From flowing blue trails to rowdy, rooty and wet off piste Bristol riding, the KTM Ultra EVO spent a few hard winter months as the go to post-work machine.

The KTM Ultra EVO is a muddy brown, 29″ hardtail monster with some angles that suggest it’s up for a scrap. Time to check-in and see how it rips!

Photos by Dave Price / Review by Will Priest / Modelled by Jamie Edwards

Key Features:

  • 29″ wheels
  • RockShox Recon RL 29 130mm fork
  • Shimano SLX 12-speed drive
  • Shimano MT400 brakes
  • Shimano Deore hubs on KTM Line rims
  • KTM Comp dropper
  • £1,299.99 RRP
  • FliDistribution.co.uk

Frame and Build

The KTM’s aluminium frame provides a solid base for a solid build, with a mix of Shimano and KTM’s own in-house bits.

The bike tested was a 17” frame, which at 5ft11 is smaller than I would normally ride but added to the nimbleness and playfulness of the bike, despite the larger 29” wheels. With 443mm of reach and 738mm of standover, I’d perhaps have sized up if I had my time on the bike again. That’s personal preference though.

Front and centre on the bike is a 130mm Rockshox Recon SL fork, which worked really nicely. It felt just enough to offer a good mix of lightweight but still being able to keep up on the rough stuff. I spent some big, long, pedally days on the KTM and appreciated not dragging a massive, heavy fork around with me.

Throughout the test the 12 speed Shimano SLX groupset was flawless. It offered oodles of climbing ability with the 10-51 rear cassette and helped out on those big, tough days. I was super impressed with the durability in the wet, gritty British riding conditions and numerous cleaning cycles.

Stopping was taken care of by a set of everyman’s Shimano MT400 Acera hydraulics. The braking was balanced, and still great in the wet sloppy conditions. Whilst they’re not very flashy, I was super impressed considering the price point of the Shimano system.

The wheels weren’t my favourite aspect of the KTM. A Shimano Deore hub laced onto an own brand 29” KTM Line rim is where I’d be willing to spend a little more money. They felt hefty and were the bike mine, I’d try to lighten up the wheels.

Merida Big.Trailtea

The finishing kit was taken care of with in-house ‘KTM team’ components, whilst the stem and 760mm bars did the job the dropper post left a lot to be desired. Several rides were spent out the saddle due to a dodgy cable dropper mechanism and a repair by a pro-mechanic didn’t seem to yield much success. The Ergon saddle, however, was great.

Uphills

KTM has a strong background in XC racing, so we were keen to see if the aggressive-looking Ultra still could get us to the top of the trails with little effort. Similar to other bikes in the category such as the Orange Crush, Trek Roscoe and Specialized Fuse climbing fire roads was a doddle, the stiff alloy frame coupled with some bigboy 29” rollers made for an enjoyable and effortless uphill experience.

The slack head angle and short chainstays does make technical climbs a little challenging, but it’s nothing you won’t get used to with a bit of practice. I get the impression that perfect uphill technique isn’t necessarily what KTM had in mind for the Ultra!

Downhills and Rough Stuff

My first impression of the bike was that it was super easy to get carried away with this bike and ride above your pay grade. On gravelly blues and rocky, rooty techs alike I found myself pushing the bike harder and harder.

Pointing the bike downhill really put a smile on my face. Spin the cranks, point it down and you’re away. The 29 inch wheels, aggro geometry and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres make for a quick-rolling yet grippy machine.

The 130mm Recon is just enough for the Ultra, any more and it would be too much for an all-day expedition, any less you’d be picking your fillings up off the floor. I spent some time playing around with air pressure and tokens to liven up the front end and ensure it didn’t blow all the way through the travel when things got hairy.

I didn’t really find much during my time on the KTM that particularly unsettled it. Roots, rocks, rutty turns… the bike felt planted, stable and very fun. The super-wide Nobby Nics matched well with the big wheels and gave the bike a very capable feeling on rough trails. The slack 66.5° head angle of the bike really inspired confidence and sometimes egged you on to go a bit quicker than might normally on a hardtail like this.

It’s also worth saying that the KTM Ultra felt great from the off. Big, slack, 29’er hardtail sometimes take a bit of getting used to but, in this case, I was flying from the first ride. It felt easy to ride and super agile from the get-go. The slack geo and big wheels didn’t cause me any problems on tight, technical, twisty trails.

What do we think?

The KTM Ultra Evo has all the right bits in all the right places. Point it downhill and it inspires confidence and feels super capable on big, rough, technical trails. There are probably more efficient bikes for big, epic adventures but, sometimes fun is more right?

We love:

  • Solid kit for the price with potential to upgrade
  • Fat Nobby Nics as standard

Could Do better:

  • Dropper post actuator mechanism quality was lacking
  • More colour options than “Java Satin”
  • No other spec options in the range just yet…

Check out the KTM Ultra EVO on their website here.

Read all our other bike test on our Bike reviews page here.