KTM’S new two-stroke on the World’s tough­est event

Bike’s off-road edi­tor, Jon Pear­son, takes KTM’S new 2018 fuel in­jected two-stroke on the tough­est test, for man and ma­chine, on planet Earth…

BIKE (UK) - - KTM 250 EXC - By Jonathan Pear­son Pho­tog­ra­phy Robert Lynn, fu­ture 7 me­dia and KTM

HON­ESTLY, I NEVER wanted to do the Erzberg Rodeo. Put off the hard­est of Hard En­duros by mates who call it the most dif­fi­cult thing they’d ever done – mates who know what they’re talk­ing about – I couldn’t see the point. But I’m an id­iot who likes a chal­lenge and an id­iot who couldn’t turn down the chance to be one of the two first peo­ple on the planet to race KTM’S ground­break­ing new fuel in­jected two-strokes. The new 250 EXC and I ba­si­cally meet on the start line and set off on our first date for a game of how close we dare come to crash­ing. This EXC is typ­i­cally up for it though. The chas­sis, sus­pen­sion and brakes are the same as the 2017 model so it’s all in­stantly fa­mil­iar. The 250 Trans­fer Port In­jec­tion en­gine gets no mercy from me but hap­pily sings cleanly through the gears for ten min­utes of mo­tor­way speeds on quarry ledges bro­ken up by sketchy brak­ing into rocky hair­pins. 1800 rid­ers com­plete two timed runs to de­ter­mine start po­si­tion for the main race. I fin­ish 56 sec­onds be­hind the fastest rider, down in 140th from the 500 qual­i­fiers. Sun­day mid­day ar­rives and we’re off, ex­cept I’m not. Rows of 50 at a time de­part from dead en­gines but when the flag drops for my row, 49 bikes fire away while my TPI mo­tor opts for an ex­tra few sec­onds con­tem­pla­tion. Maybe it was still smart­ing from the pro­logue. Dif­fer­ent shades of mad­ness fill the next four hours. Bowel-mov­ingly big hills take to­tal com­mit­ment in third gear but the fuel in­jected 250 sails up them find­ing grip with the sort of pulling power that’s lack­ing in the carbed model. The woods are where Erzberg is hard­est though. Sav­age steep and tech­ni­cally dif­fi­cult climbs through trees pile up rid­ers and we spend as much time lift­ing and pulling as rid­ing. Carbed bikes need revving to clear them out in these hellish hot con­di­tions. Al­ti­tude and too much time at low revs oil up spark plugs on con­ven­tional stro­kers but the TPI mo­tor runs clean all day. It sips petrol too – four hours and no need for fill ups is un­be­liev­able. 25 rid­ers make the ac­tual fin­ish and see a flag 475 never will. The rest of us get as far as we can be­fore time’s up and I make it past check point 15 (named Burp­ing Stones). The end comes at the top of a mighty de­scent where I come to a halt with a gag­gle of rid­ers speak­ing three lan­guages, check­ing watches and shrug­ging. The record later shows a slightly dis­ap­point­ing 130th place. Burp­ing Stones it is, till next time.

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