For this year’s 24-Hour Torture Test, we wanted to learn as much about the bikes as we usually do and, at the same time, show you the right steps for taking any one of these 250Fs home from the dealer and out onto the trails at maximum performance. This testing method ensures you’re riding the same machines that we have tested. It’s not that we get ringers for test units, but we do get some rather “perfect stockers.” We’re showing you how to get the same thing from your dealer.We sent an open invitation to participate in the 24-Hour to our manufacturers. Husqvarna was unresponsive, but Yamaha, KTM and Honda were ready to go and showed up with their bikes, respectively, a WR250F, a 250 XC-F-W and a CRF250X. We began with three unprepped, zero-mile, never-been-run bikes. The idea here was to let you know, step-by-step, what needed to be done to the bikes to get them ready for the test. Plus, we would show what an average rider should do to get any of these bikes performing at the same level as our bikes. If needed, we used some slight, “common sense” modifications to get them running to the highest possible level while still remaining surprisingly close to box-stock. And of course, we thoroughly charted what maintenance was required.We took each of the bikes and ran them through a few low-stress heat cycles to break them in. It wasn’t by the book, per se, but we did give everything a chance to seat in before the Torture Test. KTM recommends changing out the break-in oil that comes with the bike fairly quickly, but Honda and Yamaha were willing to let us leave in the stock oil for the beginning of the test. Also, as we checked over the machines after the first few minutes of riding, we found it interesting that KTM and Yamaha were specific in recommending that the engine mount bolts and specifically the shock mounting bolts on the KTM were all checked for torque. Some other good tips, ones that might get overlooked by your dealers during prep include cleaning the disc rotors of their protective coatings and checking that the air pressure in the tires is set to the proper levels. It is always a good idea to give the spokes a once-over, especially after the first few rides, and to take a close look at all the small fasteners during the early hours of a new ride.From here we installed a wiring harness for NiteRider HellFire lights. These were set up to aid the stock headlights in the 12-plus hours of darkness. We also slapped on our official DR 24-Hour ridePG.com number plate backgrounds, hooked up a DR.D hourmeter to each bike and sent them out for a quick pre-event photo shoot.Right off the start, we had the bikes (less the above-listed modifications) run the way they come from the dealer for the first lap on our 22-mile course. From the Honda, there were no issues and we didn’t change, modify or mess with anything, jetting or otherwise, for the entire test. For the Yamaha, however, stock was a different story. The blue bike must hop a few more hurdles to overcome the strict noise and sound regulations for fully compliant off-road bikes. Surprisingly, you can ride the bike box-stock, in its half-throttle-limited form, in tight and technical trails or in just putt-putt riding. But in anything open you will miss the second portion of power. After the first lap, we swapped the throttle stop to a YZ part (requiring a long extension for a 5mm Allen wrench) to give us full throttle; removed the muffler end-cap, drilled out the rivets holding in the smallest stuffer and pulled it out; unplugged the gray wire from the wiring harness underneath the left sidepanel; and removed the airbox snorkel. All of this took a total of 10 minutes since we had the tools out and knew what to do, but it might take you an hour or so on your first time.On 250Fs we haven’t found any need to mess with or remove the Air Injection Systems. And even though we know you can get more power in varying rpm ranges with different jetting specs on the WR, we found no need to mess with the stock jetting as the bike ran smoothly and crisply. The KTM, for all intents and purposes, is a closed-course-competition model, and it requires that you, the customer, make the changes for it to meet the off-road requirements for where you ride. In California, the bike meets the green sticker emissions standards, but it needs the addition of a 96-decibel or lower spark arrestor-equipped muffler to make it legal to ride. Since it doesn’t come stock with this, we penalized it and made it wait until the other bikes completed their first lap before it could run. After lap one, we installed a KTM Hard Parts quiet spark arrestor muffler and sent it on its way. We rode our XC-F-W for the duration of the test with stock jetting, but it was not ideal and the bike suffered from it. Later we put in an OBETP needle with the clip in the fifth position from the top. This is the same needle found in the 250 XC-F and SX-F, and it really cleaned up 99 percent of the jetting woes. As the bike breaks in, it seems to prefer this needle.And this is how the bikes ran for the rest of the test. What followed is a testament to the durability of these machines and how little maintenance they really need. And as much as the manufacturers would have liked to believe that their hero riders were babying these bikes around the course, you can’t take the speed out of the racer. And we had some fast