MUD PLUGGING AWAY
Designed with the newcomer in mind, the Freeride makes riding the lanes as easy as it could possibly be. And as your experience grows it remains just as much fun to ride.
It’s not perfect, and a couple of things about it could be better. Even so, I’d wager if you start your trail riding on one of the novice-friendly Freerides, you’re much more likely to stick at it than you would be if you began riding trails on a more demanding machine. The most outstanding advantage might not seem too relevant – but the low seat height gives the chance for novices to control matters far more easily. By roadbike standards it might still sound lofty at 915mm, but that’s appreciably lower than most more focused enduro machines. Just being able to get on and off the Freeride more readily, and plant your feet on the ground whenever the going gets a bit too tricky boosts confidence massively. The 250’s dry weight of just 99kg is also a big bonus.
It doesn’t stop there either. Friendly and flexible, the bike’s single cylinder motor is a great ally to progress. A mapping switch dictates whether it makes 20 or 26bhp, and though both peak outputs might sound a bit weedy, for newcomers they’re spot on. Power delivery is very linear and usable, making lighter work of driving forward on lower grip surfaces. There’s a traction control system fitted, though it just dulls the power a little rather than stopping wheelspin completely. All in all though, you have everything you need to accelerate in safety. Even for older hands like me, the engine performance is very useful and can’t be described as insipid. On my outings, the KTM delivered all the pace I wanted. It wouldn’t be strong enough for a competition enduro, but for trail riding it’s more than sufficient. Returning up to 70mpg is a boon too, though I for one wouldn’t have minded a slightly larger tank to boost fuel range. As it is you need to start thinking about top ups when the fuel light comes on at just 60-odd miles, and make sure you refill within the realistic limit of 80 miles. That’s not too bad for an off-roader, but if it was mine I’d definitely strap another couple of litres of fuel to the bike. I had to cut one enjoyable ride short to make it to a fuel station, which was a shame.
Another thing I did to boost enjoyment was change the KTM’s front tyre. The bike comes with trials tyres as standard, and though these are fine in drier conditions, their very square profile makes harder cornering trickier and, more importantly, they can’t clear mud from their tread well. A couple of rides I made in muddier conditions were much harder work thanks to the mud-clogging reducing grip. Once I changed the front tyre for a street-legal enduro tyre, at least the 250 steered much better. If I was buying a new bike I’d insist that the dealer fitted enduro tyres front and rear. Trials tyres may be better for the environment as they don’t chew up the ground as much, but they’re no good for a newcomer in more sloppy terrain. “Green-laning is one of the most rewarding things you can do on a motorcycle. Much of the enormous sense of achievement comes from meeting the numerous challenges it presents.”
The overall chassis performance, and especially that of the suspension deserves nothing but praise however. Steering’s very light, and both forks and shock do a fine job of helping the KTM traverse rougher sections of terrain while maintaining good wheel control. Progressive brakes make speed reduction very predictable. The off-roader is street-legal, though its design is definitely more suited to the dirt than the road. My trail riding often involved a fair few miles of road use to link the trail sections, and the KTM dealt with those comfortably. But I wouldn’t like to travel on those for much more than 10 miles at a time.
Once it’s on the right rubber the Freeride 250F feels right at home and is a great choice for green-laning, especially if you’re fresh to that type of riding. I certainly would have liked one when I first took to the dirt 10 years back. It would have helped me gain more experience without a lot of the stress and strain I had to put up with on my unwise choice of an excessively tall and powerful pukka 450cc enduro bike. On the KTM, early off-road life is a lot more straightforward, and very encouraging at a time when that’s really quite important.
Green-laning is one of the most rewarding things you can do on a motorcycle. Much of the enormous sense of achievement comes from meeting the numerous challenges it presents. Learning how to do that takes time though. Ideally the baptism needs to be gentle, with your early offroading being more manageable.
That’s precisely where KTM’s Freeride 250F can probably help.