2016 KTM 250SX-F Factory Edition

Limited Edition Look Into The Future

MSRP: $9399

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis
  • Photographer: Drew Ruiz

Introduction

  • KTM has been making Factory Editions and Special Editions for a while.
  • Being a quick moving manufacturer allows KTM to produce small production runs.

The Factory Edition concept of KTM bringing over a limited number of “replica” race bikes is brilliant. Maybe 500 total. For the company and the consumer. It has proven to be a great way to accomplish a number of tasks; from making a newer bike legal to the production racing rules to giving eager customers the latest bikes all decked out like the factory bikes. It releases some newer stuff that is a precursor to what will come in the following model year on the standard bikes allowing some real world testing and adaptation that can be slightly tuned without waiting a whole model year to react. Plus the bikes give fan riders something that looks as fast and trick as it is without extra effort. It only takes a few more dollars at the dealer.

"It only takes a few more dollars at the dealer."

Changes

  • A Factory looks package.
  • Small details in the FMF Muffler and a gearing ratio change.
  • A big change in the use of WP's new air spring fork, and three pounds lighter too.

The 2016 Factory Edition is basically a Factory Edition of the previous Factory edition released in 2014. That is how quickly KTM is upgrading their motocross lineup. Though the changes are not as drastic as the first time this FE thing happened, there are some very notable improvements including the adaptation of the WP Air fork (which was standard on the 2016 non-US models). The basic frame and engine are very similar to the standard 2016 SX, save for the racing orange color of the frame. The bodywork is also identical differing in the Troy Lee Team designs gracing it and the addition of a front disc guard. Other differences include a change in the final drive gearing from 13:50 to 14:51 and the use of an FMF muffler. Orange parts, like the triple clamp and rear sprocket highlight over the standard colors. DID rims are a change from Excel on the standard SX. This year's FE isn't the radical upgrade from the previous year, it is just a 2017 in disguise.

"This year's FE isn't the radical upgrade from the previous year, it is just a 2017 in disguise."

Power

  • New found aggressive nature that works for the 250F class.
  • The FE's muffler and gearing change really work for this bike.

Now that KTM is racing and putting these bikes up front in televised s supercross and motocross starts, we are not questioned when we tell you that the 250SX-F is fast. The engines have always had a delivery that was characterized as smooth; not anymore.They have always been making a lot of power even if the delivery may not have felt that way, especially off the bottom. But in the latest generation of the powerplant KTM has worked on that feeling even in the standard 2016 engine. The DOHC four-valve motor uses the latest technology in fuel injection and ignition control to have a very wide power spread. With a 44mm Keihin throttle body and a multi-position map switch with a launch control mode for starts there is a fair amount of tunability for the rider without having to use a computer to make changes.

The bike fires right up through electric starting and there is no kickstarter for backup, not even a decompression system on the cam. The bike uses a smallish lithium-ion battery and making sure it is topped up is crucial though the bike keeps it charged just fine when used regularly. With the FMF muffler the sound is increased over the stock pipe and then so is the boost everywhere in the powerband especially the very, very top end where it feels like the muffler gives the bike an additional 1000 RPMs of workable range. The power on the bottom is very torque-filled for a 250F and the engine makes that angry grunt noise that only race engines with short lived made just a few years ago. There is very little flywheel helping the bike but it is reluctant to stall as well, especially with any throttle being applied.The mapping through the turn of the throttle is spot on and the overall delivery is very linear until you get above the 10,000 RPM mark. Then it is a rocket ship.

We ran the bike almost exclusively in the aggressive ignition mode as it took away some of the gap or step in the power delivery between the mid-range and top end. All said the bike is a top-end screamer and will give any other 250F fits when the throttle is at the stop. Easily running out to the 14,000 RPM rev cut and liking it the SX-F pulls hard and uses that power. Where some other bikes will rev that high they don’t feel as if they are putting the power to the ground as effectively especially in traction-limited situations. This bike uses those upper RPMs and can be left in a gear for longer or pull the next just fine. The added pick-up on the bottom and mid only help the feel of the engine in an area a fast rider will not ride it much. But for more novice riders this boost is the difference between going and bogging. The gearing aids this too.

The exhaust note is loud here and we feel that that is accounting for some of the power increase, but don’t forget the gearing change as well. The FE seems like it is a gear lower everywhere on the track than the standard 250 SX-F. The slightly taller gearing makes the gear ratios slightly farther apart allowing the bike to be more versatile on most tracks since it causes you to be a gear lower and that makes the bike rev more. It does get more use out of fifth and is noticeably faster on a long straight like Glen Helen’s start.

The clutch action is as good as they come with a light feel through the hydraulic Brembo system. KTM plates are known to be extra durable and we had no issues on this bike. Shifting was excellent as well and our experience says that if the shifting is getting worse it is time to change the motor oil.

KTM’s launch control is much different that any other system and we are not sure if we like it. The activation is pretty straight forward but then the rider should hold the throttle wide open and allow a built in rev limiter to cut the RPM to the right level for what KTM feels is the optimal starting power in first or second gear. Then you should be able to just drop the clutch and go. It worked on some starts and not  so much on others based largely on the traction available. The system is consistent in how it works but the rider will need to determine if the conditions will allow the use of the launch control or if it is a disadvantage. In reality most of our riders figured doing it the old fashion way was the best.

"The engines have always had a delivery that was characterized as smooth; not anymore."

Suspension

  • KTM and WP have a very refined air spring fork.
  • The bike is balanced and set up right.
  • Bottoming resistance is excellent.

