Dirt Rider's 2009 250F MX Shootout Additional Photos - Dirt Rider Magazine

By now you've probably read the Dirt Rider 2009 250F Motocross Shootout (in the March 2009 issue). We only had so much room in the magazine, and couldn't fit all the opinions we collected. Here are a few additional opinions, as well as the opinions from the magazine, and a big bunch of great photos from two of the test days.The shots are from Racetown and Piru MX, a great track in the high desert with great dirt, and a tighter track build on a hillside, from the first and second days of testing all the bikes together. You can see we work our photographers as hard as our bikes. So enjoy the photos and gain some insight from the opinions. And if you haven't read the magazine yet, shame on you, but I'll tell you here the Kawasaki was declared the winner with the Honda a close second. The other bikes were not ranked. And we have to keep saying this because people just don't seem to grasp it - all these bikes are good bikes, and any one of them could be the best bike for you, depending on what you're looking for.For the full in-depth test, get your hands on the March 2009 issue. There you'll find facts about the characteristics of each bike, suggested suspension settings, and enough graphs to keep you happy for months - Human Impression charts on power and suspension, lap times, speed and acceleration, and sound test ratings.WEB EXCLUSIVE OPINIONS
I loved the 2008 Honda, so it's no surprise that I love the 2009 model. The Honda worked well at every track and was a blast to ride. It was easy to put the bike in any line you want. You could easily square up a corner mid-way and rocket out early. The motor was strong throughout the whole powerband, and the suspension worked great for me and never bottomed, even on hard hits. The Honda is definitely a winning package.The 2009 Kawi flat out screams! I think every one of the test riders noticed the top-end power over all the other bikes. The Kawi almost feels as if it has an aftermarket exhaust or motor work. The bike is also very stable, which makes it perfect for fast outdoor-style tracks. My only real complaint is with the tranny. The bike popped out of gear a couple of times when shifting under load. I put the KX-F second.The Yamaha has always been a solid bike but has just lacked a bit since blue went to the aluminum frame. This year, the geometry is right. I was really impressed how well the 2009 Yamaha cornered. It was easy to lay the bike over in a rut and just rail. I found the suspension to be really plush and the easiest of all the bikes to ride, especially on a whooped-out rough track. The only thing I felt the bike needed was a little more low-end grunt to pull out of corners. It placed third in the shootout for me.The KTM has come a long way over the last couple of years. The bike takes a little longer to get used to than the Japanese bikes, but not in a bad way. It has crazy strong brakes that can stop on a dime, and a hydraulic clutch that is so nice that I can't see why all the bikes aren't running them. The six-speed tranny gives you more options for what gear you want to ride around the track; you can scream second gear through a corner or lug third and clutch it. Either way, the bike has more than enough power and torque. If motocross consisted of riding smooth tracks, the SX-F would be my top pick, but motocross consists of rough, squared-out holes and braking bumps. The KTM doesn't work well in these conditions, so I ranked it fourth. If KTM can get the bike to absorb the small choppy bumps and holes, the bike could be a shootout winner.I felt at home right away on the Suzuki. I loved the bar and ergonomics of the bike. The RM-Z had a ton of bottom-end and short gear ratios, which made it good for tighter tracks, like arenacross or supercross. The bike really seemed to lack top-end, though. It could use a tooth smaller on the rear sprocket or a good exhaust that was targeted at upper mid to top-end power. Other than lacking a little top-end power, I felt as if I could go the fastest on it compared to all the other bikes. It has a very smooth power delivery.
