2020 Vital MX 250 Shootout: FULL TEST 4

Honda CRF250R vs. Husqvarna FC 250 vs. Kawasaki KX250 vs. KTM 250 SX-F vs. Suzuki RM-Z250 vs. Yamaha YZ250F

2020 Vital MX 250 Shootout: FULL TEST

In the world of 250 four-stroke motocross bikes, power is king. In the past, when four-strokes were new there was a lot of room for improvement. Each year meant new innovations that created more and horsepower and those left behind had to find more ponies to catch up. Yet it seems that we’re reaching a point in the development of the 250 motocross machine where each bike makes about the same power, it’s just how that power is made that is the difference. 

For 2020 Kawasaki and Honda have injected their 250s with massive doses of change, while Yamaha and Suzuki have stayed exactly the same. Somewhere in the middle are the KTM and Husqvarna, each with suspension updates and other minor changes. The Kawi and Suzuki are the last remaining machines that you have to kick to life, and they’re also the last bikes to use couplers to switch maps, yet Kawasaki does have their FI Calibration Kit. The other four bikes use bar-mounted buttons to pop between ignition maps. 

We headed back over to FMF to use their dyno and scale. As a reminder, dynos are important to see how the bikes stack up against each other on the same dyno, not how they compare to different dynos since they are all slightly different. After that, we headed out to Milestone MX for our first day of testing (relatively smooth, jumpy, and tight) and Glen Helen Raceway for our second outing (big hills, sandy dirt, and super rough at the end of the day). 

We noticed a few comments about our 450 shootout having only “pro” level riders and a desire to see more “real world” riders involved. So that is exactly what we did for this shootout. We grabbed two of our trusted pro guys, but looped in three riders that cover a variety of ground as far as experience goes. Tim McMorrow is normally a two-stroke only guy that rides at an intermediate level; Kelly Yancy was a Women’s pro rider back in the day, and currently rides at women’s expert and is smaller in stature; and lastly Aiden Ferguson is 15 years old and a motocross C rider, though he races off-road in the B class. 

VIDEO

 


The Contenders



2020 Honda CRF250R 
MSRP: $7,999 


2020 Husqvarna FC 250
MSRP: $9,199
Specs | First Impression


2020 Kawasaki KX250
MSRP: $7,799


2020 KTM 250 SX-F
MSRP: $9,099


2020 Suzuki RM-Z250
MSRP: $7,899
Specs | First Impression


2020 Yamaha YZ250F
MSRP: $8,199


Dyno Charts

We ran each bike the same day in similar temp and weather conditions at FMF. Looking over the data, I think it’s interesting to note that while the Yamaha feels like it has the most torque on the track, it is surpassed by the KTM and Husqvarna, both of which feel they have a lower torque-feeling. Also, the RM-Z250 has a strong bottom-to-mid feel when riding, which would lead us to think it might have impressive torque numbers, but it ranks the lowest in both HP and torque. Lastly, looking at all the peak horsepower numbers in this class, they are really, really high in the RPM range where most normal people aren’t riding - just pointing out that numbers aren’t always  applicable in the real-world. 

KTM
Husqvarna
Honda
Suzuki
Kawasaki
Yamaha

In Order of Max HP


KTM 250 SX-F

Max Horsepower: 42.93 @ 13,500 RPM
Max Torque: 20.33 @ 9,100 RPM

Husqvarna FC 250

Max Horsepower: 42.26 @ 13,300 RPM
Max Torque: 20.32 @ 9,100 RPM

Yamaha YZ250F

Max Horsepower: 40.57 @ 12,300 RPM
Max Torque: 19.76 @ 8,500 RPM

Honda CRF250R

Max Horsepower: 40.34 @ 12,100 RPM
Max Torque: 19.47 @ 9,600 RPM

Kawasaki KX250

Max Horsepower: 40.11 @ 12,300 RPM
Max Torque: 19.47 @ 9,600 RPM

Suzuki RM-Z250

Max Horsepower: 38.47 @ 12,400 RPM
Max Torque: 19.38 @ 9,300 RPM


Weight 

We weighed all six machines with their fuel tanks full to the bottom of the filler neck. As we’ve said before, this method is affected by tank size but most people fill up before their first moto, so this is the weight you’d feel at the beginning of the day. 


KTM

230.2 lbs.

1.85 gal.