KTM have waited for a while to go the air fork route and for good reason. The acceptance, especially by the media has been lackluster. Dirt Bike Test is not one of those that hate the air fork just because it is air but understand it is different than the spring fork and has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest being the dropping of weight which is so hard to do on modern bikes. So the ability of KTM to quickly drop three additional pounds on an already light bike was an easy choice to go air. And the technology has improved from the first generation of current air forks just four years ago.

The rear suspension is through a standard linkage design and activates a WP shock. All in all it isn’t much different than any other current bike and WP have come around in perception as much a sin performance. The previous 4CS fork definitely had some hurdles to overcome in harshness and just in the last year it became much better. This new setup is pretty good right out of the box and we would go as far as to say it is the best suspension package KTM has had on a motocross bike to date. But it did take a little tuning to get there.

The rear was easy. It has slightly altered valving settings to match the air fork. We just set the ride height (or sag) at 106-116mm and rode the bike. Basic clicker adjustments based on the track conditions or rider preference were straightforward and simple. A click or three on compression or rebound would get the job done.

Up front we were given the advice to run a little less pressure in the air chamber of the WP fork. KTM likes to be weird and use bar as the suggested pressure setting scale. Standard is 10.6 bar and we ran 9.8. In our world that was 142 PSI down from 153 PSI. and that made a real difference in feel and harshness. The higher pressure would work on a smooth supercross track but for anything else the forks are much more compliant with a little less pressure in them. The clickers (don’t forget about these just because there is a schrader valve on the fork) will easily tune in some additional damping just like a conventional spring fork beyond the air pressure. We find that WP adjusters seem to work more on the mid-speed damping than the low speed that most adjusters control. Overall we were a little slower on the fork’s rebound as well. The WP air fork is pretty simple to set up with its single air chamber and it uses an automatic bleed valve to handle the balance or negative pressure side of the air-spring. The fork seal life seemed normal and luckily there is very little issue if a normal fork seal were to blow. There is only minimal oil for lubrication in the outer fork’s chamber on either air or oil damping sides.

The suspension is very balanced and if anything it feels like the bike rides a little squatted in the back when it is the plushest. You still feel the little chop more than on the best suspended bikes but in absorbing the bigger bumps and taking the jump faces and landings the KTM is right there. Both ends have great bottoming resistance and control. The bike uses the whole stroke and we found it working as delivered for riders in the 160-185 pound range on the stock rear shock spring.

"The ability of KTM to quickly drop three additional pounds on an already light bike was an easy choice to go air."

Chassis - Handling

  • Light on the scale but stable and planted on the track.
  • Feels like a low rider in the rear end.
  • High end fit and finish is a KTM bonus.

The 250SX-F is a very light bike, there is no doubt about it. The scale has it at 230 pounds full with 1.8-gallons of gas. That puts the bike at 220 pounds with no gas but ready to ride. Overall the KTM has a longer and thinner feel than most other bikes and it is on the roomy or stretched out side for most riders even though the rider compartment has become a little more compact over the last few years. On the track the bike does not always feel as light as it is but it sure acts light when it is getting loose and that is the important part.

Since it has a low and stretched out character this gives it additional stability in the handling department and that sensation adds a little bit to the weight feel. The SX is one of the more stable bikes but retains a very light and loose sensation through the handlebar so the bike is still very easy to turn. In fact the bike turns and stays planted in the turns as good as any other bike out there and magically gets away from feeling stable but becomes very light yet planted in the turns. We feel a lot of this is from the ease that a rider can move around on this bike and how far forward the bike lets the rider get. The flat seat and the forward and tallish par position make it easy. Great footpegs and a super narrow layout through the length of the bike all help this feeling.

In the air the bike is neutral feeling but not the lightest, again it has a longish sensation. And we have to bring up that this is one of the few bike not using an aluminum frame which also yields a different feeling to some extent. Most feel that steel is a little more forgiving and does not act as stiff. We don’t see any downsides to the steel frame on this KTM and it’s current track record at the highest levels would indicate that it is pretty dialed in.

KTM’s components are top flight on this bike as well. The brakes are class leading in both power and feel with the added bonus of being very easy to adjust without tools on the front. Even the teeth on the brake pedal are sharp making it easy to reach. The footpegs have mud scrapers built into the mechanism and little details like that are smart. It is easy to work on the 250SX-F and basic maintenance is simple with one of the best air filter setups out there. Luckily if you don’t like the number 13 it is removable from the pre-printed backgrounds on the number plates.

"On the track the bike does not always feel as light as it is but it sure acts light when it is getting loose and that is the important part."

Conclusion

  • The $1000 price bump matched the increased cost of the parts so it is a wash.
  • This bike makes no excuses.
  • The KTM does not take any more adaptation than any other bike to come to terms with.

This is a really good bike that has the looks to kill and go along with the performance. At $9399 it is $1000 above the standard KTM SX-F and a little more than most other 250Fs. That is pricy. For that you get an air fork (improvement), a $500 Muffler (improvement in power), and factory looks that may have someone coming up to you and asking for your autograph at the track before they see you ride (biggest bonus). Yes this happened to us. The 250cc Motocross class is packed with great bikes that all have different traits and characteristics. This KTM stands out in looks and there is nothing about it that would prevent us from wholeheartedly recommending it to any motocross rider of any ability level.

"This is a really good bike that has the looks to kill and go along with the performance."

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What Others Said

Don't like all this reading? Transworld Motocross and Rich Taylor break it done in a fancy video with a smooth sound track.
http://motocross.transworld.net/videos/2016-ktm-sx-f-factory-edition-bikes-first-impression/#YPCt8xIyPHtHHpiB.97