Enduro21 takes a closer look at the KTM 350 EXC-F Josep Garcia is racing (will be racing!) in the Spanish Enduro Championship and selected WESS rounds in 2020…
Josep Garcia is known as being a 250F guy. Fact is, few riders can make a quarter-litre four-popper rev like the ultra-aggressive Spaniard. He won the Enduro2 World Championship on one. He was mightily impressive against the bigger bikes at the 2019 ISDE on one (he took overall day wins) and has achieved notable victories in WESS rounds, notably the Hawkstone Park Cross Country, French classic Enduro Trèfle Lozérien (he became the first non-French rider to win) and also the Solsona Enduro.
For 2020 Josep has jumped up a capacity in the KTM range to the more powerful, and heavier, 350 EXC-F. So far, we have only seen him in action at the Bassella Race and in the first round of the Spanish Championship in Antas, Almería, which he won just before Covid-19 halted all bike sport.
We await seeing Josep rip the 350 on the world stage this season but in the meantime, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider reveals the details of his new KTM 350 EXC-F…
‘Factory’ engines a closely guarded secret
Frustrating as it is, it’s almost impossible for Josep Garcia to dish up much information about his Factory KTM engine. “It is not that I do not want to detail what is inside, it’s that I think that no factory pilot knows exactly,” declares the Catalan rider, smiling.
The Austrian brand has always kept what is actually inside its engines away from the cameras and to a degree that is also true of the riders and teams who receive different spec engines to test and race while the engine builds all happen behind closed doors.
“I only touch the bike that I compete on during the races. When my training bikes click-up 35, 40 or sometimes 50 hours, my mechanic picks it up, takes the engine out and ships it,” says Garcia.
“When we receive a new engine we mount it directly and only have to plug in the electronics,” says Josep, who at the WESS rounds has the Italian Daniele Bernini as a mechanic with Ivan Pueyo, a mechanic and coach who is around during Garcia's day-to-day training sessions at home in Spain.
In fact, Josep has inherited the version of the 350 that teammates Taddy Blazusiak, Jonny Walker, and Nathan Watson developed. He has simply adapted it to his riding style with what suits him.
Slovenian exhaust manufacturer Akrapovic has many different options on the table for Red Bull KTM riders but Garcia chooses the enduro-spec system.
For the exhaust, as well as choosing which settings on the ECU and suspension, pre-season tests play a fundamental role in deciding the base settings for the bike: “I have the enduro ignition in the 350, with the heavier flywheel. Before the Antas race (Spanish Enduro round one) I tried the motocross part and I really liked it, but I didn't have enough time to try it in enduro race conditions – I need to test some more.”
Electronic adjustments for maximum traction
“The MX ignition wasn’t smooth enough and that sometimes made it lose traction. The Enduro ignition has more traction when you accelerate but also higher up the revs it runs more or less the same as the MX one. When the confinement is over, I will try both more thoroughly, but at the moment I am going for the enduro,” adds Garcia who also uses the five-speed MX gearbox, rather than the six-speed enduro option.
As for the power curve, Garcia does not stray from the classic enduro linear delivery, despite having considered other options. “They let me try one of the super-hard ones. It was very, very aggressive but it would not make sense to use it in enduro races. I use the enduro one which is very similar to the one I had in the 250,” Explains Josep.
Hinson ultra-strong clutch
While still going over the details of the engine, Garcia praises the Hinson clutch. “It just works very well. You never lose it even when you take the bike to the limit and it is boiling, it is still working extremely well. I honestly believe that this clutch is the best in the world for enduro,” says Josep.
Apart from the gleaming clutch cover engraved for KTM, there’s a sprinkling of Power Parts and detailed touches like the carbon protector for the ignition cable, manufactured by Akrapovic to keep it protected in races.
“The radiators are standard, without protectors but with a fan to improve cooling. They are very resistant, I think I have never broken any in spite of the crashes,” adds Garcia.
Small fuel tank diet plan
Like most of the Factory KTM Enduro team members, Garcia says he opts for the transparent, smaller seven litre motocross fuel tank: “It means you carry a few kilos less and that’s noticeable, especially in braking areas. The bike is more agile too, even when you are full of fuel.”
“How much does the bike weigh in total? No idea! It is surely within the 103 kilos limit that marks the Spanish series. I think we have not yet reached the end of the development and still search for more weight savings,” says Garcia.
