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KTM (Austria).
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Updated: 2002-10-02
KTM is a brand mostly associated with motocross and enduro bikes. Recently the product line has been broadened with super motard and off-road models. KTM have some of the best legendary bikes as well as some of the worst bikes in terms of reliability in history.
Some facts:
  • KTM 495 from the early 80's was and still is the fastest dirtbike ever
    In recent speed tests the Dirtbike magazine is starting to doubt the figures theyselfe measured back in 1983. I don't think they have any reason to do that. It's extremely slim, no radiators, no disk brake and pumps out more HP's than most big bore four strokes today.
  • Penton's is infact KTM's
    Yes the legendary Penton line from the 70's is basically KTM machinery.
  • The 250cc 2002 KTM SX is the strongest 250 ever
    Yepp, Motocross action measured over 49HP at the dyno under very hot conditions. The mill probably yields well over 50BHP's under normal wether conditions.
  • Jeremy McGrath will ride KTM under the 2003 season
  • KTM 500MX is the strongest big bore two stroke made
    Yes it is! Several magazines measured slightly higher output on the dyno than CR and KX machinery did.
  • KTM 125cc machines from the early 80's where the worst ones
    They where sad, something broke all the time. Plain junk.

Below is my own KTM 100cc Sachs powered with ø35mm Cerani fork, Koni rear shocks and steel tank. This bike was sold under the name Penton in the US. This bike will undergo a complete restoration online at this site.

My 1969 KTM 125cc with Sachs engine

KTM & Penton info

The modern dirtbikes from KTM started in 1967. This is known as the Steel tank bikes. They where equipped with the famous Sachs engines, same as Hercules, Monark and Aprilia among others. The frame numbers are a bit hard to understand since they doesn't begin with the year.

The 1968 bikes had frame numbers starting at V001, Sachs engines with butch cut fins on the head, short seat, cast aluminium airbox, ø35mm Cerani fork with rubber boots.

The only modifications where a shorter chain guard, a round airbox and a skid plate. Serial numbers begun around V1360.

The 1970's (V2117) got a radial finned cylinder head. A longer seat, forks without boots and a frame extension to hold a low style exhaust pipe. The only modification to 1971 (V4578) where the motor mounts that got triangular gussets.

A beautiful 1973 125cc KTM 1972 – Sachs 100 & 125s and first year for the KTM 175. Ceriani ø32mm front forks. Chromemolly frame with round tube for backbone under gas tank. 175 has a black KTM motor with flat side cases. Exhaust pipes have a metal heat shield. Fiberglas air boxes and gas tanks are painted Red for 100, Green for 125 and Blue for 175. Small White “Penton” decals on upper front part of gas tank with name of bike and two White stripes under it. Air boxes come equipped with a triangular shaped aluminum cover that also forms an oval number plate. All bikes come with alloy front and rear fenders and the straight rear hubs with sprocket carriers. Come with Magura smooth style levers and metal “quick release” throttles. Gas tanks held in place by leather tank strap.

1973 – First year for the KTM 250 motors and all frames equipped with high breather tube under gas tank. 100s, 125s, & 175s equipped with ø32mm Ceriani front forks, 250s with ø35mm Cerianni. All bikes come with plastic front and rear fenders. 250s come with small “Penton” decals on the upper front part of Gold painted gas tanks and conical rear hubs.

1974 – All bikes come with ø35mm Cerianni front forks and thicker seats with more foam. First year for the 400 KTM motor. All KTM motors are painted Silver and come with a rounded profile clutch case cover. All frames for KTM motors come with flattened rear frame member to allow positioning the rear shocks in a 45 degree (laid back) position. Gas tanks have the long Penton stripe decals. The heat shield for the exhaust pipe is a fiberglass number plate that comes up and over the pipe. The rear fenders are fastened to the frame (rear loop) with a “U” bracket in the center. Rims are high shouldered Akronts. Frames with KTM motors come with conical rear hubs. Magura “Power” levers are used.

1975 – 250s come with Red painted tanks & air boxes. Gas tanks are a low profile design but appear larger in size on the sides and are held down by two spring tensioned cables.