Husqvarna

232.2 lbs. 

1.85 gal.

Kawasaki

234.1 lbs.

1.69 gal.

Honda

235.4 lbs.

1.60 gal.

Yamaha

235.6 lbs.

1.60 gal.

Suzuki

236.1 lbs.

1.66 gal.


Results


6th Place: 2020 Suzuki RM-Z250

6 - 5 - 6 - 6 - 6 - 6 = 35

5th Place: 2020 Husqvarna FC 250

3 - 6 - 4 - 4 - 5 - 1 = 23

4th Place: 2020 KTM 250 SX-F

4 - 4 - 3 - 3 - 3 - 5  = 22

3rd Place: 2020 Honda CRF250R

1 - 3 - 5 - 5 - 2 - 3  = 19

2nd Place: 2020 Kawasaki KX250

5 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 4 - 4  = 18

1st Place: 2020 Yamaha YZ250F

2 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 2  = 9

Test Rider Opinions


Sean Klinger

Age: 33

Height: 5’ 9”

Weight: 215 lbs.

Ability: Vet C

  1. Honda
  2. Yamaha
  3. Husqvarna
  4. KTM
  5. Kawasaki
  6. Suzuki



6th: Suzuki RM-Z250

If you look back at the 2019 250 Shootout, I personally put this bike second. WHAT? Yep, and I stand by that placing for two reasons. First, we only rode the bike one of the days because of availability and that happened to be at Milestone on a day that it was groomed super-smooth. Second, using a LITPro, I was able to confirm that I put down my fastest lap of all the bikes on the RM-Z. 

2020 Suzuki RM-Z250


So why sixth place this time? Because we went to Glen Helen, as well. In all fairness, I have spent a lot of time with the 2019 RM-Z250 and got to know it pretty well, and the 2020 is the same bike. The Suzuki’s optimal operating window is very small. On smooth, jumpy, tight tracks the RM-Z really shines. The rigid chassis isn’t so much an issue if the track doesn’t have bumps or chop and it does feel light in the air. It also turns really well, following any rut or berm. Plus, the suspension is on the stiff side so it works for my weight well. But as soon as things get rough, the Suzuki becomes a pain to ride fast. Sure, you can still get around the track at respectable speeds while avoiding as much chop as possible, but when riding the yellow bike compared to all the others, you notice how much comfort is missing, and how that lack of comfort isn’t allowing you to charge as hard as you would on the other brands. 


The power is linear, feels torquey, and is easy to use. But, it is the last of the bottom-to-mid powered bikes and if you don’t ride it that way, it doesn’t make much power up top. This is good and bad. It’s bad for pure racers who want to beat the competition, but for the average rider who doesn’t want to bounce off the rev limiter, this kind of power is very usable. But when all is said and done, this bike would take a lot of changes to make it comfortable and or competitive. 


5th: Kawasaki KX250

I was excited about this machine at the intro since it was so different than last year’s bike, yet I wasn’t as pumped on it at either Milestone or Glen Helen. It wasn’t so much that did anything wrong, but it sort of got left in no man’s land for me. Meaning, another bike has it covered in every category, at least for me. 

2020 Kawasaki KX250


The biggest change is the motor, and I do like the way the Kawi now makes power. It is crisper,  quicker, and higher revving. But compared to the Honda, which I think is the most comparable to it power-wise, it just feels like it makes less. The KTM and Husky rev out further but they have a smoother power delivery, where the KX has sharp throttle response and gets into the top end quickly. I just felt like the other bikes had a more even spread of power. The Kawasaki’s bottom was a little too light for my tastes. 


The suspension is really good, and way better than last year’s bike. The fork has initial plushness and hold up that is somewhat similar to the Yamaha’s fork, but not quite as good. And that’s another example of being good, but having another bike that has a similar feel and better performance. The shock is actually one of my favorites and is one of the things on the KX I think it does do the best. It seems to ride in a comfortable spot in the stroke that is both plush and resists bottoming. It is planted and predictable. When it comes to handling, I just have a hard time getting the Kawi to turn like some of the other bikes… actually all of the other bikes. The Honda and Suzuki are probably the easiest for me, with the Yamaha close behind. Then the Husky and KTM are super-light which helps. But the Kawi just feels long to me and I have to start a turn early to hit the line I want, which doesn’t inspire confidence. 


