2018 250F MX Shootout

Six 250F motocross bikes compared

Dirt Rider's 2018 250F MX Shootout was one of the most exciting in recent memory. The Honda CRF250R came into the shootout as a big question mark, as the bike was all new for 2018 and shared many similarities to the 2018 CRF450R, which took the victory in our 2018 450 MX Shootout a few months ago. The Kawasaki KX250F was the second-most-updated bike with a number of engine and suspension improvements, while the two Austrian machines—the Husqvarna FC 250 and KTM 250 SX-F—received a few suspension and appearance changes. The final two machines in the shootout, the Suzuki RM-Z250 and Yamaha YZ250F, were the least-changed 250F bikes for 2018 with both having new graphics and the Yamaha coming with blue rims.

To properly evaluate this impressive lineup of machines, we scheduled two days of testing at two distinctly different facilities and enlisted the help of a team of riders ranging in experience from novice to current and past AMA pros. With a full spectrum of skill level and rider weights ranging from 130 to 165 pounds represented, we then had the riders turn laps on each bike and evaluate them based on three main criteria: power, suspension performance, and handling. Additional testing included weighing the bikes on our automotive scales and running them on our in-house DynoJet dynamometer to gather rear-wheel horsepower and torque figures. Speaking of rear wheels, we outfitted each bike with a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear for the dyno runs to ensure accurate results.

Dive in to see how each of the six bikes stacked up when the dust settled and the results were tallied. But also keep in mind—and we put this in nearly every shootout, but it’s worth saying again here—all these bikes are good. Putting them in order is often splitting hairs, and the order for you might be different from the order we have here based on your skill level, riding style, and personal preferences. We hope that what you take away from this shootout is relevant information about the performance and characteristics of each bike and not just the rankings.

2018 250 F Dyno Comparison Chart
2018 250F Dyno Comparison ChartDirt Rider Staff

Rider Opinions

Steve Boniface
Age: 35, 5’7”, 150 lb., ProChris Tedesco

Steve Boniface

Leading up to the 2018 250F MX Shootout, I was very excited and ready to test each bike. We rode two completely different tracks and for the most part, the first impressions I had on day one at Glen Helen were very similar on day two at Milestone. All the bikes are very good overall, and it was hard to rank each one. I believe the minimal experience I had on the KTM and Husqvarna prior to the shootout might have been a factor in me ranking them so low, but nonetheless, this is how I felt after the two days of riding

My sixth-place ranking was the Suzuki RM-Z250. The cockpit of the bike is very comfortable. The bar bend, grips, and levers are to my liking, and I felt good on it. The bike feels thin and light while riding. After a few corners, I was impressed with how well it cornered, especially on small, tight corners that were either rutted or flat. However, stability wasn't the strong point of the Suzuki, especially the front end of the bike, but I was able to work with it. The fork felt harsh in my hands on the faster, bumpier sections of the track and also on hard, flat landings. The shock, on the other hand, felt a lot plusher and more comfortable, but overall the suspension is not the strong point of the yellow bike. The engine is lacking power. The power delivery is very smooth but not strong enough for me. The midrange is where the engine feels the best, but it suffers in comparison with the best of the class. Also, the clutch lever is hard to pull, especially for a 250F. Another thing I noticed was that for a modern four-stroke, it was hard to start!

I ranked the Husqvarna FC 250 in fifth place, but I feel like being more familiar and having spent more time on it would have possibly made me rank it higher. The bike feels little different than the Japanese bikes, and I could tell that by the end of the second day I was getting more comfortable on it. The equipment on the bike is top notch. It is easy to adjust the front brake and clutch lever settings without the use of any tools. It has a top-of-the-line ProTaper handlebar, good grips, and electric start—everything you can ask for. The engine is definitely fast and very much similar to the KTM. Maybe a little more mellow, but the top-end is just as good on the track. That is one thing I had to get used to. I needed to ride the bike almost like a two-stroke—high in the rpm and pulling gears to the rev limiter. The suspension was also similar to the KTM. For me, it felt hard and stiff in the initial part of the stroke, which was especially noticeable on smaller impacts, such as braking bumps. However, it traveled more through the stroke on bigger jumps, so I didn't notice it in those cases. I feel the suspension would benefit from having more progressiveness by being softer initially and stiffer at the end of the stroke. Overall, I found myself riding the bike less aggressively than the others.

