2007 KTM 250 XC-F vs. 2007 KTM 250 XC - Dirt Rider Magazine

250 XC

KTM's new XC line of off-road machines is purpose-built for grand prix, hare scrambles, GNCC and WORCS racing. Basically, these new XCs are intended for extended loop, closed-course competition. And KTM boasts that the XCs are ready to race off the showroom floor-just add hand guards. Perhaps the best support of these claims comes from Shane Watts' National Hare Scrambles overall win at round 12 in New Jersey. Most of the KTM off-road stars are racing XC models, but almost all those bikes are modified; Watts' 2007 250 XC-F looks pretty but is very close to stock. Additionally, KTM makes the bold claim that XCs are capable of tackling the motocross track. And with the addition of a spark arrestor, they are able to handle trails, too. After racing nearly every XC model at the Washougal round of the WORC Series, we knew the bikes had the goods on a hare scrambles course. But we really wanted to know if the hype of the bikes' MX prowess and trail-friendliness could live up to the actuality.Motocross tracks and trails are both dirt, but the similarities end there. The gulf between them is a large leap for one bike to make with nothing changed but the suspension clickers. We're paid to doubt claims like that, so we grabbed one of the all-new 250 XC-F four-strokes and a 250 XC two-stroke and set out to scrutinize their do-it-all ability.In SoCal we can trail ride a pretty much stock moto machine, so we hit a few nearby moto tracks and trails. Then we loaded up and hit the road. Both bikes were given the serious trail treatment in Big Timber, Montana, and in the mountains of Utah along the Wasatch front. The trails in Montana were pretty bony, with plenty of exposed roots and solidly buried sharp rocks that punished the wheels and suspension. The Utah trails were tighter, but still rocky in places, with slipperier roots. The Utah trails also had more frequent tight, clutch-slipping right-left transitions through trees. We suspected that there could be do-it-all bikes that did everything well enough that we'd call them perfect, but no bikes that would actually be perfect at everything. This is what we learned on the road.On The Track
Our first track outing on the KTMs was at jump-filled Perris Raceway no more than 30 minutes after we picked up the bikes. We figured that the stadium-inspired track would be tough duty for the KTMs, but yes and no. Jesse Ziegler was riding his long-term '06 KTM 250 SX-F, and after a few laps on the new XC, he claimed, "I'd rather ride this one on the track. It's fast, the suspension is plush, and I don't have to kick it. I don't feel the weight of the starter." Jimmy Lewis agreed about the XC-F, but after he gave the XC two-stroke a quick pounding, he felt the 250 XC's suspension blew through the stroke too easily on jump faces. Along the way, we spent time on the hard clay at I-5 MX and on the fast sand of Josh Bagge's private track. The four-stroke suspension does use a lot of stroke, but it is stiff enough that many riders get by just fine on the track. When Chris Dvoracek was doing wild sky-shot jump whips and was landing a bit sideways, the four-stroke didn't have the suspension control of an MX bike and he was getting some big downhill swaps on the landing. Here and on jump faces, the suspensions on both bikes use a lot of stroke, but by using the clickers and the all-important high-speed shock compression correctly, almost any light to medium rider can come up with a setting that works on outdoor-style moto. Stay away from full supercross. The two-stroke XC was a little more track-limited with more active-feeling suspension, but courses with an outdoor feel are handled fine, especially under lighter riders.

The XC-F works best when the terrain is hard or rocky.

