2022 Vital MX 250 Shootout 27

Who will win!? 2022 Honda CRF250R vs Yamaha YZ250F vs Kawasaki KX250 vs KTM 250 SX-F vs GASGAS MC250 vs Husqvarna FC 250, vs Suzuki RM-Z250

2022 Vital MX 250 Shootout

We're back again with another shootout and this time it's for the 2022 flock of 250 four stroke motocross machines! Yes, it has grown a little this year with a total of seven machines in participation, while three of them are technically coming out of the same factory. Compared to our recent 2022 450 Shootout, this one has a little more excitement or wonder with one all-new machine at play with Honda's newest generation CRF250R. Joining it for the first time in our Shootouts is the GASGAS MC 250F as well, which like its KTM and Husqvarna brethren, have received some very minor updates from the '21 versions. Yamaha has also chucked a couple new goodies at their YZ250F as they try to keep atop of the rankings, while Kawasaki took the big swing last year on an all-new generation bike but returns this year with bold new graphics. Then we have the veteran of the test per se, with the Suzuki RM-Z250. Due to the lack of a '22 model from Suzuki to us in this year's test, we opted to use a stock '21 we still had in its place. There was no updates to the '22, so it worked.

We had two full days of testing, the first being at Cahuilla Raceway. This track has continuous elevation change from end to the other, fast sweeping corners, a little bit of sand in the berms and some real high speed jumps...and oh boy does it get chattery! Then we visited the ever classic Perris Raceway, the oldest motocross track in California and one of the oldest in the nation. It's a classic man made track with lot of 180s, bowl corners, tight ruts, and obstacles right out of and into corners.

As you'll see as you get past the dyno and weight charts, we have a wide variety of testers with everything from Vet C speed to current pro. We also have light-and-small to big-and-tall. We'd suggest to read through everyone's comments because different things are more important to different riders and the 'winning bike' or the 'last place' bike might/might not be the bike for you. 

Contenders

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2022 GASGAS MC 250F

MSRP: $8,699 (up $200 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Honda CRF250R

MSRP: $8,099 (up $100 from last yar)

Specs

First Impression 

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2022 Husqvarna FC 250

MSRP: $9,499 (up $100 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Kawasaki KX250

MSRP: $8,399 (up $100 from last year)

Specs

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2022 KTM 250 SX-F

MSRP: $9,399 (up $100 from last year)

Specs

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2022 Suzuki RM-Z250

MSRP: $7,899 (no change from last year)

Specs

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2022 Yamaha YZ250F

MSRP: $8,299 (no change from last year)

Specs

First Impression



Dyno Charts

Horsepower

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Torque

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HP and Torque rankings

Bike

HP

Torque (ft-lb)

1. 

Husqvarna FC 250 40.44 @13,200 RPM 19.2 @9,600 RPM

2. 

Kawasaki KX250 40.08 @13,600 RPM 18.4 @8,950 RPM

3. 

Yamaha YZ250F 39.98 @12,400 RPM 18.8 @9,250 RPM

4. 

KTM 250 SX-F 39.33 @13,250 RPM 19.3 @9,400 RPM

5. 

Honda CRF250R 37.35 @11,950 RPM 18.4 @9,700 RPM

6. 

Suzuki RM-Z250 35.93 @12,050 RPM 18.2 @7900 RPM

7. 

GASGAS MC250F (N/A)
Wasn't available at time of Dyno
N/A N/A

Weights (Tank Empty) In Descending Order

Bike Overall Weight Front Bias Rear Bias
1. KTM 250 SX-F 219 lb 105 lb 114 lb
2. Honda CRF250R 219 lb 108 lb 111 lb
3. GASGAS MC 250F 220 lb 105 lb 115 lb
4. Husqvarna FC 250 220 lb 106 lb 114 lb
5. Suzuki RM-Z250 221 lb 106 lb 115 lb
6. Yamaha YZ250F 222 lb 106 lb 116 lb
7. Kawasaki KX250 225 lb 109 lb 116 lb


Weights (Tank Full) In Descending Order

Bike Overall Weight Front Bias Rear Bias
1.  KTM 250 SX-F 229 lb 111 lb 118 lb
2. Honda CRF250R 230 lb 114 lb  116 lb
3. GASGAS MC 250F 230 lb 111 lb 119 lb
4. Husqvarna FC 250 230 lb 112 lb 119 lb
5. Yamaha YZ250F 234 lb 112 lb 122 lb
6. Suzuki RM-Z250 236 lb 115 lb 121 lb
7. Kawasaki KX250 237 lb 115 lb 122 lb

Results

Bike Total Michael Lindsay Sean Klinger Willy Simons Jr. Joe Carlino Chris Siebenhar Derek Caskey
1.  Yamaha 8 1 1 2 2 1 1
2.  GASGAS 18 3 2 1 4 4 4
3. KTM 20 4 4 5 1 3 3
4. Honda 21 2 5 4 3 5 2
5. Kawasaki 24 5 3 3 6 2 5
6. Husqvarna 35 6 6 6 5 6 6
7. Suzuki 42 7 7 7 7 7 7


Video Edition

For those that like it short and sweet, check out this video for the results and quick overview. If you want the nitty-gritty from all of our test riders, keep scrolling for all their notes below.

 

Test Rider Notes

Michael Lindsay

Age: 29
Height: 5’ 8”
Weight: 185 lb
Class: 25+ Expert

1. Yamaha YZ250F
2. Honda CRF250R
3. GASGAS MC 250F
4. KTM 250 SX-F
5. Kawasaki KX250
6. Husqvarna FC250
7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) Yamaha YZ250F

Yup, the YZ250F does it again. Although, after our first day of testing I wasn't so sure Yamaha would retain the top spot. The current flock of 250s are darn good and a couple have unique characteristics that make them each stand out. As expected, the YZ stands out in the engine department. It's just so darn lively these days! It's not quite the bottom-to-mid torque monster it once was, it's snappier and way more rev happy than it used to be. It still has good bottom-end character but now it pulls through the rest of the range so well, even a bit too quickly at times depending on the track.

At Cahuilla, with large open sections and sweeping corners, I actually wanted to slow down the rev character to make it a bit more usable and not row through the gears so quickly. I tried Yamaha's "over rev" map and it did just that, making the engine feel a bit more drawn out and calmer section-to-section. At Perris, in tighter conditions, the stock character is a bit more rewarding as it launches you to the next obstacle quickly and aggressively. The other positive thing about the YZF's powerplant is how well the gear spacing is from second-to-third-to-fourth-to-fifth. Each gear feels lively and lasts around the same amount of time, making it quick to get up to speed. Since no gear is too far away from the other, the Yamaha is easy to work with even if you end up a gear above where you should be, just a flick of clutch and throttle, then you're good to go.

As for the suspension, yes, the Yamaha is still pretty darn awesome. It's comfortable and absorbs anything I throw in its path. However, I did have to do some tweaking. Being a little on the heavier side this year for the 250 target weight caused a bit of diving and shaking on the front, so I did a bit of playing around with the bike balance and fork settings. I ended up about 2-3mm lower on sag than standard and just a bit stiffer on the front fork. In the chassis department, the Yamaha is comfortable, stable (when balanced), and overall handles well. It's not as sharp responding at the front of the bike as many others in this Shootout, but it does just enough to be usable.

The only two digs I have at the Yamaha are the ergos and slightly the engine (yes, that sounds contradictory). As for the ergos, the Yamaha has a short seat to peg ratio, and slightly awkward bar reach. As with anything, you get used to it but it just doesn't have the natural feel of the other brands. As for the engine, yes it's the highlight of the machine but I'd continue to play with the tuner a bit more as I rode it as I'd like to stretch the power just a tick more. Some situations, it just goes too quickly. But like I said, it has character and I love a machine with stand out character!

2) Honda CRF250R

The CRF250R was an odd one to rate this year. Honda took a different direction with this machine this year, basically pulling a 180 on the power character, going from all mid-to-top screamer power to bottom-end snap and mid-range grunt. The chassis is a little more relaxed than prior years, but still overall quick to respond and sharp on corner entry.

