KTM pushbikes are now a totally separate entity to KTM motorbikes. The Prowler’s smooth riding powerhouse heritage becomes clearest when you really twist the throttle on your riding though.
Its weight will soon start to drag on longer rides, it feels tall in techy situations sometimes and tyre room is limited, but overall this is a really smooth, fun bike that gets better the harder you push it.
Ride & handling: Encouraging ride character, but weight will soon drag on longer rides
With a fast accelerating wheelset the KTM is more agile than you might expect. It’s a bike that gets better the harder you hustle it too, creating an upward spiral of momentum and can-do enthusiasm that’ll last as long as your lungs do.
The rear suspension is a big boost to ambitious, aspirational riding. The way the floating mount kicks the rear of the shock forward and down offsets what would otherwise be a very progressive top linkage input. That means a luxurious mid-stroke and stress-free bottom-out, flattering the already excellent control of the long-stroke Fox RP23 shock.
The FSR pivot (see below) helps it suck up square edges that many systems choke on, maintaining momentum and flow through rocky sections really well. It’s not over-mushy though, with enough feedback and pedal referencing to keep you in touch with the trail. The shock has a Pro Pedal lever for steeper, smoother climbs but we rarely reached for it off-road.
While it helps ground clearance under the triple chainset, the tall bottom bracket means the Prowler feels more confident at speed than it does tip-toeing through techy stuff. The flex from the upper linkage means more of a smooth curve and coerce rather than bared teeth, cut-and-thrust character on the trail. However, this syncs well with the plush suspension and relaxed handling of the Prowler.
Frame: Flexy top link softens bike's carving and cutting edge, but rear shock is smooth and feedback-rich
The Austrian KTM bikes immediately impress with their frame quality and pioneering suspension design. The subtle hourglass head tube and flowing lines of the big smooth welded front end look super slick. Both main tubes are hydroformed for maximum seat tube and bottom bracket overlap, and the seat tube has a rear mounted brace for the rocker linkage.
A big box brace across the head of the chainstays and a machined yoke across the seatstay tops anchors the rear end. The chunky gear hanger should withstand a fair amount of crash and transit damage.
The suspension design looks derivative but Horst Leitner worked for KTM motorbikes before he went to Specialized, so KTM’s use of his proven Horst Link is an original.
Similarly, while mounting the bottom of the shock on the lower linkage tips to create a floating system has been popularised by Trek, KTM beat them to it – a genuinely innovative brand.
The two scoop-backed rocker links with single skinny bolted brace are very flexy for this type of bike though (KTM’s latest 120mm Lycan bikes have a much stiffer 3D piece). There’s precious little room between the stay heads and the 2.4in tyres too.
The dropped chainstay can also potentially increase chainsuck and the quick-release seat clamp is deinitely on the basic side. Longer haul riders or bottle battery users will be pleased to see two sets of cage mounts.
Equipment: Well judged kit from Shimano, Marzocchi and Schwalbe
Equipping this sort of mixed purpose bike is always an awkward task but KTM have done a decent job. The Marzocchi 55 fork isn't the most controlled unit on the market and correct air pressure is vital, but it’s smooth in an enthusiastically linear way and the rebound works fine. Our sample did have a habit of shaking its lockout on through rougher sections until we gaffer taped it open though.
The Shimano SLX groupset is ideal for all-round duties with 203/180mm discs for plenty of Servo Wave braking power. The Syncros bar and stem with one-side-locked grips make for a great control cockpit and the melted-looking saddle has no nasty edges to pinch-flat your plums on.
The Rigida rims are usefully broad, and tough too, while the 2.4in Schwalbe Snakeskin Nobby Nic tyres are sturdy enough to run low pressures and reduce ricochet off the big carcass.