NUMBER ONE: 2010 KAWASAKI KX250F
The Kawasaki KX250F won the MXA 250 shootout in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It got nudged out by the sweet Honda CRF250 in 2009. But, Honda abdicated the throne for 2010, and the revised KX250F slipped right back into the top spot with a powerband that is tailor-made for racing. It’s strong, fast and caters to Intermediate and Pro-level riders. The MXA test riders have a few quibbles with the handling, suspension and gearing, but in a class that is defined by power, the KX250F knows where to put it.
PLUSES: The power is in the perfect place for a racer.
MINUSES: The handling, jetting and gearing need to be addressed at the factory.
NUMBER TWO: 2010 KTM 250SXF
One bike has to make the most horsepower, and KTM holds that honor in both the 250 and 450 classes. The most unique thing about the KTM 250SXF powerband is that it is completely linear. The power builds as the rpm increases (and it makes its peak horsepower in an rpm range where dogs start howling). The key to successfully racing the 250SXF is to never shut off and never shift. The KTM 250SXF could win a 250 shootout on horsepower alone, but it loses points for its harsh forks, tall gearing and lack of midrange hit.
PLUSES: The most horsepower, good handling, incredible brakes and the lightest overall package.
MINUSES: The forks are harsh, the shock kicks and the gearing is way too tall.
NUMBER THREE: 2010 YAMAHA YZ250F
The 2010 Yamaha YZ250F has so much going for it that it is a shame that one of those things isn’t a versatile powerband. The powerband is snappy, responsive and impressive at low rpm, but it is as flat as an ironing board from the mid on up. The world hasn’t been waiting for a low-to-mid 250 four-stroke. It wants mid-and-up powerbands (and the YZ250F has more of a low-to-low powerband than anything else). Historically, Yamaha’s incredible Kayaba SSS suspension would bail them out of the hole the engine dug, but this year the forks have excessive midstroke harshness. All in all, the 2010 YZ250F is a flawed machine. Yes, it’s fixable, but that should have been done at the factory.
PLUSES: Sharp handling, good ergos, nice shock and crisp jetting.
MINUSES: The lack of top-end power, lots of extra shifting and harsh forks are the three biggest bugaboos.
NUMBER FOUR: 2010 HONDA CRF250
Last year, the 2009 Honda CRF250 wasn’t perfect (harsh forks, questionable front tire and erratic jetting), but we’d gladly change the fork springs, buy a new tire and juggle brass rather than deal with the handling issues of the 2010 Honda CRF250. In fact, if Honda had just fixed the three flaws on the 2009 CRF250, it would have won the 2010 shootout. Honda started over instead. We expected the new fuel-injected engine to pull the bacon out of the fire for Honda in 2010, but it produced a rather pedestrian, midrange-only powerband. The 2010 CRF250 is a miniaturized version of the 2009 and 2010 CRF450?warts and all.
PLUSES: The gearing is correct for the midrange powerband and the bike looks right.
MINUSES: Soft forks, twitchy front-end and lack of bottom-end (mated to a lack of top-end).
The 2010 Suzuki RM-Z250 was not included because Suzuki did not make it available for the same test period as the other brands.