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Dirt Rider - - 2017 Ktm 250 Exc-f -

We have to take the good with the bad, and while it is good that the 250 EXC-F now ex­ists when it didn’t pre­vi­ously, it is bad (de­pend­ing if you were a fan or not) that there are no more XCF-WS in KTM’S lineup. There are still XC-WS (250 and 300 two-strokes), but if you want a link­age-less, head­lighted, wide-ra­tio four-stroke, the EXC-FS are your only op­tions from Big Or­ange.

You can think of the 250 EXC-F as a hy­brid be­tween the SX-F and the for­mer XCF-W with a plate. The frame, seat, and a ma­jor­ity of the en­gine are the same as the SX-F model, mean­ing the mo­tor is more com­pact and 3.3 pounds lighter than the ’16 XCF-W. The WP sus­pen­sion is unique to the ’17 EXC-FS. The Xplor 48 fork is an open-cham­ber de­sign that is claimed to be al­most a half a pound lighter than last year’s EXC’S fork. The Xplor shock is shorter, smaller (46mm from 50mm pis­ton di­am­e­ter), and a claimed 1.3 pounds lighter.

An­other unique in­no­va­tion is the in­clu­sion of a reed cage… We bet you didn’t see that com­ing! But it isn’t in the same place or for the same pur­pose as reed cages on two-strokes. The 250’s reed cage is lo­cated in the air­boot, be­fore the throt­tle body, and it is de­signed to stop en­gine noise from com­ing back through the in­take tract, which it does re­ally well. All of the EXC-FS are re­ally quiet, and out of the three mod­els, the quar­ter-liter bike is down­right stealthy.

Now you must be won­der­ing how all of this works, and we can defini­tively say we were im­pressed with the 250 EXC-F. Start­ing with the few cons, on the street, the bike pretty much maxes out at 65 mph, so you don’t want to use it as a com­muter un­less you live in a small town with low speed lim­its. Sec­ond, the Con­ti­nen­tal TKC 80 tires are not for dirt-only use. They work on the “not” side of okay on the trails but are great for long stints on gravel roads.

With the mo­tor, we were a lit­tle ner­vous about the reed cage hurt­ing power, but to our sur­prise, the bike has a con­sid­er­able amount of pep. Its SX-F pedi­gree shines through more than we had thought it would, but there is still a dif­fer­ence: It’s al­most as if each power stroke of the en­gine is blunted where the mo­tocrosser is sharper. Like­wise, the EXC-F has a smooth bot­tom-end, a hearty mid, and it still pulls im­pres­sively far on top. When climb­ing loose hills, the slightly tamed-down power had us wor­ried at the be­gin­ning of the as­cent, but the top-end just keeps pulling and you can re­ally scream it like the track­only bike.

The Xplor sus­pen­sion wasn’t much of a sur­prise, which isn’t a bad thing. As with EXCS of the past, the fork and shock lean much fur­ther in the com­fort di­rec­tion than they do in the per­for­mance area. The Xplor fork has plush, soft ac­tion that is pretty ac­tive feel­ing; slowly pick­ing through creek beds and rooty sin­gle-track would make it, and its rider, re­ally happy. Once you hit a G-out or point down a steep, rough de­scent, the front end has a hol­low or empty feel­ing, blow­ing through the stroke eas­ily. For­tu­nately, the Xplor fork has a whole dif­fer­ent in­ter­nal damp­ing sys­tem that re­sponds much more ag­gres­sively than the pre­vi­ous fork to clicker changes. To change the whole feel of the fork, we went five clicks in (stiffer) on the com­pres­sion, and this helped a lot; we got the hold-up we were look­ing for without sac­ri­fic­ing too much com­fort at low speeds. But this setup also gives the fork a feel­ing like we were only us­ing the top half of the stroke, though it was our best set­ting for the rest of the rides on the EXC-F.

The PDS shock is sim­i­larly soft but more con­sis­tent through the stroke. PDS shocks in gen­eral are more ac­cept­ing of a sit­down style of rid­ing (grass-track-ish), and this new Xplor is no dif­fer­ent.

We tested the bike in low- and high­speed trails and its very nim­ble, light­weight feel­ing had us look­ing for the tight­est routes we could find. And while it will never be a desert racer, it held its own in some sand washes and fire roads. Han­dling-wise, the weak­est link is the tires. The bike’s agility is present (via its low weight and SX-F ge­om­e­try), but the ADV rub­ber doesn’t like to be leaned very far in the dirt and es­pe­cially in sand. When we think about the ques­tion, “Who is this bike for?” a cool an­swer pops into our col­lec­tive mind. Al­most ev­ery­one. We’d be just as happy teach­ing some­one to ride on this bike as we would rid­ing it to an enduro, rac­ing it, and rid­ing it home. If you have any inkling that you’d like to do some globe-trot­ting or think a wind­screen would be cool, this isn’t the bike for you, but if you like tight trails, agility, all-day com­fort, and wav­ing at cops as you ride on the street, the KTM 250 EXC-F fits that bill nicely.

As far as 250F dual-sports go, we are hard-pressed to name a bet­ter bike.

Not quite elec­tric-bike quiet but pretty darn close. We could eas­ily talk over its idle without raised voices.

The Con­ti­nen­tal TKC 80s are a com­pro­mise. Not hor­ri­ble in the dirt but def­i­nitely

not our first choice.

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