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.

Motorcycle Monthly - - Get Riding - Words: Chris Moss Pho­tog­ra­phy: Pete Greaves

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.

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