The Honda is at its best this year when short shifted and rode a gear high, it now has the low end grunt to support that style and it makes the bike so easy to ride. Particularly at the end of the day when lines are all over the place and it’s hard-packed but soft in the corners, chattery, etc. This power supports the horrible conditions. However, it now lacks top-end; it's not bad up there but it goes flat earlier than I'd like to see. When the track supports aggressive riding and you really want to wring its neck off, it just doesn't respond to this. Heavy clutch use will just make this CRF burn through the power so quickly; throttle usage and gear choice is key. Mapping wise, I found the base map was best as it kept the power as rounded as possible. The popular go-to, map three is more aggressive but it blows through the power quicker and suffers even more up top. While map two softens the bottom end but helps a tad bit up top.

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Chassis-wise, the Honda still stands out as a very playful and responsive bike. It wants to be thrown around, tossed into corners, and the front grip is fantastic. It has a very planted feel up front but it can feel a little on the front-end heavy side if the bike balance isn't quite on point. However, it still holds on to a bit of a negative from prior Honda models; it's on the rigid side and lacks some of the comfort found in other machines of this test. My biggest chase for the test was front stability. I ended up at 2 mm on the forks, 106-107 mm of sag and just slightly stiffer on the front fork. On my wishlist, I'd love to get a bit of the comfort back from the 2021 forks, as I feel like the '22 went slightly the wrong way in this matter.

Due to the power character and knife edge turning of this machine, I'd say the CRF is looking to take the crown of best vet 250F and did a pretty good job of heading that direction.

3) GASGAS MC250F

Just like the 450 Shootout, the GASGAS entry was the surprise of the Shootout for me. Why? Simple, it takes everything good about the KTM and softens it just a bit. It makes it just a bit easier to use track-to-track, and just a little more fun overall. The GASGAS has a broad and linear motor. It's not the most exciting in the test but it's surprisingly crisp. Strong top to bottom, great overall output, it could just rev a bit faster in some situations. Clutch input helps of course, but a little quicker response from throttle input would really tickle my fancy.

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The suspension is pretty on point, especially for an air fork. Seriously, WP has started to really figure this thing out. It's decently plush initially but rides fairly high in the stroke. It has great end of stroke hold up and really rewards being pushed, well at least my version of pushing. Depending on the track, I tried it a little stiffer and softer, each with benefits. I actually stayed away from air pressure adjustments for the most part, tried going up a little but the balance at standard was solid. The rear is pretty much in the same level, I loved the overall hold up and ride height at 106mm, then just played with rebound a little. Going slightly faster for more initial comfort on acceleration chop.

My favorite part of this bike was the cheaper aspects from the KTM, as they all added up to take the edge off. The chassis is nimble and very planted on this bike. But it's a little on the rigid side, mostly at the front of the bike. The cast clamps and different rims let just enough extra flex and feeling into the bike to give me more feedback on where the front was at all times, adding to my confidence on the bike. When needed, I could go a little stiffer than this but still retain the comfort I wanted.

End of the day, I love the GASGAS for many reasons but it just didn't tick all my boxes. The Maxxis front tire isn't fantastic on hard-pack, it has no mapping options, and the engine’s pick up is just a bit too lazy for my overall day-to-day liking. But all-in-all, it's a fantastic bike.

4) KTM 250 SX-F

If you've just read my GASGAS comments above, my KTM write-up is going to seem pretty similar. Yes, the engine is still linear and broad, but has a bit more pickup than the GASGAS. It revs slightly quicker and feels overall more free. It's still a bit lethargic compared to the Yamaha or Kawasaki, but it has its own character by taking less shifts as it just pulls to the moon and each gear lasts for what feels like forever. Seriously, where is the rev limiter on this thing? The maps feel slightly different; map two revs quicker but it feels less connected off the bottom. A little jittery in the corners to be honest, so my overall preference was map one.

As with the GASGAS, the chassis is nimble and very planted on this bike. But it's rigid or lacking a bit of comfort at both ends. It's aggressive and racey but no matter what I did to the suspension, I couldn't recover some of the comfort I was hoping to find. The difficult part is most of my suspension changes would just make the bike worse. Little tweaks were good for certain tracks but it didn't help the chassis.

As for the suspension, I ended up in the exact same base area as I did with the GASGAS, but I couldn't go any stiffer due to that bit of missing comfort.

Overall, this is the most enjoyable stock KTM 250 SX-F I've ever ridden. Just a little more comfort and a little quicker response from the engine and it would be a winner for me.

5) Kawasaki KX250

Kawasaki's KX250 has always been on my favorite's list, I love certain things about this machine but overall, it wasn't quite as rounded or as easy to setup as the machines ahead of it on my list. At the top of my list of things I enjoy about this machine is the chassis. It's thin, playful, and super rewarding to ride aggressively or toss around. It handles decent at each end but it's super consistent, so while it may not have the maximum grip of other bikes in the Shootout, the consistency and range of conditions it works in gives me a large amount of confidence in the bike. Some of the changes to the ergos on this generation bike, I feel like have finally given the Kawasaki that "Honda rider triangle", in other works it's just comfortable to sit on from the start.

The engine character of the KX has changed a bit over the last couple years. The big overhaul moved the power way up stream compared to the old model. The old bike had a good amount of bark initially, very strong mid-range, and decent top that didn't pull to the moon but just carried along until rev limiter. The latest iteration of the KX250 doesn't have much bottom, linear but mid-range that builds and ends into a screamer top end that pulls and pull. However, compared to the Austrian models, it seems easier to find the limiter on this top-end screamer character. It just hits more of a wall once you find it. Don't get me wrong, it's way up there, but it can be found.

Something that hasn't changed about the engine character though is the response and raspy tone. The KX250 has always been crisp and responds well to throttle inputs, and even this new engine maintains that. The bike responds well at almost any RPM to quick throttle input and little blips as you hop over bumps into and out of corners. Although, with the mid-range not feeling as stout, it isn't as effective to ride like that compared to the old bike. This one just wants its neck to be wrung everywhere.

Suspension-wise is my main concern with the bike. I'd almost label it as the bike being a little over-sprung and a little under-valved. It's a bit harsh or rigid feeling initially, but I was struggling to keep it up in the stroke once I got aggressive with it. Going stiffer just added to my discomfort and I found at even 185 lbs this year, that going softer on fork compression and faster on rebound worked best for me. These changes got the fork moving into and out of the stroke, creating some comfort that was missing in stock trim. However, even with some major tweaking, the front just didn't have the overall comfort I was looking for.

End-of-day, the KX is fun and exciting to ride, but the overall engine output is a tick-off it's competitor in the screamer character and it's missing some overall comfort that I think is down in there somewhere.

6) Husqvarna FC 250

For the Husqvarna, I feel a bit harsh giving it sixth. Again, compared to the 450 Shootout, my drawback list about this machine is the same as it's bigger brother but it's not as much of an issue on the 250. But when weighing everything out, it still fell down my the list a bit. So positives, the Husky is easy to ride. The power is very broad and the gears feel like they last forever. But in the same breath, it's also a bit harder to keep up in the revs where it makes its best power. It revs slowly, great on hardpack but in soft or loamy conditions, it just doesn't pick up quick enough to keep things exciting and moving forward at times.

As Husky has been doing, their 250 has 10 millimeters lower suspension front and rear. The goal is to lower the center of mass and make the bike more planted/turn better. Now it does somewhat do that but the lack of comfort at speed is somewhat baffling. All my changes were based around getting the bike taller and higher in the stroke. So I was somewhat defeating the purpose of their change by going 5 mm lower on forks and running around 100 mm of sag. Going stiffer on compression on both ends, plus higher on fork pressure. Doing all this got the Husky to a point where I felt confident pushing it, like it wasn't wallowing at both ends. Some comfort came with it, but not near the comfort I is available on the KTM or GASGAS. 

Even with bringing the bike up taller, I was still 5 mm lower overall than the other Austrians and with this it did feel more planted in certain sections. It was grippier and more responsive, but the lack of comfort with it wasn't worth the trade off. Mid-turn to exit on corners was improved but corner entry suffered due to my lower confidence in the bike.

