As soon as we think a 250cc motocross bike can’t get much better or faster, the next year’s crop is released. The changes range from revisions to the engines or suspension to completely new models. For MotoUSA’s 2014 250 Motocross Shootout we’ve assembled bikes from the big five that run the gamut from no changes at all to a total redesign. As always, our shootout aim is to determine which 250 MX mount reigns supreme once the gate drops.
The biggest news in the 250cc class is that Yamaha has finally ditched the analog carburetor for the digital age of fuel injection. Not only did the quarter-liter blue racer get modern fuel delivery, but it got a full revamp that features a rearward-slanted cylinder and chassis that puts an emphasis on the centralization of mass. Our first two rides on the 2014 Yamaha YZ250F were impressive and we expected it to vie for the win in our shootout for the first time in years.
The 2014 Kawasaki KX250F comes in to our shootout with a handful of updates to stay ahead of the curve. Last year it tied for the shootout win, and it has improved for 2014 thanks to a smoother transmission, chassis revisions and the addition of launch control. The competition is gunning for the top dog, but the KX has plenty of ammo as well.
Honda’s CRF250R tied the Kawasaki for the 2013 win, and this year Big Red went to work on the cylinder head, added a dual-stage fuel injector, revised the transmission and replaced the frame. Shod in new bodywork, the CRF205R has returned to the dual exhaust for centralized mass and a lighter subframe. Honda obviously isn’t resting on its laurels and is looking to take the fight to the field for 250cc dominance.
2014 saw KTM make a handful of changes to the 250 SX-F for better reliability and performance. A five-speed transmission replaces the six-speed of 2013 for lighter weight and less shifting, while the exhaust header gets a resonance chamber for more down-low torque. The suspension has been re-tuned to better resist bottoming while smoothing out small chop. And although it didn’t need it, KTM added more power to the SX-F’s brakes. The Orange Brigade is not to be underestimated in any contest.
The Suzuki RM-Z250 got a slew of refinements in 2013 and Suzuki’s engineers (and most likely the accountants) decided to leave well enough alone for this year. Last year the RM-Z finished up mid-pack; bold new graphics and a reflashed ECU for easier starts don’t make the outlook rosy for the yellow bike, but you never know how the rankings shake out until the day at the track is over.
This year we headed to the freshly re-opened Lucas Oil MX Park to put 1250cc’s to the test. The track features a tight layout with a variety for jumps that range from small table-tops to technical doubles and triples. Traction was not an issue thanks to nicely prepped dirt. We spent the day turning laps until we could ride no more to get the most information possible for our notes.
After the day at the track we weighed each bike with a full tank of fuel, measured the sound output at idle and half throttle and ran them on the dyno. We also used our GPS data acquisition system to capture a 125-foot holeshot test and 3rd-gear roll-on measurement. As usual, we employ our scoresheet that includes both objective and subjective points categories. Each category gets 10 points for first, 8 for second, 7 for third and so on. Then we tally the points to find out which machine is the best for 2014.
This year’s test crew sees the return of three of the usual suspects: our most used Pro-level tester, Chris See, the always entertaining Nick Thiel and the super-stylish Matt Armstrong. This year we were able to wrangle former Supercross and Motocross factory racer Sean Hamblin to take a break from his busy schedule of training future champions to join us on the track. Finally, we had former WMX and Kawasaki factory racer Sara Price jump into the mix.
With that, the table is set for a feast of 250 motocross goodness. Let’s dig in.