Both bikes have fine-running engines that make good power. At least they did after some jetting for the XC-F. In stock trim, it takes a long time to warm up and run clean, and even then it has a bad lean hesitation. The KTM Keihin XCR carburetor uses a leak jet in the float bowl. Honda and KTM sell a blank jet with no hole in it, but we took out the stock #70 jet, cleaned it with contact cleaner, dried it off and soldered it closed. After blocking the leak jet and opening up the fuel screw (stock is 31/44 turn out, and we went to 111/42 turns out), the XC-F carbureted cleanly on the track and the trail. When we ran an FMF Q spark arrestor, we dropped the needle one position (raised the clip one notch) and put in a one-size-smaller pilot jet when over 6000 feet. The two-stroke ran stock jetting, and though it became a little slobbery at 9000 feet and pinged once in a while near sea level, it was never a problem with the stock muffler or with the FMF Q spark arrestor/muffler.With the heavier off-road flywheels, the engines don't have as much snap as some riders like for moto, but they handled any obstacle fine. You learn to use the transmission and not rely on the snap of the clutch to get over jumps. This is more noticeable with the two-stroke in third and fourth gear, and on the four-stroke when exiting radically tight turns. So bottom line, yes, the XCs will handle reasonable track use and are great for grand prix-style events and hare scrambles.On The Trail
For desert trails, both bikes feel plush and comfortable for day-long rides. With the fork's external damping adjustment and spring-preload adjuster, there is plenty of tunability for the relatively fast trail pace and sandy and rolling bumps. If you aim for rock trails, especially the type we encountered in Montana with the rocks solidly buried sharp-end-up, you'll see that the XCs are set up on the stiff side for slow, rough, gnarly off-road conditions. Either model is better at soaking up rocks and roots than a motocrosser, but even with the adjusters softened to the max, the ride was rough at trail pace. For sure, it's jerkier than an XC-W, and if you live in an area where there are sharp rocks and roots, then go with the XC-W or plan on a suspension modification. Many current GNCC and hare scrambles competitors are running stiffer suspensions, and the XCs feel much like a Juha Salminen- or Mike Lafferty-inspired setup. They claim stiffer settings are a must for a faster pace and stiff suspension allows for more control in big bumps at higher speeds. For racing, we totally agree. We found little fault when using the XC on a hare scrambles-type course.Off the track, like in Montana, we definitely felt the suspension was too stiff for trails. In Payson, Utah, there was more dirt and fewer planted rocks, so the suspension felt better there. As we said, in the high-desert mountain trails it worked fine and was sufficiently plush and comfortable. Of the two bikes, the four-stroke feels a bit stiffer, and that difference must be in the chassis' geometry. The XC-F is 16 pounds heavier than the XC, and though KTM claims the suspension has exactly the same internal and external suspension adjustments, the four-stroke definitely feels stiffer.Both machines handle well, but the four-stroke chassis feels tighter and the handling crisp. We attribute the difference to the power. Only in the driest and most slippery conditions is there much wheelspin with the 250F. On hard and rocky ground it hooks up great. The two-stroke XC is also very tractable, and it's easier to modulate right off the bottom or when pulling a tall gear. Once in the middle-rpm ranges, there is more wheelspin than with the four-stroke. We expected the revised cylinder and head to be a little brutal on top as all KTM 250cc two-strokes motocrossers have been for the last few years, but it is likably flat and never approaches brutal. These bikes are for competitions in which pit stops are easy and quick, so they run gas tanks that are larger than MX bikes but small enough to be unnoticeable while riding. That means 2.6 gallons for the four-strokes and 2.9 gallons for the two-strokes. Range is limited for those interested in long loops without fuel stops. At altitude in Montana, the XC-F went on reserve in 40 miles. The XC didn't, so you can safely assume 20 mpg for both bikes.Both XCs feel very light on the trail. And they should. The minimalist design includes only a kickstand and an 18-inch rear wheel as obvious off-road accoutrements. At 218 pounds, the XC is actually lighter than any '06 250cc two-stroke motocrosser! The XC-F gained 14 pounds with the electric start, but we hardly felt it on the motocross track, and the first time you stall in a race or while stuck in an awkward place, you'll be glad to have it. The starter adds weight, but not excess weight.Rappin' It Up
There are reasons that there are off-road bikes and motocross bikes. The demands on each type of machine are so different that it seems impossible for one bike to perform excellently at both disciplines with current suspension technology. KTM has built bikes that are outstanding for GPs or hare scrambles events but mildly compromised for the extremes of moto or serious trail riding. Most riders reading this already know whether they want a two-stroke or a four-stroke, but here are concrete thoughts for those who remain undecided. If you are more into moto, the XC-F four-stroke is a smaller compromise, and we feel that it will be a better choice for more riders. That goes double for riders in regions with lots of hardpack terrain/tracks. The rougher and ruttier the riding conditions you face, the more you need the two-stroke XC. The same is true for big guys and for people living in regions with deep sand or giant hills. Between these two, the premixer has a definite power, weight and price advantage.In a perfect world, we'd all have a moto bike and on off-road bike (and a dual-sport bike, trials bike, pit bike and so on-depending on how perfect your world and garage are). But many riders like to do a little of everything and not all can afford to own or keep up two or more bikes. For now, there isn't a better do-it-all bike made than an XC. All you have to do is decide how many strokes you prefer.Specifications

Ktm 250 Xc
MSRP: $6498
Claimed dry weight: 226 lb
Actual weight (ready to race, no fuel): 218 lb
Seat height: 36.0 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.7 in.

Ktm 250 Xc-F
MSRP: $6798
Claimed dry weight: 236 lb
Actual weight (ready to race, no fuel): 234 lb
Seat height: 35.5 in.
Seat-to-footpeg distance: 20.5 in.

What's Hot * Suspension has every adjustment that MX KTM models have. * Suspension settings can be stiffened for moto or softened for trail use. * The 250 XC-F has smooth and tractable power throughout the rpm range. * The 250 XC has smooth bottom power but hits in the middle-rpm range. * Kickstands are always nice to have. * Tanks should have enough range for GPs or hare scrambles. * Filter and wheel changes are a snap.

What's Not * Suspension is stiff for gnarly trails and soft for serious moto. * No spark arrestors. * Not enough fuel capacity for really long rides.

The 250 XC isn\'t limited by terrain. It works great everywhere.
Payson, Utah, had mud, rocks and roots, but both bikes worked well for trail fun.
Payson, Utah, had mud, rocks and roots, but both bikes worked well for trail fun.