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

Suzuki's 250 has its positives. It turns on a dime and the power character is playful, snappy and decently broad. It's not the powerhouse in any particular area like other engines in this Shootout. But, it's enough to overcome the obstacles and have a good enough time. It's mostly at its best from bottom to mid, but the last round of updates a couple years ago did help it upstream. However, in a class when HP and torque make a big difference, being this far off makes it hard to justify ranking it anywhere but seventh.

Suspension-wise, the Suzuki is over-sprung, period. Add that in with a fairly rigid chassis, and comfort is not something that exists. It not only takes away comfort but it even affects the excellent handling character that the RM-Z has.

I don't want to take this to a bashing level so I'll leave it simply. Yes, the RM is still a good bike. If the positives you hear about it tickle your fancy, just be prepared to go straight for the suspension.


Sean Klinger

Age: 35
Height: 5’ 9”
Weight: 185 lb
Class: Vet C

  1. Yamaha YZ250F
  2. GASGAS MC 250F
  3. Kawasaki KX250
  4. KTM 250 SX-F
  5. Honda CRF250R
  6. Husqvarna FC 250
  7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) Yamaha YZ250F

My only hesitation putting the YZ in the top spot was, I was wondering if a bike should be penalized for needing more adjustment than others. Basically, when I first hopped on the Yamaha, my initial feeling was balanced, but busy. During the transition from on-throttle-to-off-to-braking, the front end danced around and was a little deflect-y on braking bumps. Also the shock felt a little harsh mid -troke when compressed in the middle of a corner and you hit a bump or edge. We went softer on compression front and rear (HS) and faster on rebound front and rear. The difference this made is what made me put this bike at the top of my list. I immediately found comfort, predictability, and both front and rear traction that I loved. It really highlighted the versatility and range of feels you can get with the YZ. 

Power-wise, it is the hardest hitting, quickest revving 250F in the group. This is mostly good, with just a little bad. The bad being that on faster, wide open tracks, the YZ feels like it runs through the gears faster than some of the other bikes (namely, the Austrians). But, another point for versatility, you can change the power character pretty drastically with the power tuner app and get a slower revving feel if desired. Plus there is an over-rev map that pushes the power up in the RPM so you can wring it out further if that’s how you like to ride. I liked both the ‘smooth linear’ map and the ‘over-rev’ map for the faster sections of Cahuilla. I liked the stock map for the tighter, jumpier Perris raceway. Overall, the YZ is fast, fun, predictable and capable of any type of rider and track conditions. 

2) GASGAS MC 250F

On paper and on the track, the GG is the polar opposite of the Yamaha and it uses a different method to reach the same level of track toughness. While the YZ can be adjusted to suit any track, the MC seems to be just a super comfortable bike to begin with and doesn’t need any adjustments to be happy at any track. I stiffened the suspension front and rear (opposite of the YZ) and that was it. Just a few clicks and half a turn and I was dialed for both Cahuilla and Perris. I really get along well with the latest WP AER fork and had predictable front-feel that had me riding the bike harder and harder. 

The power is also somewhat the antithesis of the Yamaha, but the GG isn’t slow by any means. It makes its power mid-to-top and when you ride it that way, it is a freakin’ blast to ride. To complement this type of power, the gearing seems to be spaced out a little further than the Japanese bikes and let you take advantage of the higher RPM. I could stay in second gear on certain sections of the track where I had to grab third on other bikes. Plus, without the option of a different map, the stock mapping felt quite sufficient for my Vet speed. It revs a tiny bit slower than the KTM and Husqvarna but this seems to just stretch out the power even further. And the bottom end, while not punchy or explosive, is still sneaky fast. 

Lastly I really like the ergos of the all the Austrian bikes; flat seat, neutral handling, slim bodywork, light feel, easy to move around on. 

3) Kawasaki KX250

The generation before the 2021/22 KX250 was a good bike, but for me it fell into the no man’s land of doing everything OK, but nothing great. The trickle down changes from the 450 that the 250 got last year totally changed that. Now, the bike has a distinct character that turns much better than the previous model and has a pretty aggressive, usable engine. 

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The power is one of my favorite things about this bike. It is YZ-ish but just a little less revy in a good way. It feels torquey and powerful in all RPMs. The throttle response is great and the usability translates to having power immediately when you need it. The overall stance of the Kawasaki is a bit rear-end high and the Kawasaki techs really want to keep the sag number high. Last year they wanted it at 100 to 102 but this year they were conceding to drop it if testers really wanted it lower. I was about 104 and it worked great for getting the KX to turn on rails. 

The few drawbacks to this bike for me is a little distrust in the fork (the front gets a little twitchy and the changes I made didn’t help much) and the wide, square feeling of the seat. 

4) KTM 250 SX-F

This machine is the ‘original’ of the Austrian bikes and it's the most ‘Ready to Race’ as its slogan states. By this, I mean that it has the punchiest motor of the Austrians and the stiffest ride-feel. This is what drops it down a few notches for me. What? A punchier motor is worse than a mellow motor? That doesn’t make sense? I’ll try to explain. 

The short answer is that it seems that the GASGAS power is a little more predictable than the KTMs. The KTM has more of a hit and there is sort of a ‘step up’ in the power from bottom to mid-range, while the GASGAS (and Husky for that matter) have a flatter power curve that is maybe more consistent. At least, that is just what it feels like to me. I find that, while I like all three Austrian bikes’ motors, when comparing them back to back the GG is the easiest for me to ride. Maybe because my old man status means I ride moto for fun not to crush lap times. 

Again I like the flat seat and neutral cockpit of the KTM and the light, agile feel. Once I softened the fork I got more comfort and front-end feel. On all the Austrian bikes I go a half turn in on HS compression to get the balance how I like it. 

5) Honda CRF250R

I really didn’t want to put this bike in fifth place. Riding the Honda on its own, I was really happy with the bike. I liked the power, the light-weight feel, and the new ergos, that still somehow feel very ‘old school Honda’ that is just super comfortable. But just as the Kawi was for me in past years, the CRF was the bike that landed in the “does everything really good, but nothing great” category. 

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Again, I really like the Honda and would be pumped to have it all year. The power has shifted more bottom to mid and maybe because I’m not pro speed, it doesn’t feel too bad at the top-end for me, unlike what other testers have said. It isn’t a screamer like last year but I feel like the power is broad, usable, and linear. That being said, it feels a little behind the Yamaha and Kawasaki to me. The bike sort of feels like a Japanese version of an Austrian bike, if that makes sense. The cockpit is open and the flat, slim ergos are really easy to move around on. The weight-loss this year is clearly felt on the track. It takes little energy and effort to throw the bike anywhere you want on the track. 

One other downside for me was the fork. It feels soft initially but then there is a harsh spot in the middle. I went firmer to try to keep from riding in that spot of the stroke which helped but I was moving away from any plushness the fork had. It isn’t a deal breaker, but compared to the YZ’s and the Austrians’ forks it is less ideal. 

6) Husqvarna FC 250

Unlike the FC 450, the FC 250 doesn’t feel massively different than the other Austrian bikes. Yes, it is still noticeable that the suspension is 10mm lower but the overall character of the bike doesn’t feel as wonky as the 450. The bike has more plushness and feels like the suspension is working better. 

While that is true, the Husky lands in a weird spot for me because it doesn’t do anything better than the KTM or GASGAS. And with the lower suspension, I think there is a slight benefit in cornering, but not enough to off-set the negatives through the rest of the track. Again, it isn’t nearly as dramatic of a difference as the 450, but the FC 250 does have a wallowy feel sometimes which has me hunting for traction front and rear. 

To be honest, I felt like the power on the Husqvarna was the strongest, but way at the tippy top of the RPM range. There was a section at Cahuilla that had an uphill straightaway into a jump and the Husky felt like it was continuing to make power the whole way, where other bikes, even orange and red #2, seemed to be signing off. Like we said in the video, all three Austrian bikes have super crisp throttle response but rev rate is a little slower than blue, green and red. 

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

Knocking out the negatives right off the bat: kickstart, coupler system, tuning app is an afterthought, rigid chassis, harsh suspension, slow-revving engine, down on power compared to the other bikes. Overall, there is just a lack of comfort that is frustratingly difficult to fix. 