Ricky Yorks
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 170 lb
Pro

The 2009 KX250F's bottom-end is responsive, giving great throttle control. The midrange is very strong, leading to enormous top-end power. The top range on the KX-F is like it's a modified bike at times. The KX250F's suspension is excellent. The harder I rode the bike, the more confident I became as it made up for my mistakes. On braking bumps the suspension soaked up every little impact. In ruts, I was able to maintain great momentum entering and exiting. On jumps the bike launched and landed comfortably. The front brake has great stopping power, which allowed me to brake late into turns. Ergos on the Kawasaki are outstanding. It is my top pick.The Honda felt like it was made for me. As I rode the bike harder, I could feel the lightness of the bike off the jumps and in ruts. The bike has great low-range power for an emergency pull out of a rut, hole, whoop or tight turn. The midrange keeps the bike steady with enough power on jumps, ruts and starts. The top-end allows you to clear any jump or accelerate at high rpm. The brakes on the Honda are the second-best next to the KTM. The CRF had the best suspension for me. The harder I rode the bike, the better it felt. I placed the bike second overall.The Suzuki RM-Z250 has great power, suspension, handling and stability. It is a fun bike to ride. It has a very smooth engine pull. The fork and shock are very plush and comfortable. The gearing was a bit short, but the transmission is much smoother than last year's and provides a great transition from gear to gear. The RM sits low in the back, and the feeling it gave me on high speeds was great. Whoops and braking bumps were very easy to deal with when riding the RM-Z. I placed it third.The 2009 YZ250F's changes were very noticeable. The YZ250F's suspension is very plush and made me feel like I was riding on suspension that was modified just for me. As I rode hard into ruts and fast on braking bumps, the suspension always had me covered and gave me a soft ride. The only problem I had with the rear suspension was when accelerating hard out of a turn the bike would fishtail. I made several changes to the rear shock, but I could not get rid of it. One problem that I had with the Yamaha was that my boots would get stuck on the radiator shrouds when going in and out of deep ruts. The bike's stability stood out when compared to the other 250Fs. I put it fourth in the shootout.On the 2009 KTM 250 SX-F, even with the sag adjusted to my weight, the rear end seemed awkwardly high and like it could easily buck me off. The bike's power is delivered smooth and controlled, allowing you to build confidence. Whenever I came out of a turn strong in second gear, the bike's front end stuck to the ground with great traction. The brakes on the KTM are fantastic and are personally my favorite feature on the orange machine. Going full speed on straight-aways, the bike felt stable but, by sitting too high, I was not fully confident. I played with the suspension but could not get the safe feeling I was looking for. The jumps were another area of concern; I felt that the fork wasn't kind on hard landings. At times my wrists hurt because the bike could not absorb the big impacts. I would also want to change the seat to a softer one with more cushion to it.
Juan Diego Saffon
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 160 lb
Pro
The Kawi was definitely the easiest bike to ride. It just did everything well. It felt stable because the suspension was balanced and stayed up in the stroke making small bumps disappear and still cornering great. Hard landings were soaked up with ease. The motor made power early and seemed to rev out as far as I wanted to take it. The brake pedal and shift lever were spot-on, I didn't even have to think when using them. The front brake was strong, the clutch action was smooth and the handlebar bend was comfortable. This bike was definitely the pick of litter.The KTM was my second pick. This bike's motor has a really smooth delivery with predictable power. It seemed to build rpm slowly but easily got me to the down side of jumps without any clutch abuse. The brake pedal and shifter were right where you'd expect them to be. The front brake and clutch levers are larger than the other brands but their action was good. Suspensionwise there's a good team working for you. The bike has good balance, with a stable and accurate feeling, so cornering was easy and high-speed landings were no problem.I have mixed feelings about the Suzuki. My first impression was this is a great bike with balanced suspension, with a stiffer rebound damping. The front tire wanted to climb out of the rut in tight turns. The smooth power delivery with no hit at all felt slow but still cleared all the obstacles somehow. I found neutral in a deep rutted corner and on the lap before I hit the ground when entering a corner, yet still I liked this bike and put it third. It fits like a tailored suit. The Honda needed to be ridden high in the rev zone to make power, but there was no problem with down-siding jumps. Cornering required more clutch action to keep her moving. The front and rear suspension were balanced but too soft. It stayed in the mid-stroke and therefore wasn't plush. The hand and foot controls were right where expected for a Honda. As always, great attention to detail, but the bike only ranked fourth with me.The Yamaha wasn't working for me. My boots got hooked up on the radiator shrouds when my foot was held up high in deep rutted corners, and the number plates were grabbing my boots as well. It was very distracting. This motor needed to be revved up high to make any power. The suspension was a bit wallowy, not settling or confidence-inspiring. This bike's motor reminded me of a 125 two-stroke that needed a new piston.
