There’s no thrill quite like getting on the back of the bike. Whether you happen to be new to the world of motorcycling or you’re a long-haul pro, most of those who are drawn to two wheels know about the freedom it offers. Motorcycling down the freeway might be one of the most common ways to get on the back of the bike. But, when it comes to the excitement of the ride, there’s more than one way to do it, and KTM more than proves it.
When it comes to dirt bike riding, few brands have harnessed the power of the two-wheeler quite like KTM. While it started out in Austria as an auto repair shop, creator Johann Trunkenpolz couldn’t have envisioned what it would grow into with time. In fact, KTM is the inventor of the orange bike that, for many, is representative of exactly what it means to ride in the dirt! With so much inventiveness and so many years of experience and skill behind them, KTM has grown to be among the most highly considered dirt bike manufacturers out there. From KTM’s Austria start all the way through to KTM motorcycles Australia affords, its beginnings might be humble, but it’s created a legacy for some of the best bikes on the dirt.
All about KTM
Whether you happen to like long-haul motorcycles, trail bikes or dirt bikes, there are brands out there that have really established what they’re good at. Honda may have stayed at the pinnacle of innovation and Husqvarna has been around for more than a century. But, KTM is among those dirt-bike manufacturers that are at the top of their game and has stayed at the top because of their adherence to innovation.
It goes without saying that KTM is one of the most popular makers of dirt bikes out there. In fact, they are so popular that much of the dirt-biking world are known for their orange dirt bikes that practically dominate the market. But, like any company that went on to dominate the field with their vision, KTM didn’t start out with such a goal in mind.
In 1934, it was engineer Johann Trunkenpolz who opened a shop that specialized in metalworking and locksmith services in the town of Mattighofen, Austria. Soon after, the company became one of the largest suppliers for motorcycles in all of Upper Austria. While Trunkenpolz had to go off for military service in World War II, he repaired trucks and engines in the time he was away. Upon his return, there was a large demand for trucks to provide for the basic needs of people, but many of them had been damaged during the war. As the company continued to expand, they began to specialize in the production of items like crankshaft bearings for bikes. But, as the economy began a resurgence in the post-war period, Trunkenpolz had to come up with more alternatives for maintaining the business.
At the time, many people did not have the money required to buy a vehicle so Trunkenpolz decided to leap into the world of motorcycle development. Since he knew a lot about the bike market from his experience as a DKW dealer, he had a head start in being aware of what might appeal to the average biking customer. In 1951, the company came out with its first bike, the KTM R100, which included a pull starter and a 98cc Rotax engine. Soon after in 1953, KTM came out with its own production series of motorcycles and began to participate in the motorcycle races.
It was soon after they had developed their own motorcycle series that KTM really hit the ground riding, becoming prominent the world over for their well-designed bikes. In 1955, the KTM Tourist model was developed and the company embarked on their first road races. In 1956, they participated in the International Six Day Trial, an off-road motorcycle event where rider skill, machine adeptness, and reliability were tested. Now known as the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE), Egon Dornauer from Austria put the company on the map with his gold win.
While the company continued to produce popular bikes like the Trophy 125cc into the 1950s, things began to shift in the industry in 1959 as the prominence and popularity of motorcycles declined. Adjusting to the change, KTM released the 125 RS, a scooter and moped that could serve a purpose between the lightweight bike and the automobile. Though the company put more of a focus on scooters and mopeds in the early 1960s, things began to shift once again in 1964 and the production of motorcycles started anew as did the race participation.
In the 1970s, they began to produce their very own assembly line for engines so a KTM bike could be a KTM bike, through and through. During this time, the company continued to grow and accrue wins in events like the Grand Prix. By 1974, due to their continued release of new models to suit the market, the KTM product line consisted of 42 models of motorcycle and bikes. It was also the year that Russian Gennadij Moissey won the 250cc Motocross World Championship atop the back of a KTM bike.
As the wins continued, KTM expanded its investment into engines, creating their very own 125 cc engine. In 1978, the brand that made a home in Austria moved across the pond and established KTM America Inc. in Lorain, Ohio. While there was no mistaking the success of the brand considering their continued expansion, it was also the year that they won their third 250cc Motocross World Championship.
In 1980, the company became KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau KTM. They continued to invest in research of their lightweight bikes models and engines and even produced the first water-cooled 125 cc Motocross bike. Even better, the company created its very own 4-stroke engine with water-cooling in 1982. The development of their company’s product didn’t stop there though, and they began to manufacture radiators. In 1985, KTM hit another milestone and produced their 100,000th engine that was 500cc and liquid cooled. As a result of so much innovation and investment in the motorcycling sector, KTM succeeded in winning in every single category at the International Six Day Trial in Italy.
