Last year, the '07 KTM 250 SX-F was just a few quirks away from being my top pick of the shootout. With a solid motor and great cornering characteristics, the bike was held back only by the unfamiliar handling and hit-and-miss feel of the gearing. Having just ridden the 2008 machine, I'm stoked to say that KTM has again built a great bike, and there are some definite improvements from last year. The motor on this machine has a lot of personality; it happily grunts to life and begins pulling in a very early portion of the power. Initially, I dealt with a major bog right off idle, which was fixed by adjusting the accelerator pump so that it wasn't loading up with fuel. As soon as we got this handled, the KTM came to life coming out of corners, where the acceleration is most noticeable. Compared to other 250s, the SX-F requires slightly more shifting finesse-if you let the revs build just a tad too high, the motor flattens out like a squashed cockroach. Keep it in the meat, though, and the KTM's engine will grab traction like you wouldn't believe, especially in deep sand and loam.Handlingwise, I felt that this year's machine performed better on off-camber turns, where the shock seemed to ride much more confidently in the stroke than the 2007 did. Turning is still strong, but large, mid-corner braking bumps typical of rough tracks seemed to throw the rear end for a loop. I similarly had issues with the front end deflecting but was able to pacify this by slowing down the rebound. I'd need to ride this bike on a few more tracks and do some more tuning to see where it stacks up to the rest of the class, but my initial opinion is pretty favorable. With a few of the kinks worked out, the new KTM should be right at home at the top of the class.
-Chris Denison/5'10"/155 lb/IntermediateSome bikes change radically and others just sort of evolve. The 2008 KTM 250 SX-F is an evolution in process. Starting with the power, which is my favorite part of a bike, the KTM has a newfound bottom-end. Still insanely smooth and controllable, but it's boosted down low a ton over last year's bike. The exhaust, cam and ignition changes have radically moved the power over last year's. This comes at a cost, of course, and the '08 KTM likes to be shifted sooner than in previous years. I think most users will welcome this change. Up front, the fork seems more progressive than ever. In past years, KTM fork settings jarred me, but the new unit on this baby has me slamming into braking bumps with a smile-if anything, they're too soft initially and are getting down into the mid too soon for the bigger national-track-type bumps. Out back, the shock is impressive, too. It's now an aluminum-bodied piece that's keeping the back end in line better than any KTM I've ridden. I tested the bike primarily on a high-speed course with sweeping turns as well as some great ruts. The KTM kept its cornering prowess in all conditions and was a blast to ride. As always, the brakes, hydraulic clutch and all other controls are top-notch and proven durable. This isn't the easiest bike to start at times, but it's the easiest to work on. I'll take toolless air filter maintenance any day!
-Jesse Ziegler/5'10"/175 lb/IntermediateThe 2008 250 SX-F's unique look just makes you want to ride it. After figuring out how to take off the gas cap and filling her up, I was able get on the bike. The overall impression of the frame and bar is that they're wide, and this gives the bike a different feeling. Although this doesn't take away from the handling and control, it took a few laps to get used to. The first lap I noticed how smoothly the rear shock worked. It remained soft but stable through braking bumps and straights while still withstanding flat-landers or mistakes. It moves a little more than I'm used to, but stiffening it helped this feeling. The front suspension felt a little rigid at times, and the tires seemed to have a tendency to wash on hardpack. The front brake and the clutch made the controls of this bike pretty easy to ride. The hydraulic clutch is very easy to pull, which puts less fatigue on your arms, and the front brake is so controllable you can stop quickly without the brakes wanting to lock up. The motor is one of the more dominant features of the KTM, though it doesn't seem to have as much very low bottom-end as I'm used to, it's definitely compensated in the mid to top with a smooth pull. It feels like it will never end. After riding the bike for a while I've decided the width of the frame actually made gripping the bike easier. Aside from the wide-feeling handlebar and the front suspension, both of which I could easily fix, I would have no complaints owning this bike.
-Tyler Ruiz/5'9"/180 lb/Intermediate