Enduro done right

KTM's off-road modkls keep getting better and better. No surprise, since in terms of time, money and involvement, the Austrian company puts a huge effort into the enduro market. One of its latest offerings is the 450 XC-W Six Days. The name commemorates the International Six Days Enduro, which was held in Portugal in 2009 and is scheduled to take place in Morelia, Mexico, this coming November.

For 2010, the XC-W chassis has been substantially improved, but additional modifications and upgrades are in the details. An obvious eye-catcher is the limited-edition graphic kit that dresses up the plastic. But the real news is the long list of included accessories not found on the standard model: headlight and tail-light, quick-release plastic skidplate, radiator cooling fan, Stealth rear sprocket, fork bleeder valves, seat with a built-in enduro time-card holder, machined triple-clamps, front axle puller, rear brake retaining pin, handlebar pad and handguards! Despite all those "extras," the Six Days'

S8798 retail price is exactly the same as that of the standard 2009 XC-W.

Frame geometry and suspension components were changed for improved handling. The frame is welded to the steering head 10mm lower than on the previous model, which rotates the engine slightly-forward and lowers the narrow, 2.4-gallon fuel tank as well as the seat. In addition to improving cockpit comfort, these changes give the Six Days a more predictable ride—particularly in terms of front-end control—with lighter and more agile handling. The only negative is that ground clearance is now slightly reduced.

Suspension valving has been changed front and rear. The WP shock features a new needle design similar to the unit found on the SX line, which KTM claims provides damping earlier in the stroke for a more progressive feel. The suspension now delivers much-improved small-bump compliance, filtering out the harsh jolts that were transferred to the rider over rain ruts and small washouts on the previous XC-W. Whether jumping, wheelying, charging a bed of rocks or pounding through whoops, the Six Days' suspension is first-rate.

A new floating two-piston Brembo front brake caliper (as used on the 2009 SX models) is more progressive than in the past, providing good stopping power without the grabby bite we've complained about on other KTMs.

The engine is largely unchanged, offering the meaty delivery you would expect from a 450; it chugs along down low yet still pulls hard when revved out. Small changes have been made to beef up the gearbox and improve its durability, while the cam-chain tensioner has been redesigned to reduce engine noise.

After putting in a lot of seat time on the 450 XC-W Six Days, we came away impressed. It provides the same ripping motor and top-notch chassis as the standard model we tested in the September, 2009, issue, but comes standard with a pile of accessories that add to the bike's value and usability. It's nice to know that whether you use it for fun riding or racing, the Six Days is ready for the challenge.

Which reminds me, when is the next local ISDE qualifier?

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