Being part of the Top Speed team, I can only have the highest appreciation for those kinds of bikes that, with lightness, sharp handling and refinement, manage to stand out and offer the same kind of excitement as those fitted with bigger engines do. The 2009 KTM 250 XC-F is one such great example from the very big number of small class, four-stroke Japanese and European competing models.
What’s more, the 2009 model year gets a new chassis and totally new bodywork so engineers enhance the bike’s already strong point in an attempt to establish new performance standards for the class. Let’s see if they succeed.
Despite featuring the 249.5 cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine, which got the job done very well on the previous generation chassis, KTM’s plans were to line up the quarter-liter XC-F to their Off-Road Competition series and that meant adding their latest central double-cradle-type 25CRMo4 frame that works closely together with the aluminum, removable subframe, top notch WP suspensions as well as Brembo brakes. Like on the bike’s bigger siblings, the 450/505 XC-F, the steering head angle is of 63.5 degrees while trail is adjustable so sharp cornering was their main goal and, from the very first glance, the bike gets all the best credentials possible.
The seat is now positioned at a higher point (38.78 inches) while the ground clearance (15 inches) remains the same. This is probably not a very inspired move for KTM, but definitely a consequence of the fact that this frame is designed both for big and small models. The weight of only 223.98 pound (no fuel included) comes as a great advantage as it eases the carbureted engine’s task of moving the thing very fast around. Also, that’s exactly what the five-speed (SX ratio) transmission is supposed to do.
Another aspect that gets our attention is how KTM offers both 21-inch and 18-inch wheels for the 250 XC-F, just so that riders of different sizes would feel at home on it. That’s also an advantage over the competition, which seems to be fading away with each revision that the small XC-F gets.
The Austrian manufacturer launched the all-new 250 XC-F in 2007. Derived from the SX model, it wasn’t long until the new bike unveiled its racy character that was already predicted by the specs sheet. The 2009 model year only improves an overall great initial product with small tweaks inspired from bigger models of the lineup. So I guess we can say that the XC-F was inspired by the SX and “taken over” by its bigger siblings.
No matter how, the 2009 KTM 250 XC-F is here to stay and to make an impressive stand against competing Japanese models such as the also new 2009 Honda CRF250X and Yamaha WR250F. While Suzuki doesn’t manufacture any decent alternative, the 2009 Kawasaki KLX250S is just a lame dual-sport model in comparison to the 250 XC-F.
The Husqvarna TXC 250 is a direct opponent of the KTM 250 XC-F so that’s most likely to cut in KTM’s market share. The two bikes are terribly similar and offer the very same riding excitement so either way riders will be hooked by their new rides long after these will be bought.
2009 KTM 250 XC-F
Inspired by motocross bikes, all of the previous mentioned models are supposed to be easily distinguished on the dirt, gravel or up on the rocks as easy as any of the respective manufacturer’s motocrossers. The striking resemblance with racing bikes brings the advantage of riding a champion’s bike and the 2009 KTM 250 XC-F makes no exception.
Everything from the number plates and side panels to the fenders, mud guards and hand guards indicates the racing DNA of the XC-F while the blacked out Excel wheels and the 250 SX-F aluminum exhaust add on to the overall aggressive look of the new bike. Even the decals are in accordance with KTM’s eccentric 2009 approach.
The black seat is narrow and blends perfectly in with the 2.43 gallons tank, which is perfectly integrated into the also black covered frame. Still, Orange remains KTM’s characteristic color and that’s what sets it apart in 2009 as well.
Enough with the chitchat! The riding impressions are the most conclusive and we must say that the 2009 KTM 250 XC-F seems to have followed a natural evolution towards chassis refinement and valuing the engine’s capabilities at the highest possible level.
The first thing that strikes you is the lightweight. This comes as an indicator of what needs to be properly exploited in order to call the bike a winner and it’s actually very easy to go with the flow. Soon, we were carving tight corners and realized that KTM was not kidding when mentioning the SX-F and the XC-F in the same phrase.
Easy to handle and offering a riding position similar to that of motocross bikes, our tester could only prove that while being on the fast move and that’s where the engine intervenes. You can choose between the kick and electric starter to get it revving and, once wormed up, it provides quick launches and is consequent in delivering plenty of power and torque for the rider to work with. Being tuned for good low-and-mid rpm range, hill climbs are among the easiest tasks and wheelies come at the first powerful twist of the throttle in the first three gears.
The five-speed SX ratio transmission is precise and works in perfect accordance with the engine, apparently better than in the case of two-stroke bikes as four-strokes aren’t that demanding in selecting the precise gear for each specific riding situation. Smooth engagements are ensured by a hydraulic, multi-disc clutch, which is precisely what the XC-F needed to help it go easy on barely starting riders.
Only after getting well accustomed with the new 250 XC-F, we started to challenge it for higher jumps and couldn’t be disappointed even if we wanted to. The 1.89-inch WP USD fork is capable of 11.81 inches of wheel travel while the WP monoshock PDS offers 13.19 inches of wheel travel for always smooth landings. During our jumping session, we haven’t felt or heard the suspensions bottoming out so we can only think the best about this equipment.
Making use of highly performing Brembo brakes with a single 10.24-inch front disc and 8.66-inch rear one exploited with the use of two pistons (front), respectively a single piston (rear), braking power is always enough for the overall light 360 pounds package (rider included) to be stopped in a blink of an eye, which is something that we don’t recommend while riding off-road.
Overall, the 2009 KTM 250 XC-F is a blast to ride simply because it offers the kind of excitement that you don’t always expect from beginning bikes. Yet, it does deliver more than initially believed and that makes it perfect as a fun bike long after having learned to ride.
KTM advertises the 2009 quarter-cylinder XC-F for a $7,998 MSRP, which is more than you’d pay for a Japanese competing bike so it must really have impressed the decent crowd of owners already riding this model.
KTM is dedicated to building top notch motocross and off-road models and the new 250 XC-F fits on the latest evolutionary step yet, which is enough make us call this a better (although more expensive too) alternative to the Japanese bikes. Yes, it does mean that we’re dealing with a trendsetter, but one that could have performed even better if fuel injection would have fed the small engine.