If you have never considered yourself a candidate for a small bore thumper, this is the bike that might change your mind. At least that is where I find myself after this test. The last time we tested the 250, in xcf-w form, was in 2014 when the little motor got some of the updates from the 2013 xc-f and sx-f versions. For me, it just wasn’t quite enough to get excited about. The torque was a bit soft to pull my big frame around.
For 2016 the 250 gets the all new motor, frame and trappings of the rest of the xc-f line. If you are not up to speed on the very substantial details of the new models, check out the 2016 KTM 350xc-f review from last week to get caught up. For this test, I am just going to focus primarily on what is unique to the 250 model.
In the xc-f/sx-f line, the 250 and 350 now share the same all new motor platform. The new compact motor design is 2.4 lbs lighter than last year. The exterior dimensions are shorter for more mass centralization. Redline is now an amazing 14,000 rpm. KTM claims this is partially achieved due to the plain big end bearing that clam shells the bearing directly to the crank pin. Crank service interval is now extended to 100 hours.
The 250xc-f features a six speed transmission and traditional coil spring clutch. The clutch is redesigned with a lighter basket and new springs that give more consistent feel even after extended use. The clutch master cylinder has a lighter pull.
On the dyno, both power and torque numbers are stronger throughout the entire rev range. Torque numbers run about 2 foot pounds over the previous model, to a peak of 20 ft lbs @ 8500. (this is an estimate based on other published dyno tests and KTM supplied numbers). In terms of practical power, it means the torque comes in about 500 rpm earlier across the board. Peak power is claimed to be 45 hp.
As for the chassis, again without getting into too much detail, it is completely redesigned. Everything on the chassis is new and given a full “clean slate” style of rethink. Suffice it to say that it is smaller and lighter all around. More than that, KTM has changed some of the basic characteristics of how their bike turns and handles.
Suspension changes for this year include new linkage ratios and an entirely new shock. The rising rate is much stiffer allowing the shock spring to be lighter, 45 N/m vs 54 N/m in 2015. The WP 4CS fork springs are lighter too, 4.2 N/m from 4.4 N/m. The 250 is basically sprung one rate lighter than its 350 brother. Revised fork valving is aimed at smoothing the ride quality.
Other xc-f off road specific components are the sidestand, 2.25 gl clear tank, hand guards and Giant 18″ rear wheel with Dunlop AT81 tires. Overall the 2016 250xc-f comes in about 5 lbs lighter than last year at 224 lbs.
As I said, I just don’t consider myself a prime 250f candidate. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize what they can do, particularly in the handling department. Ridden in the right kind of tight conditions, they can make a 350 feel downright heavy. It is very much like making a 250 and 300 two stroke comparison. There are no charts or numbers that can properly show the differences in feel and handing.
As for my ride experience at the Indiana press introduction, I was very pleasantly surprised. For the terrain we rode, the 250 was the best outright bike in the group. It was even better than my perennial favorite, the 350. The 350xc-f is probably going to be much better all around bike for someone like me, but for that exact day, the 250 ruled over all.
This was primarily because of the new found bottom end punch. Like the 350, the 250 has the same kind of power gains, not only on top, but down low too. That is what really sold me, the power right off the bottom. Clutch and throttle control come very naturally on the xc-f and this makes it very easy to ride fast. The 250 sort of meets you half way all the time.
I have to relate this one story from the test. We had something like 20 total test bikes available to ride. They all look nearly identical even though there were all displacements and both xc-f and sx-f models. The displacement/model graphic on the rear fender covers with mud easy, so it was a matter of walking down the line, cleaning off rear fenders to find the exact bike I wanted to ride. More than once while riding the 250’s I stopped on the trail to double check that I had not grabbed a 350 by mistake. That is how impressive the 250 is.
The positive feel of the xc-f carries right on to the chassis too. It is just a little bit easier to ride than the 350 and confidence inspiring. The front wheel feels just a bit lighter rolling over trail junk, particularly roots. The suspension is supper supple. The settings may be too light for some. But no one is going to accuse the new KTM’s of being harsh. The rider position has changed a bit with pegs that are farther back and slightly lower.
The 250sx-f motocrosser has stiffer 4.6 N/m fork springs and may be better suited for aggressive riders. For that matter, riding the sx-f around the test loop, I found it a tad better overall. With the stock xc-f gearing, I was stuck between 2nd and 3rd gear. On the sx-f, 3rd was just perfect. So slight gearing changes may be the ticket to get the 6 speed xc-f dialed in for the terrain. Other than transmission, the motor, fuel injection and mapping are identical between the two models.
I wasn’t the only test rider enamored with the 250. One long time Eastern KTM racer who was in attendance told me he had already decided on a new 250xc two stroke for himself. After riding the 250xc-f, he immediately changed his mind and decided it would be his next race bike.
Overall all the bikes in the new line are impressive. I do have a few sticking points though. First, both the 250 and 350 were a little stall prone. Not so much during riding, but when beating around in technical terrain. The bike seemed better on the second day, after a few hours on the motor. I have to admit that I did not get a chance to play with the optional ignition map which could have helped too. I am also a little disappointed with the smaller fuel tank. Since there is already a small motocross tank choice, I would like to see a minimum of 2.5 gallons for any off road model.
It is a little difficult to make much for comparisons, but perhaps the nearest would be the Sherco 300 SEF. Again, like the 350, the 250 is bridging the gap between itself and the next larger displacement. Sorry, I have not ridden the Yamaha yet.
I think KTM has raised the bar for the class in both power and handling. I have to say that the 2016 250xc-f is the bike that surprised me the most of all the new models. A displacement that I would normally pass over for my own use is now something that I would seriously consider, particularly if I rode more in the east. I certainly would jump at the chance to get more extended testing time on it.
2016 KTM 250xc-f Specifications MSRP $8,899
|Engine Type||Single Cylinder, 4-stroke|
|Bore / Stroke||78 mm / 52.3 mm|
|Starter / Battery||Electric starter / Lithium Ion 12V, 3 Ah|
|Carburetor/Fuel Management||Keihin EFI, throttle body 44 mm|
|Control||4 V / DOHC with finger followers|
|Lubrication||Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps|
|Gear Ratios||13:32 16:30 16:24 23:28 23:23 26:20|
|Clutch||Wet multi-disc DDS-clutch, Brembo hydraulics|
|Frame||Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4|
|Handlebar||Neken, Aluminum 28/22 mm|
|Front Suspension||WP USD 4CS Closed Cartridge|
|Rear Suspension||WP 5018 DCC Monoshock with linkage|
|Suspension Travel Front/Rear||300 mm / 11.81 in; 300 mm / 11.81 in|
|Front/Rear Brakes||Disc brakes Ø 260 mm / 10.24 in; 220 mm / 8.66 in|
|Front/Rear Rims||1.60 x 21 ; 2.15 x 18|
|Front/Rear Tires||80/100-21; 100/100-18 Dunlop Geomax AT81|
|Chain||X Ring 5/8 x 1/4 in|
|Steering Head Angle||26.1°|
|Triple Clamp Offset||22 mm|
|Wheel Base||1,485 ± 10 mm / 58.46 ± 0.4 in|
|Ground Clearance||370 mm / 14.57 in|
|Seat Height||960 mm / 37.79 in|
|Tank Capacity, Approx.||8.5 L / 2.25 gal|
|Weight Without Fuel, Approx.||101.4 kg / 223.5 lb|