The KTM 250 SX-F was my fourth-place pick, and my initial comments on the Husqvarna are the same for this bike. I feel like being more familiar with it and having spent more time on it would have helped it in my rankings. The bike feels a little different, and I could tell that by the end of the second day I was getting more comfortable on it. It has the same top-notch equipment as the Husqvarna, and the engine is very fast. While it doesn’t feel as torquey as the Yamaha, the bottom-end and midrange are better than average, while the top-end is just amazing. Similar to the Husqvarna, I had to get used to riding the bike in the upper rpm like I would on a two-stroke. The part that I had the hardest time with was the suspension and how the bike handled. I felt like the suspension was not progressive enough. It felt stiff on the initial part of the stroke but got better when moving through the stroke on bigger impacts. The bike was not predictable. I found it would react differently on the same part of the track for no particular reason. I had a hard time cornering on the 250 SX-F at Glen Helen on day one but felt it handled the turns much better at Milestone on day two.

The Kawasaki KX250F was my third pick because it doesn't do anything better than other bikes, but everything is good. The moment you sit on the bike, you feel like you have been riding it forever. It's very easy to get up to speed on the KX250F, and it's very predictable on the track. The Showa SFF fork is not the most comfortable, but it provides great feedback. You can really feel what the front end of the bike is going to do. The shock is more comfortable but a little stiff on the initial part of the stroke. Engine-wise, I feel like the power curve is good everywhere and could please riders of all different riding styles and abilities. You can ride the bike in the lower rpm where the bottom-end and midrange is very good, or you can ride it more at the top-end of the rpm range where the power is good as well. The only thing I am not crazy about on the Kawasaki is the look. The bike looks old to me. A newly designed muffler, oversize handlebar, and new grips would really help make the bike more attractive.

My second-place bike was the Honda CRF250R. I rode the 2017 model a week prior to the shootout, and I can tell you that the 2018 model is a real improvement over it. First off, looks-wise the CRF is sexy! The only thing I would change is the handlebar. An oversize bar would make the bike look even more factory. That is just for the look, as I have been using the same bar bend that comes on the stock Hondas for years. Everything else feels and looks good. The bike is thin and small, and the seat feels great. The electric start is a real plus. Even if it’s not as important as it can be on a 450, you get used to pushing that button really easily. After just a few seconds on the track, you can tell that the bike handles really well. It’s super easy to turn both in small, tight, rutted corners and long, flat sweepers. The front end of the bike is very responsive and quick. It’s very good for cornering and quick direction changes but seems to impact the stability a tad bit. The suspension is very good, especially the Showa 49mm spring fork. I had to add some sag to the shock to help balance the bike, as the rear was a little too high coming into the corners and adding just few millimeters of sag really helped with the balance of the bike. The engine is good, especially on the top-end, which is where I feel the bike needs to be ridden. I would like a bit more power on the bottom-end and midrange, but the bike is very fun to ride overall.

The Yamaha YZ250F was my first choice of the six bikes. I liked the bend of the bar, the grips, and the feel of the levers. Similar to a lot of people, I do feel the bike is wider between my knees, but it didn't bother me while I was riding. I feel in control and on top of the bike on the Yamaha. I was very pleased with the suspension overall, which helps make the bike feel very stable and comfortable. The rear shock is amazing. It settles good coming into the corners in the bumpy areas and gives me really good traction coming out of the corners despite my lighter weight. On top of that, I did not experience any bottoming, which shows how progressive the shock is. The fork was also very comfortable and progressive. I would like the bike to have more stability at high speed, as I experienced a few moments where the front would get busy on deceleration before I grabbed the front brake, but I could totally ride and race with the stock suspension untouched. It is that good. The engine is amazing for a 250F. The power is where I like it: on the bottom-end and midrange of the power curve. The engine is very torquey. It almost feels like riding a bigger-displacement bike and is very pleasant to ride. The top-end is okay, but I found myself riding lower in the rpm than I normally would when riding a 250F. The one thing I would do is change the sprocket one or two teeth, as I often found myself between gears, especially second and third. Handling-wise, the bike is very stable and provides tons of confidence. The one point where I feel the YZ250F could be better is the front end in tight, rutted corners. The front end always seemed to want to come out of the rut, so I had to either be careful or fight the front of the bike to stay in the rut. I got used to it, and it doesn't bother me as much as it did at first, but I can still notice it here and there.

