There is a big contrast between the bikes this year with virtually nothing being done to the Yamaha and Suzuki, minor changes for the Honda and massive redesigns for the Kawasaki and KTM. Out on the track these 2011 machines each have their own traits, but once again we see test riders looking for the bike that can bring everything to the table. As always, take these scores into consideration along with the rider feedback and apply it to your own riding needs. Your situation might merit a different winner, but here’s how it breaks down for us in 2011.
Yamaha YZ250F – 5th Place – 72 Points
After finishing last in 2010, offering no updates for the 2011 bike was pretty much a recipe for getting thumped on. It hung tight with the 450 this year as well and it didn’t work out that well in our big-bore shootout either. Believe it or not, we really like the Yamaha, and with the way it’s configured it’s the best bike out there for a particular type of rider. If the engineers can figure out how to match the top end performance with its amazing low-end torque, the rest of these bikes are going to have their hands full. Yamaha seemed willing to take its lumps this year and we’ve seen this approach before as a manufacturer prepares for a major overhaul. The YZ250F is due for it and 2012 should bring a new chapter for the original 250F.
KTM 250 SX-F – 4th Place – 80 Points
The Austrians made big strides with the 2011 250 SX-F. KTM has done the best job of switching from a carburetor to fuel injection without sacrificing one part of the powerband for another. The SX-F pulls all the way across the rpm range and if it can get the WP suspension on the same level of excellence there’s going to be hell to pay. A serious racer is likely going to invest in suspension work anyway and the KTM caters to this type of rider with an amazing list of high-quality components. This year is the start of a major push for American motocross domination and the European brand is closer than ever in the 250 division.
Kawasaki KX250F – 3rd Place – 83 Points
When half the test riders make off-hand comments about a cheater motor there’s obviously some serious power coming out of the KX250F engine. It’s no wonder the top Lites race team in America rakes in the wins aboard this machine. The 2011 KX-F is a solid platform to build a winner and the SFF suspension offers more adjustability and tuning capabilities than any other machine. Kawi puts nice touches on its bike with DLC fork coatings, black rims and anodized triple clamps. It’s light but doesn’t necessarily relay that on the track, but massage the chassis for a little quicker handling and this bike can jump up the podium in a hurry.
Suzuki RM-Z250 – 2nd Place – 93 Points
It doesn’t get any closer than this in a battle for the win. Suzuki drew the short straw by a single point against an established winner and after missing it in 2010 we’re just glad the RM-Z came out to play. This bike almost has it all with an engine that backhands most of the class and a chassis that will dive underneath anything on the track. It’s a bit heavy and that pesky Showa fork holds it down just a bit, but it’s enough to bump it to second place. There’s no way anyone who gets this bike would be dissatisfied with its outright performance. it’s built to race and will haul around any type of motocros track. The RM-Z feels the raciest in this group which made it the personal choice of our resident pro.
Honda CRF250R – 1st Place – 94 Points
Once again Honda proves that a bike is the sum of its parts. In the case of the 2011 CRF250R, those parts are all really, really good. In a division that lives and dies with the engine, Honda proves that it can give up a bit of bravado in exchange for a bit of poise and control. The suspension really takes the cake this year. If Suzuki could get its suspension to work this well then it would likely claim the title. As it stands, Honda has it all figured out. The chassis works in perfect harmony with the rest of the bike and its ergonomics are a class standard. It’s all fine and dandy for the moment, but the target on Honda’s back is going to be bigger and heavier than ever before.
Be sure to check out the individual opinions of our testing crew in our 2011 250 Motocross Shootout For My Money.