KTM 250XC-F VS.
KTM invented the XC line to fill the void between race bikes
and trail bikes. The 250XC-F is basically a motocross bike
with softer suspension, wider ratios, a bigger gas tank, an
18-inch wheel and a kickstand.
The biggest changes between the motocross bike and
the new FX are the addition of a sixth gear and an electric
starter. KTM, of course, started off with an MX bike that
already had both, making less work for itself. Yamaha
elected to keep its kick-start lever and tolerate a few extra
pounds. Understandably, the FX’s electrical system is quite
different from the YZ’s. The EFI uses the battery to fire up
the system, whereas the YZ has a capacitor. That means
that if you decide to save a few pounds and remove the
battery, the bike won’t work. The FX’s black box has a
timer that shuts down the whole system if there’s no activity
for a few seconds. The YZ’s black box has no such feature, a fact that we discovered the hard way. We swapped
black boxes between the two models, and not only did the
electric starter become inoperable, but the whole battery
went dead overnight. The bike ran well, but only for a while.
Lesson learned. Other changes between the two Yamaha
250s include different fuel mapping and a different muffler.
The FX is slightly quieter. The fuel capacity is 2 gallons on
both. That’s big for a motocross bike but small for an off-road bike.
IN THE SHOP
When the Yamaha and KTM met in our 250cc motocross comparison back in the December 2014 issue, it was
advantage Yamaha. The YZ250F was lighter and had better
suspension; the KTM was faster on top. These two bikes
have another story to tell. The Yamaha gained 17 pounds
with the addition of the electric start, so now it’s the heavier
of the two. The YZ250FX weighs 239 pounds without fuel.
The KTM weighs 234 pounds. The Yamaha has a kick-start
lever and the KTM doesn’t. The KTM has handguards and a
larger fuel tank; the Yamaha doesn’t. With a 2.5-gallon tank,
the KTM’s range is significantly farther. The KTM also has a
hydraulic clutch, whereas the Yamaha’s is cable-actuated.
Both bikes have oversize handlebars and no-tool air-filter
access. Neither of them has a spark arrestor and neither
is EPA or CARB compliant. If you want an off-road sticker
in a state that cares about such things, both companies
have other models specifically for that. The bikes in this
contest are racers and not especially quiet. They both pass
a 2-meter max sound test easily, but in the real world the
KTM is a little louder simply because it revs higher. Finally,
there’s the price comparison. The Yamaha sells for $7890;
the KTM is $8599.
Both of these bike are fast. They’re powerful, revvy
and responsive. But, that doesn’t seem to hurt their trail
etiquette. They both have enough low-end power to idle
through slow-speed sections without any ill manners. The
mapping is clean, and there are rarely any coughs, sputters or stalls. Of the two, though, the Yamaha is friendlier
down low. It has slightly more torque and is more willing
to answer the call at the right time. But, this is a close
contest. Both bikes make much more torque than the 250
four-strokes of just two years ago, whereas in the 450 class
there hasn’t been significant advancement in engine output
Somewhere in the middle-rpm range the KTM catches
up, then it pulls away. The KTM pulls harder and harder
the higher it revs, and by the time it’s done, it has left the
Yamaha behind. Decisively. This was a surprise. We knew
that the KTM motocross bike was faster on top, but only
by a slight margin. The gap is much larger between these
two. The FX’s mapping and exhaust must be the reason.