There are some people in the know who reckon a late-model KTM 525EXC is the best big-bore dirt bike you can throw a leg over. It's a big statement, but it's also an indication of the high regard in which KTM's product is held.
Riding the KTM is easy, riding it fast is another matter altogether. That's not because it's lacking in any way, rather that it simply has so much potential, it'll always be better than you. Even so, because it's a big capacity bike, KTM was able to tune the engine for a little mild-mannered action at lower speeds and throttle settings, so it's kind of non-menacing if you don't get rough with. The suspension is similar; compliant when you're gentle, up for it when you go mental.
On the road
Like a lot of KTMs, the seat is quite flat and narrow which means the 525's tall stance isn't so much of a problem. It'll still test the altitude-challenged, however. Meanwhile, the footpegs and handlebars are designed to get your weight forward but it also feels pretty natural and comfortable.
The engine is strong (as any big-cc mutha should be) but it's not as violent off idle as some riders would be expecting. Get stuck hard into it and it'll wheelie in just about any gear, but ride it a bit more sedately and it's surprisingly civilised for something with so much potential for mayhem and destruction.
A 525EXC is clearly not for the bush-riding novice, but once you've mastered the basics, the big KTM will be doing everything it can to make you look good. And hose your mates into the bargain.
What to look for in a used KTM 525EXC
The black rims on some 525's looked great but don't assume that a bike with chipped and scratched rims has been abused. The coating was a bit on the thin side and just fixing a flat tyre in the bush can damage the finish.
The adjustable suspension is a great touch and allows for riders of different weights, but some owners just can't help fiddling with the settings. All too often they take a bike and make it all but unrideable, so before you start replacing suspension components, grab the owner's handbook and take every suspension setting back to factory. Then work your way through the various settings as you learn how it all works.
Engine Size: 510cc
Fuel System: Carburettor
Standard Transmission: 6-speed
The Final Verdict
+ Big and tough
+ Fast when you want it to be
+ Relatively civilised when you need it to be
- Headlight looks a bit strange
- You have to like orange paint