It must have driven KTM engineers nuts. Last year the
250SX-F was not the fastest bike in its class. KTM always has
the fastest motors—from the 125 two-stroke to the 450SX-
F—but for some strange reason, the 250F didn’t measure up.
Stop the presses. For 2013, the KTM has a new motor. It
is a standout in other ways too. For one thing, it has an
electric starter and not even a hole for a kickstarter. It also
has the only six-speed gearbox of the bunch, the only side-access airbox and the only fork with a nitrogen bladder.
STRONG POINTS: Guess what? The KTM went from
being the slowest bike in the 250F class to being the
fastest. Peak power sets a new high-water mark at almost
40 horsepower. That’s close to how much the YZ400F
made when it was introduced. The motor accomplishes that
feat through revs. It climbs to 14,000 rpm and gives up one
last burst before quitting. Between the top-end power and
the six-speed gearbox, the KTM 250 has tremendous top
speed. We rarely used sixth gear, but it came in handy
when we needed it.
You can’t ignore the fact that the KTM has an electric
starter, either. This has become part of the bike’s identity and
a good reason to own one. You virtually eliminate the danger
Jeff Rambo and Broc Shoemaker bang
bars on the two most powerful 250Fs.
of losing a race because you stalled the motor. The KTM also
gets best-in-test for its brakes, which are wicked strong.
WEAK POINTS: Even though the peak power number is
impressive, riders don’t generally rave about the KTM’s
motor. It takes a long time to get up to 14,000 rpm. The
midrange is the working area of the motor, and the bike still
takes a backseat to the Kawasaki and maybe even the
Suzuki there. The gear ratios are oddly wide. We don’t
understand this. Isn’t the idea of a six speed to eliminate
gaps? It turns out that first is lower than any of the others
and fifth is about the same. Never mind sixth.
The KTM is the heaviest bike of the six. We can forgive
that because, at 231 pounds without fuel, it’s only 2 pounds
heavier than the Suzuki, but it feels much bulkier. When you
combine that with suspension that’s a little harsh, no one
gives the bike high marks in the handling department. Other
glitches: a slightly hard clutch pull (despite hydraulics) and
frequent popping and backfiring.
BOTTOM LINE: The KTM taught us a lesson. Before this
point, we firmly believed that horsepower was the single most
important factor in the 250F world, yet here we have a bike
with killer horsepower numbers that didn’t win. The KTM isn’t
a bad-handling machine by any means, but it’s going up
against some of the best-handling dirt bikes in the world.
New motor, predictable results