KTM is keen on delivering the best of every product so, for that reason, they dig deeper in each of their bike’s possibility sack in order to find what can be improved, upgraded or simply lightened in an attempt to set each bike apart from its competitors. The 2009 KTM 250 SX-F is a very good example of what the Austrians can achieve with a quarter-liter engine and a race-derived chassis so it’s well worth checking out also because KTM claims it can even do better than two-stroke bikes in certain areas.
Both aware of the fact that two-stroke bikes fade away under restrictive pollution norms and eager to show off their capabilities with each year that passes, the Austrians from KTM do no concessions when it comes to their off-road competition four-stroke models. We’ve talked the best about the 2009 KTM 450 SX-F and, meanwhile, the 250 SX-F was waiting in line and it finally gets the attention it deserves.
First making a difference both in comparison to the other of this manufacturer’s models and the Japanese ones is the engine, in this case a liquid-cooled, 248.6 cc single-cylinder, four-stroke, DOHC with four valves unit which is neither fuel-injected nor electrically started (helps keep the bike lighter), but do mated to a six-speed gearbox. This isn’t there to compensate for the lack of fuel-injection as the Keihin FCR MX 39 isn’t yet overdue, but to ensure the proper balance between user-friendliness and top speed just so that the fairly small displacement bike would keep its owner satisfied long after this learns a thing or two about hardcore off-road riding.
The bike’s greatest advantage is lightweight. Weighing only 216 lbs. without fuel, this SX-F is claimed to be a corner carver and we take KTM’s word on that one. Built on a central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 frame, it also features aluminum subframe, handlebar and main silencer and each little piece brings a major contribution out where the going gets tough. That’s where the 300 mm front and 335 mm rear WP suspensions are supposed to do the trick while the brakes (260 mm front and 220 mm rear disc) are sure not to disappoint as, like the suspensions, are the very same as on the bike’s bigger sibling, the 450 SX-F. More on the engine and chassis capabilities in our ride report.
Most 250 cc four-stroke bikes usually compete with smaller two-stroke ones or similar sized four-stroke bikes. In this case, even KTM’s 125 SX can be the alternative while the four-stroke Husqvarna TE 250 and two-stroke WR 125 are just the right bikes to go up against each one of the orange blasts.
Yamaha didn’t quit making two-stroke motocross blasts, but when it comes to the off-road segment the 2009 WR250F is the only contender just how the 2009 CRF250X is when it comes to Honda. Suzuki isn’t that providing and neither is Kawasaki when it comes to their off-road lineups as both concentrate on offering different sized versions of entry-level four-stroke bikes.
The 2009 KTM 250 SX-F is sure to make a good impression first thanks to the way it looks and only afterwards due to the way that it performs. Pretty much a 450 SX-F with a smaller engine on it, the same plastics, colors and stickers are sure to invite confusion in, but that’s pretty much the case with all of KTM’s models. These are almost identical looking, but fitted with different displacement engines. This quarter-liter one sits in between the 21-inch front and 19-inch rear Excel rims. Black is the dominating color just so that the petal-style brake discs would stand out.
A veritable motocross-derived bike, the SX-F features sponsors stickers on the high fenders, the side plates as well as on the fork, mudguards and swingarm. This brings a stain of color considering that the frame, seat, gas tank and even most of the silencer are covered in black. We like the hand guards, but believe that this bike would have lived much better with a small headlight for just in case bikers will ride into the sunset.
From the very first ride on it, it’s easy to understand why it doesn’t feature a headlight. This simply isn’t the king of bike that you ride home after an adventurous incursion on the harsh terrain as it offers motocross-like accommodations with the narrow seat being positioned at 38.78 inches from the ground. The Renthal handlebars are at quick reach and the pegs are positioned approximately in the middle of the bike so although it won’t become a killer, just a rough trainer, the ’09 KTM 250 SX-F requires the fair sacrifice that performance bikes do.
It was about time to get our hands on one of these things as, although not heavily refined, the bike catches the best both of the dual-sport and motocross worlds without the street legality part. Ok, so it will go on the back of pick-up trucks, but once they’re unloaded is when all hell breaks loose. The engine starts at the first kick after giving it a fair amount of gas by using the choke and acting with strength and your own weight on the lever. We let it worm up a little bit as the sound itself indicates that we’re dealing with a four-stroke motor, but once we get on going we come to find that this is even pushier that two-stroke ones, at least from the bottom of the rev range. This ensures fast launches without revving the engine as much as in the case of two-strokes and although it won’t provide the same smell, we believe that throttle response, tractable power and consistency all through the sixth gears compensate for that decently.
Now, we have nothing against two-stroke bikes and all this is about looking for a plausible explication to why they’ve lost that much ground in these last few years on a bike which’s manufacturer still makes such machines.
Handling is also a very sweet spot on the 250 SX-F simply because the bike weighs very little, mass centralization is good and the 48 mm WP USD fork and WP PDS shock absorber offer the proper stability through corners. It’s extremely easy to lean the bike into cornering position as it works with a 63.5-degree steering angle and the rear end will always follow. That’s the case on muddy and dusty surfaces. On rocks, the SX-F is simply a mountain goat although it could have used more power when climbing steep rocks. Yet, it will meet no seriously demanding situations on hills. The bike also enjoys jumping and it won’t land hard thanks to the long travel suspensions.
Stopping around 380 lbs with the same breaks as on the 450 SX-F is a piece of cake for the respective equipment. Also, once wormed up, the breaks are the dearest friend out there, especially when preparing to hit a tight corner.
It’s really easy to complain about two-stroke bikes not being around that much (just like we do), but after riding a bike such as the 2009 KTM 250 SX-F it isn’t hard to fall for it and appeal to veritable motocross versions if eager for two-stroke riding excitement.
The MSRP for the new, special looking and aggressive model year starts at $7,198, which is just in the pricing range of Japanese alternatives.
All in all, KTM’s experience shows on the 250 SX-F and helps distinguish this ride as a versatile and very exciting one that misses no chance to impress and takes on any challenge and challenger.
Engine and Transmission
Engine type: Single cylinder, 4-stroke
Displacement: 248.6 cc
Bore x stroke: 76 x 54.8 mm (2.99 x 2.16")
Compression ratio: 12.8:1
Transmission: 6 gears
Carburetor: Keihin FCR MX 39
Control: 4 V / DOHC with finger followers
Lubrication: Pressure lubrication
Engine lubrication: Motorex, SAE 10W50
Primary drive: 22:68
Final drive: 13:48
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Clutch: Wet multi-disc clutch, operated hydraulically
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4
Handlebar: Renthal, Aluminium Ø 28/22 mm (1.10/0.87")
Front suspension: WP USD Ø 48 mm (1.89")
Rear suspension: WP PDS shock absorber
Suspension travel front/rear: 300 / 335 mm (11.81 / 13.19")
Brakes, front/rear: Disc brakes 260 / 220 mm (10.24 / 8.66")
Rims, front/rear: 1.60 x 21"; 2.15 x 19" Excel
Tires, front/rear: 80/100-21"; 100/90-19"
Chain: 5/8 x 1/4"
Main silencer: Aluminium
Steering head angle: 63.5°
Wheel base: 1475 ± 10 mm (58.07 ± 0.39")
Ground clearance (unloaded): 380 mm (15")
Seat height: 985 mm (38.78")
Tank capacity: approx. 8 liters (2.11 gal)
Weight (no fuel): approx. 98 kg (216 lbs)