We’ve always said KTMs run a hard line. Having “Ready to Race” as a company slogan tends to make that happen. And the SX series could be described (at least prior to 2009) as very aggressive and edgy. This different horse in a stable of cloned ponies has always polarized buyers and test riders alike. One guy will love it while another can’t get used to it. It’s the orange curse and it’s one we’re predicting has been lifted with the 2009s.The 250 SX-F is a perfect example of this. Like its big brother-the E-start 450 SX-F-the new 250 incorporates changes aimed at giving the bike more power sooner while cruising on a chassis and suspension package that should have even the strongest haters giving it props.Both areas of improvement (handling and power) stand out equally on this ride. The motor, with its valve-train diet program, is delivering that excellent KTM power sooner than ever. The Austrian company didn’t redesign the engine, it simply lightened the parts in the cylinder head so it can rev more freely. And it worked. The KTM top-end-only character is gone. The bottom to mid is the sweetest we’ve seen on this bike. The best part: The top-end is still there, too.Power is nothing without control (I think a tire company told me that), and KTM’s fork and shock updates are the very definition of control. Up front the inner tubes (the ones that slide up and down) are thinner and the outer tubes are reshaped to flex more. Yes, your fork flexes. Plus, there are new bushings in the outer tubes and all the sliding components are essentially sourced from a new supplier using improved processes to get everything moving better. These are simple changes KTM hopes will work.Oh, it worked. The fork is really great on the KTM 250 SX-F. And it’s been great on every other ’09 KTM we’ve tested so far. It combines amazing initial plushness-which you’ll swear is an indicator of a setup that’s too soft-with the bottoming resistance of a supercross-stiff set. It’s a great combination of suspension feel and confidence. Faster pilots or riders close to 180 pounds will appreciate about one extra click on the compression adjuster (it’s that sensitive). Leave everything else stock for most tracks (more settings to come in our MX shootout).The shock is improved as well. If you remember our ’09 450 test (December ’08) the PDS shock has been gutted and stuffed with new parts all around. New needle, stiffer spring, larger inlet passages, reshaped piston ports and other tweaks run amok in order to move more oil through the pistons of the PDS system on high-speed movements like acceleration bumps, all the while maintaining bottoming resistance.It worked on the 250 SX-F, too. The shock is supple and strong right out of the box and loves to be set at the right sag. We recommend experimenting between 105-115mm with the rider. If you experience headshake or strange turning behavior, twist the spring a turn or two.So its engine flat rips, and it has supple yet strong suspension performance. It must turn funny or do something else weird, right?No. It doesn’t. It’s probably the sweetest-turning 250F of the season. The front end gets insane traction, and you can control the corners like there’s no tomorrow thanks to the direct delivery of consistent power.Do we really have to tell you, again, how awesome the controls are on this bike. Yes? OK. Well, they’re even better this year on all SX-F models with better feeling levers (not the same as the 450 on this 250, though) and the best front brake in motocross.To sum it up: It finally seems the fleet of KTM motocross bikes are built to please the masses instead of those with a penchant for proper setup. In doing so, the Orange engineers have likely built their best MX bikes ever.
Modifications We’d Like To Try: Bridgestone 403/404 tires, clutch master cylinder off of the KTM 125.Opinions
Weight: 145 lb
IntermediateWhat I noticed first was the throttle response; it was crisp and clean with no hesitation. Once I got on the track the KTM’s handling immediately stood out. The bike works awesome going into corners. I was able to charge in and rail the outside or dive into the inside rut at will.I also really liked the fork. It was plush on top yet stiff through the mid-stroke. I had the bike pretty low (113mm). This setup worked perfectly for me. For slower riders, this bike could still be a little stiff, but the faster you go, the better it works.I can’t talk about this bike without giving it up to the controls. Nothing compares to the hydro clutch, and the front brake is a little less aggressive for ’09 yet is still pretty strong.Overall, I was very impressed; the KTM 250F is going to be a contender for ’09.Pete Peterson
Weight: 160 lb
Vet NoviceI rode this bike at two tracks, and it felt great at both. The steering is precise and somehow gets great traction (even with the stock soft-dirt tires on hardpack) while still feeling light and nimble. The throttle response really makes things click because you can rely on the engine’s immediate response to balance through rutted corners. Last year’s bike’s suspension hurt my hands with its harsh feeling on braking bumps. The ’09 is plush and calm. It got a busy feeling at one of the tracks, but I think that was a case of running it without enough sag. I put it to 110mm on my second track day and the bike felt nimble in the turns and calm on the straights. The bike doesn’t try to stand up when you rev it, so it still goes exactly where you want, even coming out of corners aggressively on the gas. I can’t wait to ride this bike at more tracks, especially soft-dirt tracks, to see if it continues to stand out.Chris Denison
Weight: 155 lb
IntermediateThe ’09 250 SX-F kicks off with good response and a solid hit of power, just as it did in 2008. And once again, you can still rely on the engine to serve a hearty dose of usable, consistent midrange meat. The 250 SX-F can pretty much be ridden a gear high if you keep your momentum up, as the motor will hit a wall if you let the revs build too much. I found the stock jetting to be as solid as ever, with only a minor hesitation (borderline bog) when whacking the throttle at high speeds (such as on a hard landing in a fast section). Overall, though, the engine is dialed. I liked the cornering and handling character of the KTM, though my biggest complaint would be a slightly busy feel in the steering at faster speeds, as well as an all-around stiff character with the clickers at stock settings; I found that two clicks softer on each end didn’t hurt.