4th: KTM 250 SX-F

Overall, the KTM is really the middle of the road for me. It isn’t the most comfortable and easy to turn, but it isn’t necessarily uncomfortable or hard to turn, either. When ridden aggressively, the bike is plenty fast. While the Honda and Suzuki have a precise, sharp handling character, the KTM is a little behind that and isn’t as intuitive to get into a rut. The changes to the suspension this year make it a little easier to turn for me but not a whole lot. The best part of the KTM’s handling is its lack of weight. Its lightness makes it feel agile and nimble. 

2020 KTM 250 SX-F


Looking at the dyno numbers it has the most torque and most HP, but it doesn't feel like that on the track, unless you are a pro-level racer who rides wide open all the time. The smooth power delivery makes the KTM’s numbers on the dyno hard to notice when riding. It isn’t slow, but it doesn’t have the snap of the Yamaha, or Honda, in my opinion. 


The suspension is sort of in the middle of the road for me as well. The fork gets harsh when it builds air pressure, which is about halfway through the day. At stock air pressure (10.4 bar) it has adequate performance and comfort but isn’t as plush as the Yamaha, and with the new settings I found, the Honda either. I’ve always been a fan of the WP shock and it seems to be the most forgiving on OJs - it doesn't slam through the stroke, and it doesn’t rebound in a weird way, either. The ergos on the KTM (and Husky) are probably my favorite. Side-to-side, the seat has rounded shape, but is very flat front-to-back. This gives it a “sit on” rather than “sit in” feel that makes it really easy to move around on. Plus, I think it allows for both front-end steerers and rear-end steerers to be comfortable on the bike. 


3rd: Husqvarna FC 250

My top three could all be my first place bike, depending on where we are riding. For me, the Husqvarna is the most comfortable 250 of the group, which is mostly good and only a little bit bad. At my speed, I never reached the point where the bike was getting too bent out of shape but for faster guys, I think they would reach the limit of the suspension’s performance. That being said, this was the direction that Husqvarna wanted to go - to make the bike work for the majority of mere mortals who ride the bikes, not AMA pros. 

2020 Husqvarna FC 250


I haven’t loved the way KTM/Huskies have turned over the last few years, but with the suspension changes for ‘20, the Husqvarna is easier for me to put where I want in corners. The fork dives just the right amount to help me with front end grip that lets me turn the bike how I want. Combined with the lightness of the machine the FC handles better than the KTM and Kawasaki for me, and is way more comfortable than the Suzuki. It is at the opposite end of the spectrum in the chassis feel department than the yellow bike, that is for sure. 


Again, the dyno numbers tell a different story than the on-track feel. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Husky had the lowest torque number and a mid-pack HP ranking, but it is second highest in both. That’s because the bottom-to-mid power on the FC is so smooth, mellow, and unassuming. Yet, you can really wring it out like a 125 and it is fun to ride that way. I feel like I sort of contradict myself by saying I like the power on the Husky because it is mellow, but I feel like I can really charge hard on the Husky and the power, even in map two, isn’t going to bite me. Overall, I really like the combo of a comfortable chassis and suspension setting with the “ride it wide open” style of power. I feel like I can really hang it out there on the Husqvarna, especially when the track is rough and chopped up, and all the other bikes have me slowing down. 


2nd: Yamaha YZ250F

The Yamaha was my top pick last year and even though nothing has changed on the YZ for 2020, other bikes did. What I still really like about the Yamaha is the near infallible suspension, the torquey power, and the rock-solid predictability of the chassis. Yet, I felt like the changes to the Honda motor made it my top choice and made the Yamaha feel less free-revving and more tight. 

2020 Yamaha YZ250F


Digging more into the engine, the amount of snappy hit that the YZ has makes you wonder if it really is just a 250. The throttle response is incredible and this bike is the easiest to ride without touching the clutch lever. It also revs out pretty well, but this is where the Yamaha’s motor changed for me this year. The new engine character from the Honda and Kawi made the YZ250F feel less free-revving and like it has a bunch of engine braking. Yamaha even presented the bike with two maps loaded up; one being their “free-revving map,” which helped that feeling but the tightness was still there. 