Dave Donatoni
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 160 lb
Senior A Rider

KX250F, wow! I usually ride a 450, but this Kawasaki has me considering switching to a KX250F. Everything works in unison. The handling allowed me to go where I wanted to go. The chassis let the bike settle into turns without a second thought. The power pulls you out of turns with authority and keeps on pulling to the next obstacle. And the controls were all right where I wanted them. What stood out the most for me was the great powerband. The strong, usable power that comes on low and builds quicker than any other 250F pulled me out of turns where the others left me dabbing my inside foot. This power also gave me more confidence on jumps right out of turns where you don't have much ramp-up time. The suspension felt firm and kept me from bottoming out on hard landings, yet had a plush feeling on the rough stuff.My second pick is the KTM. It turns really well, despite a top-heavy feel as I slowed down entering turns. As I laid it over it dropped into the turn and stayed put, losing that top-heavy feeling. It has a good, strong powerband but lacked that low-end pull of the Kawasaki. The suspension has a very firm yet supple feel.The YZ-F is a distant third. The suspension is its shining point. It has a very strong, glossy feeling unlike any other bike, but the YZ-F is very top-heavy. Braking into turns, it wanted to stand up and high-side me, and the power took too long to kick in.The RM-Z is a close fourth. I describe this bike as "vanilla." It didn't seem to do anything wrong, but it didn't do anything right, either. It just seemed to do everything a little so-so.And fifth is the CRF. I struggled with this bike the most. The fork is quite stiff causing it to deflect considerably on braking bumps, making for a wild ride coming into some turns. It also tended to oversteer. When accelerating out of turns, the rear tire broke loose causing me to almost low-side or do a 180. And the power, like the YZ-F, took too long to kick in.
Steve Mills
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 160 lb
Vet Novice
The Yamaha 250F was my first choice. This bike was just good everywhere. There weren't any negative characteristics. The motor had just enough hit on the bottom and good overrev without any complaints of wanting more. The suspension had smooth action on top and through the mid-stroke without bottoming out. As for handling, I could dive to the inside of lines without worrying about the front end washing out. I felt confident on this bike-I could ride it fast without having to try as hard. Another important issue was this bike was very consistent from early in the day to later in the day. It felt nice and tight. This bike just had the best package altogether.The Honda 250F was a very close second. The throttle response and stability stood out as the best in class. The throttle response was awesome; you could just twist it and go. It didn't matter what gear you were in, it pulled and responded to your throttle hand. I really noticed how stable this bike was on high-speed straights. The power could have used a little more top-end or another tooth on the rear; it just wanted to sign off a little early. As for suspension, it was a little on the soft side. I needed to add a few clicks to keep it from going too far into the stroke. The handling was good, but I had a little trouble with diving to the inside on a couple of turns. This bike was very consistent from early in the day to later in the day.The KTM 250 SX-F was my third choice. This bike stood out as the "Most Impressive." The fork really stood out as best in class; it is very plush on top and held up through the mid-stroke. KTMs have some nice features that put them a notch above the Japanese brands, such as the hydraulic clutch and Brembo brakes. These added features work great. The power of this bike was awesome. It pulls and gets off the gate the best in this class. The mid and overrev power is right there when you need it. The bike handled really consistently; I felt really in control. One of the things that I didn't like was at the end of the day there was some noise at the rear chain and brake area. The rear brake seemed a little sticky when entering some of the corners.The KX250F was my fourth choice. A characteristic that stood out on this bike was the overrev. I could hold gears longer and not have to worry about shifting this bike. It would rev to the moon and still pull. However, what held this bike back was the suspension; it was a little on the soft side. I had a harder time on this bike to get it to settle into the corners. I was having to work too hard to go fast on this bike.The RM-Z250 was my fifth choice. This bike was just too smooth for me. The power was there but just wasn't aggressive enough. I also thought the suspension was too soft. The brakes could have been a little stronger, too. However, this bike was very easy to ride. It was really stable at high-speeds and cornered well.
