Head says Two-Stroke, Heart Says Four - Letter of the Week - Dirt Rider Magazine

Life's circumstances have kept me out of dirt bikes for a while, and I'm looking to get back in sometime soon. I'm torn between the KTM 200 XC-W and the Honda CFR250X, probably used, but not abused. I've been reading and re-reading the two-stroke vs four-stroke articles in the November 2010 and February 2011 issues of Dirt Rider, and there is a tug-of-war going on inside me between my head and my heart. Two strokes or four? My head says two, my heart says four.I know that the KTM will eat the Honda alive and spit out its valves and springs along the trailside. I know that it is 20 lbs lighter with a 15 hp advantage, lower cost, and less maintenance. However, I've never ridden a modern, trail-tuned two-stroke, so I don't know how the power flows, and that is a huge part of the trail experience. One of my last two-strokes was a YZ125. It was light, fast, well suspended, with way too much motor for tight woods. Yeah, I should have known. Our relationship didn't last. However, when I rode trials, many years ago, it was on a homebuilt flyweight two-stroke, and I loved it.But every real trail bike I have ever lived with for a long period of time, whether racer or play bike, has been a four-stroke. I love the sound, and I love the long pull of a well-tuned powerband, and the friendly, even flow of power on a challenging single-track. The last trail bike I had was an XR200R that I kept for 20 years (I tend to have long relationships with bikes I like) and before that I built a monster 420cc TL250 out of a pile of basket case XL350 motors, an MR175 tank, a CR125 saddle, and a brand new remaindered TL250. (Hey, trials riders learn that most of the suspension is in the legs, so don't laugh. It was a great bike for exploring the Colorado high country! And nobody ever ran away and hid from me.)

So here I am trying to choose between two very different bikes, and I have never ridden either one on the mountain trails I can see from my front window. And here's the thing that makes it even more complicated: No bike I have ever had stays stock for very long, so I'm actually trying to choose between the potential each bike has of bringing the jollies. If I went with the KTM, it would wind up being something very close to Malcolm Smith's 200 EX/C that was featured in the August 2005 issue of Dirt Rider. If I got the CRF250X, it would probably be very similar to the bike you built for Heather, but with more displacement. I don't think either bike is a bad choice.So what do you think, Jimmy? You've done two-stroke vs. four-stroke shootouts between comparable motocrossers, and between "closed-course off-road racing" bikes. Is there a chance that you might do a shootout between a pair of serious small-bore trailbikes? Do you still think the CRF250X you built "has the best combination of power and handling of any bike on the market" (quoting Dan Kouba's story on the bike)?**Jay Craig

Colorado Springs, CO**Sorry for such a short answer to a long letter, but you can't go wrong with either. They are both excellent at what you are looking for and very similar in a lot of ways, performance-wise. The two-stroke is easier to jet, if that makes any difference. But electric start is awesome. This could go on and on! -Jimmy Lewis