Now there is a time when I actually like riding the RM-Z250 - on a freshly groomed, tight, jumpy track early in the morning before any chop or bumps or holes develop. In these conditions, the Suzuki is a blast to ride. Carving any line you want through the corners and hoping over rollers, the bike feels agile and responsive. But when the track gets rough you only have two options. Leave the clickers where they are and suffer the harshness (but have hold up) or back the clickers all the way out and get a little comfort (but have no hold up and lose pretty much all control). 

The power is not bad, and if the chassis was a relaxed steel frame chassis and it had soft, beginner friendly suspension settings, the power would match that kind of bike. And as is, it is still a capable motor and it’s not like riders were literally unable to jump the big jumps at either track. It has an old school feel - chuggy, torquey, meaty. Yet, compared to the Yamaha, it seems pretty dated. Again, there are dudes out there riding 10-year-old bikes so a ‘22 RM-Z would be better than most of those.         


Willy Simons Jr

Age: 24
Height: 5’ 3"
Weight: 135 Ibs
Class: Pro

  1. GASGAS MC 250F
  2. Yamaha YZ250F
  3. Kawasaki KX250F
  4. Honda CRF250R
  5. KTM 250 SX-F
  6. Husqvarna FC 250
  7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) GASGAS MC250F 

This bike being at the top of my personal list was a huge shocker as GASGAS has just revamped the company after not being a contender against any of the Japanese models or its now two Austrian brothers KTM and Husqvarna. This was my first time riding the motocross model and hearing a lot of people saying that all the Austrian bikes feel the same is a huge misconception. The reason this bike is my top contender was that it checked off all three marks for me which is engine, handling, and comfort. The GASGAS MC 250F has a really strong engine which is a big topic in the 250 class. The motor package revs very high in the rpm but doesn’t feel like the bike lacks in the low-mid range hit like the KTM and Husky. I did notice that this bike doesn’t rev out as quick as some of the other models where you feel like you need to shift very quickly which I enjoyed for some sections where on other models I would be between gears for sections of the track. The GASGAS model was one of the most nimble bikes out of the line-up. 

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This bike comes with softer valving than the KTM and Husky on WP air forks and XACT shock. I’m personally not a fan of air forks usually, but WP has done their homework and these are the best production air forks that the motocross industry has seen to date. I kept the pressure at the standard 10.5 bar and set the sag at 98mm. I didn’t make one change, not even one clicker on the second day of riding! I literally had to force myself off this bike so the other testers could ride it. The bottom line was that this bike did just about everything perfect to me on both days of testing and was the only bike on the roster that I made minimal changes to and could ride it at 100 percent in its stock trim. This bike being the cheaper out of the Austrian brands and being my top contender seems not right but results don’t lie and I think all the testers enjoyed this bike and I can honestly say that I would go buy one right now.

2) Yamaha YZ250F

The Yamaha 250F is no stranger to being a top contender in these shootouts and was my number one pick last year in the 2021 shootout. The bike this year had a few smaller changes to it from last year's bike but nothing drastically different. The Yamaha has a very explosive hit from the low to mid range section of the power. The engine in my opinion is one of the strongest in the class. I tried a variety of maps and ended up on the more aggressive map. One of the Yamaha techs pulled out the Yamaha tuner app and gave me what they call the exciting map. This map has a good hit with not too much over rev that pulls into the top-end range and if I was riding this bike consistently, I would leave it on that power setting. One of the things I noticed this year was that the YZ250F does have quite a lot of engine braking compared to other models. 

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I really noticed this at Cahuilla Creek which is a really fast paced track with big sweeping turns. I didn’t feel like this was a big downfall of the bike but was something I noticed hoping from bike to bike. The Yamaha’s suspension has a reputation of being one of best stock platforms with the KYB SSS set-up. This bike comes a little rear-end-high so getting the ride height adjusted is very important on this model, especially with the motor design being tilted upright, which takes a little weight off the front wheel and more in the center. The sag was set to 105 mm with the forks tubes at 5 mm in the clamps, and from here all I did was stiffen the fork compression and sped up the fork rebound and soften the high speed on the shock a quarter of turn to have the rear end squat for entry into corners. All in all, this bike is very fun to ride, I’ve spent a lot of time on a YZ250F the last few years and they always have good power, good handling characteristics and a lot of adjustability to riders from the tuner app, bar adjustments and more. I didn’t want to give this bike second but for myself I felt like I could ride more comfortably on the GASGAS in the bike's stock trim, either way this bike rips and is always a blast. 

3) Kawasaki KX250

It’s no secret to anybody that knows me personally or has spoken to me when asked about this topic, but I was never a fan of the KX250 after owning a couple back in 2013. I'm sorry to ML who used to be Mr. Kawasaki but that was the truth. However after making complete revisions over the years and a brand new bike in 2021 that got carried over to 2022, my old opinions are revised. The KX250 like the Yamaha has a very aggressive hit but the difference is throughout the range the Kawasaki is very responsive which is impressive especially on the top-end; the power-to-wheel delivery is almost instant which I really enjoyed on this model. The standard coupler packs a pretty good punch for myself, the more aggressive one has a bit too much over rev that just seems like the bike is making a lot of noise but not going any faster. 

The KX has made the jump to KYB SSS set up for suspension which was all new on the ‘21 which I think was a good choice. The forks on initial hit are pretty soft, I stiffen compression and sped up fork rebound to get them to settle a little. I know a lot of testers were struggling with ride height on this model. One of the KYB techs had me try 95 mm which is pretty high on this particular bike and after getting the fork set, the bike is rideable but turns a little two sharp for my liking. Some of the riders were going to 107 mm but where I found the sweet spot was 100-102 mm to have the bike squat to slow down the responsiveness of cornering but not take all the weight off the front wheel due to the Kawasaki’s softer suspension valving. All in all, the bike is pretty nimble, but not the best handling; the front end at speed is a little rigid which is why I think Kawasaki went with a softer valving set up to compensate for that. Either way this bike is extremely fun to ride once properly set up but it’s not as easy to set up as some of the others. The hydraulic clutch is the best hydraulic clutch on the market. 

4) Honda CRF250R

The Honda CRF250R is the only bike in the line-up that got wheel to wheel revisions. I was very lucky to ride this bike at the Honda intro in Oregon prior to this shootout so I had a good understanding of how it felt already. Honda shaved 8 lb of weight from the ‘21 model to ‘22 which is impressive and this is not just an on-paper stat. This transferred to on track feel as well, the all new chassis has a shorter rake and this bike is very light and nimble. You can make a quick turn and cut across the track on this bike if you want to. The suspension is just middle for me; it's not outstanding but it's not bad either. The Showa spring forks are easy to adjust with just a few clicks here and there. This bike like the Yamaha is a little rear end high so getting the sag adjusted down to about 105-107mm is where this bike likes to be. I adjusted the high speed on the shock stiffer to get the shock to ride higher up in the stroke. 

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The power on the ‘22 is one hundred times better than the ‘21 model, the bike has very strong low to mid-range hit. Top-end isn’t great but it’s not horrible either. I recommend having the bike be in map three which is Honda’s more aggressive map. The map switch on the Honda is a little tricky compared to other models, the map selection is shown to you by blinking lights but in my opinion, the lights blink fast and sometimes they don’t so it’s hard to see what map you’re actually on. I knew this bike was gonna be good after riding it at the Honda intro with the power upgrades and the almost bicycle-light feel that it has on the track. The Honda got ranked fourth for me for the much needed upgrades and rider feedback on the track. It's not the fastest 250f but I enjoyed riding the Honda because you can really be aggressive on the bike without it getting away from you and you can put it anywhere on the track. Honda can only go up from here. 

5) KTM 250 SX-F

I will start off by saying I don’t like thinking that this bike should be ranked fifth but in terms of a shootout and riding bikes in their stock trim it landed fifth only due to the rigidness  of the bike. Although the steel frames generally have more flex than the aluminum frames, the KTM feels pretty stiff all around. The bike has a strong motor and doesn’t make a ton of power down low but once you get mid-top this bike is a screamer high in the rpms. The bike revs out pretty quick in between second and third gear so you're better off just revving this thing out in second coming out turns into jumps, it has the top-end power for it. 

