Bikes 27 Feb 2018

Review: 2018 KTM 250 EXC-F tests the 2018 KTM 250 EXC-F.

Words: Guy Streeter

Just over 12 months ago, KTM launched a new 250 EXC-F, brand new from the ground up with a new engine, chassis and suspension from WP. It’s clear that they hit the mark with the quarter-litre enduro machine, as KTM produced a motorcycle with more horsepower, less weight and better all-round performance. In Australia we have a tendency to be more fond of the larger-capacity off-road bikes, but with so much single-trail and technical terrain available to us, we really shouldn’t turn up our noses as much as we do towards the lower-capacity models. The 250 EXC-F might not own the fire trails or the open desert, however you can sure enjoy maximising its strengths. Get into some tighter trails and this bike is going to perform like it was meant to, boasting light weight, outstanding handling and plenty of power for a 250 four-stroke.

Image: Alex Gobert (Foremost Media).

Where we rode: had the fortune of getting to test the entire KTM enduro fleet along with KTM Enduro Racing Team manager Glenn Kearney at a private farm near Belanglo State Forest, lapping a mint grass track and a short loop in the forest between the tight pine-trees. The 2018 KTM 250 EXC-F is right at home on the grass track and, as I indicated earlier, the tight single-trail is where the bike really shines.

Image: Alex Gobert (Foremost Media).

Tech features:
KTM pretty much hit the nail on the head with its release of the current off-road range in 2017. Having said that, the brand has made a couple of refinements to the 2018 250 EXC-F. So what’s new? KTM focused mostly on handling of the 2018 line-up with a few minor changes made elsewhere. The revisions include revised internal settings to the WP XPlor 48 fork and PDS-type shock absorber, providing improved front-end sensitivity and better damping behaviour, while also saving weight. In addition, a sealed hydro-stop provides great resistance to pushing through the entire 300mm of travel, plus WP has also used new stiffer fork outer-tubes, drafted over from the SX-F forks. KTM’s also re-worked the radiator protectors to improve heat dissipation and create better air-flow, especially in muddy conditions. Continuing on with some of the standout features from last year, the ‘No-dirt’ foot-pegs have been designed to avoid clogging with mud and have been raised by 6mm for better ground clearance. This is not something that you will notice too much, but if you’re a taller rider or just want to be placed lower on the bike, then you can change the height easily enough. The shift-lever has also been redesigned to prevent mud in the shift-elbow. ODI Lock-on grips get rid of the hassle of gluing grips, plus it also makes changing the interchangeable throttle cams a straightforward process. Another option that was made available to use was the traction control and mapping switch, which are aftermarket PowerParts that you can purchase at your KTM dealer. As with every KTM, the 250 EXC-F is fitted with Brembo front and rear brakes, featuring a new rear brake calliper as well. As per usual, the you’ll also benefit from a hydraulic clutch, which gives an amazingly-light, constant feel.

Image: Alex Gobert (Foremost Media).

Motor characteristics:
The 2018KTM 250 EXC-F engine is one of the main reasons for the significant weight reduction from the previous generation model. Despite dropping by 1.9kg and centralising the mass of the bike by making the engine more compact, it still produces more horsepower from the DOHC motor. It’s really responsive right off the bottom and keeps pulling all the way through the six-speed gearbox. The motor is really lively for a 250 four-stroke and that makes it a lot of fun to ride, especially in the tight, technical terrain. The 2018 KTM 250 EXC-F engine sports a Keihin engine management system with electronic fuel injection, featuring a 42mm throttle body. Shifting gears is smooth with the low-friction coating on the shift forks and a gear sensor syncs up the engine’s power-curve to the selected gear and track surface conditions. In 250cc terms, the KTM is a rocket-ship, revving to the moon and it’s a blast to ride on an open grass track where you can surge through the gears and get a lot out of it at speed. In contrast, tight single-track is where the smaller-capacity bikes are at home and that is where the good times really begin. You’ll appreciate the hydraulic clutch as well.

Image: Alex Gobert (Foremost Media).

Chassis feedback:
Fitting a more compact engine within the current generation of EXC-Fs, KTM has engineered an updated frame that amplifies characteristics, translating to improved handling and allowing the frame to work with the suspension better than ever. The development team has reduced the rigidity of the bike front to back, allowing it to flex further, helping it to absorb more impact in accordance with the suspension. Stiffness has been upped side-to-side, resulting in more stability through turns. The swing-arm has also been revised to accommodate the WP XPlor shock. WP has developed all-new XPlor 48mm upside-down spring forks for the current KTM range, making the forks lighter and the ease of adjusting on the fly that much easier. Adjustments can be made via large clicker knobs on the top of each fork-tube, while an optional pre-load adjuster can be purchased as well, which also enables changes without the use of tools.

Image: Alex Gobert (Foremost Media).

Final thoughts:
The moment you jump on the 2018 KTM 250 EXC-F the bike feels precisely impressive. It’s a good fit for the average sized rider, with plenty of optional adjustment on offer. The overall feel of the bike is slim and not bulky in any way, which essentially allows you to ride at levels you’ll be comfortable with on a consistent basis. Like I mentioned earlier, Aussies are not known to gravitate towards 250 four-strokes on the trails, but this bike is most certainly worth a look at. It really has a lively motor, which is plenty fun to rev as much as you dare, and the chassis handles so well that it’s hard not to push yourself to the next level. Priced at $12,995, it’s also $300 less than one year ago!

Vital specifications

Engine type: Four-stroke, single-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled
Capacity: 249.91cc
Bore/stroke: 78×52.3mm
Transmission: Six-speed
Seat height: 960mm
Weight: 103kg
Fuel capacity: 8.5l
Price: $12,995 (plus on-roads)
More details: