KTM came into our 2013 250 Motocross Shootout with an all-new 250 SX-F and jumped onto the podium after a dismal result in 2012. For 2014 we didn’t expect many changes from the Austrian manufacturer, and we were correct that the number of revisions was not high. However, the changes that were made prove significant enough to move the electric-start MXer up a step or two on the shootout podium.
The most notable change to the 2014 KTM 250 SX-F was the change from a six-speed transmission to a five-speed box for increased performance and reduced weight. As our scoresheet shows the loss of one gear has made a difference and the KTM ranks second in the transmission, clutch and gearing category. Shifting is precise and the gear spacing is spread out better than before. The light pull of the Brembo hydraulic clutch is always a favorite, no matter the rider, and this year was no different.
“The KTM has a great hydraulic clutch as we all know, and the bike is a smooth shifter on par with all the others,” relates pro tester Chris See. “This could have just been the track we were on, but I felt like the bike could have used at least one more tooth on the rear.”
On the Dynojet 250i at MotoUSA HQ the KTM spanked the competition in horsepower with a stout 38.08-hp run at a staggering 13,700 rpm. Its torque output was one of the lowest at 18.15 lb-ft at 8600 rpm. From the first press of the electric start button it’s clear the SX-F likes to have its neck wrung to make time on the track, even with a new resonance chamber on the headpipe for more low-end. Lazy riders will slide to the back of the pack quickly, but those who put in the effort to keep the fire stoked will be rewarded with one of the most potent mills on the track.
Pro tester Nick Thiel comments, “The KaTooM rips, but on the tighter track we were testing at it didn’t really have the chance to truly sing except on one straightaway.”
Chris See adds, “This bike has a very different motor compared to all of the other Japanese bikes. It has a fine-line on the top-end that needs to be ridden hard. It’s not slow on the bottom or mid, but for my liking this bike would rank way higher with a little more bottom end hit.”
KTM also turned its attention to the WP suspension on the 2014 250 SX-F to smooth out harshness in the chop but also resist bottoming on big hits. It’s still stiffer than the rest of the field, but when pushed it works much better than the 2013 model and is competitive with the top Japanese suspension bits. It is a much improved set-up from previous years for both faster and slower riders.
“Overall it was really good. It didn’t deflect or do anything crazy and it wasn’t too harsh,” explains former WMX ripper Sara Price.
KTMs have always been the odd man out when it comes to handling, with a feel that is a departure from the norm. With the suspension changes the Electric Orange SX-F provides a more familiar experience behind the bars, but is still unique. There is no better bike in the test on flat, loose corners and when the speeds are high, but in the tighter sections it still likes to stand up a tad mid-corner. It’s a minor condition in comparison to KTM SX-Fs of the past.
“The KTM is impressive this year,” says See. “It felt considerably more plush and was stable. The KTM also jumped well and was head-and-shoulders better for me from last year. With more time on this bike I think it could move to a class leader easily.”
As always the KTM was the clear-cut champion on the brakes. The SX-F’s Brembo brake package is hands down the best out there by a considerable margin. The feel is telepathic and braking power rides the fine line of being too much. The rear brake is just as impressive as the front with exceptional stopping power and feel.
Nick Thiel lays it out simply, “The Brembo’s feel and stopping power are second to none.”
The rider compartment on the 250 SX-F was rated mid-pack by the MotoUSA crew for several reasons, but the most common (and reoccurring) criticism is the handlebar bend. The sweep of the bars is just slightly too much and makes it more difficult to get forward on the bike. Of course the grip, levers and seat are all top-notch equipment that feels much more high-end than its Japanese counterparts.
Thiel backs up the teams assessment, “I love the cockpit of the KTM; the only complaint would be the bar bend. I think with a CR Hi or something comparable it would be a winner for me.”
Of course, with the super-cool electric start button comes a battery and starter motor. Even as these parts shrink with better technology there remains a weight penalty for the convenience of not having to kick to fire up before motos. On the MotoUSA scales the SX-F weighs in at 241 pounds with its 1.98-gallon tank full of fuel.
With just a handful of changes from the revamped 2013 model, the 2014 KTM 250 SX-F is now in the running for the best motocross bike of 2014. After the votes were tallied and numbers were crunched the Austrian achieved a solid second-place finish in our 2014 250 Motocross Shootout. For those looking to standout and enjoy some unique features such as electric start, a hydraulic clutch and the best brakes ever put on a motocrosser, the KTM may be the winner.