When I got the call to come out to Glen Helen to ride Tommy Searle’s Factory KTM 250F I jumped at the chance to ride the fast pumpkin. Having been on the Factory KTM team in Canada as well as a test rider for KTM North America for a couple years, I think I know my way around a KTM. I was curious to see how well the 2009 factory KTM 250 SX-F bike would work on a National-caliber track like Glen Helen. Fast and rough was the order of the day for my test impression on this day.On the track:The first thing I noticed on Searle’s 250F was the neutral position of the bars. I am a very picky guy when it comes to my bar and my levers. I’ve got near-OCD when it comes to bar height, width, lever position etc. Searle has his levers set perfectly for me but the bar bend was a little tall for my liking.Next up, I found starting the KTM hot or cold was really easy. The hot start-which was located on the right side-Actually works! I don’t know how many bikes I’ve tried where the hot start doesn’t do a darn thing but this one actually did its job when hot. Ok now on to the good stuff!
Once I pulled out onto the track I noticed that 2nd gear was really short and the bike wanted 3rd gear really quick. This was not a problem because 3rd gear was insane! The bike wants to pull out of a corner with a wheelie in 3rd gear It’s almost like a miniature 450. It pulls like a tractor coming out of corners and can be shifted into 4th with ease or it can be revved out farther than any other 250F I have ever ridden. This little sucker revved so far I was waiting purposely over-revving it, waiting for the power to fall off. No such luck, it just kept pulling! There was so much over rev. Don’t let this fool you though the bike could be lugged a little also and just with the flick of the hydraulic clutch the KTM was back in the power again, no problem (HENCE THE MINATURE 450 talk). This was the easiest-to-ride 250F motor I’ve ever ridden and its character could fit a wide range of riders. If you were a revver (Barcia) it would work, if you were a smoother early shifter (Pourcel) it would work. Searle has a very gifted motor builder in Leighton (the KTM motor guru) and with this bike I can see how he could get such great starts!Now for the suspension, it was a mixed bag for me. This bike is suited for 1 rider and 1 rider only: Tommy Searle, not Kris Keefer. Being from Europe his style might be a little different than mine. I noticed his shock was quite a bit stiffer than his fork. Since popular setups in the USA are usually the other way around, this really stood out. The KTM cornered excellently and could easily be turned at will but it was a little too harsh in the rear for me coming into big braking bumps. The shock just didn’t want to settle and felt very hard, even on bigger landings. Coming out of the corner it tended to hop around and never wanted to settle for me. The fork, on the other hand, felt very good to me on heavy braking and moved enough to get down in the stroke for front-end traction in conditions from flat corners to deep ruts. You can tell by his fork/shock setup that Tommy rides on the back of the bike more and stands up a lot more than most American riders. If I stood up more often and deeper into my corners the rear-end wasn’t as bad but if I tried to sit down a little early it generally wasn’t pretty.
Overall the bike looks amazing and is one of the coolest bikes around. Definitely this is the fastest, easiest-to-ride 250F I have ridden to date. The suspension is set up for the rider so it’s hard to really knock it for that. The brakes and controls are flawless and I came away with a newfound respect for factory-built 250′s. Did someone say Dirt Rider should have a Factory 250F shootout? After a day on Searle’s Factory KTM I would definitely be in for that!- Kris Keefer/5’11/160 lbs Pro Privateer without a bike Tommy Searle 250F mods:
Ported Cylinder Head,
Higher lift intake Cam
OEM Ex cam with optimized timing,
NHK Valve Springs optimized for Higher RPM,
Lightweight Steel Con-Rod for better Response,
OEM Ratio Trans with diff material steel for SX
39 mm OEM Carburetor,
OEM Del west valves,
Optimized NHK springs for higher RPM,
Hinson Clutch componenents.
FMF Mega Bomb Ex system.