Craig Monty
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 145 lb
Intermediate

Fifth: RM-Z250. This bike corners well and had good power, though I found myself a gear higher sometimes, but the bike would still pull pretty well out of corners even in the higher gear. The front and rear suspension was too soft stock even for my weight, but after moving the clickers a bit it worked well.Fourth: YZ250F. This bike felt OK. It corners well, but I had a little trouble with the need to clutch this bike out of corners. I think it was because it did not have much bottom-end. Once in the power it worked well, but then you had to shift right away or it would fall on its face. In stock form this bike worked well for my weight.

Third: KTM250: This is a great bike. It makes great power all over and corners great. It sits a bit too high for me. I had to make a lot of changes to the fork and shock; they were way too stiff. The fit and finish on this bike is great, and the air filter is super easy, no tools. Also, it's very quiet when you ride it. Top-shelf with every part on the bike!Second: KX250F. This bike was really good. It had a lot of power out of the corners and was easy to fly over doubles right out of the turns. The fork and rear end worked very well at the stock settings for me. The only thing I think would help this bike is to raise the seat height or lower the triple clamps. I felt like I sat very low on this bike. The KTM and the Honda sit high and I like that.First: CRF250. I owned a 2007 CRF250R, and right out of the box it was the best bike I have had! The 2009 feels very similar to that bike. It makes easy-to-ride power that goes wherever you want and tracks great. The front and rear work well for my weight, and the stabilizer works very well on fast straightaways. Again, the fit and finish on this is much like the KTM, both of this bikes feel more solid than the rest.
Steve Kwait
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 145 lb
Vet Novice****OPINIONS THAT WERE INCLUDED IN THE PUBLISHED MAGAZINE TEST

When it comes to throwing down my hard-earned loot on one of these machines, it would be the Honda CRF250R. However, this isn't my favorite '09 250F; that honor goes to the Kawasaki. I found the KX-F to be the best overall package of engine performance, handling ability and overall potential, and with a little suspension setup and some time in the saddle I could really get into riding this bike. The Honda is a close second but was held back in my ranking by the soft side of the suspension, which felt like it was valved a bit squishy and was consequently hard to put full confidence into in the turns. However, I'd buy this machine over the KX-F simply because I have more confidence in Honda durability and parts/modification availability.I was expecting the KTM 250 SX-F to do well in the shootout but was still surprised at how darn good the bike felt; you truly could race this machine straight out of the box. The suspension and handling felt better to me than they ever have on an orange model, and if it weren't for a few quirks (such as the somewhat-heavy feel, unfamiliar ergos and slightly far-out clutch friction point), this bike would likely be my top pick.For me, the RM-Z250 sits one spot ahead of the Yamaha because I simply feel more comfortable on the yellow machine. Balance and stability are two words that kept popping up in my Suzuki notes, and at the end of the day this is another one of those rides that, with a little tuning, could be super competitive with anything else on the racetrack.Although I like the Yamaha a lot and feel bad giving it "last," I struggled to get comfortable on this machine. Be it the track conditions on our test days or just the alignment of the stars, I was never able to fully click with the YZ-F. However, I know that the blue bikes are solid in the long run, which would bump the YZ-F up over the Suzuki if it were my money on the line. But as far as overall ranking in terms of hands-down performance and personal preference, my list is green, red, orange, yellow and blue.
Chris Denison
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 155 lb
Intermediate
With only slight changes to this year's Honda CRF250R I was a little worried if they would be enough to keep this bike as a top contender. My biggest issue with most bikes comes down to suspension; if it does not work right, you'll get tired or you just cannot use the bike to its full potential. Over every obstacle the CRF's suspension worked great, always maintaining a smooth and confident feeling. Although the Honda did not have the best motor, the handling, feel and suspension made it able to use all its horsepower to its full potential.As soon as you snap the throttle on the KX250F it sounds like a monster; hands down it is the loudest stock bike in the 250F clan, but with all that noise there is definitely power to match. This KX-F will pull harder than all of the other bikes. It is snappy, torquey and just flat out quick. This motor package is what really makes the Kawi shine. Coming off of each bike I would usually have some issue with one jump on each track, but as soon as I hoped on the KX-F I could sail over the jump with ease. Along with such a great motor, handling and suspension, everything else on this bike works awesomely. Right out of the package this bike has all of the characteristics of a race bike.

