1st Place Of The 2019 250F MX Shootout: KTM 250 SX-F
The KTM 250 SX-F finished on the podium the past two years in Dirt Rider’s 250F MX Shootout. We praised the bike for its powerful engine, quick but stable handling, high-quality components, and low weight. What held it back from taking the top step of the podium was its suspension performance and ergonomics. For 2019, KTM improved these areas and, as a result, the 250 SX-F ascended to the top step of the podium just ahead of its close relative, the Husqvarna FC 250.
Before the shootout, we mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran the 250 SX-F on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer, where it produced 39.23 hp at 13,210 rpm and 19.05 pound-feet of torque at 8,900 rpm. The KTM ranks second in the horsepower department and third in torque—essentially identical to the Husqvarna FC 250 with a difference of only 0.04 hp and 0.22 pound-feet of torque. We then mounted a fresh set of Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires to ensure consistency in traction among the six competitors through the duration of the test.
Our seat-of-the-pants dyno has the KTM as the most powerful engine in the class. It has decent bottom-end, the power comes on strong in the midrange, and it keeps building power in the top-end and over-rev. The 250 SX-F’s power is like the Husqvarna’s but more aggressive as it revs quicker through the rpm range than the FC 250. Because of the KTM’s incredible top-end and over-rev, you rarely need to shift it as it pulls each gear for a long time. It doesn’t have as much bottom-end as the Yamaha YZ250F, but if you get too low in the rpm, a quick stab of the excellent Brembo hydraulic clutch brings the engine right back into the meat of the powerband with very little recovery time. The powerplant is also pleasantly quiet with a minimal amount of engine-braking. The new Pankl transmission makes the KTM and Husqvarna the smoothest-shifting bikes in the class.
The 250 SX-F has two maps that can be changed via the switch on the left side of the handlebar. It also has traction control, which can be used in either map. Map 1 (standard) has moderate low-end, a strong midrange, and incredible top-end and over-rev. Map 2 (aggressive) offers a stronger bottom-end, which most test riders preferred. Traction control mellows out the power delivery, but we didn’t use it very much as map 1 is smooth enough when traction conditions are minimal.
The WP AER 48 fork offers plenty of adjustability with air pressure, compression, and rebound. KTM has a great setup with the stock settings. The fork maintains a plush feel throughout the the stroke and is more progressive than before. It has a supple feel on braking bumps and maintains good bottoming resistance on bigger impacts. It doesn’t offer as much plushness or comfort as the KYB Speed Sensitive System (SSS) fork on the Yamaha YZ250F, but it’s very good and continues to improve every year. The WP shock is well matched to the fork. It’s plush in the initial part of the stroke, tracks well over braking bumps and acceleration chop, and has good hold-up on hard hits.
The 250 SX-F weighed in at 231 pounds on our automotive scales, which makes it the lightest bike in the class. The KTM handles exceptionally well. It’s nimble, stable, and it corners well. The 2019 frame is stiffer than prior year models and doesn’t offer as much flex. This is an improvement as it enables the bike to handle more precisely. The KTM has a neutral stance and works well with 105mm of shock sag. The ergonomics are better than ever, with narrower radiator shrouds and a comfortable seat that’s easy to move around on. The Neken handlebar has an agreeable bend and is a bit stiffer feeling than the ProTaper bar on the FC 250. Like the Husqvarna, the KTM has the strongest brakes in the class with Brembo components in the front and rear. The two also share excellent ODI lock-on grips.
Why It Won
It has the fastest engine, very good suspension, a neutral-handling chassis, the strongest brakes, a hydraulic clutch, and is the lightest bike in the class. It’s also pleasantly quiet.
Why It Shouldn’t Have Won
It doesn’t have as much low-end power or as much suspension comfort as the Yamaha YZ250F.