MXA 250 MOTOCROSS SHOOTOUT: 2011 KTM 250SX VS. 2011 YAMAHA YZ250 TWO-STROKE

January 21, 2012
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2011 KTM 250SX.

No offense to Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda, but they aren’t included in this 2011 shootout because they don’t make 250cc two-stroke motocross bikes (although Suzuki does sell its 2008 RM250 overseas…and has it listed on their American website for 2012 at $6099). Husqvarna, Gas Gas, TM and Maico do, but in the battle for showroom dominance, the Yamaha YZ250 and KTM 250SX are the main players. So, it was only natural that the MXA wrecking crew would take these high-profile 250cc two-stroke race bikes and shoot them out.

The MXA wrecking crew doesn’t pussyfoot around with bike tests. We race them head-to-head, week in and week out, in an attempt to find the answers to the most commonly asked questions. These are the 2011 models (because we don’t have a 2012 YZ250 yet). Here is what we have learned about the $6699 KTM 250SX and $7150 YZ250.

Q: WHICH ONE MAKES THE MOST POWER?

A: KTM’s 250SX two-stroke blows the doors off the YZ250 on sheer horsepower. The 2011 KTM pumps out 48 horsepower (and the 2012 250SX hits 50 ponies). The 2011 Yamaha YZ250 has a nice powerband with decent ponies, but in a two-horse race, it’s last.

Q: WHICH ONE IS FASTER ON THE TRACK?

A: No contest. The KTM is stronger, broader and quicker. It jumps out of berms with a growl, and once in the midrange, it pulls hard. It is the best 250 two-stroke engine made.

The Yamaha YZ250 isn’t slow, but it hasn’t seen the constant upgrades that the KTM engine has. The YZ250 engine is essentially the same as the 2006 YZ250 engine.

2011 Yamaha YZ250.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST SUSPENSION?

A: Yamaha wins this category because its SSS component, Ti shock spring and long development curve have made the YZ250 suspension the best showroom stock stuff ever produced.

Whereas the YZ250 gets Euro-spec jetting, the KTM 250SX gets Euro-spec suspension. It is not well suited to American tracks?it is too soft. We went stiffer on the springs on both ends.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST JETTING?

A: This is a push, because both bikes are spot on.

2011 KTM 250SX came with no-link PDS suspension, while the 2012 model gets linkage.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST BRAKES?

A: Just as no other brand can compete with Yamaha’s SSS suspension, no other brand holds a candle to KTM’s stupendous brakes. The KTM 250SX front brake is as good as most works brakes.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST GEARING?

A: This is another push. We didn’t feel compelled to change the gearing on either bike for big tracks, but tighter tracks might call for one tooth more.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST GEARBOX?

A: Another push. Compared to four-strokes, which load their gearboxes with lots of torque and backlash, these two 250cc two-strokes shift like they are buttered up with pineapple oil.


The 2011 Yamaha YZ250 has the best suspension.

Q: WHICH BIKE HAS THE BEST CLUTCH?

A: Yamaha’s traditional cable-actuated clutch is very good, but KTM’s hydraulic system is excellent.

Q: WHICH BIKE HANDLES THE BEST?

A: Before this test, every MXA test rider believed that the Yamaha YZ250 would handle better. This was based on past KTM experiences and the inherent comfort of the familiar YZ250 layout. Surprise! On the track, test riders preferred the KTM (once we stiffened up the suspension).
 
Q: AND THE WINNER IS…

A: The 2011 KTM 250SX is the winner. Its design is six years newer, it has over three horsepower more (The 2012 model has five horse more than the YZ), the brakes are twice as powerful, the clutch is self-adjusting and it handles sharper.

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