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2011 250 Motocross Shootout

Monday, February 21, 2011

Perhaps the most fun dirt bike comparison possible is here with the new batch of 250 4-stroke motocrossers. These machines offer the same level of technology and development as their bigger siblings which were on display in the 2011 450 Motocross Shootout, but the lighter weight, quicker handling and easier-to-manage power combine on a motocross track for ultra-competitive and ultra-fun riding. The EFI pandemic is spreading and we’ve got some remarkably changed bikes this year as a result. There are also some manufacturers that took the opposite approach by leaving its machine relatively unchanged, which makes this class ripe for a shakeup. Let’s meet the players.

2011 Honda CRF250R Comparison
2011 Kawasaki KX250F Comparison
2011 KTM 250 SX-F Comparison
2011 Suzuki RM-Z250 Comparison
2011 Yamaha YZ250F Comparison
The Big Five brought out their 250F bikes for evaluation across multiple Southern California motocross tracks.
The Honda CRF250R steps into the shootout as the defending champion. In 2010 the CRF was totally redone and turned out to be an incredible overall package. Big Red intends to use that approach in its bid for a repeat victory this year by making small refinements. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Honda chose to polish its aluminum-framed racer and play off its strengths. After getting a taste of the new bike at the 2011 Honda CRF250R First Ride, it looks like the motorcycle giant is right in the mix. 

Kawasaki is on the other end of the spectrum. We saw at the 2011 Kawasaki KX250F First Ride in Budds Creek that the '11 Kawi is a totally new bike. Fuel injection comes into play on the mid-size Kawi motocrosser with a host of engine, intake and exhaust modifications to complement the updated Keihin fueling system. While the engineers had the engine pulled out, they went ahead and revamped the rolling chassis as well. The Showa suspension is redone with a production-first Separate Function Fork arrangement that splits the spring and valving action between the two fork legs. Our initial ride was on a perfectly groomed track, so we were anxious to see how the new suspension settings work on a mixture of Southern California tracks.

The 2011 model year has been a big one for KTM with the introduction of the new 350 SX-F, but the Austrian’s Lites-class machine isn’t to be overshadowed with a slew of new parts and revised settings as well. The 250 SX-F joins its bigger brother as the first fuel-injected motocross bikes from the orange company. KTM is sticking to the Chromoly frame concept but redesigned the chassis, put on a new swingarm and changed out the long-standing PDS suspension for a traditional linkage. It’s a major year for KTM and the new changes address some of the issues we had in our 2010 250 Motocross Shootout.

There was a glaring hole in our shootout last year, a void that had nothing to do with our methods, but rather the no-show of Suzuki’s RM-Z250. There were a lot of question marks floating around once the shootout was over and the Suzuki finally got released with rave reviews. This year we made sure to hook up with the yellow team and brought out the RM-Z for a full evaluation. It’s a good thing because we quickly realized it just isn’t a party without the ‘Zook.

The tuning fork gang brought the 2011 Yamaha YZ250F for another crack at the top. The original 250F has seen only a few aesthetic upgrades for the new year, but our testers have plenty to talk about regardless. This is the last holdout for all the carburetor fans out there.

As usual we selected a spread of experienced testers and hauled the bikes out to several of Southern California’s top motocross tracks - two of our standby testing facilities, Racetown 395 and Glen Helen Raceway, as well as Competitive Edge. Next we found a perfect spot for acceleration testing to see how they performed in holeshot and third-gear roll-on situations using our VBOX data acquisition. Sound testing using the 20-inch stationary method, trips across the weight scales and multiple runs on the dynamometer dumped more raw data into the equation. We also factor in cost and a spectrum of on-track performances as evaluated by our test riders of varying size and skill. Once it was all over, we asked our riders which bike they would choose to own; the bike that suits their needs and would be worthy of their own hard-earned cash. Don’t miss this bonus section in the For My Money page.

All bikes were left stock with the exception of Factory Effex preprinted backgrounds and technicians from each factory were present to ensure proper setup and adjustments. In the following pages we’ll list the new changes and hear personal opinions from our testers as we point out the good, bad and ugly of each bike. Each machine gets its own video and photo gallery, so be sure to take a look at each one in action.

Racetown 395 Motocross Track
2011 Suzuki RM-Z250 Comparison
Once again we return to Racetown 395 in Southern California. This high-desert track is one of our personal favorites simply because it’s so much fun to ride. But more importantly, it’s widely accepted as one of the top testing facilities for magazines, OEMs, tire companies and suspension shops. Following a day of heinous winds at Glen Helen, the sunny skies, perfect dirt and calm breeze was just what our shootout ordered.

This time we elected to visit on a regular open practice day to make sure the track went through a full metamorphosis from loamy and beautiful in the morning to rough and technical in the afternoon. Check out their website for hours of operation and see for yourself why this combination of fast straights, big jumps, rolling whoops, off-camber turns, tight twists and nasty bumps is our moto playground of choice.
Factory Effex Elite Series Backgrounds
2011 250 Motocross Shootout
Installing preprinted numbers on each bike has multiple benefits in shootout testing. First it ensures that any colorblind readers can tell them apart. Secondly, having the same numbers as top pro racers has been scientifically proven to make you faster. And finally, OEM technicians constantly beg us for the privilege of installing them first thing on a cold morning. We wouldn’t want to deprive our trusty spanners so Factory Effex sent us five sets of their Elite series preprinted number backgrounds. The decals went on smooth, fit perfectly, look great and are still holding up as we continue to ride and wash them.

If you’re going to install backgrounds, custom graphics or trim kits, it might as well be on fresh plastics, which they also offer. Visit www.factoryeffex.com to see the full line of high-quality products including wheel kits, hose kits, seat covers and more.

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