FIRST RIDE: 2023 KTM 300 XC
KTM’s 300 XC is all new for 2023 – and premix is back in style with the orange army. The headline feature of this all-new XC platform is the switch to Throttle Body Injection (TBI). KTM is still offering Transfer Port Injection (TPI) where oil and fuel are separate tanks on their XC-Ws, but all of the new XC’s inject pre-mixed gas through the bike’s throttle body into a new motor that absolutely rips. Featuring an electronic power valve, a map switch that makes a significant difference, and a chassis that is chock-full of innovation and improvements, the 2023 300 XC is quite the bike.
KTM nerds will go nuts the first time they see a 2023 XC in person. It’s entertaining to step back and watch as folks who are familiar with XCs start to scrutinize the bike, just to see what things they key in on. While the list of changes and revisions is quite extensive, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorite parts: Brembo stoppers and clutch. A new skid plate design and mounting system. A new seat that is much more comfortable. New grab handles and hand flags. A high clearance pipe. Ample radiator hose clearance. Hand adjusters for the shock. Beefier tabs for the chain keeper on the swing arm. Oh, and there’s that motor.
The 300 XC’s motor is, in a word, brilliant. Many riders have described these new motors as feeling like a perfectly jetted carbureted bike. Thanks to TBI, riders will get that perfectly jetted performance every single ride, which is something that doesn’t happen with a carburetor. After reading that statement, I’m sure that the old guard carbureted club is getting ready to embark on some diatribe about how nothing can be as good as carburetion, but let’s review some facts. Electronic fuel injection, an electronic power valve, and more sophisticated engine management all add up to a bike that runs better
everywhere, makes more power everywhere, and it does this every single ride. The bike is able to compensate for changes in elevation, air temperature, and humidity as the bike is ridden. Compensating for these variables with a carb requires making jetting changes, which is something most riders aren’t stopping to do mid ride. Not only does TBI make for a perfectly running motor every ride, but it also enables completely changing the engine character with the press of a button.
The map switch on the 2023 300 XC completely transforms the bike’s power delivery. In white mode, the bike is mellow and controllable, making it perfect for technical work. Combined with new transmission ratios including a lower first gear, the bike does great playing in the rocks or sticking moves where precise power output is required. When you’re in the mood for maximum warp, the green map will give you all of the power and the perfectly jetted carbureted 300 two stroke experience. Lug it and clutch it, or let it sing, it’s all good. And when I say all of the power, I’ve spoken to Baja winning super-fast guys who recommend the 250 over the 300, because they say the 300 fully unleashed is almost too much power.
To help manage the 300 XC’s most impressive power output, KTM has completely redone the chassis for the 2023 model year. The name of the game is mass centralization, and KTM has repositioned the rotating mass closer to the bike’s center of gravity. Anti-squat has also been increased, which improves traction so that the rider can put down more of that awesome power. Within minutes of riding the new chassis, you’ll notice that it feels very agile for a 300, and that the rider triangle is dialed. So much so, that all the setup I would ever want to do is fine tune the lever position and bar clocking.
In the suspension department, the 300 XC comes with WP XACT air forks and a WP XACT linkage shock. The shock is all new, and the rebound, high speed compression, and low speed compression clickers are now hand adjustable. These tool-free adjusters will hopefully motivate riders to adjust their suspension to match their riding conditions more frequently. I’m certainly stoked to not have to bust out a screwdriver or a 17mm socket to make settings changes. In stock configuration, the suspension on the 300 XC has neutral setup that works for all sorts of riding. It has the ability to hold up to big hits and higher speeds, and it does an okay job in the loose rocky stuff. Valving toward a specific use (i.e. making it more compliant for trail use) will certainly improve performance, but to be clear, the suspension is completely rideable in stock form. You can’t believe every grumpy, rambling video on the internet talking about this bike.
Like any bike though, there are a few things on the 300 XC that are proving to be more of a mixed bag. First up is the kickstand, which is an all new design that’s proven to be quite hard to hook with your boot to lower the kickstand when stopping. It can certainly be done, but I’ve noticed that 2023 XC riders have taken to hopping off their bikes before going for their kickstands. The new footpeg design has also proven to be a love it or hate it part. Riders all seem to love the new position, but their size and tenacious grip less so. Thankfully, a few seconds with a flapper disk on a grinder can take the edge off of just about anything, and riders who absolutely can’t stand the stock pegs have aftermarket options to choose from.
Riders who are eying the new XCs for hard enduro and/or technical single track use with plans to install lights, Nav, and other electronic farkles need to be aware that in stock form, the bike’s stator has a conservative 20 watts of surplus power. That isn’t enough power to run a real cooling fan or much in the way of lights. It’s important to remember that KTM targets the XCs as a lightweight race bike, and things like beefy stators add weight and rob engine power. That being said, there are aftermarket stators out there, and more solutions for XC-W levels of stator power are actively being developed by the aftermarket.
The 2023 KTM 300 XC is an impressive two stroke motorcycle, and KTM deserves props for their continued efforts to innovate and make awesome two strokes in a world that’s governed by increasingly stricter emissions regulations. With the ’23 XCs they’ve absolutely crushed it, and two stroke riders who were turned off by TPI, need to take a TBI bike for a rip as soon as possible. The 300 XC is a shining example of what happens when you apply modern engine management to internal combustion. The way this motor runs is seriously impressive, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that it runs brilliantly at every elevation, every temperature, and every relative humidity; all without the rider doing a damn thing to adjust the motor. 2023 XC owners who are letting their carburetor-loving riding buddies ride an XC for the first time need to reserve an “I told you so,” because the way these bikes run is seriously that good.
The rest of the 2023 300 XC is full of innovations and revisions that a few months into the honeymoon phase of bike ownership are still proving to be welcome changes. The new XC platform is still a do it all two stroke that can be raced one weekend, and trail ridden the next.KTM has delivered a number of improvements to the bike, such as a more comfortable seat that we are not in a hurry to replace, and the new skidplate mounting, high clearance pipe, grab handles and many other changes are great to live with. There are some changes that we are deliberating over, and some questions that need more time spent riding to reach a conclusion on. The new fuel pump location and pickup being one of them. Yet, each time we get to push the 300 XC into the back of a truck or onto a trailer to load up for a ride, we are stoked to get to ride this bike. The 2023 KTM 300 XC has proven that two strokes can run better than the best carbureted two strokes out there, and we’re stoked that we have such awesome two stroke bikes to ride today and that we will get to enjoy for years to come.
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Transmission – 6-speed
Starter – Electric starter
Stroke – 72mm
Bore – 72mm
Clutch – Wet, DDS multi-disc clutch, Brembo hydraulics
Displacement – 293.2cc
Design – 1-cylinder, 2-stroke engine
Weight – (without fuel) 100.1 kg
Tank capacity – 8.5 liters (approx.)
Front brake disc diameter –260mm
Rear brake disc diameter – 220mm
Chain – X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4”
Frame – design Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 steel
Front suspension – WP XACT-USD, Ø 48 mm
Ground clearance – 354 mm
Rear suspension – WP XACT Monoshock with linkage
Seat height – 954 mm
Steering head angle – 63.9 °
Suspension travel (front) – 310 mm
Suspension travel (rear) – 300 mm
MSRP$11,099.00 plus $535.00 freight