lettenbichler leading the way, we headed out into the Erzberg wilderness. Over the past few years, Manuel has been a Erzberg event regular, so he knew the landscape like the back of his hand. Within two minutes of starting up our bikes we were on a single track, rocky trail, on the side of a forty-foot cliff. Needless to say, my heart rate was quickly rising. These first moments on the new 2018 KTM250 XC-W TPI encapsulated the rest of the day as we spent the next six hours traversing the most extreme terrain I have ever witnessed.
I must admit that I’m not exactly a seasoned off-road rider, but as I made my way around the Erzberg facility, I felt completely comfortable on this new fuel injected KTM. With the obvious absence of a carburetor and the presence of a new throttle body, a programmable ECU, and injection ports attached to the side of the cylinder, the new 250 XC-W TPI ran as smooth as can be. Whether we were accelerating up the steep Erzberg hills or descending down them, the throttle response was smooth, predictable and precise. Gone was the need to clear the engine out while worrying that when you did turn the throttle there might be a costly hesitation. Let’s face it, this is really what fuel injection brought to the four-strokes years ago, and now with this KTM, a rider can have the same attributes on a two-stoke. As we came across one difficult section after another, the 2018 KTM250 XC-W TPI was a joy to ride. Even though we were riding on jagged rocks with extreme elevation changes, there wasn’t a moment that this new bike didn’t shine. Throw in the electric start and the two-position mapping switch, and you have all of the bells and whistles of any modern day dirt bike.
This new technology will be available in two models, the 250cc and the 300cc. However, Canada and the USA will only be getting the 250 XC-W TPI later this fall. There is talk of the 300cc model coming to North America for 2019 but consumers will have to wait and see. I would also suspect that in the near future, KTM will be introducing fuel injection on their 250cc motocross model. As I was riding around Erzberg, I couldn’t help but think how cool this technology would be on a full motocross bike. With the smooth and precise power delivery that this 250cc fuel injected powerplant has to offer, I think it’s just what two-stroke-loving motocross riders are looking for. Until then, this new 2018 KTM250 XC-W TPI will just have to be enjoyed by our talented off-road community, a community that I was happy to be a part of, even if it was for just one incredible day in Austria.