2017 KTM 250 EXC-F
In Southern California, legal riding areas seem to be disappearing, so I jumped at the chance to ride the 2017 KTM 250 EXC-F dual-sport. There is something special about being able to gear up in the comfort of your own garage and ride onto the streets and into the hills. Upon receiving the new KTM, one of the first things I noticed was the choked-up-looking exhaust tip with a thick screen at the outlet. I’m sure this is EPA related but nevertheless hampers the bike’s ability to breathe, which is very important, especially for a 250.
The first ride I took the EXC-F on was intended to be an easy trail ride, but as rides often end up when I lead, it soon morphed into an extreme enduro-esque adventure. On the faster-paced trails leading to the hard riding I noticed that although the KTM is heavy when pulling it off a stand, it feels nimble on the trails. When they are tight, this is a good trait, but when speeds pick up, the bike has a slightly nervous/twitchy feeling. I’m sure DOT tires didn’t help the situation, but this feeling is still present when cruising on the highway at higher speeds. The stock tires are basically adventure bike tires, so we swapped them out with Dot-approved Metzeler MC360 units that proved to be much better than stock, though they’re still not as good as full off-road tires once in the dirt.
Once into the more technical rocks, the PDS rear suspension soaked up sharp hits comfortably, but if a rock was hit a little off center, the rear end seemed to get bounced off line easily. I added four clicks of rebound, which seemed to somewhat remedy the issue. It was when the trail started to go uphill that the street-legal side of the EXC-F became more apparent.
Keeping in mind the bike had DOT tires, it was still pretty poor when it came to stopping and starting on hills; in my opinion, this was mostly due to the stock tall gearing combined with a fairly choked-up engine. First gear was tall, which called for quite a bit of clutch slippage to get the bike into the rpm range where it made good power. Although the bike never boiled over, the stock radiator fan was working overtime, which was fine with me since there was still a long ride back after the long climb. Once the ride was over the only thing damaged was the bottom of the license plate where the tire kissed it on hard bottomouts. The stock license plate mount was surprisingly strong, as well as the turn signals, which took plenty of abuse without breaking off.
Since that hard ride I have mostly ridden the bike on the street and on easy trails near my home. On the street, the gearing is quite nice, with first through fifth gear being fairly close together and sixth gear acting as an overdrive for freeway riding. Although it’s only 250cc, the KTM cruises quite happily at speeds around 70 mph without feeling like it’s being abused; of course I needed to find out the top speed (in a legal, controlled environment, naturally), which was 85 mph.
Toward the end of my time with the EXC-F I installed an FMF Powercore 4, which greatly helped the bike breathe and made a considerable difference in horsepower. Although it produced more power, there are two downsides to the aftermarket muffler. One is that the bike is now not legal to ride on the street because the factory exhaust has been removed, and two is that the Powercore 4 is a little too loud and annoying for long-distance riding. I would recommend the Q series muffler for the EXC-F instead of the Powercore 4.
After riding a lot of miles on the 2017 KTM 250 EXC-F it’s clear that KTM continues to be the leader in the dual-sport class. The dual-sport category has been missing a small cc bike that’s great for anyone who doesn’t feel the need to have a large cc bike. Even for the experienced rider this bike is still a blast; I mean, after all, it’s much more entertaining to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow.