Get the latest on MotoOnline.com.au’s project test bike as we break it in.
A few years ago I stopped buying bikes. Not because I don’t like them, of course, but because testing takes a lot of time out of the schedule and I was finding it hard to fit in time to ride my own equipment without feeling like I was slacking off from ‘work’.
Luckily enough with Project Moto, the 2012 model KTM 250 SX-F feels like my very own, and a great balance between work and play. Still stock as per delivery, Out of Bounds Film guru Guy Streeter and I headed out to Appin earlier this week to see how the latest changes affect the package for the new-year.
KTM has impressed me over the past five years with their unrelenting development process, well improving upon the production models that were released around a decade ago. All manufacturers have made improvements of course, but you could argue that KTM has made the biggest steps forward.
Since the 250 SX-F’s release to the public in 2005, its enjoyed popularity and solid race results worldwide, vastly recognised as the most powerful quarter-litre bike in the Lites pack.
For the 2012 year KTM has made a few simple tweaks on what was a super impressive bike in 2011, including a revision of the 48mm WP fork and rear shock absorber.
The forks have received new bushings and seals, with both ends undergoing adjustment of the valving to balance the ride in pursuit of perfection. What’s more, the rear brake system has a new Brembo master cylinder.
You’ll spot the additional white sections of the plastics including the number plates and airbox, which look way better than the black from last year in my opinion.
Something you may not be able to see, but is an improvement as well, is the addition of marine grade rubber caps on the wiring of the Keihin throttle body to keep water out of the electronics.
So what’s it like on track after a single day of action? First impressions are positive. In fact, there’s not much you can fault with the 250 SX-F, both from an engine performance and handling perspective.
Straight away you’ll love the addition of the electric start, which finally puts the 250F on the same level as its larger capacity siblings when it comes to firing it up.
It does take a little bit to get used to simply pushing the start button with your right thumb, rather than kicking it over, but it is very much appreciated – especially as the day drags on.
The motor is as crisp and powerful as ever, even if part of the day was spent running it in and ensuring everything is bedded in precisely. As we’ve noted before, the torque and amount of usable power on tap is no doubt impressive, throughout the entire power range.
As for the suspension, even though the track was as hard as it gets, the front and rear provided a surprising amount of confidence on an ultra slick surface. Sharp, angular bumps didn’t prove a worry, whether off throttle or accelerating over them.
The grip as you accelerate off the turns is also a plus, especially since the engine is smooth enough to pull through and accelerate at a confidence-inspiring level. Second or third gear hauls, the power dialling itself in right as you need it when you begin to really accelerate.
With a number of relatively quick downhills at Appin, stability is tested and the KTM definitely passed with flying colours. The balance of the bike that KTM was searching for is definitely there, and at this stage the only adjustments we’d really need to make will come with time, or a rougher track.
The controls are all spot on as you’d expect with the adjustable Brembo brake lever and hydraulic clutch, making light work of using the clutch at any time. The front brake is actually really impressive, not overly sensitive, but still featuring enough bit to pull up on target.
As we’ve come to expect from standard bikes, the exhaust sounds quite soft and even somewhat restricted, but we’ll soon see the difference of an aftermarket unit when we take delivery of one in the build process.
One thing that also became immediately obvious is that the Dunlop Geomax MX51 tyres that come fitted (mostly the rear) aren’t really suited to the tracks that we have locally here in New South Wales, which are mostly hard pack. The front grip is actually quite good, however the rear began to peel the rubber off the front and rear of the knobs within the first moto.
The Renthal Fatbar that comes fitted on the bike is a little taller than what I’d usually run, but we’ll stick with them for now and see how I adapt to them over the coming weeks. One thing that we should note is the KTMs now thankfully come with a larger and softer bar-pad, which is essential for safety in my opinion.
We were blown away by the performance of the KTM 250 SX-F at the 2011 launch last year, and this year it’s already proving that we weren’t fooled by the excitement of the release. KTM has a good base package, meaning MotoOnline.com.au can’t wait to get started with the adjustments.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for the first steps in our Project Moto for 2012.
Jersey/Pants: 2012 Answer James Stewart Collection (Seven Blue)
Gloves: Deft Family Catalyst 2 Switch (RY/W)
Helmet: SixSixOne Fenix Shards (black/white)
Goggles: VonZipper (Mondrian Red)
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Neck brace: Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support
Knee brace: PodMX K700
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