All in all, it was a fun two days of testing. All six bikes are amazing and are capable of winning pro races, but some might need more tweaking than others, depending on one’s riding style and personal preferences. A few final notes are that I feel like the Honda is the complete opposite of the Yamaha. Interestingly enough, those are my top two bikes and the ones I felt the fastest and most comfortable on. The Honda engine is best at the top-end, while the Yamaha is at bottom-end and midrange. In the handling and suspension department, the strong point of the CRF250R is the front end while the rear end of the YZ250F is where that bike shines.

Andrew Oldar
Age: 26, 5’10”, 130 lb., NoviceChris Tedesco

Andrew Oldar

The Suzuki RM-Z250 is a good bike with lots of potential, but in stock form, it just wasn’t my favorite bike, which is why I ranked it in sixth place. The engine makes good bottom-end and midrange power, but it falls flat on the top-end, which makes shifting the bike at the perfect time absolutely essential in order to get the most out of the engine. Once I found my shift points, I was able to ride the bike well enough to my liking, but it seemed like a lot of work in comparison to the others. With more overall power, especially on the top-end, this engine would be much better, easier to ride, and require less shifting.

In the suspension department, the KYB PSF2 air fork felt harsh to me. I felt quite a bit of feedback in my hands with the fork settings in stock form, so we went softer on the air pressure and a few clicks softer on the compression. While this certainly helped, it eventually got to the point where the front end was riding closer to the middle of the stroke where the fork began to feel harsh again. This also made the bike feel a bit stinkbug, and part of this had to do with the fact that we weren’t able to properly adjust the sag any lower due to how lightweight I am. If we were able to adjust the sag a bit more, I think the stinkbug effect may have gone away. Overall, I think the suspension is more suited to a heavier and faster rider.

My favorite part about the RM-Z250 is the handling. The bike lives up to its reputation of being an excellent cornering machine, as it leans over very intuitively and inspires confidence when navigating through corners, especially ones with deep ruts. The excellent cornering ability comes at a bit of a cost, as the bike doesn’t feel the most stable at high speeds. Also, the chassis feels pretty rigid, which is noticeable regardless of suspension setup. Ergonomically, two things I noticed are that the clutch pull is on the stiff side and the front brake isn’t as powerful as I would like, which I believe has to do with the smaller rotor size. All in all, I feel like the Suzuki is a good bike, but it could be much better with a stronger engine, a plusher, more compliant fork, and a better front brake.

My fifth choice was the Kawasaki KX250F. Placing the KX250F fifth in my personal rankings doesn’t reflect how much I like this bike. I spent a decent amount of time on it leading up to the shootout and really enjoyed riding it. However, it’s when I compare it to most of the other bikes that I realize it’s a good bike but not particularly great in one area. The engine feels like it has a very linear powerband and it doesn’t have a particular hit anywhere in the rpm range like the 2016 and prior engines did. If Kawasaki could maintain the same power curve the bike currently has and increase the power in each area, the engine would be a lot better and more competitive.

The suspension for me felt pretty firm in stock form—namely the fork. After some adjustments, it absorbed the small braking bumps much better, whereas before it felt like it was hardly moving and all of the feedback went straight through my hands. I like the performance-based feel the fork has to it, but I think it could benefit from offering a bit more comfort in the upper part of the stroke. The rear shock felt very good and really helped the bike stay planted in the braking bumps.

The handling on the Kawasaki is very neutral. It seemed to stand up a bit in ruts at first, but the suspension adjustments we made helped the bike stay leaned over. The bike feels small in a good way, which makes it feel very light. Another characteristic I like about the KX250F is how slim it is. It has the thinnest radiator shroud area of all six bikes, which I am a huge fan of. Ergonomically, the bike is extremely comfortable and very easy to get used to. The one thing I would change about the cockpit is the handlebar, as it feels very tall in relation to the seat height, and a lower bend bar would alleviate this feeling. Aside from the high feeling bars, the KX250F was one of my favorite machines in the ergonomics department, as it's very comfortable and easy to get used to. Overall, the Kawasaki KX250F is a good bike that I would be more than happy to own and race. I would just do a few modifications to the suspension and replace the handlebar to get it more to my liking.

