It’s not as simple as switching from a Yamaha YZ250 to a KTM 250SX or vice versa, they have completely different powerbands.

Dear MXperts,
I have been on a 2015 YZ250 for four years. I live in Virginia and ride at Budds Creek and a few other local tracks. I weigh 185 pounds. I’ve been looking at getting a newer bike. I’m thinking about the KTM 350SXF, a newer YZ250 or a KTM 250SX two-stroke. I haven’t considered a 450, but should I? Any thoughts you have would be helpful.

Most MXA test riders with considerable two-stroke experience believe that the KTM 350SXF is the easier four-stroke to transition to from a two-stroke. Lots of the sensations of the 350SXF mimic the feel of a two-stroke, with the biggest difference being the high-rpm four-stroke powerband. If you want to stick with a two-stroke and are trying to choose between a 2020 KTM 250SX and a 2020 Yamaha YZ250, there are several factors to consider:

(1) A 2020 YZ250 is essentially the same as your current 2015 model. With the 2020 YZ250 retailing for $7499, you could rebuild your 2015 for a small slice of that. Getting a new YZ250 is a lateral arbabesque (a sideways promotion where you end up right where you started).

(2) We understand the siren song of getting a new bike and think that getting a KTM 250SX two-stroke would be more of a thrill than another Yamaha YZ250; however, it’s important to note that on the dyno, the KTM makes 47.20 horsepower, while the Yamaha YZ250 pumps out 46.08. But, these two powerbands have very little in common with each other, even though they are within one horse at peak.

In motion, the KTM 250SX is significantly stronger from low to mid—as much as 4 horsepower stronger than the YZ250 at 7000 rpm. It hits hard, pulls hard and gives up early. Four horses is a lot of ponies to give up, but, once the KTM 250SX peaks at 8200 rpm, it signs off quickly. And, by the time the orange bike gets to the Yamaha’s 8800-rpm peak, the YZ250 is actually 4.7 horsepower better. The KTM 250SX excels in the low to midrange, and the Yamaha YZ250 excels on top. It is an interesting match-up: sheer grunt versus over-rev. In our opinion, the Yamaha YZ250’s engine is broader, more manageable and easier to ride than the more potent KTM 250SX, but if you can use the added power, the KTM 250SX is a better race bike. The price difference between the 2020 Yamaha YZ250 and 2020 KTM 250SX is $800.

(3) If we were in your shoes, we would take a serious look at the KTM 350SXF. The 350SXF is $700 more than the KTM 250SX and $1500 more than the YZ250, so that is quite the upgrade. Of course, the resale value of used Yamaha YZ250s has gone through the roof in the last fives year. If your 2015 YZ250 is in good shape, you could get as much as one-third of the 350SXF’s MSRP for it. That takes a lot of the bite out of the price. The change from two to four can be intimidating for some riders, but the midsize KTM thumper is the most user friendly of all the four-stroke displacements. This is where we would direct you if you raced where we race.

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