Suzuki's RM-Z250 was really a little different than all of the other bikes. With such a close-ratio transmission it required a lot of shifting. It was very easy to keep this bike in the meat of the power, but you had to keep that foot moving. The tranny made the bike shine on tight tracks, but it was just OK on other tracks. Handling seemed to be very easy and quick; you could switch up lines very fast and at the same time stay planted in fast long ruts. I think this bike would be ideal for arenacross or supercross because there's always power and a lot of times you can ride a gear higher everywhere.A few laps into riding the Yamaha YZ250F two things really stood out to me: The bike had a bit of a heavy feeling, and the power is not all that aggressive. After a few more laps I realized I was starting to settle into a pretty decent pace and I wasn't getting tired. A lot of this was due to a plush suspension setup, mellow powerband, and that heavy feeling then started to translate into a more stable feeling. With a very stable feel, great turning and very plush suspension I was beginning to appreciate what at first I didn't like. With these characteristics this bike would be very easy to jump on and ride without getting tired or having to tame a very aggressive powerband.Since the first time I threw a leg over a KTM the orange bikes always had a distinct high-in-the-rear and a little low-in-the-front feel to them. I never did get the hang of the turning on the 250 SX-Fs in previous years. But I must say this year was definitely an improvement with handling and suspension. This bike was by far the most stable bike that I have ever ridden. I gained so much confidence with this bike I felt as if I could come into a turn wide open and just rail without having to worry about staying in the rut; it was just effortless. After the first day I was convinced this bike was going to be my first choice. With such a smooth powerband and an incomparable stability, I thought this bike had it; unfortunately, after a few rides at a few more tracks with different terrain I came to the conclusion that the 250 SX-F does not like small chop or square-edge bumps. Long rolling obstacles it eats up with ease, but get into those small little bumps and the bike starts to want to come out of your hands and grows very violent. This bike definitely seems to be set up for heavy riders.Every bike had some characteristic that worked great: The Honda had great suspension, the KTM was extremely stable, the Suzuki had a transmission that may not have been the best everywhere but worked superb in some areas, the Kawasaki with such a powerful motor and, last but not least, the Yamaha was just easy to ride. They were all almost too close to choose a winner and for different tracks the results would change, so it all depends on what you're looking for out of a bike to find the best bike for yourself.
Tyler Ruiz
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lb
Intermediate
The Kawasaki is the best bike by far. The motor has so much torque coming out of corners (even with all 180 pounds of me on it), and on top of that it pulls very hard all the way through to the top. It also turned and handled amazingly. I tried finding something I didn't like about this bike but couldn't.I've always heard so many bad things about KTMs, but I had never ridden one up until this shootout. It probably surprised me more than any of the other bikes by how good it was, and it was my second favorite bike. The motor was super fast but very controllable for how much power it had. I think the KTM turns at least just as good as the Kawasaki, but the only thing I did not like about the SX-F is how wide it felt; the bar seemed six feet long. The back end chattered around in small braking bumps when you would not be on the gas and braking, but I think with a few adjustments to the bars and suspension the bike really would be almost perfect.Yamaha's 250F is one of the most comfortable bikes, and it gets third place. The way you sit on it and the way it feels for a tall guy like myself are great. The motor seemed strong through the mid and top, but being as heavy as I am for a 250F, I need the bottom-end to pull me around. I still think some of my lap times might have been fastest on the Yamaha, but I still would like to have a little more bottom. The way they turn is also another reason I put it in third in my rankings. It just does not get down in the corners. I feel like I'm fighting the bike in ruts, and corners are where races are won.I know Honda has had a great ranking for its 250F, but for me I did not like the bike too much and put it fourth. It felt very compact and small, like I was riding an 85. As far as the handling goes, it worked great through all the braking bumps and big chop. The motor was very smooth and easy to ride, but I didn't think it was very fast compared to the KTM or Kawasaki. I think those motors are two steps ahead of the Honda.Suzuki's bike was so slow. The thing wouldn't get out of its own way. When we took off on the start I had a bike-length jump but immediately the other bikes blew right by me like I was sitting still. The suspension also felt very soft like I was riding a Cadillac. Maybe other people like that feeling, but it wasn't good for me. The bike I rode just had a long way to go before it was at the same level as the others.
