Like a lot of riders, I’ve always had a strange fascination with TM motorcycles. There’s something about trick, limited-run off-road bikes that really grabs my attention, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t admire those lightning-fast Italians on their mysteriously blue (formerly pink) steeds. In fact, I spent two seasons as an amateur racer aboard full-size TM 80s (a 125cc chassis with an 80cc engine in it, much to the rulebook-twisting frustration of my local AMA referee, I might add), and my experience with the bikes was definitely a positive one. It’s safe to say that most riders don’t have anything against TMs, but perhaps due to apprehension or just a general distrust of the unfamiliar bikes the brand hasn’t seemed to gain much traction in the U.S.Some Dirt Rider readers have been vocal about the lack of TM tests in recent years, yet the distributorship has changed hands several times as of late. However, Motoman Distributing recently regained the import duties, and TM could not have found a better partner. As the importer for TM from 1994 through 2006, Motoman’s Pete Vetrano not only knows TMs inside and out and races them often, but he also has a strategy for making these machines more accessible to the average rider. Working to make the brand a force in the USA by increasing parts availability and expanding TM’s dealer network, Vetrano’s vision is certain to breathe new life into this high-interest exotic bike.It has been a number of years since a TM has seen the inside of the Dirt Rider shop, and because of this our testers were eager to shake the bike down over the course of a few days. In this case, the bike was a shiny new TM EN 250 two-stroke, and after a brief warm-up and break-in on a motocross track we took the EN straight out to the high desert just outside of Barstow, California.Probably the first thing you notice after swinging a leg over the TM is that the bike is paper thin. The shrouds, tank, seat and sidepanels have a skinny nature that lends itself to an altogether diminutive feel, despite the fact that the EN weighs in at around 225 pounds without gas (more on weight in a minute). The stock handlebar is fairly high, and the seat is as hard as a rock when brand new. But overall, the ergonomics of the TM don’t feel overly foreign, certainly more KTM-familiar than Husqvarna-odd. In truth, the TM 250 actually borrows components from several other machines, such as the late-CR250R fork guards and YZ250-style exhaust, so it’s not entirely alien in construction and feel. On the contrary, some parts—the rear sprocket being a prime example—are TM-specific and not as easily replaceable as one would hope. The second thing you notice about the Italian beauty is the lack of electric starting; it seems that we are all getting just a little too used to this luxury!In the desert, the torque-filled feel of the motor allows the rider to rip through high-speed trails a gear high, using a higher-gear lug that feels 50cc more potent than the 250’s true designation. The top-end of the power is sufficient and winds up smoothly, but the bike really shines in low-to-mid applications where the torque produces a smooth rush of power. Much like the standard “ring-ting-ting-ting-ting” of a good ol’ 500cc two-stroke, the TM 250’s piston can be felt making each revolution through the cylinder, though it doesn’t push back on deceleration nor does it feel too slow-revving to enjoy. We didn’t have anything to complain about regarding the stock gearing, and the five-speed transmission actually covers a very wide spread, thanks to a fifth gear that is like an overdrive, without the gaps usually found in a five-speed; the torque of the motor really helps.Following the desert run we tested the TM on our usual mix of single-track trails, and again we came away impressed with the makeup of the motor. The power has a chunky feel with a bigger flywheel taste to it, and on slower trails this again allows for a higher gear selection. Down in that first third of the throttle, the TM easily feels more powerful than your standard 300cc two-stroke. Thanks to the VForce3 reed valve and the crisp stock jetting, the power comes on hard like an MXer if you’re a gear low, with impressive acceleration. There is zero tendency to stall, and traction on the big 140 rear Michelin was solid. Overall, the motor on this bike can be thrown into the “way better than we expected” category.
The suspension was perfectly happy shredding through faster sections, as the stock valving is on the firm side for most average-speed riders, though pro-level Kris Keefer wanted more support out of the springs. Harder hits and surprise square-edged bumps were not a problem for the TM, yet on slower trails we backed out the compression all the way on the Marzocchi fork and several clicks on the Öhlins shock. They are both very adjustable, but we’d prefer closer to the middle of the setting on the fork. In TM’s defense, this is a race bike and for that we would be right in the middle if racing a GP-style event. And yes, it has linkage, but does that really even matter anymore?Back to the weight: The TM is not quite as quick handling as a KTM and has a heavier steering feel, as well as a heavier character on the trail. The narrow ergonomics don’t make the bike feel like a pig—heck, it’s only a 250cc two-stroke—but it isn’t a featherweight by any means. The steering is a little less aggressive than the orange bikes and is pretty stable, definitely not too light feeling. It stays planted and tracks just like it should, and for some riders this was more confident feeling than the KTM. The hydraulic clutch has good action but is also fairly stiff. The brakes on both ends are touchy, easily as sharp as those Austrian bikes with noticeably more bite in the back. Additionally, the TM sports a decent headlight and a stock digital odometer with more bells and whistles than a Nintendo DS—we had some trouble figuring the thing out.According to Vetrano, there have been a number of riders who commit to buying a TM but back out at the very last second in favor of something with more “K.” This is most likely due to that same lack of information that has held the brand back in the past, but with a little luck more and more riders will realize the TM is actually a darn good bike. Ask any go-kart racer about the engines, and they’ll gush about performance. Sure, the EN 250 has got a few little quirks and is totally different than what you’d see at a local enduro, but the fact is there is a lot of interest in these wild blue bikes. You will be seeing more TM tests in Dirt Rider in the future, and hopefully we’ll be able to get these bikes in some upcoming shootouts to see how they stack up against other machines. But for now, you’ll have to take our word for it: The TM EN 250 is better now than it ever has been—way better than we expected—and the bike is a viable and different option for two-stroke off-road riders.
5’7.25”/160 lb/Sr. Expert
Well, I liked the TM and this is why: The motor has good torque and smooth power delivery. Traction is great when the trail opens up, and when you hammer the throttle the EN blasts ahead with smooth, tracking power. I liked the slim feel of the tank and seat as there were no loose ends to snag your boot or pant on, and it’s easy to stay centered up and in control of the bike. The front end feels heavy when trying to lift it with the motor, but the steering feels good; it’s almost like a long feeling bike that turns really well. The rear brake is a bit touchy, and the front is strong enough to get you stopped quickly. The suspension is on the aggressive side for easy-paced trail riding, though. Also, the headlight works better when the motor is revved up, but it’s just enough to get in a night ride or bring you home in the dark.
Getting on the TM I really felt comfortable fairly quickly. Immediately I went into some tighter trails with rocks and the bike handled very well. The fork is a little soft for my liking in harder, choppier terrain, but over rocks and small logs the fork was supple and smooth. I had really no complaints on the shock at all. The motor is snappy off the bottom and mid but seems a little flat on top to me. A little blip of the throttle and you’re over stuff in a hurry. I do, however, miss an E-start on this bike! I guess we’re all getting spoiled with off-road bikes having an electric start, so I was bummed when I had to flip out that funky-looking thing hanging off of the kickshaft! I had a great time riding this bike, and did I mention how I loved smelling the exhaust as I was riding?
|Specifications: 2011 TM EN 250|
|Weight (tank full): 239 lb|
|Fuel capacity: 2.3 gal.|
|Seat height: 37.7 in.|
|Footpeg height: 16.7 in.|
|Ground clearance: 13.5 in.|
|Contact: www.tmmotorcyclesusa.com; 909.608.0082|