2015 KTM Freeride 250R

A Misfit With A Mission

MSRP: $7899.00

Roost
  • KTM is opening up a new market segment that is needed--a serious go anywhere trail riding bike.
  • Seasoned riders who have outgrown the need for excessive power and those short of inseam have a bike built for them.
  • Makes the tougher stuff easier through light weight, torque and great bump absorption.
  • Handles tip overs excellent, stuff is tucked in.
Endo
  • If it was only street legal!
  • Some may not understand it, even after riding it which means it is not for you.
  • Pretty pricey!

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis
  • Photographer: Scott Hoffman/Jimmy Lewis

Introduction

  • A bike without a class--nothing new for KTM.
  • If a trials bike and an enduro bike had a baby, would this be it?
  • Ktm is testing the US market to see if it responds.

What is the KTM Freeride 250R? The Austrian company seems to be calling it a serious trail or play bike but they hate calling it a play bike at all. In Europe, where riding is very limited, it appeals to a person who might ride in small areas or play on obstacles, maybe take rides to play areas, were more than a strict trials bike is needed. It is a little lower cost than the full-on race bikes and part of a family including a 350 four-stroke and an electric bikes, neither available in the US currently. The bike is somewhat of a misfit from a company that lives in a ready to race world. But we can easily see this bike as a perfect machine for seasoned (read: old) riders who want a lighter machine than the portly play bikes now available. They ‘d like a low seat height, simple two-stroke power and of course electric starting. We feel there are many wives (or husband’s of good female riders) who might like this Freeride too. We took the Freeride out and rode it in a lot of different conditions and let a lot of different riders give it a try. All of them asked who and what this bike was really for but we let them tell us after a ride.

" The Austrian company seems to be calling it a serious trail or play bike but they hate calling it a play bike at all."

Changes

  • An all-new bike in the US.
  • Unique frame construction using steel, aluminum and composite pieces.
  • Real quality suspension pieces with real adjustability.

Being all-new there isn't much in the way of changes but here are the features. Firstly the Freeride’s frame is unique to this model and a very interesting chrome-moly main spar frame attached to an aluminum rear shock tower/footpeg connector with a composite rear subframe out back. The suspension is smaller components than the full-sized bikes and with shorter travel as well. The engine, though looking very much like the popular 250/300 two-stroke on the competition bikes is basically its own unit. No kickstarter or powervalve, it houses a unique six-speed  transmission  with sixth acting as an overdrive speed atop five closer spaced ratios and using a hydraulic clutch. The bodywork is it’s own unique style with a very nifty lever-activated lift-up seat tank shroud combo that reveals the under-seat gas tank and air filter. The bike is equipped with Maxxis trials tires and smaller Formula braking components. All said the bike weighs 216-pounds with a full tank of pre-mix and a standard lead-acid battery where the bike comes stock with a lighter lithium-ion battery. Our bike came equipped with a KTM Hardparts aluminum skid plate and an accessory seat that was said to differ in only the seat cover.

" The engine, though looking very much like the popular 250/300 two-stroke on the competition bikes is basically its own unit."

Power

  • Electric-starting only and a little cold blooded.
  • Extremely linear power in that is does not have a lot, but plenty for the job.
  • Chug-chug, pop-pop-pop classic old-school-two-stroke sound and heavy flywheel delivery.
  • Shifting is awkward due to the shorty lever.

The bike is a little lean and likes you to use the hard to reach choke knob on the 28mm Keihin carb if it is cold. The bike has to pop-pop-pop sound of a trials bike through its un-spark arrested muffler. There is a classic trials heavy flywheel feel and through all of the changes KTM was able to drop off a claimed 4.4-pounds compared to a 250 XC-W motor. The clutch pull is very light and has great feel, it is a classic six-spring clutch residing inside the side cover. First gear is not as low as we would have suspected but it does not matter that much since the motor puts out great torque at such a low RPM. On their first go on the Freeride most riders tried to rev the bike a little before letting the clutch out. As soon as they realized the bottom-end power was so stall-resistant they quit doing that. Then you rev it and the bike goes to about 5000 RPM and it falls flat on its face. Go to grab a shift and most riders missed shifts. Here the KTM is very much like a trials bike and taking your foot off the peg and giving the lever a lift was the best method. It shifts fine but the lever is short and does not have the best articulation. The lever is already a bit of a shorty as the footpeg is much farther back when compared to the location of the shift shaft on the XC-Ws.

