2016 KTM 250SX-F
Curious how KTM's 2016 250 SX-F has faired during our testing? Then look no further, we have five different test riders to give you their thoughts on KTM's newest 250F. Following in the footsteps of the 2015 Factory Edition, the bike has an all new frame, swingarm, engine, and bodywork when compared to the standard 2015 model. All these upgrades equal out to a much lower overall weight and plenty of new found power. The issue? The 2016 250 SX-F still holds onto WP's 4CS forks, which haven't garnished the greatest of reviews over the past few seasons. Were the other changes enough to overcome this holdout? Check out the opinions from our 2016 250F Shootout to find out.
Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road
The KTM was really brought down for one main reason, the forks, as I really struggled to get them to feel as I wanted. They were the harshest in the class and were really noticeable when leaning into a corner while still hitting some braking chop. This harshness and rigidity hurt the front end tracking, which pushed me past the berm or rut I was aiming for a few times. I'm not sure it was all the fork, or perhaps the frame, or even up around the triple clamps, as it just felt little too rigid and didn't flex the way I'd like.
I was also surprised at how touchy the front brake was, as I really had to be conscious about how much pressure I used at the lever to keep from locking up the front brake. Aside from those two complaints, the bike is still very good. The motor is very strong, sharing the characteristics of its Husqvarna sister, and the shock/rear end of the bike worked well for me. I also want to make a quick note of the same issue and solution with the shift pedal as the Husqvarna, switching to the updated shifter making the shifting a bit easier and more comfortable. I'm sure, putting in more effort, I could get the front end to work the way I would like, which would totally change my opinion of the bike. But in this type of scenario, with limited testing time and no aftermarket modifications, I have to put the KTM in sixth place on my list of the 2016 250Fs.
Name: Shelby Paget / Age: 29
Height: 6'0" / Weight: 150 lbs.
I actually had to think on it for a few days, before finally deciding that the KTM would be my runner-up in this shootout. In my opinion, the KTM and the Yamaha were both in another league of their own in stock trim when compared to the other bikes in the lineup. There were a few things that I actually liked on the KTM much more than the Yamaha. First, the KTM is slim, light, and extremely nimble. From the killer brakes, to the improved chassis and suspension over the 2015, the KTM is top-notch package for anyone looking to head straight to the track from the dealership. The e-start should definitely be adopted by all the brands and this is one of my favorite features of the KTM and Husky. Lastly, I feel like KTM designed the chassis this year to provide more traction to the ground than any other brand for 2016. Whenever I was on the gas, it translated to instant and predictable forward motion on the KTM. This was personally my favorite attribute about the KTM.
On the downside, the front end on the KTM was a bit more dodgy compared to the YZF for me. It felt pretty consistent on the small braking bumps but had a slight blow-through feel when hitting braking bumps at high speeds or under heavy braking. If the KTM had a more refined fork and the low-end power delivery feel of the YZF, it would have been a clear winner for me.
KTM has come leaps and bounds over the last few years and it shows in their final product for 2016. The bike has great power, loads of traction, and fairly good suspension. With a few minor refinements to their WP 4CS fork this bike will be gunning for the top spot without a doubt!
Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert
First off, the electric start is worth its weight in gold, and now onto the rest of the bike. Honestly, the KTM is a very good bike and well-balanced; the motor was very solid, not as strong off the bottom as the Yamaha, but pulled strong from the mid-to-top. This made the KTM the bike that was the most fun to ride aggressively. It also had a very light feel and cornered very well, with fantastic front end traction. The suspension both front and rear was soft for my weight (as all bikes in the class are), and since they are spring forks, I would need heavier springs. I immediately went in two clicks stiffer on the compression in the forks, and then followed up with two more clicks after my first few laps. This was better, but when I would adjust them stiffer than that, the 4CS forks seemed to get harsher and had much less comfort.
The KTM is nice (like the Husqvarna) because you can make on track adjustments to the compression and rebound without a screwdriver. I switched back and forth with ignition maps as well, but overall, I preferred the aggressive one. Both the front and rear brakes were very good, and allowed plenty of time to take inside lines and more confidence to push deep into the corners. For me, a hydraulic clutch on a 250F was a blessing, because as a heavier rider I had to abuse all the clutches. With this, the hydraulic system kept the same lever feel the entire time. The one complaint I had with the KTM (and Husqvarna) was definitely the shift lever. It seems to be very far from the footpegs (which is amazing, since I wear a size 13 boot) and would have trouble missing shifts.
Name: Michael Lindsay / Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 150 lbs.
The KTM narrowly falls behind its white brethren on my list because of a couple small aspects. While it nearly mirrors my comments in the engine department, I felt as if the KTM has a little better roll-on power, which could be due to the airbox. I also didn't like the Brembo hydraulic clutch as much as the Husky's Magura unit. The Brembo clutch is a bit better than years past, but still feels a bit too "on-off" for me and doesn't have as much modulation as the Husqvarna unit. While I was still impressed with the overall nimbleness and balance of the chassis, I did notice I wasn't as comfortable in higher-speed sections on the KTM. Notably on a few downhill sections, where I felt like the KTM squirmed a bit underneath me when entering the larger braking bumps at the bottom of the hills. In these situations, I felt that the Husqvarna was more planted and tracked straighter.
I do have to say, WP's shocks have really come a long ways and it shows on these newest models. I guess you can say their extended GP experience comes into play on hardpacked acceleration chop, as the WP shocks really seemed to have their rebound settings dialed. The KTM has just the right amount of recovery, allowing the rear end to settle between the chop and keep the power to the ground. However, I felt like the shock was a tad bit soft overall when I started to push the bike a bit harder. The 4CS forks on the other hand, still haven't won me over. While they have improved, they still have the same fault. Not enough hold up under braking and with abrupt obstacles, and if you try to stiffen them to handle these situations they end up becoming a bit harsh. Sadly, this can give up the excellent front end traction this new chassis provides.
Overall, just a couple small things changed my overall comfort with the KTM and gave the Husqvarna the nod in my final standings. On the plus side for the KTM though is the Dunlop MX32 tires, which I much prefer over the MX52 as an all-around tire. Also, can we just get electric start on all these bikes? These things are starting to spoil me.
Name: Ryan Washburn / Age: 17
Height: 5' 7" / Weight: 135 lbs.
The KTM was honestly an easy choice for me to pick as my winner, as we literally just set the sag and I rode it without feeling the need for any further changes. The 250 SX-F was extremely responsive and nimble entering corners, while the excellent brakes allowed to me to really push with confidence in each section. While the power right off the bottom wasn't the best in the class, it had the most outstanding mid-range through top-end pull. Even though it wasn't the strongest off the bottom, the rear settled just right in the corners and really put what power it had to the ground. Personally, I'd never swung a leg over a KTM 250 SX-F, but I'd really like this to be my next bike.
As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 250 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 250 Shootout.