What didn’t change is that the YZ’s suspension is still at the top of the class. This is why I placed it ahead of the Husqvarna. While the Husky’s comfort was awesome at Glen Helen, it didn’t really help or hurt when riding at Milestone. On the Yamaha, there is a good amount of comfort, but also a lot of performance and the YZ has a more active feel that works well at any track. The overall chassis feel is pretty awesome. Its predictability cannot be understated. You can plow through rough stuff, or case something, or hit a diagonal square edge and the Yamaha tracks straight and never gets out of sorts. This translates to less worry, more fun, and faster lap times.


1st: Honda CRF250R

There are a handful of changes (maybe two handfuls) that made the CRF250R different enough to move it to the top spot for me. All the attention they gave to the motor to get more bottom end, without giving up top really paid off. This is my favorite engine in the class. Plus, with the frame and swingarm from the CRF450R and new suspension settings, I got more comfort from the bike than I ever had in the past. 

2020 Honda CRF250R


Starting with the suspension, I’ve always felt that Honda sets up their suspension, across the board (including off-road bikes) more on the performance side of the spectrum, sacrificing some comfort and predictability. But this year, after slowing down the rebound on the fork and adding some HS comp on the shock, I found a setting that settled the bike down into a more predictable spot and I was able to ride the bike faster and more confidently than in the past. Other testers have confirmed that Honda’s stock suspension settings make the bike the easiest to sort of play around on, popping over hip jumps, blipping across braking bumps, or flicking over a single. And while that didn’t go away, I found some extra comfort that allowed me to ride the bike harder. 

When it comes to the Honda motor, it has been a love/hate thing for the last couple years. When the all-new bike came out in 2018, I initially loved the new high-revving motor. But that was when I rode the bike by itself without comparing it to any other machine. That year’s shootout showed that while it made great top end power, Honda sacrificed power everywhere else. Over the last two years they’ve continued to improve the motor and this year I think they really added back a solid bottom to mid-range power while keeping a free-revving, super lively engine character and great top end. I can ride the Honda any way I want now, where in the past, short-shifting the machine was just not an option. 


And finally, the handling on the Honda is awesome. I’ve said in the past that it is almost like the Honda turns so quick and is so responsive to rider input that you have to have very precise cornering technique to match the bike. And while I still think that is true, with the new chassis and suspension settings, I was able to match the bikes cornering ability and it didn’t feel any of the oversteering or twitchiness mid-corner that I had in the past. It is settled down and more composed in long ruts and down straightaways. If I had to pick a bike to go race tomorrow, it would be the Honda CRF250R. It might not be as couch-comfortable as the Husqvarna or as plush as the Yamaha, but I feel like I can put down my fastest lap times on the red machine and have the most fun doing it. 



Ricky Yorks

Age: 31

Height: 6’ 1”

Weight: 200 lbs.

Ability: +30 Pro

Last Bike: 2019 Honda CRF450RX

  1. Yamaha
  2. Kawasaki
  3. KTM
  4. Husqvarna
  5. Honda
  6. Suzuki



6th: Suzuki RM-Z250

The Suzuki finished sixth but don’t let that scare you away from this bike. I loved the ergos and instantly felt comfortable on lap one. The yellow bike always corners well and feels best on a track with sharp turns. The RM-Z has good bottom and mid-range, but lacks top end power compared to the other five bikes. This was not a problem on the tighter tracks but was more noticeable on the long uphills of Glen Helen. My biggest complaint was the harsh fork that transmitted through the front end and handlebars. The forks and shock are overly stiff. I think this bike would greatly benefit from softer springs on both ends.


5th: Honda CRF250R

In typical Honda fashion, this bike feels very comfortable from the second you sit on it. It’s nimble, easy to jump and fun to throw around in the air. The engine is improved from previous years but it still lacks power compared to the top four. Top end power is good but its lack of bottom end power makes the power range feel very peaky and narrow. I really loved the bike on the smooth and tighter circuits but the bike felt busy on rough, higher speed tracks. 

4th: Husqvarna FC 250

Husqvarna is similar to the KTM in many ways, yet if ridden back-to-back, you can feel the differences drastically. Where the KTM feels sharp and race inspired, the husky feels a little more smooth and easy to ride. That being said, don’t think this bike is mellow or slow! It is still very fast and competitive. I think the vet racers or lighter weight riders will probably prefer this bike over the KTM.

