I've participated in many 250cc motocross shootouts, and I've never seen such an outstanding field. All of the bikes are so good. I can't disagree with the results of the shootout, either, but I'm one of the riders who thinks the Yamaha has the edge in this class. I like the Kawasaki and KTM a lot, too. The ergonomics of the RM are off and the handling is too demanding for me. It is my favorite RM250 engine in at least a decade, though. The Honda is a great bike, and this engine in 2004 would have made the CR a serious comparison-test contender. This is 2005, though, and this is a much tougher year.
Karel Kramer/6'1"/205 lb/NoviceI can't believe Kawasaki would jeopardize a class win with a steel handlebar. It's like having plastic spinners on your Escalade—not cool. Green must expect that you will replace it. I can't fathom that Yamaha's first aluminum frame isn't causing some handling issues. Some riders were feeling a little front-end push, but they were searching for problems. Honda wishes it had it so easy in 1997. The CR has a rattle that is so un-Hondalike it has riders concerned, but none of them rode air-cooled bikes. And the KTM sounds like an enduro bike when you are on it. In fact, anything we griped about on any of these bikes was a stretch to find. Truly the worst thing about any of this bunch is that crappy steel bar on the KX.
I attended the introductions for three of the 250cc MXers, and every time I came away feeling the bike I just rode was the best bike I'd ever ridden. They are really that good. The bike that gets the short end of the stick is the KTM. It is different, and it takes more time to get used to than the other bikes here. In a shootout, that can be a big disadvantage. The SX was strong and turned fast laps with consistency throughout the test. And if you stick with it, I'm sure it will only get faster. Even the RM, my favorite from last year, was surpassed because the class's performance has been raised so high. It is a great bike, exciting for sure.
My buying decision in this class would be based solely on my dealer and his ability to get parts on time. And a contingency program if I were serious about racing. But when forced to pick among box-stock bikes the way Dirt Rider tests them, I gave the nod to the KX. Even with that painted steel thing that holds the levers and throttle until you tip over the first time. The KX fit me like a glove. It has smooth power yet still rips. It has a Barcalounger-comfortable ride but with front-end precision and stability to boot. It sure seems Kawasaki has stepped up the durability of the bike (this is a big improvement for me). Just change the bar and ride it! Which is what I'm doing immediately after it goes head-to-head with the other MX shootout winners next month!
Jimmy Lewis/5'10"/180 lb/Vet ProTo my surprise, the KX250 simply did everything I wanted it to. The minute I hopped on the KX I was up to speed. It gave me tons of confidence, and although the motor isn't the strongest according to the dyno charts, it works on the track perfectly. The YZ was a close second for me as it is a great bike. It was a bit more temperamental. I had problems with the stock handlebar; I just didn't like the bend. I also thought the KX worked better in rough conditions than the YZ; the Yamaha is a tad rigid, and it tired me out more quickly.
Third was the RM. The Suzuki has the best motor for me; it rips and is jetted perfectly. I just couldn't get the stock suspension to do what I needed. It was very unforgiving most of the time. The CR is new and improved, but it doesn't jive with my riding style. The KTM is really fast! The thing that I didn't like about it is you can ride it hard, but I had a few big swaps when I least expected the bike to be upset. It basically took away any confidence I had in riding the orange bike hard.
Corey Neuer/5'11"/165 lb/IntermediateMy first pick, surprisingly enough, is the KX250! This bike does everything very well. It corners and handles braking chop—and did I mention its wide, broad power? It hits off the bottom, but it doesn't end there! It pulls through the mid and revs its little heart out on top. I love it! My second choice, the YZ250, was really close. The Yamaha's motor is strong throughout the rpm range; the only thing it lacks is overrev, and I like a bike that will overrev. Third goes to the RM250, by a hair. It has a strong, usable motor that likes to be short-shifted, but the fork hurt its placing for me. It felt a little harsh on small deceleration and acceleration bumps. Also, can someone please tell Suzuki to put a real handlebar on that bike?
Fourth place fell to the orange-crush KTM. I will give this bike my Most Improved award in the handling department, but the motor is a little soft down low. Once up on top, though, it revs as far as the KX does. It still feels a little twitchy compared with the KX and YZ but is way better than the '04 model. The CR250R came in last. It has great suspension but lacks motor. It feels as fast on top as the RM and KX but seems to get there more slowly than its competitors. The two-stroke movement is still in full swing, and I still like riding one!
Kris Keefer/5'11"/170 lb/ProI felt the most comfortable on the YZ because it was stable and the suspension felt really good. It seemed I could put it wherever I wanted it on the track, and I could get on the throttle sooner and harder in flat corners with small or no berms. The KX felt very similar to the YZ, but I ranked the YZ higher because the motor seemed just slightly better off the bottom. As with the YZ, the KX was stable and seemed to go where I wanted it to.
The CR250R, RM250 and 250 SX tied. The CR's ergos are perfect, its suspension is really good and it handled well. The motor is a big improvement, but it still feels the weakest of the pack. It had an annoying detonation when I loaded the engine hard. The RM just has a little too much twitch for me, and it doesn't seem to offer any great trade-off in better cornering. The KTM's suspension was surprisingly plush on the big hits, and the front brake was incredibly good. It's just that I had a bit of headshake on the KTM.
Overall, the bikes are extremely close, but I felt the fastest on the YZ and KX.
Sean Finley/5'10"/165 lb/IntermediateAll of the 2005 250cc two-strokes are great, and I could race any one of these stock. I found the YZ edged out the others with a great motor, quick turning and vastly improved suspension.
I'd say the KX was the most-improved bike of the year. I spent a lot of time on a fully modified 2004, and the stock 2005 model is better in both power and suspension! The KTM 250 SX tied with the KX for second. I'm not always comfortable on the SX, but I was able to go fast on it. The motor is just too strong to ignore, and for 2005 it is fast and easy to ride.
I recognize that the RM is a great bike, but the riding position and immediate handling don't suit my style. I get along better with the CR; and it has a motor this year, but it is still the least fun of the engines in this group. I like the rest of the bike well enough, so I rated the CR and RM as even but behind the KX and KTM.
Ed Tripp/5'10"/185 lb/NoviceRicky Carmichael will prove it's the best; the Suzuki motor sings like Luciano Pavarotti and turns like a high-performance race car. The Yamaha felt light and was easy to ride hard for a long time. The Kawasaki is stable in a straight line and railed the outside lines. The CR felt light and turned great, but its breaking point for me was engine noise. Just that one thing killed it. The KTM felt awkward at speed, its brakes were too touchy (though I liked the strength) and its transmission was not totally inspiring—enough for me to rank it last.
Tod Sciacqua/5'8"/175 lb/Vet ProI was surprised by these two-strokes; they had very four-stroke–like characteristics. Strong from the bottom all the way through the mid and on top; and actually quite easy to ride and not too exhausting. I wanted to like the Yamaha the most because of the frame and all. I did really like the lightness of it, though I really noticed the torsional stiffness in the corners and going through the whoops. I had to be more aggressive, applying more pressure on the outside peg through corners to keep it down, and to keep my chin over the bar. I like the KX's perimeter frame. The bike's weight seems to be centered low. Turning is really good. Once the bike is laid into a turn, it stays down and is predictable. The suspension is truly balanced. The KTM's light front end and center balance point complement the roomy ergos, making it easy for me to stay balanced and apply weight on the footpegs, especially when cornering.
Ron McCoy/6'/190 lb/Intermediate