The Yamaha YZ250F is another fantastic bike. Even though it didn’t make it into my top three, it still has plenty of great qualities. The engine feels unlike any other 250F in the way it has excellent bottom-end power. The first time I rode the current generation YZ250F back in 2014, I would have guessed it was a 270cc or 280cc engine had I not known the displacement, and that sensation still remains today. The Yamaha also has great midrange power—the best in the class, in my opinion. However, the meaty midrange seems to taper off in the top-end and over-rev. I have no problem short-shifting a bike, but I would prefer a bit stronger top-end power so that I have the option to lug it or rev it out. In fact, I wouldn’t mind sacrificing a little bit of low-end and midrange on this engine in order to gain some on top. However, the YZ250F engine is still great, and I can see why so many other test riders praise the engine on this bike.

Suspension-wise, the YZ250F is hard to beat, which is why I ranked it first in the suspension category. The KYB units are the plushest feeling of all six bikes. I feel like the suspension on the Honda, KTM, and Husqvarna are getting closer in terms of plushness as the years go by, but the Yamaha still takes the cake in this category. Both ends feel extremely plush, and to this day I don't think I've ever felt any sort of harshness or negative feedback in my hands or legs while riding a YZ.

The Yamaha handles well, but it feels like a fairly large bike both in height and width. Even though the seat height is very similar to the rest of the bikes, I can’t help but notice the bike feels tall when I’m riding it. This is not by any means a big deal; it’s just something I’ve noticed. One area I wish was different on the YZ250F is in the radiator shrouds. The Yamaha is the polar opposite of the KX250F when it comes to the radiator shrouds, as the YZ feels the widest up front. I very much prefer a thin-feeling bike, so this is one of my least favorite aspects about the bike. The Yamaha has excellent straight-line stability, but I feel like it could be improved in the corners, as it doesn’t lean over and stay that way throughout the entire turn. Similar to the KX250F being in fifth, me ranking the YZ250F in fourth doesn’t properly reflect how much I like this bike. I just wish it had better top-end power, a slimmer chassis, and better cornering ability.

The all-new Honda CRF250R did not disappoint in its first year. First off, I love the fact that Honda put an electric starter on this bike. I can kickstart a bike, but it doesn’t appeal to me as much after riding a bike with the magic button. Moving on to the performance of the engine, it had excellent top-end power with good midrange, but the bottom-end power left something to be desired. The lack of bottom-end power wasn’t a huge deal for me because of how quick the engine revs. If I found myself low in the rpm, a quick slip or pop of the clutch would get the bike right back into the upper rpm where the meat of the power lies.

The suspension on the Honda is a tremendous improvement over the previous-generation model. The Showa 49mm coil spring fork offers a great balance of comfort and performance, which is why it was one of my favorite forks among all of the bikes. The shock felt very good overall and matched the fork well both in feel and with the balance of the bike.

The chassis on the CRF250R is unlike any other bike in the class. The moment I got on it, I felt comfortable right away. The bike is super easy to throw around whether it be on the ground or in the air, and it corners incredibly well. You can turn extremely sharp whether you have something to bank of off or not. The one area in the chassis department I feel the Honda could improve is straight-line stability. The bike had a small, occasional twitch on deceleration, which we were able to fix for the most part with clicker adjustments on the fork and shock, but it didn’t feel the most stable at high speeds compared to some of the other bikes. However, I understand that some handling characteristics are give and take, and the bike’s incredible cornering ability and nimbleness doesn’t come without costing some stability. Overall, the Honda is a very worth race weapon that is an absolute blast to ride.

The KTM 250 SX-F was my second choice and was extremely close with the Husqvarna FC 250. The KTM has an absolutely amazing engine with seemingly never-ending top-end and over-rev. The bike revs to the moon and keeps on pulling. The bottom-end and midrange were fairly good, but I just did my best to keep the rpm sky high and the engine worked wonders.

The WP AER 48 fork on the KTM felt super plush at both tracks we tested, with only minor adjustments to the clickers. I haven’t been the biggest fan of air forks in the past, but WP’s AER 48 fork won me over with how plush and comfortable of a ride it offered, and the shock felt very well matched in terms of plushness.

The handling on the KTM had the perfect balance of good cornering ability and straight-line stability. I had total confidence in the bike at high speeds because it never did anything erratic, even on the high-speed start straight at Glen Helen. I can't talk about the KTM without praising the fantastic Brembo brakes, hydraulic clutch, and the convenience of the electric starter. All in all, the KTM is an excellent package that didn't have any glaring weaknesses or things I didn't like, but there were a few characteristics about its close relative, the Husqvarna, that I liked just slightly more.

