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2012 250 Motocross Shootout

Monday, December 12, 2011

One of the most hotly contended classes year in and year out is the 250 4-stroke motocrossers. Every year it seems to get tougher and tougher to pick a winner. But we must; so we ride lap after lap, take copious notes, weigh, measure and crunch the numbers to see which manufacturer reigns supreme in this ultra-competitive class of small bore racers. At the end of it all, we are always intrigued, sometimes surprised, by the results, and this year is no different.
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2012 Honda CRF250R - Motocross Shootout Video
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The 2012 Honda CRF250R got a new rear suspension linkage and reworked cylinder head. Watch the 2012 Honda CRF250R Comparison Video to see what we thought of the changes.

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2012 Kawasaki KX250F - Motocross Shootout Video
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Kawasaki went after more horsepower with a dual injector EFI system for 2012. Did it work? Watch the 2012 Kawasaki KX250F Comparison Video to find out.

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2012 KTM 250 SX-F - Motocross Shootout Video
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KTM gave the 250 SX-F electric start, new EMS mapping and suspension revisions for 2012. Watch the 2012 KTM SX-F Comparison Video to see how the changes worked.

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2012 Suzuki RM-Z250 - Motocross Shootout Video
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The 2012 Suzuki RM-Z250 is basically the same machine as the 2011 model. Watch the 2012 Suzuki RM-Z250 Comparison Video to see how the unchanged machine ranked in our shootout.

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2012 Yamaha YZ250F - Motocross Shootout Video
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Yamaha gave the 2012 YZ250F a serious going over for 2012, but still kept a carburetor to fuel the fire Watch the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F Comparison Video to find out how the non-EFI machine fared.

For our 2012 250 Motocross Shootout, we have the usual suspects loaded in the gate and ready to go. As the undisputed champion of our shootout for a half of decade, the Honda CRF250R has a head of steam coming into this year’s showdown. Engine refinements such as a reworked cylinder head, updated camshaft and smaller throttle body are aimed at broadening the power output from the CR. Throw in a new rear suspension linkage and chain roller for a more responsive rear end and you’ve got a serious threat for a six-time winner.

The last time the Kawasaki KX250F was on top of the box was in our 2006 250F MX Shootout. For 2012 Team Green reworked the KX, also in search of more power and broader powerband. A two-injector set-up now fuels the lime green machine, while an upgraded crankshaft and revised transmission internals feed the power to the rear wheel. We left the press introduction very impressed with Kawasaki’s efforts and expecting a strong showing in this year’s shootout.

Last year the KTM 250SX-F was a thoroughly redesigned machine, but it still received a fourth place rating from our 2011 shootout testing crew. For 2012, the KTM SX-F gets electrified with push-button starting which is the biggest news for the bike this year. Along with the magic button, the quarter-liter Katoom gets revised shock and fork valving and new EMS mapping to increase performance on hot days. With not much new for the orange bike, we wondered if it would be enough to elevate its position in the rankings for 2012.

Suzuki’s RM-Z250 was the bridesmaid in our 2011 250 Motocross Shootout, missing the top rung by just one point. The powers that be at Suzuki decided to leave well enough alone and sent the 2012 model into the fray unchanged for this year save bold new graphics and a red stripe on the seat. With just about every other model getting at least some sort of performance enhancing update, would the RM-Z’s razor sharp handling and massive power be just as impressive this year?

Yamaha took a year off in 2011 when it came to the YZ250F’s development, and in the end it showed with a last place shootout finish. Fast forward to 2012 and the YZ250F has received so many changes, updates and revisions that it’s really an all-new bike rather than a reworked machine. Underneath the familiar bodywork is a new frame that carries a new swingarm and heavily revamped front fork. Surprisingly, Yamaha has still stuck with a carburetor, although a 39mm Keihin FCR was added to increase the power output along with a new piston and rings that reduce friction.

With the stage set for an epic battle we assembled a testing crew that consists of some familiar faces and a couple new ones as well. We had three pro-level shredders with our usual suspects - Chris See, Nick Thiel and Matt Armstrong. We then threw 2001 WMX champ Tania Satchwell in mix, and then topped it off with my washed-up, old-school racer skills to represent the everyman.

We spent several days riding at Piru MX and Racetown 395 until we could ride no more. On track we measured holeshot and third-gear roll-on times using our tried and true AIM Sports Solo lap timer. Then taking a play from our Sportbike testing we introduced a new testing category - the Super Lap. After drawing the starting order from a hat, each bike was piloted by Armstrong and Satchwell for one full-tilt flying-lap for the quickest time around the track. Each lap the riders were required to take the same lines and ride with the same vigor. There were no do overs, the Super Lap is a one shot deal that measures how rideable each bike is under pressure such as race conditions. Both laps were then averaged for the overall winner of the Super Lap.

After the on-track testing concluded, we hooked the lot up to Two Brothers Racing’s dyno for rear-wheel horsepower and torque numbers. Other hard numbers in the objective testing included weighing the machines full of fuel on our digital scales and measuring sound levels with our standard stationary sound test. The last input in the concrete numbers is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as some of you out there are on a budget, and a few hundred bucks could make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Our subjective categories are rated by each test rider and then average for the winner. First place takes 10 points, followed by 8 for second, 7 for third and so on.

After everything is said and done we tally the scoresheet and declare a winner. This year we were somewhat surprised by the results, and you might be too. So without further ado, let’s get into our 2012 250 Motocross Shootout.

Piru Motocross Park
Piru MX Park
 Our 250 Motocross Shootout testing commenced with all the manufacturers joining us for two days at Southern California’s Piru Motocross Park. This super fun track is nestled up against the foothills between Filmore and Valencia, California. Its rolling, natural layout has elevation changes that snake up and down canyons, make a very interesting layout. When the wind is howling and other tracks are unrideable, Piru is sheltered from the gusts than can make riding less than ideal. All the jumps are nicely laid out with options for novices as well as pro-lever rippers. When it’s a fun day of riding that you’re looking for that won’t beat you up, Piru should be on your short list of tracks to check out.
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