Race Tested: KTM Ultra 1964 (2015)
Can you race a bike costing under a Grand...?
With top end mountain bikes costing up to £7000 these days you’d think that £1000 wouldn’t get you much in terms of a Cross-Country race bike, well let me introduce you to the KTM Ultra 1964 - coming in at just under the £1000 mark. Firstly it’s a great looking machine with a matt black 6061 aluminium frame and a nice amount of bright orange finishing kit mixed in, which certainly makes it stand out on the start line.
The bike tested had a 19” frame size (Large) which I think comes up a little on the small side, I usually ride a medium (17”) and this didn’t feel too far off size wise. Its gearing and braking components are Shimano Deore and it has an upgraded Deore XT rear mech. The wheel set is an Ambrosio (made for KTM) 27.5” (650b) diameter rim with Shimano deore center locking hubs and are fitted with Schwalbe 2.1 Racing Ralph Performance tyres (folding).
The bike weighs in at a shade under 12kg (11.8kg without pedals) which for a large (19”) isn’t too bad at all.
For its race test it was off to the final round of the Nutcracker race series which was being held at the Dales Bike Centre in Reeth, North Yorkshire. The weather was looking good and the course was running super dry again this year. The format was a mass start from the Bike Centre followed by a steady climb up to the start line where we would set of in our categories at 2 minute intervals.
Having had the bike for a week prior to this race I'd spent some time getting it set up for myself and was feeling pretty comfortable aboard it. The course for this particular race in my opinion lends its self better to a full Suspension bike (with its large rocks and bumpy climbs) so I was hoping that the larger 27.5 wheels would help me out over the rocky sections and smooth out some of the rough terrain.
From the off the KTM felt really good. It accelerated reasonably quickly and once up to speed rolled well, feeling stable at high-speed. Not quite as nimble as a 26'er through the rock gardens and tight twisty sections but seemed quicker over the smoother sections once up to speed. The race orientated cockpit of wide (690mm) bars, flipped over stem and a sharp head angle made the bike feel fast and aggressive, yet it climbed pretty well up the steep grassy sections. The Suspension up front is provided by a set of Rockshox Reba’s, with 100m of adjustable travel and a bar mounted lockout, they did a fantastic job of smoothing out the rough and technical sections of this Reeth course. Shifting was light and crisp, the solid and reliable Shimano XT rear mech performing flawlessly across the 36-11 10 speed cassette. A nice touch
After seeing many riders retiring due to punctures I was a little concerned about not having a tubeless set up, and with the KTM using a mid range light weight tyre I thought it wouldn’t be too long until I would be joining them. This wasn’t the case and the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres performed really well, providing a nice level of grip and a high rolling speed. The handle bars, stem, grips and saddle were all KTMs own brand (KTM Line) and they did the job perfectly well, feeling comfortable throughout, especially the KTM branded lock-on grips which had a nice mix of comfort and grip. The KTM branded saddle is also worth a mention, the way in which the gloss graphics are combined with the matt finish really aids grip and movement when things start getting lairy.
All in the bike performed better than I expected. It's a great off the shelf bike with a nice list of kit, this means you can spend your time and money on training rather than immediate upgrades (although, a tubeless conversion would pay dividends). If you’re thinking about getting into mountain bike racing and you're looking for a sub £1000 650b Hardtail, then you wouldn’t go to far wrong with the KTM Ultra 1964.
Check out our first impression of the KTM Ultra 1964 for a full spec rundown
The KTM Ultra 1964 (2015) is available now from selected dealers. For more information on the KTM Ultra range and for a list of KTM dealers visit Fli Distribution.
Images courtesy of Digital Swaledale