The Husqvarna FC 250 was my top choice because it had all of the excellent qualities the KTM did but a few differing traits that I came to like better. The engine has the same incredible top-end and over-rev power, and I felt the engines were very equally matched. If there was a difference, it was so minuscule that I didn’t notice it.

The same story goes with the suspension. The WP AER 48 fork and shock both felt super comfortable at both tracks. The minor clicker adjustments we made were softening both the front and rear at Glen Helen and going a bit stiffer on the fork and slower on the shock rebound at the jumpier Milestone track.

The chassis is the one area where the two Austrian machines feel somewhat different to me. The Husqvarna's polycarbonate subframe absorbs impacts, such as braking bumps and acceleration chop, noticeably more than the KTM's aluminum subframe. The positive to the KTM subframe is that it is a bit easier to feel what the rear end is doing, but the polycarbonate unit on the Husqvarna did an excellent job of absorbing the impacts as the day went on and the track got rougher. Also, a few other small but noticeable things that I liked more on the Husqvarna were the ProTaper handlebar and the seat cover. The ProTaper bars had a more comfortable bend to me, and I preferred the Husqvarna seat cover because it was super grippy, which prevented me from sliding back on the seat when sitting down while going up the hills of Glen Helen. Lastly, the electric starter, Magura hydraulic clutch, and Brembo brakes are all high-quality components that work well and really complete the entire package.

Bradley Lionnet
Age: 20, 5’11”, 165 lb., ProChris Tedesco

Bradley Lionnet

I chose the Suzuki RM-Z250 as my sixth choice because it really needs an update. The engine is slow and feels like it has no hit in the bottom-end, midrange, or top-end. Like always, the handling of this bike is great. It really helps you turn sharp, and it tracks well on flat turns. The suspension felt stiff and was very abrupt to me. I spent a lot of time trying to tune the suspension, and it really helped to slide the forks down in the clamps in order to get the bike to be more level. All in all, the RM-Z250 just needs to be updated.

The Husqvarna FC 250 was my fifth-place choice. To me, it’s a somewhat slower version of the KTM with a slightly different-feeling chassis. I really did not like the feel of the subframe. The suspension felt the same as the KTM: bouncy and unpredictable. It was very hard to find a flow with the Husqvarna. On the plus side, the engine is great. It’s slower than the KTM but just by a hair. It makes lots of power that hits progressively harder the higher you rev it but does so very smoothly.

The Kawasaki KX250F came in fourth for me because everything on this bike is good, but nothing stands out as great like those in the top three. The engine has improved from the 2017 model but not a lot. The engine has a smooth, linear delivery and pulls smoothly all the way through the rpm range. The chassis feels a little long. It would be nice to try some aftermarket triple clamps to try and get it to turn a bit sharper. The suspension was good, but, again, it wasn’t particularly great. The Kawasaki gets the job done, but it definitely doesn’t go the extra mile for you in any area.

The KTM 250 SX-F was my third pick because I think it has great potential. The engine is phenomenal. It has tons of raw power that seems to just build upon itself the more you rev it. However, I was not a fan of the suspension. To me, it felt like a trampoline. For example, when I came up a tiny bit short on a jump or hit a large bump, it felt like it sprung me in an awkward position. The bike was great at Glen Helen because it was a fast track and you could always find a smooth line. However, at Milestone, where you have to go through the ruts and the acceleration bumps as well as bigger jumps that you can come up a tad short, it was very bad. The chassis handled very well, allowing me to turn sharp, but it has a different feeling to it than the Japanese bikes.

I chose the Yamaha YZ250F as my second choice because the engine was fantastic. It has a great bark to it and really pulls off the bottom-end well and through to the midrange. However, I would like to open the power up just a tad more. Perhaps this could be helped by putting an aftermarket exhaust on. The KYB suspension was great. The forks are very plush and track very well over bumps, especially on the entrance to a turn. The bike also sat really well into ruts and hugged them tight. The one thing I didn't like about the YZ250F was the way the cockpit made me feel. It seems like you sit back in the pocket of the seat, which doesn't allow you to get forward and make sharp turns, especially on flat ground, without the front end falling away.

I chose the Honda first because I feel it is the most stable, balanced, controllable bike with the most usable engine. All-around, this bike has all of the great qualities that make up a racebike for young, fast riders and for vet riders alike. The power is not as great as the KTM, but it has a more usable midrange and likes to be revved out. When you get on the bike, you have a very neutral feeling and don’t feel cramped in the cockpit. The Honda really makes you feel right at home. The Showa suspension was great right off the bat for me. I felt like it tracked really well in the ruts, and there was no funny business on approach to the turns. Both ends absorbed bumps really well, and the rear shock stayed planted, which allows you to power forward over bumps, especially when coming out of ruts.