The engine builds RPM but not much more power or torque from about 2000 RPM on up. It likes to be shifted for speed. There isn’t much snap nor throttle response, it just likes to run on at a smooth and constant RPM, kinda like a diesel. You can use the clutch to pop the bike up into a wheelie but rolling the throttle on rewards you with traction and forceful forward momentum. You can get on the gas really early and plan for the power you need, it will not surprise you.test-ktmFreeride-gall17

The bike seems to run all day long on a tank of fuel when you are just playing around but in reality it does not get all that great of mileage on regular rides. Here you can budget for 60-miles on the just shy of two-gallon gas tank. We were mixing the gas at 80:1 and still getting a little residue on the end of the muffler. We felt the bike could use a slightly leaner carb slide and then use a richer pilot jet. Going up one size with the standard slide let the bike start easier but then it was too rich off idle. Our bike also would run out of gas when doing long wide-open hill climbs or running full-speed on roads. We never could figure out why--but suspect when wide-open there was some restriction, possibly in the float valve or possibly the float level was too low. And with a fan residing behind the single radiator we could not get the bike to overheat even with very little air flow over the radiators and while abusing the clutch.

Overall the Freeride is very easy to ride and it was meant to cruise, not race or go fast. More experience riders quickly learned how to use the transmission to make the bike go fast and beginners loved that the bike is very resistant to stalling.

 

"Then you rev it and the bike goes to about 5000 RPM and it falls flat on its face."

Suspension

  • Not foo-foo suspension typically found on play or trail bikes.
  • Fully adjustable.
  • Perfect setting for tough trails even at a spirited pace, even better if you are cruising.

The Freeride’s suspension is about 50mm (roughly 2 in.) shorter than a conventional race bike. That allows the lower seat height (36-in.) while still having a fair amount of suspension control. Using a simple open cartridge 43mm front fork and a PDS linkageless rear shock the suspension gets the job done. There are all the adjustments available, compression and rebound at both ends and even high-speed compression on the shock if you desire. We found no reason to mess with the clickers as the standard settings worked well for everyone who rode the bike. Mostly because compared to any other play bike out there, this suspension performance is worlds better. And with trials bikes having a very springy setup to allow the bike to bounce, well this isn’t good for trail riding. The Freeride actually dampens progressively and resists bottoming for all practical uses. The bike is very plush feeling and we are sure the tires play a large part in that comfortable feeling as well. And we’ll even compliment the seat in this as having a very positive effect on the feel of the suspension when sitting.test-ktmFreeride-gall13

"Compared to any other play bike out there, this suspension performance is worlds better."

Chassis - Handling

  • Light, flickable, stable and about 3/4 the size of a normal bike.
  • It goes really fast in the really slow sections by minimising mistakes that come with extra power and out of balance riders.
  • Comfortable and fits larger riders better than it should.

Here is where the Freeride is very unique and its own machine. The bike is really light and feels it. It feels small but at the same time is quite roomy.  Going from sitting to standing was the most noticeable difference in the size of the bike as the seat-to-footpeg  relationship is a little short so legs can get folded up. The ground clearance, even for a bike of this size is excellent and over 13-inches. The 36-inch seat height isn’t as low as some of our smallest of riders might have hoped for, but get it in anything technical where putting feet down for comfort comes into pay and most riders over 5’2” praised it. Our less flexible riders found it easy to get on and off compared to a full sized bike.

