KTM was something of a latecomer to the 250cc four-stroke dirt bike party, but it's more than made up for lost time with the recent introduction of its 250EXC-F. They've done a nice job with it too, though it has to be said that resemblance between this trail version and the 250SX-F race machine are minor. They share the same engine and that's it, the race bike having a more advanced chassis and a twin-cartridge fork.
There are no surprises when it comes to its engine. This is a small engine and small engines need revs to make them fast. That doesn't mean you can't loaf along on the KTM - you can - but it does mean that serious riding will require serious engine speed. Like most small engines this one has very little bottom-end, though once you have the required revs the mid-range and top-end are quite impressive.
Like small capacity two-strokes, with any '250F' you have to be in the right gear for the revs you're running or the little donk will simply cough in its rompers and die. You can ride quietly if you like, but this thing works best when you hammer it.
KTM has an advantage over its Japanese competitors with its six-speed gearbox, and the smaller the bike the more conspicuous the advantage becomes. The 250F will keep up with bigger bikes on road sections without screaming its lungs out, yet it is still well geared for most dirt situations.
For the trails this bike has brilliant suspension. WP has this thing dialled really well. The setup's probably too soft for fast guys, but the fork and shock have terrific bottoming resistance and still absorb most of the impacts you'll encounter during the average Sunday GP. They also provide a cushy ride over a long day in the saddle, which means you're not too shagged to pour yourself a beer at the end of it.
The bike steers nicely too, goes where you point it, tips effortlessly, and has enough travel to make hill climbing on snotty stuff less worrying than it might otherwise be. This bike is very capable on testing terrain, first because it has even power, and second because you can literally loft the front wheel with the throttle and get over any obstacle attempting to block your path - even when you're stationary - so it's an easy bike to manhandle in difficult situations, and that's a big plus for beginners.
There's not a lot to dislike in most modern bikes and, frankly, we're scratching to find faults with this one. We mentioned during the 200EXC test that we don't like the new quick-release fuel cap KTM is now using. We still don't. It's quick-release alright, but it quick-releases when it's not supposed to, like when it's clouted by a fence post or tree. The carby's overflow pipe also seems to leak at the slightest opportunity and angle.
But yes, we do like this bike, and we won't be surprised if it sells up a storm. It has a nice engine, great suspension, a powerful front brake with plenty of feedback, a reasonably comfortable seat and very nice controls and ergonomics. You always feel comfortable and confident on this little banger, and that goes a long way to making it a desirable commodity.
Engine: 249.5cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, single cylinder
Bore and stroke: 76 x 55mm
Fuel system: 39mm Keihin MX FCR
Frame: chromoly central double cradle
Front brake: single 260mm disc with twin-piston Brembo caliper
Rear brake: single 220mm disc with single-piston Brembo caliper
Front suspension: 48mm WP forks, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: WP PDS monoshock, fully adjustable
Wheels: spoked alloy
Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion; 90/90 21 front, 120/90 18 rear
Seat height: 925mm
Claimed dry weight: 107kg
Fuel tank: 8.5L
Price: $11,995 plus ORC
Warranty: six months parts and labour