2020 KTM 250 SX-F
*We know that the typical numberplate background for a 250 is black with white numbers, but some wires got crossed and we are going with a 250F-racing-in-the-450 class look.
As we mentioned in the First Look, since last year’s KTM 250 SX-F (and all of the SX-F line for that matter) got a pretty big overhaul, it isn’t surprising that 2020 is a refinement year for KTM. The ‘19 model got a host of changes and to see what we thought of that bike, check out the First Impression here.
For 2020, the KTM 250 SX-F’s fork and shock got all new settings and new internals. In the front, the same new piston that we saw in the 2020 KTM 450 SX-F is the the 250 SX-Fs fork as well. Again, it is to better help with ‘break-away’ from the shim stack, which should give a smoother fork feel. The shock has new settings as well, aimed at a little more comfort. The only change in the motor department is actually just a new vented airbox cover that comes with the bike when you buy it. That’s it. KTM didn’t even change the 250 SX-F’s mapping at all.
On The Track: Power
Our introduction to the bike took place at Glen Helen Raceway which is known for its big hills, deep/soft sections, and, especially toward the end of the day, it’s roughness. Now, since the only change in the power department is a vented side panel, we didn’t expect much difference. But then we rode the bike and understood why KTM did this and why pretty much every race team also do this to their bikes. Surprisingly, there was a noticeable difference. Both map 1 and map 2 felt more lively, with a little bit more torque feeling across the board. More so in map 2 (which is the top-end focused map), I felt like the 250 SX-F revved a little faster and even further than the 2019 bike. And, if you have a 2019, start drilling holes if you haven't already.
The overall motor character is the same as it has been for the KTM 250 SX-F for a while. It has a smooth, not-so-torquey bottom end, that comes to life in the mid and continues to pull all the way to the rev limiter. This bike truly rewards an aggressive rider who likes to keep the throttle wide open and stays in the mid- to top-end. We did find that in some of the loose, off-camber sections of the track, the high-revving motor would break traction easily, but that is more just something to adjust to.
We did have some issues shifting the bike, but after talking with KTM, they said the 250 SX-F models on hand had minimal break in time and that the shifting would get better around the five-hour mark. While we don’t doubt this, we really had to pull in the clutch to get the bike into the next gear.
On The Track: Suspension and Chassis
In 2019, the SX-F model range got new frames that where stiffer - more so torsionally (twisting) that laterally or vertically. While a lot of riders applauded this move, I (Klinger) wasn’t a huge fan. I personally really liked the previous frame that had a good amount of forgiveness that made me feel comfortable right away. The current-gen frame has a more precise feel but, with the ‘19 suspension settings, I had a hard time getting comfortable.
For 2020, the 250 SX-F’s suspension settings where changed “to get a little more comfort” out of the bike, according to KTM. They said that last year, a lot of riders were quick to blame the new chassis for any turning issues they had (me included). Yet KTM said today that, with the new frame and more comfort-based settings, things should be more balanced and the SX-F should handle better. And it did.
First off, Steve Boniface, our pro-level tester, really didn’t change anything with the suspension. He said that, in stock form, he was comfortable right away. I, on the other hand, wanted a little more hold up from the shock. We went half a turn stiffer on HS and two clicks stiffer on LS. I still felt like the 250 SX-F was a little nose-high, so we checked the fork air pressure and it had crept up from the 10.3 bar stock setting to 10.5 bar. Once that was set back to 10.3, the bike was balanced and I did feel more confident in the front wheel.
More so than the fork changes, I really noticed the new setting on the shock. In the past the WP shock had a very solid, firm feel that was planted, but a little dead feeling. On the 2020 bike, the shock feels a lot more active, but progressive. I felt it moving more, but not in a bad way, and it still did not deflect on sharp edges or abrupt braking bumps.
With the new settings, we are more comfortable with the KTM’s handling. The cool thing about the chassis, with it’s sit-on-top, rather than sit-in feel, and the new frame is that it is a very neutral steering machine. While the Suzuki and Honda seem to reward front-end steerers and the KX can be turned with the throttle more, the KTM can do both. The 250 SX-F doesn’t turn for you, but you can get a lot of front wheel grip with your weight forward, or you can lean back and pivot with the rear. It can make a very wide range of riders happy and allow you to turn however you prefer.
It is cheesy to say that the KTM lives up to its motto, ‘Ready To Race,’ but it is hard to dispute. And this also goes the other way, meaning, if you aren’t a aggressive, race-focused rider, you might not dig the KTM’s top-end focused power. There are other 250Fs that have a more bottom-focused motor for the luggers and short-shifters. But if you willing to hang it out and keep it pinned the 250 SX-F will make you one happy camper.