Honda took the win for the third year in a row in Dirt
Bike’s 250F shootout. It was an easy choice.
Yamaha gave the YZ250 a new front tire, seat, chain
and brake-hose clamp for 2009. That might not sound
like much attention, but Suzuki gave its 250 two-stroke
only one change for ’09—omission. ;
this in the past and thought it was a side-effect of greater
weight. That’s obviously not the case here, but all that
spinning stuff inside the Honda motor must have an effect
In turns, the bikes have very different personalities. The
four-stroke is good at sweeping from inside to outside. The
KTM and Yamaha are cut -and-thrust machines. Both techniques work well, but the on the four-stroke it’s easier to
How does it all work out on the track? It’s time to break
out the stopwatch. We used Michael Leib as a guinea pig
for the 250 vs. 250 vs. 250 showdown at Perris Raceway,
which was relatively smooth with good traction at the time.
He’s a 250F rider and approached the 250 two-strokes with
apprehension at first. By the end of the day, we couldn’t
get him off the YZ250.
The bottom line was that Leib was consistently about a
tenth of a second faster on the Yamaha YZ250 than on his
own CRF250R practice bike. And he was about a second
slower on the KTM. His biggest handicap on the KTM was
its size. Even though it’s the lightest of the three bikes, it
feels the biggest, and Leib is a small rider. The KTM’s relative instability at speed took a toll on him, too. But the fact
remains that on the KTM he was fairly close in lap times to
the bike he rides everyday. And on the Yamaha he was
There are a lot of mitigating factors. One day on one
track is not enough for us to declare that all 250Fs are null
and void and that we should return immediately to two-strokes. If the track were rougher, then the four-stroke
might well have taken the day. But the fact remains that
even with virtually all R&D money being funneled to four-strokes, they have yet to show a practical advantage
unless they have an edge in displacement. And no one will
argue that 250 two-strokes are far, far easier to maintain
and less costly to overhaul. The day of the two-stroke
might not be over yet. Stay tuned.
The KTM 250SX
motor got a new top end three years ago and
has received only minor change since then. The
suspension has received all the same updates as the four-stroke models.