Though KTM had shifted their focus in the 1950s due to a decline in the popularity of bikes, that was no longer the case given the success of their bikes and two-wheelers as a whole. As a result, they stopped manufacturing their scooters in 1988 so they could focus entirely on their dedication to the ideal bike. While the company continued to succeed in championships, the majority shares of it were sold to GIT Trust Holding in 1989. In 1991, the company filed for bankruptcy and it was divided into several different companies based on parts it produced including radiators, tools, and bicycles.
In 1992, the revamped motorcycle division opened as KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH with a variety of new motorcycle designs. Again, the company continued to win the competitions that had initially put it on the map, sealing it as a manufacturer that was the one to beat. They released the LC4 Adventure cruising bike in 1997 and a new R & D department was created in 1998.
Despite the bankruptcy, KTM has remained one of the most famous manufacturers when it comes to dirt bikes. In recent years, they’ve continued to stack up with wins on the back of their bikes in a variety of competitions around the world from the World Supermoto Championships to the 125cc Moto GP Road Racing World Championships. The release of models like the 990 Adventure and the 950 Super Enduro have further stimulated the growth of the company and made it a name that’s still worth knowing. Nearly a century later, KTM is still at the front of the heap for a lightweight dirt bike that riders have come to rely on.
Are KTM and Duke the same?
As the manufacturer of many popular bike models, KTM has spread its wings in the world of motocross. And, luckily for the avid rider, it’s no different when it comes to the Duke series of bikes. A ‘naked’ or standard bike, this series is a single cylinder with a four-stroke liquid cooled engine. Luckily, for those who are looking for a bit more ease with a small-model bike, the Duke series features 6 models that bear its name and a variety of different engine displacements. While the 125 and 200 models share the base and have a different bore and stroke, the 390 required a larger crankshaft and clutch. While the 690 Duke is available internationally, the smaller Duke series models are primarily available in Europe and India where they have proven to be popular. Though they differ in style from the standard KTM, the Duke series is very much a creation of the same team.
KTM Best Trail Riding Models
For those who are looking for some trail riding adventure on the back of a KTM machine, the following models are a good place to begin.
· KTM 450 EXC – Originally released in 2009, this might be a little bit more expensive than the average bike. But, there’s a reason that you’re going to pay more for this well-crafted machine. This 4-stroke enduro off-road motorcycle weighs in at 111 kilograms and features 6 gears, a wet clutch operated hydraulically and a chain drive. For those who want more power, the XC release in 2008 came equipped with more torque.
· KTM 690 Enduro R – When it comes to off-roading, this bike features a 67 horsepower engine that is probably too powerful for a lot of riders out there. While it may not be so comfortable for the long haul, for the trail rider who wants to tear it up, this machine maintains the compactness and flexibility that will let riders fly along the trail. In addition to WP suspension forks and an off-road chassis, it also has three modes of throttle valve management.
· KTM Super Adventure 1290 R – This bike might seem a little big to ride off the road in, but that’s what this one is made for. In fact, the motto for this bike is ‘versatility without compromise’, and you’ll get that in the 1290 R. In addition to a liquid-cooled 1301cc v-twin engine, it also features spoked wheels and knobby tires. It also has ABS, cruise control and an adjustable windscreen so that it can do more than just off-road. While this bike is an investment, it’s worth it for the seasoned rider.
KTM Parts/Accessories Buying Guide
Whether you’re looking for KTM parts online or in your city or town, it’s best to head to your local dealership before looking anywhere else. A local bike expert will know how and from where you can source old KTM parts Australia offers, and they’ll be happy to provide you with alternatives where needed. They may even have something in stock that will be exactly what you’re looking for! Fortunately, your local KTM expert may also be able to point you to an online source that will have plenty to choose from in regards to what you need. With so many parts available at the click of a button, there’s no reason you can’t find the part or piece you’re looking for. It is important to ensure that you are dealing with a trusted distributor and really know what you want. This can be the difference between getting what you’re looking for at the right price and paying more for a part that won’t be of service.
When it comes to off-roading fun, few bike manufacturers have the reputation and the history of KTM. Fortunately, since 1934 KTM has been a force in the world of biking and time has only solidified their command of the market. Whether it’s the 4-stroke engine or the kind of dual-sport bike that can dominate on the trails, KTM is a company that knows where it’s at. They’ve created a reputation across the globe with KTM Australia having a marked impact for dirt bikers in the Outback. As models like the KTM Supermoto 450 and the KTM 1190 Adventurer continue to impress riders everywhere, it’s no surprise that KTM is having no problem staying in the races nearly 100 years later.