3rd Place of the 2018 250F MX Shootout: KTM 250 SX-F

Ideal choice for those who live on the rev limiter

Bradley Lionnet
“The KTM is a very fast, nimble bike.” —Bradley LionnetJeff Allen

As far as the amount of significant changes go for 2018, the KTM 250 SX-F falls somewhere in the middle between the completely revamped Honda CRF250R and the cosmetically changed Yamaha YZ250F. The KTM changes mirror those that were implemented on the 2017.5 Factory Edition models from last year, including new internal suspension settings, as well as some new fork components in the WP AER 48 fork with the left fork leg getting a new air piston, air seal, and rebound spring, while the right (damping) side gets a sintered piston in place of the former plastic piston. The most visually noticeable change the 250 SX-F inherited from the 2017.5 Factory Edition models is the race-inspired orange frame.

Dyno Chart
2018 KTM 250 SX-F | Dyno ChartDirt Rider Staff

Engine

The KTM 250 SX-F engine was the cumulative favorite among our test riders on both days of the shootout. According to our dyno, the 250 SX-F makes the most horsepower of any bike in the class with 37.8 hp at 13,500 rpm. If the rider can keep the bike in the upper rpm, the motor works incredibly well. The KTM engine has the best top-end and over-rev of any bike in the class and rewards those who keep the revs sky high. It’s clear that the KTM engineers designed the meat of the powerband to be placed in this area, as the bottom-end and midrange on the bike are good but not as strong as the Yamaha YZ250F. The good news is that the bike can easily be coaxed into the higher rpm with a quick slip or pop of the Brembo hydraulic clutch. It comes stock with two engine maps that are adjusted via the unit on the left side of the handlebar near the kill switch.

Michael Wicker
“The KTM engine is fast and smooth.” —Michael WickerJeff Allen

The two maps are Map 1 (stock) and Map 2 (aggressive). Most test riders preferred to keep the bike in Map 2 to get every bit of power out of the bike as possible. The maps aren’t incredibly different, but Map 2 feels like it has a harder hit in the midrange and top-end. The KTM also comes with traction control, which takes some of the hit away, but every test rider opted to not use it, seeing as both days of the shootout provided excellent traction conditions. Another positive trait of the engine is how quiet it is, and the KTM and Husqvarna share the trait of being the least audible bikes in the class. The one thing our testers said they desired more of from the KTM engine is bottom-end power. However, 250Fs are generally designed to be ridden in the higher rpm, and with such a great clutch, it’s easy to get the bike up into those upper rpm where this engine rips.

Suspension

The WP AER 48 fork and WP shock drew great feedback from our test riders, as most felt the fork and shock were both very plush and compliant. However, there were a few mixed feelings about the suspension, with one mentioning the fork felt a little harsh in the initial part of the stroke on small impacts, such as braking bumps, but felt it got better the farther it traveled through the stroke on bigger impacts, such as jump landings. The shock garnered praise for being plush and having great hold-up on big G-outs, as well as good control on braking bumps.

Steve Boniface
“The KTM and its close relative, the Husqvarna, have the fastest engines on the track in the 250 class.” —Steve BonifaceJeff Allen

Handling

The KTM 250 SX-F is one of the best-handling bikes in the class. It has a well-balanced chassis that corners well and feels very stable at high speeds and in rough terrain. The steel frame gives the bike a less rigid feel than the aluminum-framed bikes, and at 230 pounds, it’s the lightest bike in the class, which translates very well on the track, especially when a sudden maneuver or line change is required. Also, the cockpit feels very open and is easy to move around on. Lastly, quality components such as the Brembo brakes, Brembo hydraulic clutch, and electric starter make the bike that much better. It’s impressive that KTM is able to produce the lightest bike in the class with an electric starter and the battery it takes to turn it.

Cody Johnston
“The KTM is a great racebike that works well in any conditions.” —Cody JohnstonJeff Allen

Why It Should Have Won

The KTM 250 SX-F is an excellent racebike. It makes great top-end power and over-rev and makes the most horsepower in the class, has the best air fork available on any production motocross bike, and has a well-balanced chassis that both corners well and has great straight-line stability.

Andrew Oldar
“The KTM engine revs to the moon and keeps on pulling.” —Andrew OldarJeff Allen

Why It Didn't Win

The few aspects that held it back in the overall rankings were that some riders didn’t jibe well with the suspension and that the bike takes a bit more time to get used to than some of the others in the class. Lastly, the KTM is more of a racebike that works best in the hands of a faster rider who rides high in the rpm, which can be a positive or negative depending on what type of rider you are.

2018 KTM 250 SX-F
“The KTM is a formidable race weapon.” —Andrew OldarPete Peterson
250 SX-F Settings Stock Best
Fork Compression 12 8
Fork Rebound 12 15
Air (psi) 154 157
Shock Low-Speed Compression 15 15
Shock High-Speed Compression 2 1.75
Shock Rebound 15 15
Shock Sag (mm) 105 105