KTM may not be the name on the tip of everyone’s tongues when it comes to the mountain bike scene, but that could be about to change. In motorbikes, KTM is a household name across the world, but outside of mainland Europe, there is less notice given to their bicycle division than they perhaps deserve. KTM Bike is a fully-fledged company with a solid history in cycling that dates back to the sixties. Since then, the KTM family has grown and separated, but they are still so close that they even share the same canteen in their Austrian hometown of Mattighofen. The KTM bicycle division has also been successful in the competition side of things, with the current leader of the Under-23’s XC World Cup Alex Gehbauer on board - a rider who’ll shortly be representing both Austria and KTM at the London Olympics.
We were invited to KTM's European press launch to preview and ride select models from their 2013 range. The majority of bikes on show at the launch centred on models with less than 125mm travel, but despite not being the prime Pinkbike genre, they still include some interesting features. KTM were at pains to show their incorporation of numerous new technologies while fully embracing 26-inch, 650b and 29er wheel options, and setting them out with clear intentions as to their purpose.
Technical highlights for 2013
As well as embracing the onset of 650B wheels, KTM are now 100% Shimano in a step away from SRAM. This means that the vast majority of their new bikes now come with the new Shimano direct mount rear derailleur, as well as a matching direct mount offering on the front. Blended with internal cable routing these assist in producing clean and simple lines on the bikes.
Taper steerers are the norm now on the higher-end bikes from virtually all manufacturers, but KTM are keen to introduce this technology further down their range so that, it is available to a broader spectrum of riders. Press-fit bottom brackets are gradually gaining ground and it is no different here, as their ‘new for 2013’ frames all incorporate the system. The 142mm X12 Syntace rear axle is de rigueur
on virtually all of KTM’s mid to high-end bikes this year and is certainly very welcome, for it greatly improves the stiffness of the rear triangle, whether it be fitted to race hardtail or longer-travel enduro.
Another, and more unique, feature to these bikes is what KTM call the Pro Damping System, or PDS for short, a system which floats the shock between rocker and chainstay to reduce torsion on the damper and introduce a further way to tune the suspension curve. It’s not a new invention, and it’s in use by a number of other manufacturers, but KTM were one of the very first to introduce it to mainstream production use, pre-dating the other big manufacturer to currently use it: Trek.
KTM Riding Impressions: Scarp Carbon 29 • Lycan 651• Bark 20
The three bikes of most interest in the KTM range we saw, were the 29” Scarp, the 650B Lycan (there’s also a 26” option here) and the 150mm Bark. With obvious options in the wheel department, the embrace of the new 650B shows that KTM are certainly one of the early adopters as a number of bikes in their 230 strong range are coming with the new hoop size. They are also clear as to which wheel suits which purpose, providing figures to show relevant benefits and weaknesses of each option. Efficiency in a straight line goes to the 29er with its smaller over-rolling angle, enabling it to roll more readily over larger obstacles in the trail. The downside of larger-diameter wheels is added rotational mass and as a result, a greater 'moment of gyration' (in essence, the measure of how difficult it is to turn the wheel when it is spinning). This means that, although fast in a straight line, the added mass of the 29er is a negative in the turns. 650B aims to breach this gap, offering tangible benefits in straight-line rolling, while retaining a greater percentage of 26-inch agility. Without having a wide variety of terrain to really test the 650B against the others it’s a difficult call to make as to whether it’s really better than the others but it’s good to see the options there for consumers. Scarp 29”Carbon
-New for 2013, the Scarp is available with two frames; an all carbon model that incorporates both a carbon rocker and rear triangle (used on the Prestige & Prime), and one with just a carbon main triangle matched to an aluminium rear and rocker (used on the Master & Elite).
-Patented new headtube design which distributes forces more effectively while providing great stiffness and lower weight.
The Scarp Carbon 29 is perhaps a little too much of a marathon bike to really appeal to the average Pinkbiker, but it nonetheless features plentiful detail that’s worthy of showing. The custom head tube will no doubt make its appearance on other bikes in their range in time and the direct mounting systems for brakes & Shimano derailleurs as well as internal dropper post routing are all features that show attention to detail.
Lycan 651 - 650b Wheels
New for 2013, the 650B Lycan frame sits atop a revised range which sees the 2012 frame retained for the lower models, in part a result of the still elevated costs of 650B parts, thanks to their rarity in most manufacturers’ ranges. Utilizing aluminium construction, the new 125 millimeter-travel frame comes in at approximately 2990 grams and with its high-level spec, results in a more than reasonable all-in weight. The 650B version sits at three spec levels: the top 651, based around Shimano XTR components and Fox suspension; the 652, based around Shimano XT and Fox suspension; and the 653, based on Shimano SLX and Rock Shox suspension.
Without much time on 650B bikes in general, and less still on the demo Lycan available, it is certainly difficult to say whether the new size of wheel incorporates all the benefits, all the downsides, or a mixture of both. It’s also likely to come down to your riding style, ability and trail type as to whether the mid-sized wheel offers up any benefits. The best thing in this regard, is to grab a demo and take it for a spin on your local trails to see how it weighs up.
BARK - 26-inch
A full review of KTM's current Bark model will be appearing here soon, so we’ll only cover it in brief here. The Bark 40 and 20 are essentially the same 150-millimeter-travel frame, carried over from 2012. As with both the Lycan and Scarp, the Barks features KTM’s PDS rear suspension, along with internal routing for cables and an integrated post mount for the rear brake to utilize a 180mm rotor without adaptors. Spec is high, with a Rock Shox Reverb dropper posts fitted to both bikes in the range, as well as a durable mix of Shimano XT and Zee components on the top ’20’ model and SLX/Deore on the lower-priced ‘40’. Both feature the Fox Float CTD shock with a large-volume air can while a Fox Talas CTD fork graces the front of the ‘20’ and a Rock Shox Sektor TK DPC fork on the ‘40’.
On the back of a strong footing in mainland Europe KTM, expanded to the UK in 2012 thanks to Fli Distibution, KTM's updated range for 2013 will only help to increase both awareness and acceptance of the brand in this new market.Visit KTM Bikes to see more of their 2013 range