Cody Johnston

I ranked the Suzuki RM-Z250 in sixth place, but it was possibly the comfiest bike in the class to me. It has a good seat-to-handlebar height ratio, and the entire bike just feels good. I had no complaints about the balance of the bike, but this was not enough to make up for the lack of power. The bike was down on power compared to the others, but it was possible to get it to be competitive if you ride it very aggressively. I could get the engine to work well but only with lots of clutch use and shifting. However, none of the other bikes needed to be ridden like this to work well. The Suzuki did corner like I expected it to—very well! The yellow machine lived up to its name when it came to cornering, but I noticed the front end would get a little busy when hitting high-speed chop. All in all, the deciding factor that is holding the RM-Z250 back for me is the lack of overall power.

My fifth-place ranking was the Yamaha YZ250F. It has the best low-end punch of any other 250F, which makes it easy to ride a gear high through corners and get away with it. The Yamaha is widely praised for its plush suspension—and for good reason, as it offers a lot of comfort—but the suspension is not my favorite, as I prefer more of a race-type suspension feel. It soaked up braking bumps very well, but the super plush suspension made the bike feel a little sluggish in corners, which contributed to the overall feel of the bike as well. Also, it would be nice for it to be slimmer in the radiator shroud area. Besides that, this bike does everything well, but for me, it doesn’t have any real standout features. I hope this bike gets the same treatment the YZ450F received this year along with that convenient electric-start button.

It was hard for me to choose between the Kawasaki KX250F and the Honda CRF250R, but I ended up ranking the KX250F in fourth. The Kawasaki has a very slim feel overall, which makes it feel a lot lighter than it really is. In my opinion, the Kawasaki engine is the quickest revving, which is one of the reasons why I really liked the motor. It didn’t have a noticeable hard hit in any part of the powerband, but it has a consistent and strong engine from bottom to top. The bike corners well and is easy to set up wide and cut down coming into corners. One thing I did notice was that the front end would get a little busy at times, but this can be easily fixed with clicker adjustments, changing the fork height, or making the steering stem nut a little tighter. While this would likely take away some of the bike’s good cornering capabilities and quick steering ability, it could be necessary at a faster track with long straightaways and/or big hills. The suspension is on the aggressive side, meaning the harder you ride the bike, the better it works. For me, the suspension didn’t work as well at lower speeds. It worked good overall but only when ridden aggressively. Something that bothered me was the seat-to-handlebar height, as it felt like more of a difference than any other bike. At times, it would feel like I was sitting deep down in the bike and wasn’t able to steer as well as if I were sitting a little bit taller on the seat or the bars were a little lower. Also, with my top three picks having electric start, this held the Kawasaki back in my personal rankings.

The all-new Honda CRF250R was the most highly anticipated bike of 2018, and Honda did not disappoint with this bike. The Honda was my third-place pick, and I felt like it made some of the best top-end and over-rev power out of all 250Fs. It also had very predictable handling capabilities, which gave me confidence when pushing hard. The Honda had good handling overall, but it could be better with a couple of minor tweaks. One thing I would change is to slim up the general feel of the bike between the knees. This would make the bike feel a lot more flickable and lighter as well. One thing that held the bike back for me was that you always have to get the bike on the top end of the power before it comes alive. It doesn’t have the best bottom to mid-power but feels like it has the most top-end power with a steep, upward power curve once it hits the higher rpm. The Honda has a very predictable feel to the front end, which is a good characteristic to have because it gives the rider confidence that it won’t give any unexpected headshake or weird kicks. The 2018 Honda CRF250R is a solid package, and I was very pleased to say the least. The fact that the bike comes stock with electric start makes it that much better.