The suspension has a little stiffer valving than the GASGAS model but I set the forks to 10.5 bar pressure then back out the clickers softer and this goes back to the bike being all around stiff, handling wise. I had the sag at around 100 mm of sag and forks at 5 mm in the clamps. Once this bike is set up, it's fun to ride but it’s not the most comfortable. You definitely have to charge hard into stuff to get the bike to feel more nimble. I could own this bike and get it properly set up for my weight and a few other minor things and would be totally stoked.

6) Husqvarna FC 250

The Husqvarna 250 is another tough one to see in the lower of the rankings and the reason it ranked lower is not the entire bike. The bike in my opinion is faster out of the other two Austrian brands GASGAS and KTM. It doesn’t rev out as fast as the KTM but carries power vertically until you're high in the rpms. The bike isn’t quite as rigid as the KTM either but the one thing that is holding that bike back currently is the changes that were made in ‘21 that got carried over to the ‘22 with the suspension which is the forks and shock being 10 mm lower than it’s two Austrian brothers. The change makes the bike feel unstable at high speeds and uncomfortable in rough chop. That being said though, I can honestly say that after four full days of riding this bike in its stock trim (two days at the ‘21 shootout, two days at the ‘22 shootout) my last day of this year’s shootout at Perris, which is a tighter track, I finally can see what the Husqvarna R&D department is trying to accomplish with this lower setup as the track has a lot of ruts coming out turns and continuing onto the straights. 

After I left the suspension at the standard 10.5 bar, stiffened the compression, and sped up the fork rebound for a little comfort, this bike likes to turn and stay in the turns. The sag was set to 96 mm and I stiff-end the high speed on the rear shock to get it up in the stroke. This helps compensate for the low suspension. If you are going to buy one of these bikes or currently have one, keep this in mind and play with it because at first it's very awkward. I think Husky just needs a little more R&D if they are going to continue this route of the 10 mm lowered suspension as I see some of the benefits but currently the unstable feeling besides cornering is why this bike got ranked I think lower than it should.

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

The Suzuki RM-Z250 came in last for very obvious reasons. The bike is unchanged from the big revisions that we saw in 2019. That being said, the one thing holding this bike back is the suspension is set up for someone who is 200 lb plus. The bike got way over sprung when it hit the production side of the market. 

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With the motor coming in at 36 HP, it's not the fastest of the bunch either and the bike revs out to a certain point then falls off. All that being said though I personally rode a Suzuki last year (2020) and with the right suspension springs and set-up, plus some aftermarket parts, I can honestly say that the Suzuki is probably the best turning motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. I actually really enjoyed riding that bike for the time that I had it.        


Joe Carlino

Age: 37
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 175 lbs
Ability: 30+ B/C

  1. KTM 250 SX-F
  2. Yamaha YZ250F
  3. Honda CRF250R
  4. GASGAS MC 250F
  5. Husqvarna FC 250
  6. Kawasaki KX250
  7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) KTM 250 SX-F

I haven’t ridden a KTM 250 SX-F since the 2019 shootout and remember this bike being super rigid and harsh. So, throwing a leg over the 2022 I was ready for more of the same, but I have to say I was very surprised. KTM has taken this bike in a direction that suits my riding much better in 2022. The frame was much more compliment, suspension was much more forgiving then the 2019 version I rode. I own a 350 SX-F and personally try to make the bike feel like this with chassis torque settings, clamps, and engine hangers. I didn’t need to do any of that with this 2022 250SXF, out-of-the-box feel was fire. A few notable things from riding the bike were how great the WP Xact air fork is. By far the best air fork I have rode and I despise air forks (even on my mountain bike). Secondly, the WP rear shock is super supple on small bumps and square edge. This shock rivals my WP Trax shock and always makes me rethink my purchase of that. Thirdly, Map 1 power was super smooth and easy for me to ride. Very linear from bottom to top. Those notes on top of great brakes, and comfortable ergos made this bike take the top step for me. Overall, I was just the most comfortable at both tracks. 

2) Yamaha YZ250F

It’s hard to rank the YZ250F second and I’m one of only two testers that did that. I’ll call it the elephant in the room. It’s the biggest bike and felt heaviest to me when throwing into a corner and when trying to make fast changes across the track. This size/feel is the one characteristic that knocked it off the top step for me. Engine wise its unreal, suspension is great and even though it’s an aluminum chassis, Yamaha did an amazing job with compliance and flex to make me comfortable. I have to say when this bike locks into a rut it will make you feel like a pro! It helped me not understeer, not oversteer, just lock and go. I’m sure many testers note the raspy exhaust, which is true, but I would most likely upgrade that, not so much for power but sound. At Cahuilla Creek the track was dry and fast where I went softer on comp and fast on rebound. But at Perris it was deep, sticky and rutted where I almost stayed at the stock setting. The bike has great range of track toughness, just might need to get the settings dialed for each track.

3) Honda CRF250R

I lusted over the Honda CRF250R and wanted this bike to win so bad! I owned a 2020 for a bit and got along great with it but I can’t say I immediately fell in love with this bike after just two days of riding. It’s got that look, that “I want a Honda” look, it’s got that Honda ergo feel, super comfortable and easy to get on and ride. But the big talking points to keep it out of the top two was the rigid feel and lack of engine. The suspension moves and you can feel it trying to work but something feels tight. Is it chassis, torque spec, engine hangers, I’m not sure, but I feel stiffness that is not suspension clicker related. And the engine was just average to me for 250F. It worked well; did what it was supposed to, but just can’t hold a candle to the Austrian bikes or the Yamaha. What I did love about this bike besides the ergos was the turning. I could turn this bike anywhere and in return I could clear the jumps out of corners because I was confident carrying speed even without all the power. While I think this bike is great for many riders, it may be best for someone under 160lbs, someone with Honda history and riders who ride soft tracks. I don’t think the stiffness would bother someone riding soft, sticky, or sandy tracks because our second day at Perris MX I did enjoy the bike much more and that’s what helped land it in third place.

4) GASGAS MC 250F

This was my first time riding a GASGAS and after the first lapped I pulled into the pits and was like, “whoa, this bike is moving under me a lot.” I felt a lot of twisting and wallowing. We stiffened up the fork with 10.7 bar and a half turn in on HS comp and the bike started to really take shape. I agree that’s not a lot of change, but it made a giant difference. Was it what I loved, no but I can see how some riders like the compliance. At Cahuilla Creek, yes, this bike worked well but I just didn’t jive with it 100% to put it on my podium. I kept wanting it to be stiffer like the KTM, so why don’t I just get a KTM, right? I feel that this bike would be great riding GPs or a harsh track like Glen Helen or end of the day at Washougal when it’s hard, square and big bumps. 

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I’d love to have this in my quiver for specific tracks but that’s not always a reality. The positive of this bike is that you can stiffen things up if you’d like. It’s the least expensive of the Austrian bikes, ergos and ride-feel are like the Austrian bikes if you’re used to that. It’s a great base to start at and a great price if you know you’re going to change out the big parts like wheels, exhaust, ECU and clamps.

5) Husqvarna FC 250

This is an interesting setup for me to ride, it feels like it’s siblings in the ergo department but riding out of the pits felt like a kids bike. I didn’t believe that the 10mm lower suspension design would be a big change, but it was the biggest characteristic that stood out. I came back to the pits after a lap and went up to 10.7 bar on the fork and 102mm sag… Wow, much better with the bike is sitting higher in the stroke and feels more “normal.” I applaud Husky for trying something different and I want these OEM’s to be more radical like the mountain bike side, but in a test scenario back-to-back with six other bikes, this low feel just stands out in a negative way. Maybe the idea is there just not the execution of how the lower numbers are achieved.

The positive about this bike is that the Husky has a mid-flex feel between the KTM and GasGas which I like! It’s not as sharp as KTM and didn’t twist and wallow like the GasGas. I kept thinking about how this bike would feel with the KTM suspension or if I bought it and put my cone valve and trax shock on it. Could it be on my podium or even top step? Another idea in my opinion to take this bike to the top would be a more connected and responsive motor, it was the “softest” in the connection department for me out of the Austrian bikes. This makes it easy to ride and cruise around but not what we needed on the tracks where we tested. After rethinking and looking at my notes, I think this bike in stock form could be a good bike for entry level rider, maybe a female looking to get into riding and the lower bike will help with confidence. The engine is easy to ride, not going to get away from you, not break loose. Was this Husky’s idea when setting up the bike this way? I’m not sure, but they do many influencer ride days and cool one-off events with the demo fleet. The confusing part is that this is the most expensive of the Austrian bikes so that goes against the entry-point bike idea. 

