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20 Things You Didn't Know About KTM Motorcycles

The KTM Motorcycle company is best known for their off-road racing bikes and they've established a reputation for building fast and agile bikes that are used to win titles. Their sponsored teams are major contenders in some of the biggest competitions throughout the United States and Europe. KTM deserves a closer look and we've discovered 20 interesting facts about them that we thought you'd like to know.

1. It was started in the 1930s

The KTM motorcycle company was actually started in 1934. Johann Trunkenpolz was an engineer who started and new business, but it didn't even resemble a motorcycle manufacturing plant at that time. This is all a part of the unique history of KTM bikes. Hans' business was a locksmith and metal working shop and it was located in Mattighofen, Austria. It wasn't known as KTM yet. That would not come for many years in the future, but it was the foundation for what would gradually evolve into the mega motorcycle manufacturer that it has become today.

2. The creator of the KTM motorcycle company started off as a mechanic

Trunkenpolz worked on motorcycles as well as doing locksmithing and metal work in his shop. He also repaired automobiles. His beginnings were humble and it was during this time that he realized he had a talent in automotive design, motorcycles in particular. The first motorcycle that Trunkenpolz designed was completed in 1953. The first production series motorcycle that he built was the R100, and it did not yet bear the name KTM but it was still the first in the now famous lineage of championship bikes to come.

3. The motorcycles won their first title within a year of release

When you look back through the history of KTM racing, it's impressive that the very first bike that was released by the company had taken a championship title within just one year of its release. In 1954, the KTM took the Austrian 125 national championship. This was only the beginning. Two years later Egon Dornauer used a KTM to earn a gold medal and its legacy of competition racing was established. KTM would move forward with a focus on the production of racing bikes with their technology geared towards this end.

4. The line following the first racers opened a new market

After the motorcycle company had established itself in the racing industry, it started looking at other markets as well. It didn't take its focus off of the racers or the continual development of faster and better bikes, but it added a new line that would appeal to a different audience. They also designed a production scooter for personal transportation. People needed to have an economical way to get around and this was a fuel-efficient form of travel that was popular in Europe. The Mirabell was their first scooter and the sales were helpful in expanding other aspects of the company.

5. By 1971 KTM was on fire

It had taken years of dedication and putting their time in the trenches as a small company that struggled to stay ahead. They had not yet realized their full potential, but by 1971, the company was showing remarkable growth and progress. The company employed a total of 400 workers and they offered 42 different models of production bikes and scooters which were being sold to the public. They had achieved a major milestone in their progress towards becoming a serious player in the global motorcycle manufacturing industry.

6. It originated in Austria

Those who don't know the history of KTM has made a lot of guesses as to its origins. Some believed it was out of Japan, some from the United States and others guessed that it was a German company. Although amazing racing bikes are produced in all of these countries, few guessed that it was actually Austria. It's perfectly understandable though because KTM hasn't always been a prolific operation and it has had its share of ups and downs through the decades. Today it has emerged ass one of the strongest manufacturers in the industry.

7. The founder of KTM sold bikes and cars

The KTM motorcycle manufacturer does not have a history that is cut and dried nor straightforward. There has been a series of detours and disruptions in flow along the way. In 1973, Trunkenpolz began selling DKW bikes and in 1974 he was selling Opel cars along with them. It was a far cry from the racing-centric display that you see available now. n

8. KTM also sold mopeds and bicycles

The history of this company is rich and diverse. The engineers knew that their future was in the racing models but this wouldn't always pay the bills in the beginning. The road was rocky and the company branched into several different product lines to make a go of it. In addition to their racing motorcycles, they also manufactured and designed, mopeds along with their scooters and bicycles.

9. KTM also built ATVs and a sports car

The KTM sports car is known as the X-Bow but it's called the Crossbow. The vehicle is an ultra-light race car made by the Austrian motorcycle company and it was first introduced to the word in 2008 at the Geneva Motor Show. The car featured a curb weight of 1,740 pounds and w powered with a 2.0 liter Audi turbocharged engine paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.

10. John Penton brought KTM to the United States

It was the brilliance of John Penton, an American importer that brought KTM to the United States. He had the goal in mind to revolutionize dirt bike racing in his home country. He sourced the bikes and had them shipped to the US under his last name in 1968 and it began with the GS model. This was the beginning of what would end up as a KTM America plant established in Lorian, Ohio just ten years later. The bikes sold explosively in the 50cc market and it was at this point in time that KTM began to dominate the racing sphere.