3rd: KTM 250 SX-F

The KTM is the fastest 250F in the shootout, if you can keep it in the upper end of the rev range. This bike requires that you carry momentum in the turns and stay on your A game. I personally would like to have a little bit more power on the bottom, but I can see how the fast up-and-coming racers would love this type of power. I really liked the chromoly frame (on both KTM and Husqvarna) and felt that the bike would actually absorb the bumps smoother than the more rigid aluminum-framed bikes. The air forks are the best in that category but they are still a hair off the Yamaha’s KYB SSS spring fork, both in comfort and bottoming control. 


2nd: Kawasaki KX250

The 2020 Kawasaki was also very impressive. The new engine design is very good and the bike flat out rips! The engine is on par with the Yamaha, and has great power from bottom to top as well. The chassis is great and the bike turns very easily, yet maintains stability on the rough downhills of Glen Helen. Suspension was firm, which I liked, but it lacked the comfort feel that the Yamaha had. Also since I found it firm and I’m 200 lbs, it could be a tad stiff for the entry-level rider or a lighter weight rider.

2020 Kawasaki KX250



1st: Yamaha YZ250F

The Yamaha has a great engine that makes power from bottom to top. I feel that the YZ has the biggest spread of power and is the easiest to ride no matter what skill level of rider you are, beginner to pro. The tuner app is also really cool and it was fun to test some of the maps that Yamaha offered us, and know that we have the capability to make our own for free on our phone. The suspension was equally impressive. The shock and fork worked for a wide range of riders, skills and weight. The bike was firm and had great hold up, yet still maintained great comfort and bottoming control. Stability was good on the fast parts up the track, and the bike turned well too. I honestly didn’t have any dislikes or complaints about the Yamaha.

2020 Yamaha YZ250F



Steve Boniface

Age: 36

Height: 5’ 7”

Weight: 150 lbs.

Ability: Was a pro a long time ago

Last bike: ‘19 Kawasaki KX250

  1. Yamaha
  2. Kawasaki
  3. KTM
  4. Husqvarna
  5. Honda
  6. Suzuki



6th: Suzuki RM-Z250

The Suzuki’s power is just not quite where the other bikes are. The characteristic of the engine is actually pretty fun, and you have good bottom and mid power. I feel good on the Suzuki when I ride at 85 to 90 percent. Like, in my comfort zone. You can feel the stiffness of the frame, but it’s easy to put it where you want and play with the bike. But as soon as I try to really push the pace I feel like it is really easy to get out of shape. It’s not very comfortable even going up Mt. Saint Helen, you feel the vibration of the motor. Just to my liking, it is in last place. 


5th: Honda CRF250R

I don’t like to put the Honda in fifth place. I still like this bike, but I felt like it was lacking a little bit in the engine department. Its power is kind of like the Husky and KTM, where you have to ride the bike aggressively and high in the RPM, but not as good, like a little less power overall. If I want to ride a bike with that kind of power delivery, I’d go with the power of the KTM rather than the Honda. It is still very easy to turn. I had a better chassis feeling at Milestone than at Glen Helen on the rough track. It was a little busy. I just wasn’t as comfortable on the CRF than the other bikes. 

2020 Honda CRF250R


4th: Husqvarna FC 250

For me, it has very similar power to the KTM, so the same overall feeling where I have to attack on the bike and really ride it hard. Suspension was better than in the past. Not the most comfortable like the Kawasaki and the Yamaha, but decent on a rough track. 


3rd: KTM 250 SX-F

The KTM is very fast but you have to ride it like a 250F. I know it is a 250F, but, I’m not sure if I’m getting older or not riding as much as a pro rides, like almost everyday, but riding the KTM is a little more demanding to ride fast. The power is good and the top end power is the best. The bottom end is good, too, but you just don’t get that strong, torquey feeling. You don’t have that bark, but it’s a good bike. Suspension wise it is not as comfortable as the Yamaha, that’s for sure. But it is very predictable and turned really well. I feel good standing on the bike and gripping with my legs. It’s just that, if I rode the bike for weeks and got used to that kind of power and kind of got back to riding like the KTM needs to be ridden, then it would be better. But I have more fun on the Yamaha because it is not as demanding as the KTM. 

2020 KTM 250 SX-F


2nd: Kawasaki KX250

I love the Kawi. Performance-wise, it is very close to the Yamaha. They made a lot of changes to the 2020, but not the chassis, and I really liked the chassis on the 2019. But they did change the suspension and the fork is really good. The engine is way stronger than it was. Similar character to the Yamaha - very torquey, strong feeling and easy to ride. I had a lot of fun on the Kawasaki but there are a few things that I like better on the Yamaha, like electric start, the bars, the grips, the levers. But on the track, both bikes perform really close to each other. 