The Husqvarna FC 250 has a lot of similarities to the KTM and finished second in my personal rankings. The excellent braking power feels the same and the suspension felt great as well. WP did an excellent job with the setup on both bikes. I did notice a different feel in the shock but only at the end of the day conditions, which may have something to do with the different subframe material. The rear end felt like it wouldn’t settle in the ruts as well as I would have liked it to. It would tend to compress, as I laid into ruts and it uncompressed a tad too soon while still in the rut and would not squat as far as I would prefer in corners. We fixed this with some minor adjustment to the rebound on the shock. We went three clicks slower on rebound, and this helped the shock stay squatted a little longer around corners, and it also helped eliminate some of the small chop during high-speed sections. One complaint I do have is that this bike has wide-feeling rear end around the side number plates due to the polycarbonate subframe. It feels wider between the legs while leaning back or shifting positions in comparison to the KTM. I would prefer a slimmer feel in the rear end of the bike, but overall, the Husqvarna is an excellent machine. It has an incredible engine package with lots of mid-to-top power like the KTM, which is one of the many reasons why I loved both of these bikes.

I ranked the KTM 250 SX-F in first place because it did everything very well. This bike comes with the most complete package out of all of the 250Fs. It has great cornering ability and a fantastic suspension setup that can be widely liked among many different riders. On top of all that, it makes the most power out of any bike in the class. Once I hopped on the track, I immediately noticed how well the hydraulic clutch worked. It took a lot less effort to get the clutch to engage and disengage compared to cable clutches, which allowed for effortless shifting. The Brembo brakes on the KTM are very powerful—maybe not as touchy as some other bikes, but with a firm squeeze, they offered the most stopping power. The engine package on the KTM is amazing. The bottom end is smooth from the first crack of the throttle, and it keeps building and gets progressively more powerful as you get higher in the rpm. I never noticed any dead spots in the powerband, which is one thing that surprised me because most 250Fs have a noticeable dead spot somewhere in the rpm range. Also, the electric start made me like this bike even more! The WP suspension worked great in all of the conditions we tested in. During our final motos at Glen Helen, the track had some good-sized braking bumps and lots of high speed chop. While under hard braking, the forks did an excellent job of holding up and not blowing all the way through the stroke. Also, the shock maintained good rear-wheel traction when coming out of corners with acceleration bumps.

Michael Wicker
Age: 19, 5’9”, 140 lb., IntermediateChris Tedesco

Michael Wicker

The Suzuki RM-Z250 finished in sixth place in my personal rankings, as I struggled to get comfortable on it. I liked the chassis with its slim design and great cornering ability, but it didn’t feel very flickable in the air. One of its biggest downfalls is that the engine is the slowest in the class and even with mapping changes, it is not very strong. It is very slow to build rpm and even on the top, end it’s very weak on power. I liked the Showa PSF2 air fork, but it’s still not as comfortable or simple to set up as the spring forks it’s up against.

My fifth-place ranking was the KTM 250 SX-F. The bike has a really smooth power delivery and works best when the rpm is up. The downside to it was it felt a bit weak on the bottom-end. I felt the chassis was not the most comfortable design, and I had trouble getting traction to the rear wheel. The bike had a slim and agile feel, however, which I liked a lot. Similar to the Husqvarna, being that they have the same suspension components, the suspension wasn’t my personal favorite and took a while for me to find the setting I was comfortable with.

I ranked the Husqvarna FC 250 in fourth because it has a comfortable chassis with the steel frame and polycarbonate subframe. I really liked the feel of the subframe, as I felt it helped the rear end maintain traction and absorb impacts. I also loved the hydraulic clutch on the bike, as it was very easy to modulate. The engine felt like it was a little on the weaker side on the bottom-end and midrange and was slow on building rpm but had a lot of top-end power. The suspension was not my favorite, and like the KTM it took a longer time for me to find a setting I was comfortable with than it did with some of the other bikes.

The Kawasaki KX250F was my third pick because it was probably the most comfortable chassis design of all the 250Fs. The power delivery was very strong and linear, which I really liked. My one complaint about the bike is that the Showa SFF fork was not very comfortable to me. Overall, I feel the Kawasaki is a very competitive bike that has comfortable ergonomics that are easy to get used to and feel comfortable with.

My second choice was the all-new Honda CRF250R. The new DOHC engine is a lot stronger than the Unicam engines that the previous models used. Suspension-wise, the Showa 49mm spring fork is a huge improvement, as it’s a lot plusher and more simple to set up than the air forks the previous-generation bikes were spec’d with. The new chassis design handles well, and the slim, agile design makes the Honda a personal favorite for me as far as overall comfort goes.

My first-place bike was the Yamaha YZ250F because it’s a strong bike all around. The suspension is simple to set up and works well for riders of all types of sizes and skill levels. The engine has the strongest power overall with a lot of bottom-end. To top it off, the overall feel and design of the Yamaha is comfortable and easy to get used to.