Scott Simon
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 180 lb
Pro

The Honda is the best overall package. The bike never surprises you with its predictable chassis and power that's not the most dramatic, but it is always ready and willing. The smooth power has that "gear higher" feel that probably contributes to the relaxed nature of the ride. I was riding this bike better, and standing up in more places because I felt so sure of the CRF under me. That said, the front end can get a little skatey in the rough, but it's a fair trade-off for me to have the '09's light-steering feel. The front wheel felt most like a two-stroke's in its ability to surf over the track without digging in or venturing off on its own line. The Honda didn't have the best suspension, but the bike never got upset even when the going got rough. Other bikes are better in areas, but around a full lap Honda has the advantage this year.I can't believe how much better the Yamaha is from '08, so this '09 ranks second for me. I've never been able to turn well on previous YZ250Fs, but Yamaha's small changes to the rear end have made this a completely different bike. The bike flows through ruts with ease, the rear stays straight and doesn't kick, and the thing lays over and turns like it was built to do only that. I gained confidence on this bike, and it had me riding better. Gripping it is instinctive, and the bike coaxes you to get your face over the bar and charge harder. The power is good and the throttle has a very connected feel to it, and the YZ-F never seemed to throw me forward into turns when I chopped the throttle. The suspension was the best of the bunch, and the clickers on this bike make the ride softer or harder without affecting the handling like can be the case with...every other bike.Last year's KX-F was my favorite, but this new bike isn't the same so I put it third. Whereas last year's bike felt small and nimble, this new green meanie has a more serious feel to it. The bike feels long and low and built for speed. The motor lives up to that sensation with strong power everywhere the throttle travels from cracked open to wide open. The bike has a more substantial feel (heavier) that's not as fun to ride as last year's bike but plants it to the track for quicker lap times. I felt some compression-braking and a less natural feel through the ruts than on the other bikes. I hate to sound down on this bike, but I always felt like I wanted to play and it wanted to work.I was sure the new KTM would be my favorite this year when I first rode it. KTM got its suspension harshness figured out, and the bike was finally perfect... Then we rode the bikes back to back at multiple tracks, and the bike was hot and cold. The bike has a short wheelbase feel that had it porpoising through rough spots. I think a lot of this is due to a stiffer spring feel than the other bikes, making this a great choice for heavy Lites riders, but not ideal for me. The bike turned better than any of the others; it really leaned over into ruts magically and the throttle response was the best of the bunch. The bike was light and fun and likely a suspension fix (maybe just a spring swap) away from being my favorite.I hate to put the Suzuki last because I felt instantly comfortable on the bike. The RM-Z is maneuverable and easy to manipulate, but the suspension is a bit too soft. When I stiffened it up the bike was less inclined to lean over in corner ruts, and then once in wanted to climb over to the inside. I liked the engine with its good, consistent power down low, but it was weak as the revs climbed. I dinged the Kawi for being too much of a racer, but I think the Suzuki loses points for not being enough of one.
Pete Peterson
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 160 lb
Vet Novice
The Honda is unchanged in my book from last year. The over-carbureted feel is still there, but you can avoid it easily by riding this bike in the meat of the power. It simply wants a load on the engine. If you plant this bike on a gradual incline, it will pull gears the longest (next to the KTM) and strongest. The motor is a lot of fun and has enough bottom that you don't have to abuse the clutch all day to keep up with the torquers in the class (Suzuki and Kawasaki). If you want brainless power output, bolt on a six-ounce flywheel weight and enjoy the ride. Ergonomics and suspension compliance are money out of the box. It feels solid in hold-up on deceleration and settles into corners easily. The front end holds up to aggressive meetings with jump faces and can resist bottoming like the best. It's tied with the best suspension to the Yamaha, and its lightweight feel on the track and in the air makes it a bit more desirable in my book. For a rider who wants competitiveness out of the box over a wide range, loves the solid, light feel of modern Hondas and likes getting on a bike and feeling at home, this is your ride.

