I've spent a ton of time lately aboard KTM's new 250 SX-F Factory Edition. There is no other way to say it - it's awesome. Here are some of the details that struck me about this bike.
Throw one leg over the new Factory Edition bike and you will instantly notice major ergonomic revisions. The handlebar is low, the seat is flat, and the gas tank is tiny. The juncture of the seat and tank is seamless and therefore very easy to get your weight forward in a corner. The new layout feels a little odd putting through the pits – but completely natural once you lean it into the first corner.
The new frame has had a significant impact on the handling feel of the bike. Previous generation KTMs, particularly when the sag setting is a hair off, sometimes feel like they are on the edge between railing a corner and knifing the front wheel. The front wheel on the new bike is more predictable and forgiving, giving the rider confidence to lean a little farther. On flat hardpack turns it is even possible to skate the front wheel a bit without completely loosing control.
The 4CS fork has minor changes from last year. It is an incremental improvement, but remains mediocre overall. It has a soft feel, but nevertheless can become quite sharp as the track gets worn in. There is no hydraulic bottoming control system in this year’s fork, so WP relies on a high oil height to control the big hits. That gives the fork a springy feel and harsh response in a situation where the fork is already compressed and then hits a bump. Bottoming resistance is acceptable, but will clank hard if you come up short on a longer table top.
The shock is all new with a longer stroke, revised linkage, extra chubby nitrogen reservoir, and much lighter spring rates. The 2015.5 250FE, for example, comes with a 45 N/mm spring whereas the standard 2015 250 SX-F came with a 54 N/mm spring. The shock’s main piston has also been redesigned with six small oval compression ports instead of three giant ports. As delivered, the shock falls through the initial travel easily, but somehow does not bottom hard on big jumps. The new linkage may include an aggressive rate increase deep in the stroke. The shock performs superbly in whoops, but struggles in acceleration chop despite its soft initial feel.
As delivered, the 250F engine did not live up to my expectations. The dyno horsepower numbers published in the magazines are extremely high – yet I was shifting and slipping the clutch constantly to keep the bike up to speed. Later I discovered a steel screen in the silencer tip, presumably installed for noise reduction, and removed it. The bike came to life with a massive boost in power across the range. It seems reasonable to assume KTM removed the offending screen prior to delivering test bikes to the magazine editors.
I may be nitpicking here, but the new right side cover is downright dangerous when used with my Sidi Charger boots. The ankle support strap catches on the plastic panel constantly. I resorted to using zip ties and duct tape to hold the ankle support piece flush with the rest of the boot. Eventually I tried a pair of Gaerne boots and did not experience the problem.
I have really enjoyed this bike. It makes me feel like a better rider – and that’s a feeling any dirt biker would love. The new chassis and ergonomic configuration are a big win, at least for motocross and supercross. It is only getting better as we bring the suspension up to our standards.
What do you think?
Have you ridden one of the new Factory Edition bikes? Let me know what you thought about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.