6) Kawasaki KX250

The Kawasaki was exciting for me to ride because it went through many changes since my last ride in 2019. The e-start is very welcomed, and the chassis has a great slim feel to sit on. The first thing I notice when leaving the pits is how connected the throttle to engine is; if you think about twisting the throttle the engine is there and ready for you. From bottom to top, it’s 100 percent connected everywhere. I love that and have a lot of respect for how difficult that is to achieve. Where I didn’t get along with the Kawi that led it to landing fifth was that I needed more time and attention to get comfortable with the suspension. In the two days of limited riding, I just couldn’t get to the point that I wanted to say, “Wow, I like this enough to buy it”. The chassis gives me more rigid feel than I’d like and at Cahuilla the balance felt off one way (front end high), the Perris felt off the other way (front end low). This bike just felt the most different at the two tracks. I did however feel more comfortable on this bike at Perris in the morning on a muddy deep track. The stiffness of the bike shines on the deep track where you are searching for traction and confidence. I truly feel, that with more time, I could get more comfortable on this bike and love it; I think it would just take me more than two, 30-minute rides to dial it in.

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

The funny thing is that I haven’t ridden a Suzuki RM-Z250 since the Vital MX 2019 250 shootout and this bike is unchanged since then. I was ready to jump on it and say, “Oh it’s not as harsh as I remember.” But yes, it is. I can not believe how harsh and rigid this bike is! I’m 180lbs and opened all the clickers and the suspension hardly moved unless you take a big hit or jump face.

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Could this bike work ? Yes! Let’s put the correct springs in there and rip. It won’t be perfect, and the frame will still be stiff, but it would be a lot more rideable. If you can get a screaming deal on this, yes get it, it’s still a motorcycle and you’re still out there riding. It’s not the latest and greatest but it’s a bike that you can make yours. Tons on little tricks and tips to ease the rigidity online and much better than complaining that you are stuck at home on your iPhone!


Chris Siebenhaar 

Age: 36
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 180 lbs
Class: 30+ Intermediate

  1. Yamaha YZ250F
  2. Kawasaki KX250
  3. KTM 250 SX-F
  4. GASGAS MC 250F
  5. Honda CRF250R
  6. Husqvarna FC 250
  7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) Yamaha YZ250F

With a very broad and snappy engine, as well as having an app that allows you to effortlessly tune the engine to nearly any characteristic that you like from mild to wild, the “go-fast” performance alone is enough to get it on the shootout podium. Year after year, this engine package is my hands down favorite, while Kawasaki has gotten really close and I love that engine as well, the tunability of the Yamaha sets it apart. I settled on the “exciting” or aggressive map both days and fell in love with how much power there is everywhere in the RPM range and at all times. While the Yamaha may not have the over-rev pull of the KTM, the fact that it makes so much power from the bottom and into the top end means you don’t need to scream it, you just shift and get into the broad pull of the next gear. 

The chassis is very stable without feeling “heavy” with steering input. It does feel like the bike puts an emphasis on rear grip over pinpoint turning accuracy, but it does that without making the bike feel like it’s wandering in turns or on exit. Every part from turn in, to apex, to exit is very predictable. Year after year, the suspension remains to be one of Yamaha’s highlights, with the slightly stiffer settings this year, it didn’t take much for me to find a setting I was very happy and comfortable with. 

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The Yamaha is one of the last bikes still using a cable clutch, and I hope they never change. Cable clutches tend to provide the perfect feedback and a connection to the engine that hydraulic clutches find difficult to replicate (except for the Kawasaki). Front brake on the Yamaha felt powerful, with plenty of communication to the rider. Through the lever I could always feel what the front end was doing which allow me to dive into corners or land on the brakes without fear of the front wheel locking up and/or washing out. 

One of the main changes Yamaha made this year, (which I think is the big one) is that they opted to up-size the rear wheel, that is, both the rim and tire. In previous years Yamaha ran a 100/90-19 rear tire, for 2022 Yamaha went to a 110/90-19 (like the KTM) as well as added a wider rim for proper fitment and tire profile. In doing this they achieved two very important qualities, the first is the obvious larger footprint. This allows you to be that much more aggressive when opening up that powerhouse of an engine knowing (and feeling) that there is a vast amount of traction at hand. The second trait of the larger tire comes from bump-absorption. With a larger volume tire, comes greater comfort and easier management of track variances. 

2) Kawasaki KX250

The engine is very fun and playful, giving responsiveness whenever needed. In my opinion it is the most “Yamaha-like” powerplant of the bunch with ample torque down low to get you out of corners and strong mid to top to keep you going. It’s this lively feel to the engine that also gives the chassis a lively feel as well, as both complement each other very well. Mapping is spot on, I just wish it was easier to select between them. 

For me the KX 250 chassis is both agile and stable, at the same time. Multiple times on both days I was able to change line selection at will (when not in a rut of course) with no protest from the bike. Sometimes when doing this mid-turn other bikes tend to push the front or over-steer with the rear. The Kawasaki does this as though it were its idea. Together the engine and chassis give the bike a very “racey” feel as if it always wants to charge. 

Suspension on the KX has areas where it shines over some bikes, and where it struggles when compared to the Yamaha. At Cahuilla Creek MX, a fast flowing outdoor style track, it took a little while to find some comfort from the bike. The next day at Perris Raceway, a tighter jumpier style track, it took a quarter of the time from the previous day to find a set-up that I was happy with.

The front brake on the KX250 is probably my favorite of the bunch, it has a solid feel in the pull without being overly sensitive, and yet offers just enough “softness” at initial engagement without feeling spongy. There is a lot of communication that comes through the front brake lever that is always telling me what the front wheel is doing, both in terms of wheel speed and pad-to-rotor pressure. On the other side of the handlebar is the relatively new hydraulic clutch. Typically I am not a fan of hydraulic clutches, except for maybe trail riding, however the clutch on the KX models (both 250 & 450) are extremely cable-like giving the rider a direct feel as to what the engine is doing.

The area lacking most for the KX would be in the “tech” department, specifically in the map selection area. With Yamaha leading the pack with it’s app based tuning and single button selection, the Austrian group running handlebar mounted map and TC switch, and Honda with it’s 3-way handlebar map, it’s becoming archaic for there to be any other way to select an alternative map. 

3) KTM 250 SX-F

A sneaky fast engine (odd to say the about a 250, I know), that while has a nice snap and bark when you crack the throttle, actual power delivery is relatively smooth. The transition to the midrange where the bike rally starts to shine, and the pull is extremely smooth. If it weren’t for objects moving by quicker and quicker, you’d be hard pressed to guess that this horse has started to run. Top-end revs and revs like no other bike in the class. It’s a bike that you need to adapt to a bit and change you riding style and get use to screaming the engine in the upper RPM range, that’s where it’s happiest. 

I love the steel frames of the Austrian bikes; they give the bikes a feel of compliance and comfort when riding through rough sections of track or trail. The flex that is in steel allows the bike to flow with the terrain a noticeable amount better than many aluminum framed bikes, reducing the bikes “response” from odd ruts or grooves and giving a smoother feel back to the rider. This also allows the bike to maintain traction where others may kick around. For the fast-flowing Cahuilla Creek MX, I kept the geometry stock and ran 104mm sag, for the tighter Perris Raceway, we raised the forks in the clamps 2.5mm in order to get a little more weight on the front to help initiate turn-in as well as stay in ruts on exit. This made no noticeable change in grip or traction from the rear. 

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While air-forks got a bad name from years of manufacturers struggling to find a decent system and/or setup, KTM stuck to their guns, refining, and developing what is without a doubt the best production air-fork ever made. Both ends of the KTM have lots of control from the suspension action in terms of stroke speed and unit position. While I adjusted in each direction on all the clickers from stock, I settled on only minor clicks as my best setting. 

