Let's have a little history lesson here about Honda vs. KTM.
I'll open with the first real racing Honda, then moving on to the real creative genius in the offroad motorcycle world - KTM.
In 1973 Honda finally introduced what has been said to be a game-changer in the motocross arena. The year before they had nothing. Oh, the XL series, air-cooled 4-strokes with basically zero suspension.
1973 CR series, the 125 and 250 Elsinore:
In the earlier years Honda had nothing to compete with in enduros, trials, anything that was 'offroad' racing in the day. Pretty much no one else did either, Husqvarna was building a few bikes back in this time period. Most bikes up to this point were road bikes converted for enduro use, harley's, Triumphs, Indians, anything with a set of knobbies and a hopped up motor.
Along came John Penton, about 1966-67, he and his brothers had been competing in the Jackpine enduro in Michigan, other enduro type events in Ohio. You all have heard of Pickering Ohio, right? John went to a world motorcycle event in europe, looking for a factory to build a lightweight enduro competition motorcycle. He met reps from an Austrian bicycle and scooter manufacturer by the name of KTM. He struck a deal with them to build 3 prototype offroad type bikes. 6 months later he recieved his prototypes.
By 1974 there was a Jackpiner 175 with a KTM motor, and they were still building the International Six Days Trials 125 with a Sach's motor. Sach's is a manufacturing giant in Germany that still makes all kinds of motorcycle parts.
1973 ISDT 125. I bought a brand new one that year from Lynnwood Suzuki in WA state. I put a license plate on it (was easy back then), a headlight (I think it was even a square shaped light), a bicyle horn, and I rode it to school during the week and trails on the weekends. The term 'dualsport' had not even been invented yet. Later I had a stripped down version that we cobbled a reed-valve block onto with a custom 'expansion chamber' and raced it in Gold Bar on a motocross track and did surprisingly well against the new Honda Elsinores. It was a 'trailbike' and enduro racer at heart though.
On a side note, I did a quick google search for images of old bikes, first the honda, then the penton. My resored Penton came up second in my search. I've posted this image elsewhere on the internet and now it's forever indexed by Google.
Although this is a restored version, I had several of the originals, 'back in the day'. Notice the high pipe, larger tank, compared to the Elsinore. The Honda was a 'track bike', the Pentons were enduros.
After a decade of success of the Penton cycles, John Penton struck a deal to sell the import rights back to KTM. In 1978 KTM brought their first motorcycles to the US with their name on them. I restored a1978 MC5 400, the year before it came to the states as a Penton Mint 400. This was the culmination of develpment of the original 100cc Pentons. Only now it had a 400cc KTM motor. Here is a sister-bike, a 1978 KTM 250. No, they have not always been orange. And Hondas have not always been red.
My restored 1978 KTM MC5 400. Sold it a few years ago to a competitor in AHRMA racing.
So yeah, there are a LOT of 'hardcore' KTM guys. There's a reason they are now the largest producer of offroad motorcycles in the world. They've had their issues, but they're still breaking new ground in technology and design development. While honda and the other Japanese manufacturers have had a few design breakthroughs of their own, the big-4 have mostly spent their history copying the engineering feats of the european brands.
Look into the history of Husqvarna - another company that has left their mark on the offroad motorcycle world. Funny, Husaberg was formed by some of the original engineers from Husky when Cagiva bought them. Some years later KTM bought Husaberg for their racing 4-stroke technology, and whitepower suspension. So in essence the KTM 4-strokes are decendents of Husqvarna. How interesting is it that the CEO of KTM along with his Indian backers now own the Husqvarna brand again - full circle. Expect great things in the future from this company.
Oh, and KTM still uses the EXC moniker for their offroad models - Enduro Cross Country. How appropo.
Hope you enjoyed our little history lesson today.