Then it was time to see what she would do. The engine doesn't really feel faster at high rpm, but it's strong and responsive at every other rpm. The best way to enjoy the engine is to purposely not downshift for turns. The 290 pulls through strongly then catches fire on the way out of the corner. That sort of power is awesome for a heavier rider like myself. I wasn't sure a faster rider would feel the same, so I had Jonty Edmunds try it. Jonty is more of a 450-size guy, but he has youth, fitness and the talent that I don't.After a couple of motos, Edmunds had this to say, "I thought the 290 was great. I prefer 250Fs to 450s because less power is more fun. Having said that, 450s have an advantage because you can be lazy, but if you try to ride them hard, they can kick you in the ass. 250Fs are more fun but you have to try harder. The 290 was the best of both worlds. It allows you to be a little less on the ball as far as being in the right gear all the time because of the additional cc giving it a midsize four-stroke feel. You can also ride it hard and it won't get away from you. Sometimes, what takes away a bit of the fun factor of the 250Fs is when you're riding them hard, in high revs, the handling is compromised a bit and they get twitchy. In the midrange, the bikes just handle better, and with the 290, you can do just that: Keep it in the midrange. It started easily and the carburetion was perfect. In many ways, it's the kind of bike I wish manufacturers would produce. I think it'd make a great woods bike with the kind of power it has. Progressive, smooth, strong but not too strong."Jonty and I are in age-group classes, so a 290 is legal. I was curious what a younger, lighter rider would say, so I dangled the bike like a carrot in front of Chris Denison. And, again, it was a hit. "Once I got the suspension dialed in, I was super pumped on how the 290 worked. The added power gave the motor the lugability of a bigger bike without feeling overly powerful (or lethargic), and the capacity to ride a gear higher everywhere was outstanding. Considering how little this mod costs, I'm pretty surprised that big-bore kits aren't more popular."All things considered, I'm delighted with the 290. It isn't perfect, since the engine-braking increased and on full-traction uphills like we find at Piru MX, the engine feels a little reluctant to rev. On the other hand, for every other track I felt no negatives at all other than learning to delay downshifts to lessen the effect of the engine-braking. The jetting isn't odd, starting remains easy, it doesn't run hot or feel finicky. Athena calls for a new piston at 15 hours, but I plan to replace it at 20 hours. That's when I'll finally be able to give the 290 a total thumbs-up. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the heck out of running up the hourmeter. It's a tough job, but I did volunteer.Parts List
Athena YZ250F complete big-bore cylinder kit
Acerbis front and rear fender plastic
Factory Effex Evo 5 graphics kitTires
Dunlop D745/D756The Under-Dog
Modified 2008 KTM 250 SX-F
You're like me, I know it. You skim over the early paragraphs in every shootout about how the new bikes are all so good, all so close, how ranking them was splitting hairs, and you agree-for a moment. Then you read on about the bikes' rankings and you can't help thinking of the last place bike as a dog. I'm newest on staff, last to pick, and I got the pound puppy-the little orange KTM. Its weakness, to me, was obvious-the suspension was a step behind the others. But the bike corners better than the best of them and has a strong and very reliable engine. Suspension is the easiest thing to fix, so I set out to turn my mutt into a superhero.My first trip was to Factory Connection for a full revalve and spring swap of both ends. Factory Connection also has some cool WP tricks, so it replaced the floating piston reservoir with a bladder-type reservoir, swapped out the rebound adjuster housing with its better-sealed unit, and made the move to a progressive spring in the rear. On the first trip out to the track the bike was clearly unbalanced-to me. Jimmy and Karel both rode the bike that day and didn't have major balance issues, but Jimmy's pace is higher and Karel has some pounds on me. Everyone agreed the bike had found a plushness, but I was stinkbugging around the track and needed a fi x. Factory Connection swapped out to a softer rear spring and that brought all the pieces together. Whereas the stock bike would pound my hands and make them sore, the new bike felt much more plush and in line with the rest of the 250Fs. The stock bike has big trouble on the little stuff, and this FC bike smoothed out that braking chop. The work isn't cheap, but most riders would benefi t from a revalve, and maybe springs, on any of the bikes, so think hard if this counts as a bike fix or a tuning modification you would do to any of the brands.