The 250R can be ridden sitting or standing, something that a trials bike can’t claim, you only get to stand. It loves the tight stuff and also differing from a trials bike you can hit stuff straight-on and bounce or roll right over it without getting pitched, especially if your feet come off the pegs. It feels a little funny as you are really on top of this bike and when standing the bike really feels small. Not like a minibike, as the full-sized wheels roll over things better and calm the ride compared to smaller sized wheels. And even if you are just cruising along, or at least feel like you are going slow, in tight terrain most of our riders were surprisingly fast. You can ride faster trails and roads on the Freeride just fine, likely you'll be in sixth gear a lot on those roads. It goes along just fine but this isn't its happy place. And don't bounce through whoops at speed, it doesn't like this. Roll them or slow down and jump and time them.

The biggest difference was the way the bike steered. Though some of it can be attributed to the front trails tire (we’re trying a true knobby on the bike now), the Freeride steers quick and then almost too quick if you keep turning the bars. Here it will push easily of you have any speed at all. The rake is steep at 23-degrees. But in very slow speed or in tight confines, this quick steering with a lot of handlebar sweep is appreciated. Yet the whole time the bike feels very stable and long as well as low. The long feeling is odd since the bike is about 2.5 inches shorter in wheelbase than a full-sized bike.

The brakes do an admirable job at slowing the bike and we didn't have any issues with overheating them even in long descents. And remember, that two-stroke motor with a heavy flywheel does little to help braking, if nothing at all. You can jump the bike and it feels pretty light but if you start doing trials-like rock-hopping and splatters you will find the bike heavy in comparison. But the more nasty the trails get the more fun the Freeride becomes. Having a seat and a somewhat normal riding positons makes this bike very familiar for dirt bike riders.

 

"Here is where the Freeride is very unique and its own machine. The bike is really light and feels it."

Conclusion

  • This could be the ultimate tough trail ride bike for riders of a lower (or safer) skill level.
  • The price reflects the quality, it isn't for a casual rider, this bike is serious.
  • Not for racing, unless you want to finish that extreme enduro!

The KTM is simple to describe. It has an old-school two-stroke trials type motor stuffed into a miniaturized off-road chassis with a light and lively handling feel riding on great suspension. Our novice riders loved it as did our way older guys who ride Honda CRF230Fs now for the low seat height and the torque> This is something the KTM has along with about a 50-pound weight reduction. On more than one occasion we heard, “If I could get a license plate on that thing I’d buy it tomorrow.”

More advanced riders comments on wanting a more aggressive motor that revved out a little more. We were thinking about getting out the old porting tools and raising the exhaust port. But that is really missing the point and soon you’d be overriding the chassis and suspension, KTM has plenty of bikes that rev and race already. KTM says there is the Freeride notion, “not for maximum power but for harmonious torque progression and optimum rideability - this motorcycle is an all-rounder that feels all the more at home, the tougher the terrain becomes.”test-ktmFreeride-gall4

KTM has built the Freeride to last and even cites its decision to not have a power valve as adding to motor longevity. It is simple to do the air filter (no tools) and transmission fluid changes. The components are quality and they should be for the $7899 price tag. Seems a lot for a play bike but then again what is fun worth to you? Thus bike is a blast to ride and if you want a serious trail or play bike and you may be needing a smaller bike that performs at a high level and is easy to ride in difficult situations, this is the answer.

"The KTM is simple to describe. It has an old-school two-stroke trials type motor stuffed into a miniaturized off-road chassis with a light and lively handling feel riding on great suspension. "

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What Others Said

Geoff Aaron knows a few thing about riding and trials bikes, here's what he said through Cycle World.
http://www.cycleworld.com/2014/12/04/2015-ktm-freeride-250r-motorcycle-review-first-ride-photos-specifications/
An interesting take from a rider who didn't fit the freeride target but didn't spend too much time on it either.
http://www.enduro360.com/2014/11/15/products-tested/2015-ktm-freeride-250-review/

Rider Opinions