After a couple years on Yamaha YZ’s (250’s and 125’s) it was time for me to change it up. So I decided to join the orange brigade. With the help from Brooks Hamilton at KTM USA and Tim Edelmann at Edelmann’s Sales I landed on a 2016 KTM 250 XC. I decided to write down a few notes to point out the major differences and how I feel about it. You have to know…I still love YZ’s. It was really not an easy decision to leave the blue crew.
Let’s start with the obvious differences:
E-start: I love it. I never realized how much time I spent kicking my bike. The e-start saves a ton of energy during a race, in technical stuff I don’t have to worry about stalling. If I do, I just hit the button [and] no time lost. I even find that I get better (dead engine) starts with the e-start. If there is one thing I might change it’s the stock battery. It’s heavy and not real strong, but that’s an easy fix. Did I mention that I love e-start??
Motor: The YZ probably has “more” motor and hits harder, but this XC is so smooth and easy to ride; I think I’m faster on it. I seem to be able to get better traction in slick conditions and it’s a little more forgiving to ride. I went up one tooth in the rear to change the gearing a little bit, this made a huge difference for me. In technical stuff it almost feels like cheating. On a MX track the YZ would probably still be my 1st choice, but then again, [the KTM] is an XC. I wonder how I would like the SX on the track. I added an FMF pipe and silencer, which really helped this pumpkin and made it more responsive; Remember, I am coming off YZ’s, so I am used to a hard hit. The XC has a powervalve adjustment via a small spring – awesome! I haven’t tried the red power valve spring yet, I might do that for certain races or on the MX track if I really think I need a harder hit.
Clutch: It’s hydraulic!!! Need I say more? No more adjusting the clutch on the fly, super precise engagement, easy clutch pull. I have no idea why any manufacturer would still sell bikes with cable clutches. Nasty technical Erzberg like stuff is so much fun to ride with this set up. I feel I improved just by being on a bike with a hydraulic clutch.
Brakes: They are wicked touchy. This is still something I am getting used to. You touch the front brakes, be ready for a stoppie. Hopping around corners or rocks in trial like fashion is a lot easier with these brakes. On the YZ I had to work pretty hard for these maneuvers, on the XC it’s a lot more like riding a trials bike.
Frame Geometry: 1 Sprint Enduro, 1 JDay GP, and one GNCC race and I have yet to get arm pump. Coincidence? I think not.
Compared to the Yamaha the bike definitely feels longer, but because of the layout of the seat/tank/handlebars and the positioning of the foot pegs I feel much more on top of the bike as oppose to the YZ. When I ran the bigger tank on the YZ it created a pocket that would force me towards the back of the bike a little more and I had to work much harder to be able to stay forward. On the KTM I am able to stay over the front no matter what, this helps me as I really like to ride my bikes very far forward. On the track the YZ seemed to be a little bit easier to whip/scrub, but I’m not much of a scrubber to begin with, so I may just have to adjust. The KTM turns just fine, not sure what people complain about when they say KTM’s don’t turn – maybe it’s because I like to steer with the rear no matter what bike I’m on so it comes a little more natural to me.
Suspension: I don’t have a lot of time on it yet, and never rode the bike in stock form. Factory Connection went to work before I got the bike, so I can’t speak to the stock suspension. My FC set up rules. It is super plush, tracks awesome, and just gives me more confidence even after just a few hours on the bike than I ever had on the YZ. Another benefit is the fact that you can adjust your forks without tools. When I got the bike my first ride was at a sprint enduro with a variety of different special tests that required suspension adjustments. I just had to turn the dial and I was good to go. No need for screw drivers, heck, I didn’t even really have to stop.
Maintenance: I haven’t done much yet, but air filter changes are a breeze, no tools needed; Just make sure you set the filter cage in correctly. Oil changes are just as easy, no mess on the skid plate (I hated that on the YZ). The oil drain bolt is on the side, lean the bike against your garage wall and let it drain. Boom, done!
I still love YZ’s but I am stoked on this KTM XC. It was so easy to adapt to. I got the bike at 10 pm the night before a race, I had exactly zero time to learn the bike and when I rolled to the line things just clicked. I can totally buy into the KTM slogan “READY TO RACE”, I proved it with a win.
I can’t thank Brooks Hamilton enough for convincing me that this is the right way to go. I also have to give a huge shout out to Edelmann’s Sales in Troy, NY for working with me on this deal.
Thanks for reading, big things to come!
Hunter “747” Neuwirth