If you are in the market for a 250F motocross bike, 2016 is an exciting year. To start, the 250Fs are more powerful than ever before. All the bikes in this shootout are high-tech marvels with great attributes. No matter what your size, speed or style there is a good choice amongst these six machines. Like all fuel-injected bikes, the 250Fs can be tuned to suit rider preference and track conditions. When you compare the results of this shootout to those of the 2016 MotoUSA 450F shootout you’ll notice there is a similar pattern. This is due to the fact that most manufacturers base their 250F and 450 MX bikes off the same chassis and suspension components, creating similar handling machines. Again the 250F shootout was dominated by bikes using traditional spring forks. We do have to give credit to the Showa TAC air fork on the CRF250R, it is the best performing air fork yet, helping the CRF250R do well in the shootout. Dirt bike riders want to go ride dirt bikes, plain and simple, and the easier it is to set up a bike and get out on the track, the better. Performance is an obvious consideration when choosing a bike, but so is durability, aesthetics and bang for your buck. Take in all the info in this shootout and decide which bike is for you!
Matt Armstrong – Vet Pro – 5’7″, 155 pounds – Yamaha YZ250F
If I had to describe the Yamaha 250F in one word it would be “Rocket!”! F*#% this bike is fast! I felt like a hero on this thing. It is so comfortable to ride I felt really connected and at one with the bike. I could throw it around with ease and hit all of my marks effortlessly. There was not one thing that I was like “hmmm, yeah, Yamaha could maybe improve on this or that.” And not to mention this bike looks pretty bad ass. This is one of my all-time favorite bikes to ride and who knows, even though I’m retired maybe even race… Just knowing that I could put a lot of time on it and it’s not gonna wear out in a couple of months is also nice. I will definitely have one in my garage in the future.
Lars Lindstrom – Vet Pro – 6’1”, 180 pounds – Yamaha YZ250F
After riding all of the 250s I feel that the Yamaha is the best 250F on the market. It feels like a well-built 250 race bike. The engine response is unbelievable for a stock bike, revs like a factory bike, and just plain barks. The bike felt stable and I believe had the best suspension. It held up and still was able to fall into turns and corner well for me. It was maybe a tad harsh on square edges, but I could deal with it for how good it felt everywhere else.
The KTM and the Husky felt almost identical to each other. The handlebars felt narrower on the Husky and the bend felt a little different. The KTM/Husky felt really good but with a mellower powerband than the Yamaha, although make no mistake, the KTM and Husky have plenty of power. The KTM/Husky as a whole feels really comfortable and like the Yamaha, feels stable and holds up well without the harsh feeling over the square-edge bumps. The KTM/Husky are suitable for a beginner novice rider, but also totally competitive for intermediate and pro.
I ranked the Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki a tie for third. With these three bikes I could choose anyone of them and make them a great bike for me. The Honda and Kawasaki both have a front-end feeling which is a little bit unstable and “knifey” feeling in corners (probably due to a soft feeling front fork), and their engines felt really similar. I was expecting the Honda to be down on power, after always hearing how slow it felt, but I was pleasantly surprised by the 2016 and didn’t think it gave up anything on the Suzuki or the Kawi. The Honda just feels good, looks good, and knowing the quality of the product makes it a winner over the other two to me. My final ranking are Yamaha first, KTM and Husky tied for second and third a tie between Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki.
Scot Gustafson – Vet – 5’11”, 175 pounds – Yamaha YZ250F
After spending countless hours riding all the bikes back-to-back, I narrowed the battle for the best 250F of 2016 to the Yamaha YZ250F and the Austrian twins, the KTM 250SXF and Husqvarna FC250. In the end, the excellent low to mid power of the engine and solid suspension made the Yamaha YZ250F my winner.
Husky and KTM could have easily been my winners but the lack of bottom end and excess engine braking made the bikes more difficult to ride on tight tracks. On high-speed tracks the mega-horsepower Husky and KTM were easily the fastest and the new chassis design was very comfortable. I chose the KTM over the Husky based solely on tire preference.
While the Kawasaki has a great all around engine, its chassis and suspension are in need of some revisions. The Honda was a capable bike but the combination of the aggressive chassis and complicated air fork made it difficult to get the bike set up properly. Suzuki made a lot of good revisions this year, slightly boosting power and reliability, but I felt the bike was held back from performing better because of the KYB PSF2 air fork.
Trevor Stewart – Off-Road/Motocross Pro – 6’1”, 155 pounds – KTM 250 SX-F
After numerous rides on all the 2016 bikes, the choice was easy for me – the KTM 250 SX-F. This bike has many great features, and very few downsides. The first thing that stood out in my mind was the motor and how smooth it is, yet it still has so much power. The bike handles amazing and turns like no other bike I’ve ridden. The only thing that didn’t work as nicely as I would have liked was the suspension, but with a few clicker changes it got better.
The Yamaha YZ250F is also an outstanding bike. Coming from a Yamaha background, I felt very comfortable on the bike. Yamaha has stepped up their program with this bike. A lot like last year, the Yamaha is incredibly fast. By far I think it had the best stock suspension, but it lacked cornering. I wasn’t able to get the YZ to turn as well as I would have liked. The bike was very stable though, and that helped on the straights. The sleek design of this bike is also a plus.