The Kawasaki will accelerate in an instant, and it'll clear out-of-corner obstacles easier than most 250Fs. The motor is durable as well. With its fork coating, the KX-F is the first in the 250 class to bring such fanciness to the suspension game. And the bike likes the low in the back feeling of stability. The combination is a bit odd in that the front end feels like it wants to move free but the back end is planted. It's sort of a chopper with a hyper front end. It works; don't get me wrong, but it feels different than the more knife-edged bikes in the class (Honda, KTM). The only negative about this package is the external quality. It sounds fickle, but this is a tight race and having clutch and engine covers that look roached after a weekend, graphics that peel off in minutes and black plastic that scratches when you load it in the truck the first time is enough to put this bike back a notch or two. I know the showroom appeal is there, but in reality, you'll look like you're riding an old bike when it's still very new. The Kawi is also very loud for no reason other than a crappy stock muffler. For a rider who wants snap, a great combination of stability and very strong turning performance in a package that will mechanically last, this KX-F is perfect.The 250 SX-F is the second easiest bike to ride in the class with a cool, easy power delivery that loves to rock on top. I like the mellow bottom-end and enjoy the class-leading components on this bike. Plus, I think it easily looks the coolest in the group. My experience with this bike in the past was exceptional, and it crossed over-thanks to its six-speed tranny-to GP-style races better than any other 250F could dream of. The suspension on the new bike is better than completely revalved stuff from a year ago and is the plushest in the class. The KTM is perfect for a rider who wants one bike to last more than two years, rides a lot of tracks and GP events but doesn't race every weekend during the season. It's a great entry-level bike for the beginner motocrosser, too, and has the look the style-police will never pull over.The Yamaha is the most improved bike for 2009. OK, maybe this and the KTM are tied. But somehow, this bike learned how to turn. It's obvious their silly little swingarm dent and linkage flex changes are settling this bike into corners better than before, but still, it's impressive. Until you catch your boot on the shroud. Then you'll hate turning the Yamaha. You have to clutch this bike more than all the others. Even the mellow KTM has torque down low to pull it up into the power. Hopefully, their new clutch basket with rubber dampers instead of judder springs will hold up to the abuse (ours seems to be doing fine). Once you get off the floor this bike's power comes alive sooner than in '08 (thanks to simple exhaust updates), but its build is still buttery smooth and lasts for days. It's the easiest bike to ride. The suspension on YZ-Fs has been solid for years, and this year is no different. The turning character is helping a lot here, but there are few, if any, complaints in the suspension department. Very comfortable riding position and controls, strong brakes and easy starting-the YZ-F is for a rider looking for all-around quality and performance. You won't win out of the inside rut, but you'll make up for it in traction and comfort. Basically, this bike is good for everyone.Suzuki's RM-Z is the torque monster of the class and is virtually unchanged since it won our shootout in 2006. Unfortunately, the class has changed. Honda is now behaving, Kawasaki is in a different league and KTM is leaving the RM-Z in the dust down the straights. This bike still has one of my favorite motors and is so torquey in the mid that other bikes feel sloppy and disconnected in comparison. However, the other ends of the spectrum seem weak on the Suzuki. More often than not, the Suzuki will be in fifth gear on the rev-limiter sooner than the competition. This bike is perfect for arenacross or shorter tracks but falls short on longer circuits. The suspension on this bike will likely never feel as good as it does in the first 20 hours. Even after rebuilds with OEM equipment we've experienced a loss of suspension performance. The bike loosens up, and that's all there is to it. Full-service revalves are the answer and worth the expense. The RM-Z has a comfortable riding position and solid brakes. This bike is for the torque-hungry rider who doesn't need top-end speed or passing gears.
Jesse Ziegler
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175 lb
Intermediate