When Hans Trunkenpolz opened a repair shop in a small town in Austria in 1934, there was no way of knowing that it would grow and evolve into one of the most popular dirt bike manufacturers in the world–KTM Motorcycles. While KTM has manufactured a wide variety of on- and off-road vehicles, they identify primarily has a dirt bike manufacturer, a reputation that is readily evident at any off-road racing event.
KTM Motorcycles History
Trunkenpolz, an engineer, opened a repair and metalworking shop in Mattighoffen, Austria in 1934. The shop was known as . In 1937, he began selling DKW motorcycle followed by Opel cars. After demand for repairs decreased, Trunkenpolz began considering producing his own bikes, and finally in 1951, the company developed it’s first motorcycle, the R100. Almost all parts for the motorcycle were produced in-house. Businessman Ernst Kronreif invested in the company, which was then registered as Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen (KTM), in 1953. The following year saw the serial production of the R100, with the help of just 20 employees producing about three bikes per day.
In the same year, KTM won its first title at the 1954 Austrian 125 National Championship. In 1956, KTM made its first appearance at the International Six Days Trial (known today as International Six Days Enduro, or ISDE) with Egon Dornauer securing a gold medal. The following year, the company’s first sports motorcycle, the Trophy 125cc, was produced, as well as it’s first moped, the Mecky. Following the Mecky was the Ponny I in 1960 and the Ponny II in 1962. Also in the 1960s, the company began its first production of bicycles.
By 1971, almost 40 years since its founding, KTM was offering 42 different models with a workforce of 400. While 1968 saw the first KTM bikes exported to the United States, in 1978 KTM America, Inc was established in Lorain, Ohio, drastically increasing the availability of KTM to American riders. The same decade, KTM’s 50cc product range expanded immensely, entering them into a market that they would go on to excel in. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the company would undergo many changes, included the death of its founder, a change in ownership, and the division of the company into multiple subsidiaries. The ‘90s also brought plenty of new models and racing success to KTM, which continued into the 2000s with six world titles in the first decade alone.
KTM Dual Sport Motorcycles
While manufacturing a bike that performs both on road and off is in itself an accomplishment in engineering, not all dual sport bikes perform up to par in both settings. For this reason, KTM dual sport models are immensely popular, particularly for their off-road capabilities, where these models perform considerably better and truly seem at home. The 2016 KTM 350 EXC-F and the 2016 KTM 500 EXC are the current dual sport motorcycles KTM is offering.
According to KTM’s website, while the 500 EXC is one of the most powerful Enduro machines of its class, the 350 EXC-F specifically is known to be the most successful competition Enduro model on the market today. The 350 boasts a compact but powerful engine coupled with a low weight design and excellent suspension. However, the 350 EXC-F isn’t exactly cheap—running about $10,199—especially when you consider that the 500 EXC is only $200 more for a lot more power. Then again, the 350’s popularity is due to other factors, including its maneuverability and manageable size.
KTM Electric Motorcycles
KTM was the first major manufacturer to bring an electric motorcycle to market, and many consider KTM’s the best-performing electric motorcycle they’ve ever ridden. The KTM Freeride line includes three models of fully electric dirt bikes, including the Freeride E-SX, Freeride E-XC, and Freeride E-SM.
According to KTM, the development phase for the electric bikes took over four years, but the time and effort is evident when you ride one. They boast no exhaust emissions and no noise pollution, coupled with a surprisingly powerful electric drive. In fact, the electric motor has an output of up to16kW (22 hp) and a torque of 42 Nm, making it comparable by these measures to other KTM bikes. Another bonus—the power pack can be completely charged in 80 minutes, and 80% charged in just 50 minutes. The E-SM, unlike the E-SX and E-XC, is street-legal as well. Unfortunately, these bikes come at a cost of around $12,000 in European markets.
There are other unique benefits of driving an electric bike. Other than eliminating exhaust emissions and noise pollution, riding one of KTMs electric bikes also means no gears, no clutch, and no kickstart. In addition to not needing fuel, electric bikes actually barely need oil either, which is just one of the reasons that electric bikes are in general more low maintenance than their conventional counterparts. While available in Europe, these electric bikes have yet to spread into the U.S. market.
While the dual-sport and electric KTM motorcycles are particularly notable, KTM has a full range of bikes, on-road and off, that are sure to satisfy your needs. With a history, reputation, and proven track record of success, particularly in off-road riding and competing, KTM is a household name in the riding world, and for good reason.