racers on hand! Add in the lucky fact that the course was blessed by recent rains and in such fine shape, and you get a group of speedy devils pinning it and ripping around the test loop-taking the challenging way at every chance. Just to make it interesting, the skies opened in the early morning and it got pretty muddy for six hours, putting even more strain on the machines. But they never faltered.During the event, we set up six additional challenges for the stock bikes. We didn’t think running for 24 hours straight was enough. These tests were: a basic mechanical test (oil change, wheel swaps, etc.), a run in front of the radar gun, an ISDE-style terrain test, a two-lap motocross timed test, a spiral turn called an escargot test and a slow-course test complete with man-made obstacles. The bikes were put through each of these by one of our staff or helpers. Here we were able to compare the bikes back to back and give you the reports on how they worked. When night fell, we bolted up the NiteRider HellFire handlebar-mounted HID lights to aid the sometimes-weak stock lights. The HellFires only draw 20 watts of power yet produce a ton of light. All the stock charging systems were adequate enough to run these lights and still deliver a charge to the batteries.Escargot
When we decided on running the virtually unknown escargot test, none of us really had any idea how it would work. Once we got things in place, though, it was clear that the tricky little spiraling turn, like a snail’s shell (hence the name), was not only fun but could also serve as a steady comparison for all of our test bikes. It was a constantly decreasing-radius turn in one direction, then an increasing-radius turn on the way out. When ridden back to back to back, each of our stockers behaved a bit differently on the giant snail.The first test machine to go through the escargot was the stock KTM. This bike has great holeshot prowess and launched down into the first turn fairly hard, but with a small but noticeable amount of side-to-side spinning in the rear end. The machine pushed the front a bit and wanted to be cornered with a little more rear wheel input than the other two bikes, favoring a sliding/squaring/countersteering method as opposed to turning at a constant angle. I kept the KTM in second gear the entire way around.When it came time to ride the WR250F, I was immediately aware of how straight the bike stayed off the line and, as a result, how much traction it grabbed. Halfway through the first part of the outside corner, I found myself riding in and liking the upper portion of the powerband. This subsequently caused me to downshift into first before the tightest portion of the escargot, making the Yamaha the only bike on which I didn’t use second gear the entire way around. Cornering was smooth and consistent, and I felt like the machine could be leaned at a comfortable angle without any effort. In the end, I’d felt like I turned my fastest time aboard the blue bike-maybe the high revs made me feel fast when in fact I was slow.As for the Honda, the 250X felt noticeably slower out of the hole, and more reluctant to get up to speed. However, it was also the easiest to keep in the meat of the powerband in terms of constant, usable lug, easily pulling second gear. The smooth power kept the rear wheel turning and hooking up all the way around, and I didn’t experience any pushing issues with the front wheel. The bike didn’t hit extremely hard coming out of the test, but I did realize how solid the brakes felt when stopping the bike after the exit. Although I only spent less than three minutes total on these machines, the snail test was a great arena for revealing their turning and handling characteristics.
-Chris DenisonTerrain Test
The terrain test was probably the most directly applicable test of our 24-Hour event to real riding situations. It could be related to the highest performance asked of a bike on the trail and show how these bikes handle the stresses of off-road racing. Most of all, it was against the clock and any weaknesses would show up there. The course was 111/42 miles long and took the fastest riders in the country just more than 4:20 to get around. It had everything from speedy turns to some lock-to-lock tight turns through the bushes. There were some elevation changes and G-outs and chop to tax the suspension. The speeds were high enough in places to give the brakes a big workout, and there were places where fancy clutch work allowed pulling a higher gear and a faster corner exit.The three bikes continued to show their distinct traits here, making it easy to identify the flavor you’d want your ride to resemble. The 100 percent racer is the KTM. It should not be mistaken for a combination trail/race bike and needs a committed throttle, high revs and a lot of clutch work to make the bike rip the way it was meant to. Although there is torque on the bottom, the bike will not pull through the midrange cleanly with throttle alone. This means you have to slam the downshifts and keep the motor revving, the higher the better. When it is wound tightly, it is rocket-ship fast. The gear spacing pulls the bike just fine, and the clutch withstands the necessary abuse. If you ride the bike in the low-end, it will suffice, but it’ll be a really slow ride. Plus, there were some jetting issues off the bottom that made it difficult to clock a