Our man Blazier is back with a look at this, errr, beauty.
GP’s Classic Steel #20
The 1982 KTM 495
By Tony Blazier
For this week’s selection from Greg Primm’s Classic Steel we are going to take a look at the infamous Austrian rocket ship , the 1982 KTM 495.
The ’82 KTM 495 was certainly no looker, with its ungainly rear fender/number-plate combo and bright orange paint. What it lacked in looks, it made up for in tire shredding horsepower. Perhaps one of the fastest motocross machines ever built, the 495 put out too much power for anyone this side of the loony bin.
In the early eighties, KTM was very much a bit player here in the US. Originally sold under the Penton name, KTM had never really broken into the motocross market on this side of the pond. It was rare to even see one outside of enduro competition. Although not well known here, KTM had enjoyed a good deal of success in Europe. The Austrian manufacturer had won three World Motocross titles with Russian Guennady Moisseev at the controls in the seventies. Of course, a Russian rider on an Austrian bike was not exactly a recipe for PR success in Cold War America. What KTM needed was a bike to catch the attention of the American buying public; a bike that could steal the spotlight away from its Japanese and Teutonic competitors. What KTM came up with was one of the biggest and baddest motocross machines ever built, the 1982 KTM 495.
The 495cc Austrian mill produced a thundering rush of acceleration from the moment you opened the throttle. It’s short-stroke design gave it a quick revving, hard hitting power delivery that left the other 500’s in its dust.
The 495 has achieved legendary status mainly on the basis of its tire shredding performance. In ’82 there was no faster machine available than the mighty 495. KTM’s, 495cc two-stroke mega-motor used a large 92.25cc bore and relatively short 74mm stroke. This short stroke design gave it a quick revving, explosive style of power that was difficult to control. It came on hard from the first crack of the throttle and never stopped pulling. With the standard five speed transmission the top speed was quasar fast. When Dirt Bike Magazine tested a ’81 KTM 495 the geared up machine reached a top speed of 123 MPH! That is crazy fast on a dirt bike. On a motocross course the bike was so fast it was nearly unrideable. It was a real handful for even the most talented of riders.
The KTM’s clutch was a real bear. With its absurdly stiff pull and grabby engagement, it was a good thing the motors ridiculous amount of power made it virtually unnecessary. The bore on the 495 was so massive that KTM actually used two spark plugs to ensure an even burn across its pancake size head.
The chassis on the ’82 495 did little to harness the over-muscled motor. For starters the KTM was extremely tall. With a 39” seat height just climbing onboard was a real challenge. If you could actually manage to get a leg over the huge machine you would be greeted with the hardest seat known to man. The rock hard saddle only magnified the sensation of sitting on top of a big, tall motorcycle. Once in motion you were quickly aware that the 495’s was no lightweight. At 240 pounds it was a good 15 pounds heavier than the lightest bikes in the class. With its Jolly Green Giant chassis and thunderous power you felt every one of those pounds. Turning was a mere after thought on the 495 as the long wheelbase and tall, top-heavy feel made flicking the bike around a near impossibility. Turns were best negotiated by planning way ahead and giving yourself plenty of room. It was good at going very fast in a straight line, but little else.
This picture pretty much sums up the KTM 495. Rear tire spinning wildly, power sliding out of control and hanging on for dear life. The ’82 495 was the Top-Fuel Dragster of the motocross world.
The 40mm Marzocchi forks on the KTM were best described as grim. Undersprung and poorly damped, they were harsh and jarring over any surface.
Even if a rider could control the massive horsepower and come to terms with the cranky handling, you would still have to deal with the KTM’s atrocious front forks. The 40mm Marzocchi’s on the 495 were grim even by early eighties standards. They were badly undersprung for the KTM’s substantial weight and poorly damped. Action was harsh with a great deal of stiction and a pummeling ride. When Motocross Action Magazine tried to compensate for the woefully soft springs with some additional air pressure, both forks quickly leaked it out. KTM called the Marzocchis “fluted” because of all the damping holes drilled into the damper rods. When MXA tested the KTM, they pretty much summed up the fluted forks when they stated “KTM should take them out and try to sell them to a music company, because they definitely don’t dampen”.
1982 was the first year for KTM’s new Pro-Lever single shock suspension. The Pro-Lever made use of a very advanced Fox Factory rear shock that did an excellent job of eating up the bumps. Unlike most shocks at the time, the Fox shock offered adjustable compression and rebound damping.
The one bright spot on the ’82 KTM chassis was their new single shock suspension system. The” Pro-Lever” was similar in design to Honda’s Pro-Link and used a Fox Racing shock bolted to an extruded aluminum swingarm. The Fox shock worked worlds better than the awful forks and did a good job of soaking up the bumps. It was a very advanced shock for ’82 with multiple adjustments for both compression and rebound damping. The only complaint with the rear end had to do with all the Pro-Lever’s moving parts. Greasing everything was a pain and in ’82 people were not yet accustomed to this laborious task.
The KTM still used an old school single action front drum on the 495. It works decently, but was not as powerful as the dual-leading shoe brakes on the Honda and Yamaha.
The 495 used a 40mm Bing for carburation. It did a good job of fueling the beast.
Another first on the ’82 KTM was its fully removable aluminum rear sub-frame. This was the first production machine to have this time saving feature. It greatly aided the task of servicing the rear suspension and was a welcome addition. Detailing on the rest of the bike was very good. The brakes, while not quite as good as the Honda’s dual leading shoe units, did an admirable job of slowing down the big Austrian. The stock chain was a high quality Regina and tires were premium Metzler’s front and rear. One thing about KTM is they have always used premium quality components and the 495 was no exception.
The ’82 KTM 495 was the Paul Bunyon on the 500 class. It was too big, too fast and too much. Unless you were into drag racing or hill climbing, there were much better offerings available in ’82.
Two words can pretty much sum up the 1982 KTM 495, too much. It had too much of everything: too tall, too heavy, too big and too powerful. It was a giant of a machine that catered to speed freaks and horsepower lunatics. It was a bike where handling and suspension took a back seat to eye-watering acceleration. It has carved out its little place in history based on this one defining trait. It was by far the most powerful machine of its era and will always be remembered as the fastest of the fast.