2010 KTM 250 SX-F - First Test

2010 KTM 250 SX-F - First Test

Chris Barrett

KTM motocross bikes shine brighter the more time you spend on them. You might never know it reading some comparisons, though, where they often get docked for being different. But as any PG-rated teen movie will teach you, individuality is good. We took the new 250SX-F out to four of our favorite campuses, Racetown (www.racetown395.com), Perris (www.perrisraceway.com), Milestone (www.milestonemx.com) and Glen Helen (www.glenhelen.com), to give you a first quarter report card before throwing the bike into our upcoming shootout.

Let's rip through the 2010 changes and manufacturer's claims so we can get right to the ride - Completely new triple clamp now with 22mm fixed offset for improved flex characteristics, new suspension settings (and not subtle changes in the shock) for "optimal handling and stability," new fork seals and bushings to reduce sliding friction, modified airbox and new filter for improved filter protection (from mud and water), new front brake pads for improved feel, harder piston rings made of nitrated steel, piston modified for new rings, new ignition curve (mostly for sound), a 50mm longer muffler, new Renthal diamond grips, and new graphics. Class is over, now we play.

The motor on this bike is at the top of the class with power that starts out strong down low where the vets ride and pulls aggressively and smoothly right up to the place where the rev-limiter-be-damned pros live. It never surges or flattens, and doesn't drop off when it reaches peak rpm. Whatever your rev range, this motor adapts to your style, not the other way around. The climb in revs happens quick enough to be responsive yet not so fast it spins through the meat. Throttle response is really good, though not as immediate as most FI bikes we've tested. Our pro tester found a slight bog on landings, but we were able to tune that out with a few accelerator pump mods (wired the arm directly to the rod and adjusted the screw to lengthen the squirt duration). Another of our riders felt too much compression braking with the potent little mill, a trait some bike manufacturers are engineering out. Turning up the idle rendered this point moot, and we motored happily on. The engine really stands out compared to just about everything else except this same bike from last year. Power performance-wise, it's minimally different from 2009's mill.

That sweet power feeds into a six-speed gearbox that shifts with short, precise throws from cog to cog. You can almost hear the box let out a little "snick" as you grab a new ratio and pick up speed. The hydraulic clutch is one of those things you shouldn't ever try unless you're going to buy a bike with one. The action is smooth and light. Shifting under a load shouldn't be this easy.Perhaps the most striking thing about the bike is the handling. There's no clumsiness in this chassis. The bike lays over like almost nothing else. Initiating turns is a joy, decide your lean angle and you are there. It stays over even when on the gas, and encourages you to push into that berm, lay it over a little more, and twist that right wrist. Few bikes deliver this kind of confidence ducking into corners and throttling through. The bike gives a short-wheelbase sensation here but doesn't get twitchy like you'd expect in a straight line. KTM pulled together a bike that's both a fun toy and an effective weapon.

Suspension, once the Achilles' Heel of the orange bikes, takes another step forward. 2009 was really the year the boingers made a huge leap in performance, and for 2010 they make an evolutionary step further. There's nothing bad here, but nothing that stands out. Long gone is the harsh transmission of chatter, but the forks still have a slight sensation of sharpness where other bikes feel a touch cushier through sharp hits. It could be as much a component of the responsive chassis as the suspension; you just feel a little more track on this bike. You gotta take the good with the bad.

If you're a conservative buyer, you'll appreciate that this bike is proven reliable and takes no radical advances in technology or approach. Regardless of your throttle style - lugger, twister, clutcher, revver - you will have a motor that will do anything you could ever ask of a 250F. If you lose time in the turns this could be your remedy; if you already turn well, you'll have people stopping beside the track to see how you're doing what you're doing. And if you're someone who isn't afraid to take a step away from the crowd, you'll have a beautiful looking bike that's designed with ease of maintenance in mind and a striking profile that will get you noticed. Cue the teen movie triumph anthem.


MSRP: $7198

Weight (tank full): 229 lb

Seat height: 37.0 in.

Seat-to-footpeg distance: 21.0 in.What's Hot

Cornering, especially initiating the turn

Power everywhere, dial up how much you want

Hydraulic clutchWhat's Not

Ride straddles the razor's edge between precise and harsh

Pilot 42 stk
Needle obekp 4th pos 3rd pos
Main 175 stk
Leak 50 stk
Fuel Screw 1.5 stk
Fork-Compression 12 10-15
Rebound 12 12-13
Shock-Low Spd. Comp. 15 stk
High Spd. Comp. 1.5 stk
Rebound 24 stk
Sag (mm) 105-110mm stk

Chris Barrett

6'0"/180 lb./ProI fell in love with the 250 SX-F's handling characteristics the moment I got on the track. It had a nice light feel while still being incredibly stable. This 250 was effortless to set up for turns, change direction, and follow through on the exit. I believe that KTM found that happy medium between cornering too fast and cornering too slow, because this bike cornered juuust right.The suspension was very balanced. At Racetown I didn't even have to mess with the clickers. I did have a little bottoming in the fork on hard landings, but that's to be expected for my weight when riding a 250. Perris has a lot of sharp rutted turns and also some jumps right into corners, which require some hard braking. This brought out the bottoming in the fork even more and caused the front end to drop in a little too far when entering corners. So we went a couple clicks stiffer on the compression and opened up the rebound one click on the fork. This helped to hold the front end up under heavy braking and when charging into the ruts, and even got rid of that bottoming on sharp landings. It did give up a little of the plushness on the smaller bumps, but I was willing to give that up to charge harder into the turns.

The motor did not disappoint - with strong bottom to mid and great over rev, the KTM pulled through the gears with ease and never let me down (even when lazily trying to pull a taller gear). The transmission had great gear ratios and solid shifting. The throttle response was spot on, but the bike did have a little bit of a hesitation on hard landings - it didn't come up anywhere else, only on hard landings. This was quickly fixed with some minor carb adjustments. After that the 250SX-F was a complete package - awesome handling, great suspension and a solid motor - if you are looking for a bike to boost your confidence then this is definitely one to try out.

Jimmy Lewis

5'10"/185 lb./Vet proFor a fat guy, all 250F's suffer. They just don't have the torque to let you ride lazy, though they seem to act like they have torque. And of all the 250F engines, the KTM250SX-F seems to pack the most usable punch and carries it for longer. Now like any 250F it is much happier revving than torqueing but the transition between the two styles of powers is minimized in the Austrian mill. And I like the long and willing top end surge, it gives me confidence where on some other 250Fs I'm fearing the rev limiter is going to spoil my fun (or the jump takeoff!). This class is a lot about engines for me and the KTM definitely has a winner of a motor, especially when you get the carb all dialed in like we did. Suspension, handling, chassis all have come leaps and bounds over that last few years and though the changes are not as striking on the 250F as they have been on the larger bikes, they are still getting better.