For an explosive ride, KTM 150EXC TPI shows that size doesn't matter
It was hubris that led me to think riding a small dirtbike would be child's play.
After all, the 2020 KTM 150EXC TPI (transfer port injection) is merely a 143.7cc single-cylinder scrambler - hardly intimidating, compared with the 1,000cc sport bikes I had previously tested.
But my confidence instantly turned to mush when I gave the Austrian two-stroke 150EXC a handful of throttle just metres from where I had started it in the office carpark.
In the next second, I was trying to prevent the front wheel from greeting the sky. That is how punchy two-stroke bikes are.
Due to strict emission standards, brands like KTM and Beta are among the few that still have a two-stroke presence in Singapore.
In the past, two-stroke dirtbikes were light and lively, but were often fuel guzzlers and heavy smokers, as older riders will recall.
But the Euro 4 fuel-injected 150EXC, which weighs 96.8kg without fuel and costs $18,500 without COE, is touted to be environmentally cleaner. The TPI atomises fuel in a separate port before it mixes with air and later ignites in the cylinder. This is said to curb the loss of unburnt fuel and create better fuel economy and increased torque.
Precise engine lubrication is achieved by pouring 2T oil into its new frame, which leads into an underseat tank. It is then pumped into the combustion chamber.
The bike comes with a start button, although it still has a kickstarter for macho riders. It also has wide, self-cleaning foot pegs and a gearshifter.
Straight off, it sparks memories of high-revving duels and blistering acceleration on dirt tracks.
Still, it took me 20 minutes to regain my confidence and reacquaint myself with its explosive manners.
Its flat-as-a-plank seat allows for easy sliding to the front during corner entry. Its close-ratio transmission dared me to upshift every time I heard the reed valve opening to deliver its torquey punch.
However, this does not mean you have to use the KTM like a hell rider.
On smaller trails, the lightweight scrambler still delivers precise low-speed handling and last-minute directional changes - provided you are in the right gear and use the clutch lever lightly. Tipping its handlebar into rutted turns is effortless.
The bike still propels out of turns with gusto when the throttle is pinned - its front wheel barely skimming the dirt surface.
What the 150EXC lacks is low-end torque. Cruising on the road can be a little frustrating. With a large rear sprocket, I always find myself running out of gears too quickly.
KTM does not provide output figures for this bike, but the little screamer feels like it has about 30bhp.
The 150EXC has 48mm inverted forks and a rear linkless progressive shock. The forks can be tuned without tools via clickers on the top of the fork legs.
Its steel-braided Brembo brakes are more than adequate for off-road use.
All it takes are two fingers on the front lever to force the KTM to a dead stop or to do an endo (lifting its rear).