The Honda CRF250R has also stepped up its game for 2016. With quite a few motor changes, I feel like they are on the right track to putting this bike back on top of the box. It lacks some bottom end, but the mid to top is great. I couldn’t get the bike to be as stable as I wanted, but it cornered well and the air fork suspension was great! The Honda CRF250R has made the right changes for 2016 and I’m excited to see what they do for the years to come.
Gordon Keck – Intermediate – 5’6″, 135 pounds – KTM 250 SX-F
The Suzuki is very solid because it has a very controllable engine and excellent cornering capabilities. The biggest knock that I had with the bike was the air fork was pretty stiff for someone my size. Suzuki techs were able to dial me in very quickly. When picking up the KX250F off the stand it felt lighter than any of the other bikes. It is also the skinniest, which helped to guide the bike around some of the breaking bumps. I’m not a huge fan of the forks, they are a bit harsh going through braking bumps. The CRF250R was the most fun to ride overall. The adjustable mapping is awesome and most people run this bike in map three but I preferred it in map two. The Honda feels very front-end heavy, which can cause a problem under braking.
The YZ250F is a great all-around bike and the suspension is perfect for someone around 165 pounds. The bottom end power is awesome coming out of the tight turns. The fork on this bike is great because it tracks the whole time through turns. The downfall to YZ is that the shrouds feel wide in between my legs. I was a huge fan of the suspension on the Husky FC 250, being that I am fairly light. The bike feels very light on the track and it is easy to place the bike where you want it. The brakes were phenomenal and made it so you can charge a little harder into the turns and still be able to get into the rut.
The KTM absolutely amazed me with its top-end pull; it almost felt like nitrous! The ergonomics felt great because when you lift your leg up for a corner you can rest your leg on top of the shrouds and it won’t slip off. There was nothing bad about this bike. My ranking is KTM first, Husky second, Yamaha third, followed by Honda, then Kawasaki and finally Suzuki.
Adam Booth – Vet Intermediate – 5’8”, 175 pounds – KTM 250 SX-F
It isn’t an easy choice between the YZ250F, the 250 SX-F and the Husky FC 250. Given a day or two to get well acquainted with each bike in this shootout, I would most likely go the same speed on all of them. They all have strong traits and handling characteristics that can be tweaked to satisfy different riding styles.
There were a few tracks where I preferred the YZ250F over the KTM/Husky but it in general I preferred the KTM 250 SX-F for the light and narrow feel and big horsepower in the upper rpm. Ride it like you stole it! When the track was tight and twisty with a lot of jumps right out of corners the YZF’s strong off-idle power was awesome, but on wide open and fast tracks the KTM/Husky engine can’t be beat. The Husky FC 250 for me was only a set of Dunlop MX32 tires from feeling just like the KTM. There were times when the KTM/Husky suspension was on the soft side, but I’m on the outer cusp of weight when it comes to the typical 250F rider.
The Honda’s improvements made a huge difference, making this another bike I really enjoyed. The TAC air fork works well, which is a pleasant surprise. The KX250F requires a skilled rider to make it corner as well as the other, bikes but in the right hands, piloted by the rider who loves a rear-wheel steering bike, it can be ridden very fast on rough tracks. If the track is ultra-tight and doesn’t require huge horsepower the Suzuki RM-Z250 is easy and fun to ride. It would be an excellent bike with more horsepower. A deciding factor for many riders is price and both the KTM and Husky are way more expensive than the Japanese models. My rankings look like this; first KTM/Husky, second Yamaha YZ250F, third Honda CRF250R, fourth Kawasaki KX250F and fifth Suzuki RM-Z250.
Eric Storz – Novice – 5’10”, 155 pounds – KTM 250SX-F
While it’s no secret that the Yamaha YZ250F is the rocket ship among the group, the KTM 250SX-F’s incredible suspension, handling, and ergonomics stole the spotlight. Although faster riders might desire a stiffer setup, for me, the stock settings on the WP fork and shock provided outstanding small bump compliance and bottoming resistance, which you really come to appreciate on a track like Glen Helen. With huge weight savings for ’16, the 250 SX-F handles extremely well. Diving into a tight rut, or even switching lines, the KTM is confidence inspiring, in that you can put the bike exactly where you want it.
The ergonomics of the 250 SX-F made it easy to adapt to, which was a little surprising, as I spend most of my time on Japanese bikes. While the KTM really stood out for its suspension and handling, this bike is by no means a slouch in the motor department. The power comes on smooth in the bottom to mid range, but the motor really comes alive on the top end, and will rev to the moon. This translates to great traction when exiting corners and incredible speed on the hills and straights.
Between its magic carpet suspension, responsive handling, and strong powerplant, the KTM 250SX-F lives up to its brand’s “Ready to Race” reputation. My final rankings are first KTM, second Husky, third Kawasaki, fourth Yamaha, fifth Honda and sixth Suzuki.
Kai Mukai – Pro – 5’5”, 145 pounds – Yamaha YZ250F
I chose the 2015 YZ250F because of its strong bottom- to top-end pull power. It’s amazing how a 250F can feel so strong. It might not have the long-pulling top end like the KTM and Husky, but it has stronger bottom and mid. When you first jump on the Yamaha you have so much confidence knowing you still have spring forks and you don’t have to worry about adjusting the air or the pressure changing over the duration of a long moto. The YZ250F can win races straight from the showroom floor. The YZ250F is also good for an average rider who just likes to go out and have fun on an easy-to-ride bike. My final ranking is Yamaha, then KTM, third Honda, fourth Husky, fifth Kawasaki and sixth Suzuki.