1976 year model 1976 – Last year for Sachs powered 100 & 125s. First year for the KTM 125 motor and MC5 series frame. Rear frame loop behind seat is eliminated, rear fender comes bolted to the rear seat. Air boxes are aluminum and color for all bikes is Orange. Rear shocks are mounted at 45 degree position. Front forks are leading axle Cerianni or Marzocchi. GS (enduro) models use same frame style as 74 & 75 but gas tanks have a “Penton” decal and Black & White “L” shaped stripe decal running from front of tank to about halfway then angling up to the top. KTM powered bikes come with Marzocchi gas charged rear shocks, and low shoulder alloy Sun rims.

1977 – New frame design for GS-6 series is a wide high breather backbone with aluminum air box and 45 degree mounted Marzocchi gas shocks. All bikes come with leading axle 35mm Marzocchi front forks. GS series use same gas tank design and lettering as the 1976 but use a leather strap to hold it down. MC series gas tanks have a large “PENTON” decal surrounded by a “C” shaped Black 7 White stripe. All bikes are equipped with a longer designed plastic front fender.

1978 year 400cc model

NOTE: All 1972 thru 1977 KTM motorcycles have an 8 digit serial number stamped on the steering head of the frame. The actual serial number is the last 5 digits. The 3 digits preceding the 5 digits is the date code. The first digit indicates the year, the second two digits indicate the month. For example, a serial number of 30161040 would be January of 1973. Some bikes have an extra two digits of “54” stamped on them. An example of 54 41078651 would indicate an October of 1974 date.
To determine the year of a KTM motor, you need to find the serial number. For this, look for the number stamped on the engine case, just below the bottom cooling fin of the cylinder, on the ignition side of the motor. The serial number is coded with the first number determining the year and the next two determining what size the motor is. If the first number is a “3” then the year is 1973, a “4” would be 1974, and so forth. The following is a list of motor sizes: 51=125cc, 52=175cc, 54=250cc, 55=400cc. Thus a motor number beginning with 654 would indicate that it is a 1976 250cc.
All KTM motors also have date stamps as part of their castings. They have small clocks with an arrow in the center pointing to one of the numbers from 1 thru 12. The numbers indicate the months of the year with the arrow pointing to the month of manufacture. Under the arrow is a two digit number indicating the year. The motor cases also have cast-in part numbers. These again follow the codes for motor size by observing the first two digits (e.g. 52 indicates 175cc).

The typical KTM look from the 80's

During the late 70's the KTM machines developed longer suspension travel just like all other brands at that time. The KTM's from the early 80's got the characteristic KTM color scheme with red frames and white plastic. Between 1980 and up to 1984 The KTM's where popular and considered good bikes. Perhaps the KTM with the biggest legend status is the big KTM 495. This bike was as powerful and frightening as it had bad handling, brakes and often kicked back violently. The KTM 495 was and still is the fastest dirtbike ever made.

Dirtbike magazine, 1981

The KTM495.CO.UK forum (but where is the site ?)
The fastest real dirt bike ever was the KTM-495. When I was the editor of Dirt Bike Magazine, we geared one to the moon and had Rod Bush do 123.75 miles per hour (200km/h) on El Mirage Dry Lake with that particular bike. I believe the year was 1981. I have not heard of any other true stock dirt bike go faster under verifiable conditions.

Rick "Super Hunky" Seiman

The violent and frightening great white, owned by Eric Johnson CA
Another KTM 495 picture, same beauty

The 125cc KTM from 1985 was revolutionary fast. It had a strongest engine in it's class and looked beautiful. However that particular bike started the KTM chrisis that would last almost 10 years well into the 90's. The problem was the reliability. It just didn't hold up. Things broke like they wheren't build to last.

Beautiful, fast, light but crap

During the 90's the KTM factory bought the Swedish Husaberg company, merged some of the 4-stroke tech into it's own production line and continued to develop their machines. In the late 90's their bikes now had a orange color scheme and where considered good enduro bikes but not competitive in world motocross. During 2000 - 2002 KTM has developed their bikes even further and this time made them competitive with just about anything. It started in 2000 with their 125cc screamer that suddenly was about the fastest one on the market. In 2002 their 250cc MX model has followed in that footsteps. Their 520 four-stroker has been the most powerful, modern and lightweight bike on the market for many years now. The Open Class World Motocross championship has been dominated by Joel Smets riding one of these.

Gas Gas
Harley Davidson


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