KTM 250XC-F VS.
Yamaha deturned the X with different mapping and a quieter
Many riders feel the XC is a better motocross bike than the
Yamaha gave this bike a Euro-spec YZ muffler, whereas
the KTM has the exact same exhaust system as the U.S.
In order to use that horsepower advantage, you have
to ride the KTM aggressively. Keep it revving and it’s
happy, but there are problems with that kind of approach.
It encourages you to use the clutch, and the pull at the
lever is much more difficult than that of the Yamaha.
So much for hydraulics. The KTM also has more engine
braking when you chop the throttle from high revs, and
that makes the bike lurchy. We don’t particularly like the
Yamaha’s off-throttle manners, either. When the throttle
is chopped on the FX, it’s almost like you’ve hit the kill
button. We’ve made progress with the Yamaha by remapping the ECU with the GYTR Power Tuner, but we’re still
testing at this point.
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
KTM has had mixed results with the 4CS fork. In most
cases it works better for off-road applications than it does
for motocross. That’s the story here. We’re fairly pleased
with the KTM’s front end. It’s softer than the MX version’s,
and that seems to make all the difference in choppy terrain. We’ll go so far as to say that the 250XC-F’s fork
is better on most natural-terrain motocross tracks than
the SX-F’s fork. The softer valving absorbs just enough
light impact to increase the comfort factor. Comfort isn’t
always the same thing as effectiveness, though. If there
are jumps or G-outs, the XC fork uses up too much travel
too soon. The compression adjuster on top of the left leg
accomplishes very little.
The XC’s fork would probably seem great if it weren’t up
against one of the best forks in the world. The KYB SSS
system on the Yamaha is excellent. Like the KTM’s fork, it
benefits from softer spring and valve rates as far as comfort goes, but it doesn’t dive as much or collapse on a big
hit. Just like in the MX world, Yamaha has a big advantage
in front suspension. In the rear, it’s virtual parity between
the two. The shocks work well in rocks and at slow
speeds without giving up any performance in big whoops.
We were really eager to learn if there were any dif-
ference between the two in agility. Does the centralized
mass of the Yamaha cancel out its extra weight? Perhaps.
Sometimes the Yamaha felt lighter than the KTM; some-
times not. On those occasions when you find yourself
airborne, the Yamaha feels lighter and smaller. But, when
you’re going down a steep hill, you feel every pound. On
top of that, the KTM has much better brakes. For the most
part, though, the two bikes are equal in perceived weight.
We’ll give the Yamaha the edge in overall stability. We
raced it at the Adelanto GP, where you often find yourself topped out. There was no headshake or wobbling to
report. Some riders occasionally accuse YZs of not having a well-planted front end, especially in broad, sweeping
turns. After all, the rearward cylinder and relocated fuel
cell mostly result in less weight on the front wheel. That
complaint never surfaced with the FX. Like the motocross
version, it likes a throttle-on turning technique. The KTM is
more neutral. It can coast through a turn, as well as blast
through it. But, the KTM is also much busier at speed. It
headshakes occasionally and keeps you on your toes.
ALIKE BUT DIFFERENT
The biggest surprise in this test is how high the bar has
been raised. It wasn’t long ago that the 250cc four-stroke
off-road market was in hibernation. The XR250 generation
was gone, and the replacements from Honda, Yamaha
and KTM never developed the same following. Now a third
wave of 250Fs is here, and these bikes are far, far better
than their predecessors. The Yamaha YZ250FX and KTM
250XC-F are sweet trail bikes that have the technology and
performance to be raced without modification. They really
are at home in both worlds, but they lean in different directions.
The KTM is more of a racer. It’s really all about horsepower here. The KTM’s motor has the output to run with
the big boys. It can go hill-climbing with the 450s one
weekend and go straight to an MX starting line the next.
Yamaha’s new challenger leans more toward fun riding.
It’s more comfortable and easier to ride. The easy clutch
pull, comfortable fork and forgiving powerband make it
the favorite of most test riders. It’s not perfect, though. It
needs more power on top to hang with the KTM, and it
should have come with a bigger tank and handguards, but
it’s $709 less expensive to start with. Is that extra room in
the budget enough to attain true perfection? Maybe not,
but close enough. o