From the cockpit, the bike has a wonderful feeling rider triangle, something that my body fits on effortlessly and allows for instant comfort. The rounded edges of the seat greatly aid in this comfortable feeling as I don’t get the typical hotspots that occasionally happen on some other bikes with more traditional “squared-off” seat shapes. The Brembo brakes are extremely powerful and able to stop the bike at will, however, I do wish they had a bit more feel through the lever. Specifically, at the point when the pad touches the rotor; the feeling of actuation at this point is a bit muted when compared to say the KX or Yamaha, because of this, I must always be a little more mindful when landing on the brakes. Likewise, the clutch has a very on-off feeling as well. When riding so many bikes back-to-back, little things like this tend to be exaggerated a bit more. The clutches on the Austrian bikes have a rather vague feeling that leads to either over or under pulling the lever at rather crucial times on corner exits. This is not a permanent feeling though, having had a KTM for a long-term bike before, it is a feeling that you can get use to. It just rears its head when riding so many bikes. 

KTM uses a 110/90-19 rear that gives a nice hefty feel of traction from the rear, as well as even more bump compliance that even further compliments the steel frame. The map and traction control handlebar switch is very well designed, both in terms of function and aesthetics. The fact that you can use the switch while riding at speed is also another bonus as I typically play around with the settings while jumping. 

4) GASGAS MC 250F

Surprisingly, I thought this engine had a peppier and freer feeling than the Husqvarna, despite having a more closed off airbox and no map selections. I also felt as though this engine was a bit broader when compared to the KTM but lacked in the over-rev that the KTM has. Plenty of power and an extremely fun powerplant, it’s understandable why it ranked so high with many testers. 

Like the KTM, the steel frame is very comfortable and forgiving. However, with the GASGAS being made with more budget friendly processes, even more comfort of forgiveness has been filtered into the bike. This however comes at a cost as, obviously in reduced financial cost, but also in reduced precision. If the KTM were a scalpel, the GASGAS would be a steak knife. It’ll get the job done, just maybe not as nice as you had hoped. 

The air fork is of course standard with the group and shares the same units. Finding a comfortable setting was very easy both days, whether this is attributed to the great settings the test riders developed, or due to the forgiving nature of the bike, every test rider, myself included, was surprised at how little needed to be adjusted to get a great feel from the bike. 

Please, read this through. When riding the GASGAS, there is a “budget” feel to it. That sounds bad, I know, but I don’t exactly mean it to sound that way, because that's part of its charm. When coming off the KTM, which feels tight and has a very precise feel to riding it, those sensations are skewed a bit when riding the GASGAS. Due to the flex from the front end (wheels, clamps, bars, etc) and the overall chassis throughout, there is a loss of precision that I feel when out on track. But again, like I said, that’s part of the charm. Because of this lack of precision, it allowed me to be off a little bit on either corner entry or mid-corner, but there was enough forgiveness to where my mistake wasn’t as drastic as it would have been on other bikes. The “lack of precision” simply gives you a wider operating window and margin of error in your riding. See, not so bad.

5) Honda CRF250R

The redesigned engine for 2022 was a very nice and playful powerplant and, in my opinion, a definite upgrade from the previous gen. Last year, the bike overall was very good, but the engine had to be ridden perfectly to get the most out of the package. One mistake, however, would drop the RPM’s and the bike would struggle picking it back up. Lap wasted. This year Honda gave the bike significantly more torque and low-end and transitioned that brilliantly into a healthy mid-range. Although, beyond that, the top-end is good at best. With the added low-end I was able to pull a gear taller in a few turns with little to no clutch input on exit, something that would have send last years bike falling on it’s face, even other bikes in the shootout. 

I really like the feel of the new chassis both, sitting on it and out on track. There is a nice balance to it and agility has been much improved since last year. I feel there is more emphasis on the front wheel, but not so much that it causes the bike to oversteer, but enough to where with more time, I would probably transition some weight to the rear for my riding style. 

Suspension was another highlight of the CRF250 finding both ample comfort and hold up. Occasionally there was some harshness from up front in breaking bumps, but we got it rideable by slowing down compression slightly and opening up the rebound. 

Rider triangle on the Honda has always been a favorite of mine, this gen is no different. Brakes were powerful enough to slow me down, but not my favorite. There is a faint softness and vagueness at initial actuation when the pad touches the rotor, nothing like the Austrian group though, and then goes to a vague firmness that I found somewhat difficult to read at times. The seat, while comfortable to sit on while riding, felt extremely soft when leaned over leading to constantly feeling the frame rails, this was even more unpleasant on rough corner exits, as I’m sure you can imagine why. 

The area this bike struggled and lost a 3rd or 4th place spot was it’s mapping. On both days I fell between Map 1 (standard) and Map 3 (aggressive) and wasn’t 100% happy with either. Map 1 had a soft initial hit but a clean pull up top, the downside though was it became difficult to get a strong drive out of a few corners. Map 3 was snappy and punchy off the bottom, but felt very lean up top with the bike gargling and struggling to pull cleanly through. This was even less favorable as this would happen on the last few feet of a jump face. My ideal map would be a marriage of the two, Map 3 down low, Map 1 up top. 

6) Husqvarna FC250

Just like the GASGAS feels different from the KTM, this one feels even different still. To be honest, I would have imagined the GASGAS and this would have this engine characteristic and vice-versa. The engine is the slowest revving of the Austrian bunch, and also the softest hitting, not sure how that is, but it’s what I feel. It’s not slow by any means, just a bit less exciting, regardless of the map selection. 

I love the steel frames of the Austrian bikes; they give the bikes a feel of compliance and comfort when riding through rough sections of track or trail. The flex that is in steel allows the bike to flow with the terrain a noticeable amount better than many aluminum framed bikes, reducing the bikes “response” from odd ruts or grooves and giving a smoother feel back to the rider. This also allows the bike to maintain traction where others may kick around.

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This is where the bike loses me. I wasn’t a fan of the lowered suspension last year, and while it does feel a little better this year, I do not like the feeling when jumping or in rollers. It has a feeling of the suspension getting stuck in the stroke on not fully extending, and while I know that’s not the case, it’s a feel that I noticed every time I hopped on the bike. The rear suspension of the Husky also had a very dead feeling when jumping. To combat this we went from the recommended 105mm of sag to 100mm. This took a little weight off the rear, but also stored a bit more energy in the spring giving more of a “pop” feeling when leaving the ground and keeping the bike level. 

While this bike tends to frequently finish towards the back in most shootouts, it by no means is a bad bike. It has some great attributes about it and is still a very competent machine. I would have no hesitation about it being my bike. However, the first thing I would do would be get the suspension set-up for me and get all the travel back. 

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

To be fair, the engine on the RMZ is not that bad, while not as broad as some of the others in the class or as over-rev happy as the KTM, it does pull nice and clean off the bottom to a decent midrange, top end is a bit lack-luster though. 

The chassis is both a highlight and hindrance for the RM-Z. On one hand it gives it a very stable and nimble feel in turns, however due to my riding style (more off the rear) I tend to struggle with turning the Suzuki, typically oversteering it by expecting there to be more rear grip than there actually is. 

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Here lies the turd in the punch bowl. The suspension is a very difficult thing to figure out in stock form. While Suzuki was not on hand to help us in the test, I know enough about suspension tuning to turn my own dials. Regardless of the direction I went, I was unable to find complete happiness. 

Another department for me that feels slightly off is the controls. They have a cheap feel to me that I don’t particularly enjoy, although that feeling is quickly forgotten on track, it is noticed when hopping from the KTM to the RMZ. Seat feels rigid and grip durometer is equally stiff further adding to the harshness felt from the chassis and suspension. 

While the Suzuki finishes last in every shootout everywhere, there are some great highlights about the bike that shouldn’t be overlooked. First the engine is playful enough that many riders can still enjoy it. The bike turns extremely well and can help a rider who struggles in corners. The RM-Z is the lowest price bike in the group, making it the easiest bike to enter into our sport with. Finally because it’s unchanged, there are tons of parts for these and you can most likely find some really good used trick bits online.  


