KTM has announced fuel-injected two-stroke technology will finally appear in its 2018 lineup, starting with a 250 cc and a 300 cc dirtbike.
We don’t cover offroad-only bikes often on CMG, but this development is very noteworthy. For years, fans of two-strokes have lamented the rise of four-stroke engines. Two-strokes once offered a legitimate alternative to four-strokes, even on the street, where bikes like the RZ350 and RD350 easily challenged their pricier, heavier counterparts. Off-road, the two-stroke engine was king for decades.
That all changed when tightening emissions standards started making it less attractive to sell two-strokes. In North America, two-strokes have almost completely vanished from the street-legal lineups (even 49 cc scooters are almost all four-strokes now). In the offroad segment, four-stroke dirtbikes have become the standard, with two-stroke machines becoming more of a niche market every year.
That all might change, with the new KTM machines. Yesterday, we were told of the new KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI coming to global markets; North America will get the KTM 250 XC-W TPI.
There aren’t many details on the new bikes, but obviously, they’ll be offroaders, and the big news is the new fuel injected two-stroke technology. It’s been an open secret for some time that KTM was working on fuel injected two-strokes, but we’ve never been told an exact arrival date. Now we know we can expect to see the bikes on the market in limited quantities this fall.
What’s the hoopla all about? There are several advantages to going with fuel injection. First of all, this technology will allow KTM to build two-strokes that are more environmentally friendly. Along with cleaner emissions, KTM should also be able to make its bikes more fuel efficient, and have better throttle response. Thinking this through to the logical conclusion, this could also mean that, by combining fuel injection with throttle-by-wire, we could even possibly see a return to some of the big-bore two-stroke screamers of the past, now they might be rideable by the average motorcyclist.
Presumably, two-stroke technology also allows manufacturers to build simpler engines, which should then be (theoretically) less costly, and easier to fix. However, fuel injection could make things more complicated, and therefore more pricy. Or maybe not; even the lowliest of budget bikes come with EFI these days.
While this is big news for the motorcycle industry, don’t get all excited about a return to the glory days of strokers. For now, we’ve only been promised one motorcycle, and we understand there are no street-legal two-strokes coming this year.
KTM’s system uses Transfer Port Injection (hence the TPI label in the new models’ names). While not as exciting as direct injection (which other manufacturers are rumoured to be working on), it is an effective system. Canadians should be familiar with the concept already, as Arctic Cat has used it in snowmobiles for a while now.
It’s worth noting that other companies have built fuel-injected two-stroke motorcycles before. Ossa built an EFI two-stroke, but few if any models ever made it to Canada. Sherco also built a fuel-injected two-stroke offroader, but again, good luck spotting one in the wild. It’s a lot easier to get your hands on a KTM, and the brand has a lot more distribution globally than the niche Euro enduro factories.
Expect more details on KTM’s new bikes in the coming weeks.