The ultra-strong, carbon fibre Akrapovic sump guard is “indestructible” according to Josep. As he says, “you often see the plastic ones flying around in the supertests or in some stony technical sections but this one, in four years of using them, has never fallen off or broken.”
Hidden in the subframe, under the seat is also an auxiliary start button. “The 2020 KTM models all come without a kickstart, so in addition to the main button, we have another auxiliary one that goes directly to the battery, in case the main one breaks,” adds Josep.
WP authentic ‘black leg’ forks
On top of the list of familiar cycle parts found on any Factory KTM is the WP Pro Components suspension. “In front we run the 48mm XACT inverted forks and the new XPLOR shock in the rear. Personally, I like that they have a setting which is halfway between motocross and enduro – smooth in the start but becoming harder further through the suspension stroke.”
So, how does Josep feel about the lack of linkage system, does he need it? “No, not for Enduro. The PDS system offers incredible grip in grass or flat tests, without breaking too much traction. In the extreme or supertests, this system, unlike the linkage, prevents you from getting caught on stones or logs, meaning the motorcycle always goes forward,” Josep points out.
Testing the settings
“At the beginning of the year we always carry out a pre-season test with WP. Although we get used to testing them in the ‘training area’, the bikes always carry the settings we decided at this early test and then we adapt them to each race.
“Personally, I avoid touching or changing things (at the races) unless the conditions are very different, such as snow or a lot of mud,” says Garcia about the adjustments to the coveted 'black leg' WP forks mounted for all the factory KTM riders.
The forks combine with the new-look triple clamps that official KTM bikes run and which are also available for the rest of us mortals in the KTM Power Parts catalogue. “All the KTM riders have been developing them. They have three positions for the handlebar clamps, and we don’t run a steering damper,” Josep points out.
Unusual handlebar position
“I use Renthal 999 bars which are practically indestructible.” Explains Josep. “I set them far back because that gives me a lot of confidence in turns. That position depends a lot on the rider, I always tend to go backwards. It may not be so comfortable during the longer events or in the mountains, but when you enter a special test and you have to give it full gas, I like them to be low and back, because I feel much more confident in the front wheel.
“I also like to have the softest Renthal grips. They do not last as long but they have more grip and at the end of the day your hands suffer less,” says Garcia pointing out sometimes he’ll spend up to eight hours on his bike.
In the brakes department, Garcia says he feels comfortable with the Brembo calipers, master pump and pads. “I like it to be firm, not fluffy or soft,” he explains about his set-up.
Motomaster, wave-type brake rotors (front and rear) normally also run with a protector at the front to prevent the pads from getting dirty and wearing excessively in mud or races with a lot of stones. It’s also to protect them from impacts, Josep says they, “always run the solid aluminium disc protector at the back since an impact with a stone can ruin your race.”
Hey, good looking
The Farioli team tradition is to use Acerbis handguards plus Blackbird high-quality graphics and Italian Selle della Valle seats, which bring the grip and resistance whatever the conditions.
Around the bike there are details you may not notice but which Josep points out including the brighter LED lights from the Power Parts catalogue which they fit for some night-time supertests and in some extreme races in low light areas.
Garcia is unusual in the KTM team using the original KTM standard footrest also: “They have always been good for me and are super tough, very resistant.
“Sometimes it goes unnoticed but using a good air filter and a good oil is much more important than it seems.” Adds Garcia. “The behaviour of the bike changes 100%! We have a Twin Air filter with Motorex oil, a combination that works very well.”
Indestructible off-road parts
The factory KTM Enduro team use Regina chains which Garcia describes as “practically unbreakable,” while the sprockets are from Supersprox, which he explains are different from those on the MX and Supercross bikes, “a little heavier but more resistant with the steel outer, which withstand impacts better and suffer less with wear.” The TM Designworks rear chain guide helps protect it also.
“If I remember correctly, I have a 13:49 ratio, which I don’t think would work on another bike.” Adds Josep.
Last but not least are the wheels. “All the bikes in the team have the set of black Excel aluminium wheels. They are very tough, they can take it all from ISDE to Erzberg,” adds Garcia. The KTM Factory team uses the Metzeler Six Days tyres with different compounds available depending on the terrain and event.
Photo Credit: Enduro21/Nicki MartinezNicki Martínez, Enduro21 Editor, Spainnicki.email@example.com