Derrick Caskey

Age: 50
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 190 lbs
Class: 50+ Intermediate

1. Yamaha YZ250F
2. Honda CRF250R
3. KTM 250 SX-F
4. GASGAS MC 250F
5. Kawasaki KX250
6. Husqvarna FC 250
7. Suzuki RM-Z250

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1) Yamaha YZ250F

The Yamaha has the strongest motor throughout the entire power band from bottom to top. The Yamaha is very easy to change the power maps via an app on a phone, and was able to try several different maps that would work well at a variety of tracks. The stock map was good, but I preferred the more aggressive ones and with the mode button you can switch between two on the track. This coupled with the KYB suspension and forgiving chassis gave it the most track toughness of all the 250s. The suspension works very well under most of the track conditions. 

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After setting the sag at 105, I just needed to add a couple clicks stiffer on the compression on the forks. And that was all it needed for me to feel very comfortable. The only other change we made was to move the bar mounts to the rear position with the offset forward so the bars weren’t all the way back. The bike comes with the mounts in the forward hole position and even with my taller statue, it made me feel like I was too far over the front. Once moved back made the bike much more comfortable for me. The Yamaha corners very well and is much improved over the last Yamaha 250 I rode several years back. The clutch and brakes worked great. If I owned one my first focus would be to try to lower the pegs or raise the seat height as the cockpit is a little cramped for my height.

2) Honda CRF250R

The new Honda is a very close second for me and was actually my first pick at Perris. The motor has a super strong bottom end but doesn’t have the top end an over rev like the Yamaha. This is where the Yamaha shined over the Honda at tracks like Cahuilla, because of the soft loam and elevation, where you needed to stretch the gears out. At tracks like Perris, the bottom-end makes the bike pull hard out of corners and with very little to no clutching I felt I could easily get over the jumps. The Honda chassis and ergonomics suit my riding style the best. I felt The Honda has the most comfortable cockpit and had the lightest and nimblest feel of all the 250s. The new chassis is definitely an improvement over the previous model. It was more forgiving and the suspension worked very well for me both front and rear. I actually think it works better than the 450 with the same chassis and suspension. I went in two clicks on the forks and left the sag at 105. The Honda is one of the most fun bikes to ride as you feel like you can put it anywhere on the track, it corners amazing, and feels very light and nimble. The clutch worked well and the brakes are good, the fit and finish is typical Honda, “top notch.”

3) KTM 250 SX-F

The KTM is, in my opinion, one of the best bikes off the showroom floor. It has a strong motor, great suspension and handling, awesome brakes, and a hydraulic clutch. The KTM isn’t the strong right off the bottom, as the Yamaha or Honda, but the mid, top and over-rev definitely make it fun to ride. I tried both maps at the push of a button, but preferred the more aggressive map two for the loamy conditions. The suspension both front and rear worked well, I am a big fan of air forks and the WP are among the best stock forks I have tried. I still like the fact that they retained the ability to make on track adjustments to the compression and rebound without a screwdriver. We ran the air pressure at 10.7 bar and went two to three clicks in on compression. This did a great job of not bottoming but still soaking up the smaller bumps without a harsh feel. The brakes both front and rear are awesome , and made it easy to stay on the gas longer and still be able to slow down enough to make the inside line.

On a 250F the hydraulic clutch is a blessing, because as a heavier rider I had to abuse all the clutches, and the hydraulic system kept the same lever feel the entire time.

4) GASGAS MC 250F

I was very excited to try out the GASGAS this year, and wasn’t disappointed. Like the KTM, it is a great bike, and only missed third because it didn’t have quite the same power as the KTM, but again like the 450 GASGAS had a little better front end feel. The motor mapping is very crisp, but it is a little too linear, which could have used more bottom end. If it had a more aggressive map option, it would have helped. The suspension worked very well at both tracks we tested at. On the forks I ran 10.7 bar, 0.2 up from stock and ran the compression three clicks firmer. The rear sag was set to 105 and left the clickers stock. I really like the tool less adjustability of the forks which makes it easy to pull to the side of the track to make adjustments. The bike cornered very well, and absorbed choppy sections without any complaints. The rider cockpit was comfortable, the brakes like all the European bikes were amazing, and the hydraulic clutch was definitely a positive.

5) Kawasaki KX250

The Kawasaki was a lot of fun to ride, and don’t let my fourth place pick dissuade you from considering that this might be the best bike for you. The motor was strong, with the stock map it has a lot of bottom end hit but doesn’t have a lot of top end or over rev. With the aggressive coupler it takes a little from the bottom and gives you more top end and over-rev. Since both maps are good it would be ideal if you could change with a push of a button rather than having to change couplers. The suspension worked really well front and rear. I added two clicks to the compression on the forks, to help with the hold up. On the rear shock we set the sag at 105 and backed out the high-speed compression a quarter turn to help settle into corners and less kick. The chassis allows flex for aiding in choppy sections. The ergonomics are very comfortable, the body is slim which helps give it a light and nimble feel. I really like the adjustable footpeg height and the handlebar positioning as it can be tailored to both a taller or smaller rider. The hydraulic clutch action was good and the brakes had no problem slowing me down.

6) Husqvarna FC 250

The Husqvarna, even though rated sixth in my opinion, is still a great motorcycle that anyone could be stoked to own. It has a very linear powerband that starts off a little too soft (especially map one), but builds to a good top-end and over-rev. In map two the bottom is a little better, but doesn’t pull as far up top. The Husky feels like it takes longer to get through the power band. The motor is definitely strong, it just needs to rev a little quicker and pull a little further. The suspension on the Husky wasn’t as good for me as the similar components on the other two European bikes, and I think it is partially due to being 10mm lower. This could be just because I am on the taller side, but the lower center of gravity seemed to work best when setting up for a turn, or in long sweeping turns where I lean the bike and carry momentum all the way around. 

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The suspension, with the limited time to mess with, just was not as comfortable in the corner or on the braking bumps or acceleration bumps as its siblings. I do like the WP air fork and its adjustability, and think you might be able to find the right feel for you. The hydraulic clutch works very well, keeping a constant lever feel at all times, and the brakes are awesome. The Husky has all the bells and whistles and if you are a fan of a lower center of gravity bike this could be perfect for you.

7) Suzuki RM-Z250

The Suzuki is unchanged this year, so it didn’t climb higher in my ranking. The Suzuki is not a bad bike, it just is a little behind the other manufacturers out of the box performance. It is a little slower, a little heavier feeling, suspension is tougher to find a sweet spot (stock), and no electric start. The Suzuki felt the most underpowered again this year, but I was still able to, get over all the obstacles on it, even with my weight. The cornering is still one of the best in the class. You can easily make tight inside lines or rail the outside and it does both easily. The ergonomics fit my style well, and had no complaints with the clutch (which I did abuse) or the brakes. I feel if you spent a little on the motor to get more horsepower and had the suspension revalved this would be a lot more competitive


Conclusion

Yamaha does it again, although the win looks dominate on paper it was a tough fought battle per se. Everyone is getting closer and closer. The GASGAS again enters its first Shootout (250 this time) and comes out above it's Austrian brethren and it really surprised most of the test riders with its fun nature. The KTM is the more serious option between the two and just finished a tick behind it. It's ready for battle but not quite as ready for the fun days and playful times as the GASGAS. The Honda came oh so close to getting back onto the podium, it's new character is probably better for the masses but needs to still need to be a little more rounded or polished to pull it off. Team Green was fifth but is tough to place it there. It has great character, and ranked well with some riders but some setup issues kept it back with others. The Husqvarna is still a head scratcher as the lowered suspension has its positives but drew too many negatives and setup quandaries to finish any higher. Suzuki brings up the rear with another rough finish, not much to say other than proper suspension would help so much on this machine.

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Hopefully we've given you the insight and feedback you're looking for one the 2022 250s. If you're looking at purchasing one of these bikes for yourself, we hope you now have the tools to make the right call and get the machine to fit your needs. We'll be back next year give you all of our test rider's thoughts and opinions on the 2023 250 motocross models. Now do you have any thoughts or a suggestion on the format? Or maybe a question about the actual results of this test? Drop us a note in the comment section below or you can get in on our discussion in the forum for a special QNA dedicated to the Shootout and its results. (Forum QNA - 2022 Vital MX 250 Shootout)

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