Reviewed: 2012 KTM 450 EXC-F

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Trail Bike Review: KTM 450 EXC

Who are you?

Greg Villalobos

What TRF group do you belong to?

Northumbria TRF

Where do you ride?

Mostly Northumbria and Cumbria

What bike are you reviewing?

KTM 450EXC 2012


The 450 in its current ADV trim

What are the bikes good points?

I got my 450 in 2012. It was my first ever enduro bike and I had no clue as to what I was buying. It was a complete impulse purchase. I’d never even sat on one, which was a revelation as I’m a little on the short side!

All my trail riding hours are logged on this bike, currently almost 400 hours. Once I’d learned how to fall off, and then how to get better at not falling off, I began to realise that the 450 made a fantastic trail riding bike. Here’s why:

  • I will always be the limiting factor on the bike. If it can’t do something it’s because of me not the bike. The bike is massively capable
  • It’s strong. It’s made of plastic. It’s designed to be dropped and picked up. The plastics may look scruffy but the bike itself has survived everything I have thrown at it.
  • Replacement parts are super easy to get hold of.
  • It’s easy to work on and service. Owning this bike turned me into a KTM mechanic (up to a point). I really enjoyed fleshing out my tool kit and learning about how to service and look after it.
  • It’s light which makes a difference when you are picking it up a lot.
  • It’s good on the road. The 450 will happily eat up the road miles without feeling that you’re over gunning the engine. So far my valves haven’t needed adjusted which tells me I’m never really over stressing the engine.
  • It can be turned into an ADV bike - see below.

Back in the day looking fresh with new plastics and home made go faster stripes

What are the bikes bad points?

These are really down to the service intervals as well as the height for shorter riders. Plus it’s quite unrefined so you certainly feel like you are on a motorbike and never get a sensation of ‘cruising along’, you’re always rattling.

  • The manual says service every 15 hours. That’s oil and filter change and inspection of the various components. The first two years I stuck to this religiously, but now I have extended this to 30 hours. In terms of money that’s about £11 in oil and £5 on oil filter. If you are riding it every weekend then this will add up. However, I normally get out about once per month which equates to 5 - 10 hours so in reality it’s about 3 or 4 services over the year which I can live with.
  • It’s true what they say, the side stand is completely pants. It will break.
  • The vibration on the road from the front wheel can be really off putting. I’ve found that taking the rim lock out has helped a lot.
  • The lack of an ignition key always plays on my mind when I pop into a cafe.
  • The front headlight is terrible.
  • It’s tall. For a short guy. But it’s pretty drop proof so forgiving for the first year or so till you figure it out.
  • My kill switch has broken three times. I rarely use it now and just stall the bike when I need to cut the engine.

The very idea of dismantling my bike would have terrified me in the past!


It will fit in a VW Caddy, just!

What modifications have you made?

I’m currently in the process of turning the 450 into an ADV bike for an upcoming TET trip. Largely inspired by Rolling Hobo 500 EXC. The list of noteworthy mods are:

  • A lowering kit by
  • Vision X Solstice LED lights (these are wired to high and low beam and replace my crappy stock headlight)
  • 15litre Acerbic tank which gives me about 200 mile range but does add a fair bit of weight
  • Kriega US 10 bag on the front for tools
  • Pivot Pegs which are OK but I still like the firm feel of the stock pegs
  • Garmin Montana 600 GPS on Ram Mount Kit
  • Cheapo fake leather seat covering to repair a big rip in the original low seat
  • A mixture of luggage depending on what I’m doing (Giant Loop Mojave, Mosko Moto Reckless 40, Old army panniers)

What is it like to own and ride on green roads?

Owning the 450 quite literally changed my life. I moved to Northumberland without knowing anyone, bought the bike, joined the TRF and made a ton of new friends. It’s also become a tool for work as I work for the TRF and Adventure Spec.

At first I was in the garage a LOT, learning how to maintain it. This was fun. Now I have a young family so I have less time to ride and tinker so some of that servicing time is less than ideal these days. I considered swapping it for a fully fledged adventure bike, but then I realised that at this point in my life I don’t have the time to ride round the world. It’s always a bit of a compromise. The bike is brilliant for green roads, if that means I need to put up with a little discomfort and effort for the occasional long trip then so be it. I’d rather it this way round than having a big ADV bike that is going to be a pig on the trails which is where it will spend most of its time. Of course having one of each would be an answer, but then I’d just have an expensive bike sitting there not getting used which doesn’t really fit my values right now.

The 450 is billed as a bit of a monster, and I’m sure it is in the right hands, but for me it’s been a tame bike that I’ve tickled down our green roads. It looks more ADV than enduro now and that’s just fine for me.


  1. I’d love to know how you get with the lowering kit, i saw these a few years ago but haven’t got around to buying one.


    • Hi Justin. The lowering kit was fairly straight forwards to fit, but you need a little confidence. The front end is just a case of adding a spacer next to the triple clamp. The rear requires the shock to be taken out, opened up and a spacer inserted using a tool supplied with the kit. I’m no expert but I managed ok. It lowers the front and rear the same amount so you keep the geometry. Prob not so great if you were racing but for green lanes it’s fine. I’ve not had any problems with the bike bottoming out and it does help with the height. If I bought a new EXC, now I’m more confident, I probably wouldn’t bother lowering it. 🙂

      • Great to here, i was thinking of fitting one on my 2nd older exc so that i had a lowered bike and standard so that i might be able to learn some new riding skills for tackling the Wye valley!! without getting a road legal trial bike as i’m short in the leg.

  2. Stick the rim lock back in and get the wheels balanced.

    Advantages: More comfort, longer tyre life, longer bearing life, longer fork bush/seal life, better braking feel, better on-road handling.

    Disadvantages: None.

  3. Low-cost convenient anti-theft solution: Good quality padlock through the back of the rear sprocket. Better security than a disc lock (you can smash the disc with a hammer…try smashing a sprocket with a chain round it)…cheaper as an expensive padlock is the same price as a cheap disc lock, and easily transported with your tools.

  4. David Scott says:

    I’m loving my 2015 Husky equivalent. A nice, relatively light torquey plodder that will zip along the inevitable road sections with ease. It was Tony Lacey who suggested it and I am grateful for his intervention.

    KevInYorks on the KTM forum does an inexpensive plug and play hidden switch that cuts the ignition for those garage and cafe moments. Within the length of the cables, you can hide it in loads of places.
    Even a padlock won’t stop someone lobbing it in the back of a van but it will stop the ride off thief. Heartily recommended.

  5. Hi Greg, I’ve just joined the TRF, I live in Northumberland (near Hexham) and I’m very tempted to by a KTM 450 exc, but have been advised it will rip my arms off. I’d love to talk and perhaps even meet-up sometime. Although I’ve joined, I’ve still to work out what I do next. First things first, get a suitable bike 🙂

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