2020 Kawasaki KX250


1st: Yamaha YZ250F

I like the strong bottom-to-mid power. Not the best revving bike or the best top end. But easiest to ride and more fun for me. Out of the two maps on the bike, I prefered the connected map. It's maybe not the fastest, but for my riding style and what I’m looking for on a 250, it just suits me better. The suspension, once again, nothing negative I can say about it. It is really good stock. It feels like someone with good speed and a lot of technical knowledge developed the suspension. In stock form, the Yamaha feels like the bike that is the most ready to suit me right out of the box. The only thing we can say about the Yamaha is that, you notice it is a little wider, especially coming off another bike. But it doesn’t bother me once I start riding. 

2020 Yamaha YZ250F



Kelly Yancey 

Age: 39

Height: 5’4”

Weight: 150

Ability: Women’s Exp

Current bike: KTM 250 XC-F

  1. Kawasaki
  2. Yamaha
  3. Honda 
  4. KTM
  5. Suzuki 
  6. Husqvarna



6th: Husqvarna FC 250

The suspension feels on the firm side for me, but it’s great turning in ruts. I noticed that the engine stalls easily at low rpm. The chassis felt unbalanced even after adjustments when jumping. The front end sat high so it made it hard for me to corner. It needs a different setting for me. With my small feet, I couldn’t reach the gear shifter but for a larger rider, that would be fine. It had very little bottom end, but shifted very smooth. It also felt a bit large in the cockpit area.

2020 Husqvarna FC 250


5th: Suzuki RM-Z250

Good power throughout the RPMs, but a pure rocket ship in the mid-range. The suspension is a bit stiff for my liking and could use softer springs for me. The firm suspension was more useful at Glen Helen. I was able to try the lean coupler which made it more of a revver but lacked bottom end like the stock coupler had. 


4th: KTM 250 SX-F

This was one of the most plush suspensions when bottoming, and it was a bit tall in ruts but could be a bit stiff for me. I have small feet, so reaching the shifter was a challenge. The track was extremely beat when I rode it first, therefore it was very rigid feeling to start. We adjusted the suspension softer and when ridden aggressively on setting two it was stable and nimble. It wasn’t the best cornering bike for me, but then again it felt like it had a large rider triangle.


3rd: Honda CRF250R

This one felt tall much like the Suzuki. The suspension was a somewhat soft, but I would like it more so.  Perhaps softer springs are needed for me. The second map setting was killer, so smooth and it pulled forever. Bars were a bit tall for me. The CRF is a solid bike all around and I liked the soft seat. It has major traction in soft berms and ruts, drifts very well, and has power for days in map two.


2nd: Yamaha YZ250F

The cockpit is small and the seat is soft, which I like. The mellow setting with the light (free-revving map) was perfect. It had usable aggressive power from bottom to top and great gearing spacing in the transmission. When it came to handling, it corners ruts with ease. The wheels stick to the ground, offering great traction. You really notice the power going up the hills at Glen Helen. 

1st: Kawasaki KX250

It seemed like the gear spacing was tight, making me shift more, but not in a bad way. Nice small cockpit for my size. Handling-wise, it leans lower and tighter turning for me, and follows a rut well. The brakes stood out as better than most. The Kawi was my top pick as it truly fits my riding style and size properly from the get-go. The seat is very comfortable. The motor has solid, smooth power. I could always get different sprockets to spread out the gearing if I wanted. 

2020 Kawasaki KX250



Tim McMorrow

Age: 29

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 155 lbs.

