Adam Child

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

CHOOSE TO CRUISE In­dian Scout Sixty £8999 How will an ad­ven­ture bike rider cope?

USU­ALLY RIDES

Kawasaki ER-6 Light­weight TT race bike and any sports­bike

RID­ING TO­DAY

KTM 250 EXC-F, £7449

Dreams and reality don’t of­ten match, which is usu­ally my ex­pe­ri­ence of off-road rid­ing. I’m drawn to­wards the ex­cit­ing im­ages in KTM’S cat­a­logue and watch­ing in­spir­ing footage on Youtube of ul­tra-skilled rid­ers tear­ing up dunes or rip­ping through dense for­est. How­ever, as some­one who road races in his spare time I only get the chance to try off-road rid­ing in win­ter – and usu­ally end up cold, wet or worse – in A&E. I’ve bro­ken more bones dur­ing my few at­tempts to ride on mud than I have in close to 10 years of rac­ing at Scar­bor­ough’s Oliver’s Mount road cir­cuit.

But I’m will­ing to give it an­other go; to get out of my com­fort zone. To­day I’ve cho­sen one of the least in­tim­i­dat­ing bikes in KTM’S vast range, their four-stroke 250 EXC-F. Now it might only be a 250, a learner bike for some, but make no mis­take this also has the po­ten­tial to be race com­pet­i­tive straight out of the box.

It takes some get­ting used to as it has been close to a year since I’ve (de­lib­er­ately) rid­den off-road. Stand­ing up on the pegs, let­ting the front nat­u­rally feel its way through deep ruts while the rear Maxxis tyre finds end­less grip, it’s com­plete over­load for my brain; there isn’t even a fa­mil­iar speedo or ig­ni­tion! My ag­ing body isn’t cop­ing well ei­ther as I’m hold­ing on like a koala in a hur­ri­cane. Within 20 min­utes I have solid mus­cle lock on both arms.

How­ever, you soon to learn to re­lax and let the KTM do all the work. At less than 100kg dry it’s in­cred­i­bly light com­pared to a road bike and the sin­gle-cylin­der power is smooth, with im­pres­sive low speed fu­elling. It will pull away from a stand­still in sec­ond or even third gear, al­low­ing the rear tyre to find grip no mat­ter what the con­di­tions. The front is equally im­pres­sive: how it man­ages to find any grip in sloppy mud is unbelievable and flat­ters an in­ex­pe­ri­enced rider like my­self.

Af­ter two hours of rid­ing I’m ex­hausted. I can’t feel my arms, my boots are full of wa­ter, I’ve lost count of the num­ber of scary low speed mo­ments I’ve had and I’m cov­ered in odd smelling ‘mud’, but I can’t hide my beam­ing smile. I have the grace of a swan trying to land on a frozen lake and I don’t think I’ve got out of third gear all day; but what great fun. I can see why so many get hooked on the sport.

But I still won’t be run­ning down to my lo­cal KTM dealer and hang­ing up my race leathers just yet. At £7449 the 250 EXC-F is an im­pres­sive bit of en­gi­neer­ing, but it is ex­pen­sive. Luck­ily KTM do have a range of of­froad rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ences to choose from – that’s where my money is go­ing this win­ter.

‘I’m hold­ing on like a koala in a hur­ri­cane but soon learn to re­lax’

Qual­ity sus­pen­sion makes for easy con­trol The Dakar rid­ers don’t need to be quak­ing in their boots quite yet

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