Last year in the 2012 250 Motocross Shootout
, the KTM 250 SX-F amassed the least amount of points on our scoresheet even though it did have some redeeming qualities, such as electric start and some of the best brakes ever put on a motocross bike. Although it was closer to its Japanese rivals, the orange machine still felt like it was just a tad too heavy, especially in the corners. Now take heart KTM fans because the 2013 model is, for the most part, an all-new bike and has the Big Four squarely in its sights.
The biggest news with the 2013 KTM 250 SX-F is the engine; it’s all-new and has been designed to be lighter and more powerful. Starting with the cases, KTM engineers used a die-casting process that allows for the use of a stronger aluminum alloy. The kickstarter has been tossed in the pursuit of a smaller and lighter bike as well. A new boxed piston and larger cylinder increase the bore from 76mm to 78mm, utilizing an over-square design that allows for higher revs as well as more room for larger valves. The redesigned cylinder head is claimed to increase gas flow by 10%, with gasses running in and out via titanium valves actuated by DLC-coated dual overhead cam followers. Additionally, the newly designed camshafts
The KTM 250 SX-F puts out the most peak horsepower for 2013. It cranks out just over five more than the 2012 model.
have more lift as well as revised timing. Finally, a larger 44mm throttle body delivers more gasoline-charged air. KTM claims a 5 hp gain – quite a jump for such limited displacement.
On the MotoUSA Dynojet 250i, the SX-F backed up the power claims from KTM with a best in class 37.76 horsepower, which according to our test last year is truly 5 ponies more. Very impressive. The torque output wasn’t as staggering but in the ballpark with 17.93 lb-ft at 8900 rpm. When the power is put to the dirt, the ‘Katoom shot down the 125-foot mark in our Holeshot Test in 4.630 seconds at 45.2 mph. This result was near the bottom of the charts, but it has to be noted that the testing surface was greasy and some wheel spin did occur. During Third-Gear Roll-On testing the KTM fared much better with the best result in the test, accelerating from 15 to 40 mph in 2.051 seconds over a distance of 82.3 feet.
On the track the newfound power was apparent with the KTM following a close second in the engine rating from our team. Power output is excellent from the mid-range to the 14,000 rpm redline. The motor responds best to a neck wringing and rewards those riders that can keep the motor spinning. Lug the motor and the results aren’t the best, and thus the second place ranking from our crew.
“The tangerine beast was second for me,” states pro-level shredder Chris See. “The power on this bike was great, but what I didn’t like was that I had to rev it so high to get in the sweet spot. Where I thought I should shift, I really needed to carry the rpm a little higher to get the bike to make maximum power.”
While the handling still feels slightly heavy, the KTM 250 SX-F tracks through the corners with ease.
Our female rider and second fastest on the crew Vicki Golden adds, “The bottom end on the KTM was lagging a bit. The bike had good speed once it reached the top end range. The power really carried through each gear.”
With so much more power, the KTM chassis would need to be on point to be able to make the gains worthwhile, and we are happy to say it is much improved. The steel frame has been strengthened even though the wall thickness has been reduced. This is meant to lower the weight while increasing torsional stiffness for better tracking stability. The WP fork and rear shock received new damping valving, and the lower triple clamp is CNC-machined for lighter weight and more responsive steering.
On the track the MotoUSA crew liked the KTM better than in previous years, citing excellent stability and tracking through rutted corners. However, the handling still feels heavier than we think it should, especially the effort to get the SX-F to drop into a corner initially. This put the orange machine mid pack in the handling field.
“The KTM was stable at speed and worked well in the deeper ruts with braking bumps,” comments Nick Thiel. “It didn't do anything that blew my socks off, but it was consistent at speed.”
Suspension settings for the KTM may be new, but they still are not quite where we feel they need to be. Don’t get us wrong here, they are much closer than ever before, but we found the fork to be too stiff on the small chop and then too soft on the big hits. This would require more fiddling than we had time for in our test to get it right, but a softer spring with more compression dampening would be a step in the right direction. The rear end on the 250 SX-F is planted and works well in any situation, something that couldn’t be said of KTM’s in the past.
“The forks on the KTM were a little stiff in the initial part of the stroke and seemed to blow through the travel on hard impacts,” claims Matt Armstrong. “Although, the rear shock seemed to work really well and had a lot of action.”
More power, better handling and top-shelf components pushed the KTM 250 SX-F into second place.
At every shootout in the last few years it’s a given that the KTM will own the braking scoring, and once again the 250 SX-F collects the full ten points. Although it has slightly more mass (242 pounds fully fueled), slowing the SX-F is nothing short of stellar. The Brembo set-up has great bite, unreal power and a telepathic feel.
“The Brembo brakes on the KTM are super strong and have a great feel. I can drive the bike really hard into corners and feel confident that I'm going to hit my lines,” says Armstrong.
The seating position on the SX-F still has a different feel, there is no mistaking you are on a KTM but it is better than previous years. A bar bend change for 2013 and the new bodywork makes it a much more comfortable space to work in. The high quality components such as the Brembo brakes and clutch have a solid feel, but it comes with a price. The orange bike is the most expensive at $7899, but the electric start is worth a few hundred at least.
“The KTM felt the most different out of all the bikes. It took the longest to get used to, but when I did it felt really good,” Golden comments. “The distance from the seat to the foot pegs was close which made it easier for me to weight the outside peg.”
When it came to the drivetrain, the KTM scores high thanks to a hydraulic clutch that never fades and has good feel, although some of the cable clutches offer slightly more communication with the clutch pack. Some of our riders feel the gearing has some spacing issues and you will need some sprockets on hand to suit the track you ride on most.
The 2013 KTM 250 SX-F is by far the best it has ever been and our team responded by giving it a second place finish in our 2013 250 motocross shootout. A strong engine, ridiculous brakes and electric start make the KTM a desirable bike to race or own. With some work to the suspension it could be even better, but we are impressed with the new Katoom and not surprised with its runner-up status.