Ability: Intermediate

Current bike: 2012 YZ250

  1. Husqvarna
  2. Yamaha 
  3. Honda
  4. Kawasaki
  5. KTM
  6. Suzuki



6th: Suzuki RMZ-250

When I started riding dirt bikes I was a Suzuki guy. I had RM125s and eventually a 2007 RMZ-250. I loved how the bike handled. I wanted to like the 2020 Suzuki RMZ-250 more than I did. The suspension is very stiff, which wasn’t an issue in the morning when the track and bumps were still somewhat soft and forgiving, but as the track developed and dried/hardened throughout the day, negative aspects of the suspension started to show themselves. Overall, I felt the least comfortable on the Suzuki even though the ergonomics felt pretty good. Ultimately it just wore me out the most out of all the bikes in the test. The engine is smooth and has a decent low-end grunt. It isn’t the strongest pulling motor, but it isn’t weak, either. If “meh” was a real word I would use it to describe this engine. It works, but doesn’t excel anywhere. I’m not sure if it was just me, but the brakes on the Suzuki felt weaker than most other bikes in the test. The Suzuki chassis also feels really rigid and paired with the stiffer suspension I was getting more feedback through the handlebars than I would have liked, which as I stated earlier, ended up just wearing me out more quickly. Maybe this is a good thing – if I owned a Suzuki instead of the Husqvarna, I would put fewer hours on it over a season because I would be taking more breaks…


5th: KTM 250 SX-F

In my head prior to conducting this shootout, I imagined I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the KTM and Husqvarna if I were doing a blind test. But, it didn’t take long at all to realize that wasn’t the case. The ergonomics are the only thing that felt pretty similar, and I did like the KTM layout. The biggest differentiator is the suspension – where the Husqvarna is plush and forgiving, the KTM felt stiffer and harsher. I spent the most time with the KTM of all the bikes in the test adjusting air spring pressure and clickers, and while we were trending in the right direction, I was ultimately trying to make it feel like the Husqvarna. We dropped the fork pressure and opened up HS compression to try and remove some of the harsh “slaps” over high-speed chop and dropping the front wheel on harder landings. Additionally, I was the least confident on the KTM charging down the bigger hills into braking chop. I just felt like I got bounced around more, and the bike wore me out similar to the Suzuki. While we did make improvements, it still didn’t have that Husky feel I was looking for. The KTM motor is really good, it has more low-end grunt than the Husky, but has a similar smooth but strong pull from mid-to-top. This and the Yamaha felt like the fastest bikes to me. The KTM seems better suited to bigger and faster riders than myself.


4th: Kawasaki KX250

The KX250 is a good overall package. I think it does everything pretty well, however it didn’t stand out anywhere specifically. The ergonomics felt pretty good, and I liked how narrow the bike felt. The stock grips might actually be molded out of some sort of plastic, rather than rubber. The bike was a bit too stiff for my liking (I think I’m on the lighter side for the springs, we had very little preload on it and it was still too much). The bike felt like I was riding pretty high in the stroke (stiff suspension), but I still felt like it had a good front to rear balance. On higher speed sections, or coming down hills fast into braking bumps, this bike would get a little more unsettled than others – I would’ve liked to try it with softer springs. I liked the power characteristics, it didn’t have any noticeable weak spots and pulled strong throughout the RPM range.

2020 Kawasaki KX250


3rd: Honda CRF250R

Similar to the Husqvarna, this was another bike that I sat on and instantly clicked with how the ergonomics felt. One of the first things I noticed on the Honda was how balanced the suspension is. It is forgiving and provides a really good feel. The chassis and suspension work really well together. One thing I especially liked was the front end feel. It was really predictable getting into corners, and the feedback relative to the front wheel was very good. It tracked ruts really well and I felt more precise than some of the other bikes. Also similar to the Husqvarna in the motor department, the Honda lacks low end grunt. It is a slow revver and requires more active shifting than other bikes in the test. Where the Husqvarna motor wakes up in the mid-to-top, the Honda motor was smooth but unexciting.

2020 Honda CRF250R


2nd: Yamaha YZ250F

This was the oddest feeling bike to me right out of the gate. It feels a little wider and the ergonomics felt a little “off” ...I’m kind of struggling to pinpoint what it was exactly. However, once I got some laps in and adjusted to how the bike feels, things started to click. The YZ250F is a well-rounded machine. The motor felt the strongest/crispest to me out of the group. It has good low-end grunt and gets up to the meat of its power quickly. I was able to lug third out of corners with little issue where on some of the other bikes I found myself downshifting more often. The YZ250F had the best damped forks out of the group, and the bike feels really well-balanced front to rear. Once you adjust to the ergonomics, it’s a great cornering bike, and it stays composed on high speed rough sections, as well. Overall, it is a really good package, and if this engine and shock/forks were in the Husqvarna I would be a very happy camper.

