Best Motocross Bike Winner—2020 KTM 250 SX-F

The KTM takes its second consecutive 250F Motocross Shootout victory.

Winning a motocross bike comparison test is no easy feat. There are typically six bikes in a motocross shootout, all of which have commendable qualities about them. Taking two consecutive shootout victories is even more difficult because most manufacturers—now more than ever—are changing their bikes more frequently in an effort to have a class-leading motorcycle. But that’s exactly what the KTM 250 SX-F did in 2020. After a major overhaul in 2019, it leaped to the top of the overall rankings with a remarkably well-rounded package and remains there for 2020 despite a couple of the other bikes receiving a significant amount of updates. In the fiercely competitive 250 four-stroke motocross bike segment, the KTM once again reigns as the king of the class.

The KTM 250 SX-F wins the 2020 250F Motocross Shootout for the second straight year.
The KTM 250 SX-F wins the 2020 250F Motocross Shootout for the second straight year.Jeff Allen

2020 KTM 250 SX-F Engine

Revised suspension settings and the inclusion of an optional perforated airbox cover are the main updates KTM made to the 250 SX-F for 2020. At 231 pounds, the KTM is the lightest bike in the class.
Left:Revised suspension settings and the inclusion of an optional perforated airbox cover are the main updates KTM made to the 250 SX-F for 2020. Right:Jeff Allen

After taking delivery of the 250 SX-F, we mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran it on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer, where it made 40.8 hp at 13,400 rpm and 19.3 pound-feet of torque at 9,200 rpm. With these figures, the KTM makes the most peak horsepower (though just 0.1 more than the Husqvarna FC 250) and is tied with the very similar FC 250 for the most peak torque as well. In comparison to the four other bikes, it produces 1.2 more peak horsepower than the Kawasaki KX250, 1.4 more than the Honda CRF250R, 2.6 more than the Yamaha YZ250F, and 4.4 more than the Suzuki RM-Z250. With the dyno pulls completed, a fresh set of Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires were mounted to ensure consistency in traction among the six competitors through the duration of the test.

The 250 SX-F produces 40.8 hp at 13,400 rpm and 19.3 pound-feet of torque at 9,200 rpm. With those figures, the orange machine makes the most peak horsepower of all six bikes and ties the Husqvarna FC 250 for the most peak torque.
The 250 SX-F produces 40.8 hp at 13,400 rpm and 19.3 pound-feet of torque at 9,200 rpm. With those figures, the orange machine makes the most peak horsepower of all six bikes and ties the Husqvarna FC 250 for the most peak torque.Robert Martin

The KTM’s impressive dyno numbers are backed up on the track as it continues to have the fastest engine in the class. It has a mid-to-top powerband that revs to the moon and pulls through the entire rpm range. Complementing its remarkable high-rpm power is a smooth yet plentiful bottom-end grunt—the second most behind the YZ250F. This all adds up to a very strong and broad powerband. Unlike the Yamaha, the KTM does not benefit from short-shifting as it makes its best power at 13,400 rpm. The most effective way to ride it is to shift just before hitting the rev limiter. The Brembo hydraulic clutch works excellent with its smooth actuation and precise feel. Being that it’s just slightly louder than the FC 250, the 250 SX-F is the second-quietest bike in the test.

“The KTM engine has an awesome feel. It pulls great coming out of corners and is very fast revving! The Brembo hydraulic clutch is excellent with a very easy and smooth pull too.”
“The KTM engine has an awesome feel. It pulls great coming out of corners and is very fast revving! The Brembo hydraulic clutch is excellent with a very easy and smooth pull too.” —Tanner BassoJeff Allen

2020 KTM 250 SX-F Suspension

“The 250 SX-F’s WP Xact air fork and WP Xact shock are not the plushest suspension components, but are a significant improvement over 2019. The base settings are closer and much easier to tune for a specific rider or track. The new fork settings help with holdup and reduce pitching. Adding more air pressure, more rebound control, and tuning with the compression adjuster as I needed worked well for me.”
“The 250 SX-F’s WP Xact air fork and WP Xact shock are not the plushest suspension components, but are a significant improvement over 2019. The base settings are closer and much easier to tune for a specific rider or track. The new fork settings help with holdup and reduce pitching. Adding more air pressure, more rebound control, and tuning with the compression adjuster as I needed worked well for me.” —Allan BrownJeff Allen

The KTM’s WP Xact air fork and WP Xact shock are not quite as plush as the KYB components on the YZ250F, but are very good overall. They offer an ample amount of comfort on small, low-speed acceleration chop and braking bumps, and begin to feel plusher on harder impacts such as higher-speed bumps and jump landings. While the Xact air fork offers the most tunability in the class, it doesn’t take many adjustments to find a comfortable setting and most test riders made very few, if any, changes to either the fork or shock.

2020 KTM 250 SX-F Chassis/Handling

“The KTM’s chassis has definitely won me over for its cornering capability and flickability. It has a very noticeable lightweight feel both on the ground and in the air, and is also narrow between the legs, easy to control, and changes lines effortlessly. I felt right at home on it in no time.”
“The KTM’s chassis has definitely won me over for its cornering capability and flickability. It has a very noticeable lightweight feel both on the ground and in the air, and is also narrow between the legs, easy to control, and changes lines effortlessly. I felt right at home on it in no time.” —Michael WickerJeff Allen

Year after year, the 250 SX-F is the lightest bike in the 250F Motocross Shootout, which is once again the case in 2020. At 231 pounds on our automotive scales, the orange machine is 2 pounds lighter than the second-lightest bike, the KX250, and 6 pounds lighter than the two heaviest bike in the class, the YZ250F and RM-Z250. The orange machine has a good balance of cornering prowess and straight-line stability, the combination of which makes for a very neutral-handling motorcycle. Due to its nimbleness and how well it responds to rider input, the 250 SX-F is very maneuverable and easy to put where you want it. Also, lofting the front end over bumps is nearly effortless due to a combination of the bike’s light weight and good bottom-end power.

The 250 SX-F doesn’t have the most forgiving chassis in terms of flex and comfort, but its plusher suspension settings for 2020 reduce most feedback and we have noticed this sensation is reduced over time as the bike becomes more broken in. A well-proportioned rider triangle, narrow radiator shroud area, agreeable bar bend, and comfortable seat give the KTM some of the best ergonomics in the class. Like the Husqvarna, the KTM is spec’d with Brembo brakes, which are the most powerful and best in the class. The bike’s ODI lock-on grips are a nice touch too.

Why The 2020 KTM 250 SX-F Won

“The 250 SX-F has a great engine package with an incredibly smooth power delivery, nimble handling, great cornering ability, and top-notch componentry. It really feels like a racebike.”
“The 250 SX-F has a great engine package with an incredibly smooth power delivery, nimble handling, great cornering ability, and top-notch componentry. It really feels like a racebike.” —Eric StorzJeff Allen

It has the fastest engine with a smooth, broad power delivery, very good suspension that offers lots of tunability, nimble and neutral handling, the strongest brakes, an excellent hydraulic clutch, and the lightest weight.

Why The 2020 KTM 250 SX-F Shouldn’t Have Won

Although the new perforated airbox cover gives the 250 SX-F some added low-end grunt over last year, it still has less bottom-end than the YZ250F. Also, the KTM’s WP suspension components don’t offer quite as much comfort as the Yamaha’s KYB units.

Gearbox

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