11. KTM came into its own in the 1970s

It wasn't really until the decade of the 1970s that KTM became a prominent force in the world market. It had been around for a while and it was just beginning to become established as a well-known brand. You can make the best bikes in the world but if nobody knows about it, it doesn't really matter. This was before mass media had experienced a total explosion with social media and the internet so word of mouth spread fairly slowly and some were skeptical of newcomers at that time, but for those daring to give the brand a try, the experience was rewarding and the reputation of the brand gained a stronger foothold where it was previously obscured from a lack of exposure. During this decade KTM would come to dominate pro racing with the KTM team winning several championships.

12. KTM has a complicated history

The foundations for the company were laid in 1934, but it wasn't truly formed until 1981. By 1992, KTM had completed its spin-off from the parent company. After this, there were four more companies that divided from the organization to form four under the KTM brand. One of those companies was KTM Sport motorcycle AG which was a small company. This is the part of the original brand that has developed into the KTM that delivers outstanding competition racing bikes throughout the world. They are currently owned by Cross Industries AG and Bajaj Auto Limited.

13. KTM made it official in the United States in 1988

It wasn't until 20 years after John Penton sourced KTM into the United States that the first United States subsidiary KTM North America, Inc. was founded. It was a long and complicated path to arrive at this point in their development and expansion but they had arrived. Things got a little shaky though. There were ups and downs and financial issues. The management of the bank took over the KTM company in 1991 after it filed for insolvency in 1991, but this would not be the end of them. Not by a long shot.

14. New hope in 1992

After the bank took over management of KTM in 1992, the KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH began its operation in the same year. It even acquired the tooling division called KTM Werkzeugbau the same year. By 1995 they were back on their feet and they also acquired the Husaberg AB Swedish motorcycle maker as well as the White Power Suspension Dutch company.

15. The 1980s were a time of big change

When Eric Trunkenpolz, company manager passed away, the company changed hands. This signaled a tie of significant changes for KTM. They ended the manufacture of scooters in 1988, moved to water cooled engines and it produced its first 125cc water-cooled motocross bike early in the decade. It became an industry leader with the new disc brakes in both front and rear in the id 1980s and the KTM teams were amassing more and more wins. Their innovation and advanced technology were not disputed as remarkable and it brought the brand into a world-class with recognition as a leader in sportsbike racing.

16. 1993 was a pivotal year for KTM

After the dust had settled from the bankruptcy filing in 1989, Trampas Parker took thee 1989 World MX 125cc title for America. KTM experienced at GIT Trust holding takeover with majority shares being purchased and by 1993, the victories achieved at the Atlas Rally had signaled KTM's emergence into a new reality in which they would take the name of the brand to new heights of international recognition in the world's motocross and supercross competitions and it became a serious name that was easily recognized by everyone in the business.

17. The 1990s was the decade of new innovation

There was a flurry of new innovations in the 1990s era with the introduction of the Duke series in 1994. These street fighters became iconic bikes and they're still in production today. This was largely due to the company's acquisition of Husaberg Motorcycles and White Power suspension which were both brilliant moves on the part of KTM. Title after title rolled into the win categories while new innovations such as the electric start LC4 engine that powered the Adventure and Supermoto machines and the PDA linkless suspension that hit just prior to the turn of the century.

18. KTM entered the turn of the century with a street bike lineup

It was common knowledge by 2005 that KTM was a powerfully dominating force in the dirt bike market. They took a slow and methodical approach to branch into the street bike market while enjoying the benefits of ruling in sports racing. There as an untapped market awaiting them and they had the brilliant idea for making a dirt bike street-legal. It was a bit on the revolutionary side at the time and KTM set about producing their first dual purpose bike that could tear up the racetrack and then take the rider home via the freeway with no impunity. This thrilled enduro riders.

19. 2008 was a year of firsts for KTM

The brand not only became the first manufacturer to make a production bike that featured an electric powered off-road bike, but they also produced the famed KTM X-Bow ultralight racing car. This was two amazing firsts and it brought the brand a lot of well-deserved attention for their outstanding innovation and forward thinking. Although both of these innovations were presented in 2008, work on each began long beforehand.

20. KTM has good reason to celebrate

KTM started out as little more than a metal shop and locksmith operation in the 1930s. It went from a business focused on auto, and motorcycle repairs to a manufacturing plant that struggled to maintain financial solvency. Yet in the midst of all the difficulties and every curve that fate had thrown at them, they maintained a winning edge over the competition and pushed through every setback to keep the bikes running and winning races. It's a story of persistence and keeping an eye on the brass ring. KTM has reached the pinnacle of success and is a leader in the motorcycle manufacturing and racing industry today. You can talk about KTM bikes in any country in the world and stir up interest.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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