2020 Yamaha YZ250F


1st: Husqvarna FC 250

This bike was the best overall package for me. The ergonomics were the most natural feeling off the bat, although the seat was very uncomfortable (The seat foam feels way too dense). The suspension was very plush, but still managed to provide good bottoming resistance/support when I came up on unexpected bumps at speed or didn’t time a jump perfectly. The chassis itself felt really compliant as well; it was not too stiff, and I never had any harsh feedback transmitted through the frame/bars. This trait paired with the plush suspension resulted in a really confidence-inspiring ride for me, which translated to a bike I could have fun on and push myself for longer sessions without hectic situations occurring (which is what I dig most and appreciate in a bike). The motor didn’t have a ton of low end grunt, and I couldn’t get away with lugging third gear on some tighter corners like I could other machines. However, it had a really smooth and strong pull from mid to top. I think the motor’s characteristics aligned well with my riding style, where I typically try to maintain momentum as best I can, avoid tighter point/shoot lines, etc. The motor inertia also never really seemed to unsettle or negatively impact the bike much which I appreciated (to be fair this was something I experienced on all of these 2020 machines compared to the earlier 250F bikes I spent more time on.) Also, electric start is pretty damn nice. And finally, the composite subframe is badass.

2020 Husqvarna FC 250




Aiden Ferguson

Age: 15

Height: 5’ 6”

Weight: 126 lbs.

Ability: Moto - 250 C (250 B in GP and desert racing)

Current bike: KTM 250 XC-F

  1. Yamaha
  2. Honda
  3. KTM 
  4. Kawasaki
  5. Husqvarna
  6. Suzuki



6th: Suzuki RM-Z250

  • Great power
  • It wanted to charge out of the corner 
  • Easy to control
  • Great cornering 
  • I could put it wherever I wanted
  • Braking faded quickly

2020 RM-Z250


5th: Husqvarna FC 250

  • Hard Seat
  • Felt light
  • Great in the corners
  • Power rolled on a bit softer than the KTM
  • Changing map settings on the fly was a little awkward for my hand size
  • The first map setting was aggressive and provided that pop out of the corner 
  • The second setting was less aggressive on bottom, more on top
  • Traction control similar to KTM

4th: Kawasaki KX250

  • Good Ergonomics
  • Easy to shift
  • Responsive 
  • Great acceleration
  • The stock coupler was a more aggressive setting for the track
  • The rich coupler allowed for the power the roll on easier, better for desert or GP where there are more technical sections.

2020 Kawasaki KX250


3rd: KTM 250 SX-F

  • Lighter feel than my 2015 XC-F
  • Great power 
  • Changing map settings on the fly was a little awkward for my hand size
  • The first map setting was aggressive and provided that pop out of the corner 
  • The second setting was not as poppy and would be great for technical sections in the desert. 
  • Traction control feature worked well on the slick track–provided more stability after they watered the track.

2020 KTM 250 SX-F


2nd: Honda CRF250R

  • Lots of fun
  • Three map modes are great
  • Easy to switch between mappings on the fly
  • I was able to put the bike wherever I wanted
  • Good feel in the corners
  • Rolling on the power was a bit more aggressive
  • The three settings allowed for a greater variety of settings while riding.

2020 Honda CRF250R


1st: Yamaha YZ250

  • Lots of power
  • Throttle pull is a little firm, but rolled on smooth I felt like there was less of a chance of a whiskey throttle
  • Continued to pull up Mount Saint Helen. I felt like I could grab another gear and keep going up the hill. 
  • Feels skinnier than previous years (My dad owns a 2015 YZ250FX)
  • The location of settings switch made it easy to change modes on the fly 
  • Phone app is a great feature to adjust the settings

2020 Yamaha YZ250F


Conclusion

As you can see by the types of testers included in this shootout, this isn’t your typical, “ex-pros and professional testers” shootout. And by using these riders, we did see a wider perspective of opinions, preferences, and priorities. Typically, all the fast guys reach a consensus that doesn’t really represent the wide range of riders buying bikes. Certain details (like ease of use of the map switch, seat feel/density, how the bike might work off-road, extras like composite subframe) might be taken for granted or overlooked by most “seasoned testers” who are more focused on the big three performance areas (power, suspension, and handling). We hope that you can identify with, if not a few, than at least one of the riders in this shootout to see how the bikes might stack up in your own personal shootout. Again, while the overall ranking is the easiest to digest, it is just the tip of the iceberg in the full shootout story. 





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