fast time. Handlingwise, the KTM has a light feel in the bar and flicks around the easiest of the three. It feels less planted, and the bike will skip and get light in the back pretty easily, too, especially under hard braking. This makes it easy to slide the XC into turns and steer more with the rear end. The suspension is not the plushest but handles the big hits great and lets you feel the ground and what is happening with the tires.The Honda is the trail bike of the bunch, largely due to the suspension. It, by comparison, is springy and soft, especially the front and even more so for heavier riders (180-plus pounds). Although the CRF’s handling is light and spot-on, with decent stability, the suspension allows the bike to pitch and uses too much stroke to control the bike in faster or race applications. It shines in trail riding or less-stressed situations; that is the trade-off. You can click in some compression to the shock and fork for an improvement without too much compromise in plushness. The motor does a good job matching the mellow nature of the suspension package, but it is still a willing partner when the time comes to go fast. It has great low-end power and a spunky midrange that requires less clutch work than the other bikes, a good thing because the CRF clutch gets hot more easily than the others do, too. It revs but prefers a quicker shift and, by this method, isn’t slow by any means. The bike could have easily been five seconds faster through the test had the suspension been stiffer.The Yamaha walked the middle of the road in the terrain test and, in doing so, was the easiest to ride and the easiest to go fast on. The new chassis gives the bike added stability, a newfound lightness in turning and side-to-side twists, and a stiffer suspension that doesn’t compromise the comfort. The bike grabs great traction, resists bottoming and never feels harsh. The motor has a very linear and almost electric spread that does not impress anywhere but in its total usability. It has the ability to torque at low, low rpm, it works out in the midrange, and it’s perfectly happy revving out like the KTM. It is the total package, and the standard jetting, like the Honda, is spot-on. Its fast time was easy to achieve and could have been even faster if pushed.
-Jimmy LewisCross Test
As an important part of many an enduro race, we figured running this year’s 24-Hour bikes through a fast and semiaggressive motocross test was a surefire way to bring out the true character of the machines. And with more buyers looking for a bike that will tackle the track as well as the trail, our cross test would really let the cream rise to the top.The first stock bike I jumped on was the Honda CRF250X. Off the line and through the time trap, the little red X pulled pretty well. It even threw me into a decent wheelie. As I got farther down the straight, I realized it was getting insane traction but not really charging or yanking the old elbow sockets much. The bike’s cornering ability was decent. It liked to stay in the ruts on the soft and wet course but never felt truly stable as the weight of the bike seemed high and forward. This top-heavy feeling goes away in faster corners and fast straights, but in tight, rutted 180-degree corners, you can definitely tell you’re on an off-road bike, not an MX machine. The gearing isn’t really set up for a tight MX course, either, as the power hurries into the rev-limiter and has you shifting up (and then down when the corners come) quite often. The CRF’s suspension was much too soft for anything other than downsiding tabletops.My second ride on the track was the KTM XC-F-W. This bike felt the most “moto” of all the test bikes. It was the lightest, narrowest and most agile feeling in the test. Also, the motor flat rips. This bike will pull second gear forever, making a lot less work for my shifter toe. In stock trim, the powerplant in the KTM is damn near perfect. I especially liked cornering the little orange bike. It was stable, centered and had just the right amount of traction to drive you through a soft, deep corner or slide a little if need be through some flat-track turns. This bike is more moto-ready out of the box than any of the other enduro bikes in this test and its suspension will handle most MX obstacles with ease.The Yamaha WR250F had a big act to follow after the KTM. But once I was aboard I found a happy ride. The Yamaha is so middle-of-the-road that it’s easy to love. It gets insane traction, and the motor loves to rev. If you’re a die-hard 125 fan, you’ll really like riding the Yamie. The motor pulls as hard as the Honda, yet it doesn’t hit the rev-limiter nearly as fast, making for two less shifts down that straightaway (one up and one down). It did feel heavy compared with the agile KTM, but it seemed nimbler than the Honda. Turning on the moto track was, again, really enjoyable on the blue enduro bike. But in stock trim, the suspension is taxed on bigger jumps. For a moto guy, racing against the clock on off-road bikes had me smiling straight through my two-minute motos. And it also showed me just how versatile today’s “enduro” bikes can be. -Jesse ZieglerSpinning Wrenches
