2011 250 Motocross Shootout

JC Hilderbrand | 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.

JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.