2014 KTM 250xc-w Race Test
As I think about it, we have never had a real test of a 250 two stroke here at Enduro360. For the last few years all the manufactures have focused almost exclusively on the larger 300 models. It is with good reason too, the 300’s are easy loving. But at the same time, we have overlooked some of the better points of the smaller 250’s.
When KTM rolled out the collection of 2014 xcw enduro models for us to ride, I was anxious to spend time on each. Presented with a whole fleet of bikes to ride is a bit overwhelming. There will never be enough riding time to get to know all of them intimately, but it is also very telling to ride each back to back.
With the new model presentation on Saturday and the National enduro to race on Sunday, part of the plan is to pick a bike for the race. I knew that I would steer clear of both the 300 and 350 models, we have been riding both all season, time for something different. The 200xc-w and all new 250xcf-w both had me intrigued. While each has its strong points, the 250f motor left me a little flat and the 200 was a bit too soft in the front for my weight. The little thumper will certainly be on my list to give some further testing time.
Of all the models, the 250 two stroke seemed to fit me just right. Even against my favorites, the 300 and 350. So that was my clear choice for race day.
The season is a year of refinement for most of the KTM enduro line. It might be easy to label it a year of bold new graphics, but that would not be fair. There are enough significant changes to show that the orange group is serious about improvements. KTM makes more “little” changes each year than most other companies do over an entire model life.
2014 KTM EXC/XC-W Model Highlights
- New lower triple clamp to accommodate SX style fender
- Revised shock settings for 250/300 models
- New, easier to change shock seal
- 250f model now gets same suspension settings as 350f
- Thinner wall (lighter) frame tubing for 4-stokes, 250f frame now same as 350f
- Revised head stay for 4-strokes
- New graphite frame color
- New stronger chain guide design
- SX body work
- Improved seat foam, softer & more durable
- Slightly revised airbox design and construction
- New fuel cap for easier removal
- Stronger hand guard design
- New Brembo front brake master cylinder, matches clutch design
- Cooling fan now standard on all 4-stroke enduro models
- ECU moved to new location on subframe, under seat
- Softer compound Rental grips
- 2-strokes get stronger 4ah batteries
- Change to H4 bulbs for headlights
New for 250/300xc-w models
- New Boysen reed cage for improved throttle response and better durability
- New cylinder head shape for better mid-range throttle response
- Revised ignition mapping
- New carb jetting
In my initial testing of all the models on a short jetting loop, to my surprise, the 250 2t seemed the most natural feeling to me. It felt noticeably lighter than the 300. The power was slightly easier to manage also. Model comparisons are almost like Goldilocks testing beds, some were not enough, others too much and the 250 seemed just right (alongside the 350 I must add).
For race prep we set the sag, but left the suspension clickers in the stock positions. For my weight, I typically have to set the race sag around 100mm with the 6.9 spring. It is not ideal, but it usually works okay. The 7.2 rear spring would be better for my 205lbs.
I also opened the power valve preload one full turn. Historically I have not used this adjustment much, but in Romania my 300 I had was way off, so I started to play with it some. For those not familiar, the PV screw can be turned in or out, to add or remove preload from the spring that controls the PV actuation. Adding preload makes the PV open later as there is more spring tension to overcome before the rod can move and of course the opposite effect comes by turning the screw out and reducing preload.
For many riding conditions, I have found that taking preload off the spring, getting the PV to open sooner, improves the overall power delivery. It becomes mellow on the bottom, smooth in the midrange transition, then hits quicker on top. It may sound almost counter intuitive, but for me it seems to work. The effect is even more pronounced on the 300.
Race day at the Rattlesnake National Enduro proved to be a test of all the things I am not very good at; trees, mud, roots and slick rocks. Never the less, I could find very little to fault on the 250xc-w. The bike always felt light. I had quite a bit of confidence in the front end. I never really hit the ground, which tells me I probably should have pushed a little harder.
The power delivery was very good. I could ride long sections without ever shifting. The motor would be very smooth on the bottom through the tricky sections. I would use just a little clutch to keep the revs up. There was no unwanted wheel spin. When I needed, I could accelerate hard, but smoothly. Typically the next corner would arrive before a shift was required.
The shock was well suited to the rocky terrain. The fork was good, but consistently a bit harsh. I probably should have tried some changes to the compression clickers. The bike only had a couple of hours total, we find the forks get much better with more break in time. I think the day would have been ideally suited to the newer 4CS fork. Talking with Nick Fahringer between tests, he said he figured the stock Husaberg fork might have been a better choice for the day than his factory fork.
The rest of the bike felt good. We were just a little rich on the jetting, but I did not mess with it either. The new seat is a bit softer and that is good. Oddly, I consistently noticed heat coming up through the seat, something that I usually only associate with 4-stokes. Running stock tubes with 14lbs of air to avoid flats, I missed having the soft feel of mousses.
As for this year’s specific changes, I can say that the motors feel great. Both this 250 and the 2014 Husaberg TE300 that I rode at Romaniacs had excellent feel. The power can be ultra smooth when you need it, but hits nice and hard when the throttle is dialed up. The control is great, throttle feel is very accurate. Yes, the long awaited new gas cap does work better too.
Overall I have to say that 2014 is a year of nice, even if subtle, improvements to the KTM, Husaberg (and Husqvarna) enduro lines. My race result for the Rattlesnake Enduro was nothing to brag about, but the sibling Husaberg TE250 and 300 models filled the podium at this event. Not bad for a brand that is about to be mothballed.