During the test, we stopped each bike and did a quick servicing that included removing and reinstalling the wheels (or swapping to new ones if the manufacturer desired) and changing the air filter and the oil.The wheels on the three bikes are all pretty much the same: They all use MX-style chain blocks in the rear and have pinch-clamp axle designs up front. The KTM uses one size axle nut front and rear, making it the easiest. The Honda has a front disc guard that has to be removed, and the Yamaha has the oddly sized 22mm front axle nut.Each bike has a quick-access door to the air filter, with KTM and Yamaha using a simple clip to attach the filter. But the KTM is one step easier in that the sideways-facing air filter opening is so easy to fit the filter into that my 8-year-old could do it.For the oil change, the KTM again takes top honors with its simple one-bolt drain (with a magnetic-tipped drain plug!), simple oil filter access and brainless one-quart refill [or one liter by the book, but we're pretty sure there was 50cc still hanging out inside-Ed.]. The Honda was just as simple-one bolt for the motor oil. Since an oil change was all that was required for this test, the Honda techs said we didn’t need to touch the transmission oil, which was still the fluid the bike was delivered with. We’d have changed it at the same time if it were up to us. We also think having separate chambers for the transmission and the engine is a great idea, even if you have to make sure you put the right type of oil in each and measure out the recommended amounts.The Yamaha’s oil change is a chore compared with the others’, but its stock skid plate is well worth the hassle to remove if it is ever called into service to protect the case. Then you’ll need three sizes of wrenches and sockets (8, 10 and 12mm) to get the oil out and bleed the oil tank before refilling the motor to the advised amount and reattaching the skid plate. Done at recommended intervals, cleanly and in a garage, the extra 10 minutes it takes to do the Yamaha might not matter to you, but now at least you know.
-Dave DyeSlow Race
What does a slow race tell you about a bike? Well, when you throw in stadium trials-like obstacles, it tells you a few things about a bike’s weight feel, balance, clutch control and low-end power. Our course, with its teeter-totter, slippery, banked turns and log hops, made our bikes strain and riders cringe.The KTM did just fine, largely due to a great clutch and a light feel. The power is not the best for the super-slow stuff, but there is just enough torque to get by. It is also the most likely to stall. Not at idle, but when you crack the throttle to get going, you are likely to bog. On the ramps you feel how light the KTM is, and there is a ton of control over the bike through the footpegs. It feels the thinnest and takes the lightest amount of effort in the steering.The Honda was the only bike I crashed in the test; rider error and moisture accumulating on the wooden banked turn is to blame. Luckily, both the bike and I survived. The CRF feels just slightly wider and a bit heavier in these sections, but it also felt the most planted. The power is perfect for this slow stuff, and the clutch is magic as long as you don’t abuse it and get it hot.Yamaha’s WR again runs right in the middle of the other two bikes. It shares the light and especially the thin feeling of the KTM but has a better power delivery. Its power is closer to, though just not as strong as, the bottom of the CRF. It likes a little more rpm to get pulling, and it’s complemented by a great clutch.
-Jimmy LewisNight Riding
This is all about the lights. You can’t even ride the stock KTM at night since it doesn’t have lights. We attached an E/XC headlight with a 35-watt bulb to complement the NiteRider setup. Since the charging system on the KTM is plenty strong, we could have gone even brighter with the bulb. For riding in the night, it gets the job done. For the CRF, you’d better keep that baby revving to get any usable light out of the stock 35-watt headlight. Even at high rpm, the light output is weak and really needed the additional help. But the stock’s stator output to the battery is just barely enough to keep it charged with the additional 20-watt pull of the HellFires. So those interested in additional lighting should look to a rewound stator for a little more power. The WR really shined here. Its stock headlight is the best of the bunch and could have gone it alone, but complemented with the HellFires, it was really good. And the charging system puts out a little more juice than the Honda and keeps the headlight bright and the battery easily topped off.
-Jimmy LewisThe Goods
There are many great reasons for a trail rider/racer to prefer an off-road bike rather than a converted MX machine. It may be that the engine tuning and suspension specification are set up for what you want to do, or it may be that the list of features that separates these bikes from their track-focused brethren. All of these bikes come with 18-inch rear wheels for a cushier ride and increased flat protection. They all have odometers, from the mechanical Honda odo to the digital and multifunction KTM and Yamaha units. Honda and Yamaha both have coolant catch tanks, which are great if you get into abusive overheating situations. The CRF has small guards for the cases, while the Yamaha has full skid-plate protection. All three bikes feature electric starting and are backed up with kickstarters. Easy-access airboxes and kick stands on all the bikes make them more focused for off-road riding.
