Make no mistake, the driving force behind the new XC
motor is all about motocross. The moto version of the bike
had been down on power since the addition of fuel injection. KTM’s corporate ego couldn’t stand for that. The
motocross bike was due for a redesign so it would be the
fastest bike in the 250F motocross world; that much was
ordained. And because the XC line has a mission statement that includes racing, it would get the same upgrade,
while the W and the Husaberg FE250 would keep the
existing motor. Trail guys just weren’t screaming for more
juice. The SX-F and the XC-F got new die-cast cases that
did away with the kickstarter completely; now there’s only
the button, so make sure you have a battery tender. The
stroke is shorter and the head has larger parts. The piston
is, of course, larger than the old one because of the corresponding bore increase, but KTM worked especially hard
to keep the weight down. High revs were a huge priority.
The KTM valve train has always been praised for its ability
to scream, so the rev ceiling was pushed up to 14,000
rpm. They designed new cams, and the motor got a new
counterbalancer and clutch, all engineered to keep rotational weight to a minimum.
The most significant difference between the motocross
motor and the one in the XC-F is the transmission. First
gear is the same, but after that, every gear ratio on the XC-F is progressively taller. The rear sprocket on the XC-F,
however, is two teeth larger, so the result is a wider spread,
starting lower and ending much higher.
As for the chassis, the XC-F again gets motocross spill
overs. The steel frame is identical, with the same linkage
connected to a WP rear shock, but the XC-F gets softer
spring and damping rates, both front and rear. Other differences between this bike and the MX version are the larger
fuel tank, handguards, a kickstand and 18-inch rear wheel.
The more trail-oriented XCF-W has all those items but with
no linkage in the rear and suspension rates that are softer
We’re required by law to mention how
much we like the KTM airbox in every test.
arrestor. It should also be pointed out that the XC-F is
imported as a closed-course bike and does not meet emission standards, making it ineligible for a California Green
sticker. The XCF-W does meet those standards and is eligible.
ON THE TRAIL
The XC-F’s defining trait is its motor. It’s fast. We don’t
mean fast for an off-road bike; we mean fast, period. It has
the same power-making parts as the motocross bike, which
is far and away the fastest bike in its class. That means you
can pull up next to your buddy on his full-moto Honda
CRF250R and blow past him. If you want numbers, the XC
puts out just a little under 39 horsepower on top, whereas
almost all the other 250F motocross bikes are around 35
horsepower. The KTM’s secret is revs. It doesn’t really set
itself apart from the other 250s until it goes over 10,000 rpm.
The surprising part is how well the power works off-road. You
wouldn’t think that a bike like this would have a broad
powerband, but it does. Down low, the KTM’s torque level
isn’t bad. In fact, it’s somewhat normal for a 250F, so you can
ride it at low revs without too much trouble. Yes, you have to
be ready to downshift if there’s a hill ahead. And yes, you
have to learn to slip the clutch, but that’s normal stuff for a
250 four-stroke. Where the XC-F sets itself apart is on top. If
you hold it on and wait, the bike completely changes its personality. It goes a little crazy.
There are places where you can use that power and places
you can’t. Obviously, you’ll never see 14,000 rpm on most
tight, snaky trails. You have to have loose dirt and clear
space ahead to go there. But, having the option of such a
potent, top-end blast changes the way you ride. You start
looking for hills that most 250F trail bikes simply wouldn’t
consider. You might even challenge a 450 or two on the right
kind of hill. If it’s a straight run and a steep grade, watch out.
The 250XC-F is a giant killer. The only time you’re reminded
of the bike’s smaller displacement is on rough hills, where the
bike gets airborne momentarily. When you come back down,
• Fast. Very, very fast
• Hydraulic clutch
• Good handguards
• Clean fuel injection
• Powerful brakes
• Electric starter
There are only a few
the XC-F and the
The suspension rate,
kickstand, gas tank
top the list.