-Jimmy LewisJust Trail Riding
If all you are concerned with is plain and simple trail riding-the slower and more technical, the better-then the CRF is the bike for you. That becomes clear right from the moment you get the bike, since you don’t have to do a thing to it; it will run just like the bike we tested and will continue to ride like new. The performance nature of the bike backs this up; it has the most bottom- and midrange-biased powerband, and the suspension is the softest and the least harsh of the three bikes-for anything aggressive we’ll label it soft. Durability, as long as fresh oil and clean air are on the bike’s diet, is pretty impressive considering the substantial power you are getting out of such a small motor.The Yamaha ranks second here solely because of the slight modifications you’d need to do to get the bike to perform like ours. These commonsense modifications will take all of 10 minutes and then you’ll be ready to rip. Here the slightly stiffer nature of the Yamaha’s suspension works better as the aggressiveness of the trail riding increases. The motor simply does it all. You can ride it as delivered, where half throttle is all you get, and it will chase the kids on their bikes and tackle tight and technical trails just fine. But trust us, if terrain opens up, you’ll be looking for that second helping of power.The KTM is much more of a race bike from the get-go-even this W version of the XC. As sold from the dealer, it lacks the necessary spark arrestor and quiet muffler for realistic trail riding. And its higher-strung nature in both suspension and motor make it too vigorous for anything that resembles putt-putting around. Another good thing we can say about the orange bikes is that if you get lazy with your maintenance or just plain neglectful, the KTM will last longer through it.
-Jimmy LewisRadar Runs
Before you jump into this graph and swallow it as the whole truth on how fast your next off-road bike will be, you need to understand a couple of things. First, keep in mind we started motocross-style from a dead stop. You probably won’t be doing too many full-on starts on these bikes, but this graph does show a few things about power and, more important, traction. The soil condition of the test was sandy and loose, so wheelspin was definitely a factor. As you can tell from the graph, these bikes all started pretty evenly, then split off into their distinct characters. The lines here pretty much tell the story.Shortly after launch, the Yamaha WR pulls strong; it likes to get into the mid-high revs more quickly than the other bikes and works best there, pulling as you shift. It did spin on bottom, though not aggressively, and kept making power up top for an adequate time. The Honda CRF is similar but takes its time. It doesn’t pull gears as quickly, yet it flattens out a bit faster than the WR. This means more shifting. Its power simply isn’t as broad up top. The red bike clearly works best in the low and mid, below the rpm where these runs were conducted. The KTM is completely different from its Japanese counterparts. It is mellow on bottom and builds steadily into a midrange that preps you for a top-end pull that doesn’t stop. Its acceleration run is the steepest and fastest. In these conditions, the bottom-end laziness of the KTM didn’t affect its wide-open run through the gears. In fact, it aided traction and improved the feel. Trail speeds vary and each of these bikes will pick up and taper off at different times. How you ride them is as important as how fast they are. Now, at least, you know one of the variables. -Jesse ZieglerCheck:
Engine oil level
Transmission fluid level
All small fastenersChange:
Add wiring for NiteRider HellFire headlights
Add Acerbis hand guardsThe Winner
This was pretty clear after the 24 hours and became even clearer as we kept on riding these bikes: If you want a racer, choose the KTM or the Yamaha. If you want a trail bike, choose the Honda or the Yamaha. But if you want a bike that does it all, and does it all well, then the only real choice is the Yamaha WR250F, despite the uncorking process. We like it so much we’re going to throw it in our Long Haul fleet and ride it for 226 more hours! To learn more about these bikes and their potential, we ran three modified versions of them through the DR 24-Hour Torture Test at the same time. You’ll get to read about them next month.Check:
Engine oil level
Coolant level, bleed
Engine mount bolts
Shift lever bolt
Shock mounting bolts
All small fasteners and bolts
Take out triple clamp bolts, grease, torque
Rear axle nut/front axle bolt, grease
Oil fork seals
Verify suspension clickers are set to stockChange:
Engine oil after first hourModifications:
Add USFS-approved 96-decibel
KTM spark arrestor
Add wiring for NiteRider HellFire headlights
Add KTM hand guardsCheck:
Engine oil level
Engine mount bolts
All small fasteners (shroud/seat specifically)
Inspect throttle housing
Remove throttle stop, replace with YZ
Remove gray wire from plug harness behind left sidepanel
Remove smallest (riveted-in) stuffer inside muffler tip
Remove airbox snorkel/restrictor from top of airbox
Add wiring for NiteRider HellFire headlights
Add Acerbis hand guards