Building A Modern Day Racer
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Trevor Hunter/Tyler Belknap/Brandork Photography
KTM’s mantra has long been “Ready To Race”, and while their 2020 250 XC-F is quite capable in stock trim, we set out to build it up enough to better its durability and performance. We were set to race the entire AMA National Grand Prix Championship Series in the Pro 2/250AA classes. While we got some racing in, most of it was halted due to the COVID-19 impact and the influx of races that have been cancelled over the past two months. Without further adieu, here’s what made up our 2020 project race bike!
First, we got our hands set on a set of WP’s Cone Valve Forks and Trax Shock. These are the same components used by the likes of the factory team racers and are for sale through authorized WP dealers. Our initial impressions with these components is favorable. The coil spring fork provides a smooth, consistent feel throughout the stroke with a plusher feel up top before ramping up in the mid-end stroke with good bottoming resistance. Similarly, the shock has very good holdup and avoids bottoming much better than stock while still being supple and plush enough to handle small chatter. The best way to describe the suspension is it’s firm yet not harsh feeling. We’ll have a separate test and in-depth comparison on these components against the stock fork and shock.
Next up, we went to FMF for an exhaust system. Initially, we sought the less expensive Stainless Steel Factory 4.1 System, but it wasn’t available at the time of the build, so we settled for the full Titanium system. We preferred the stainless system for a little more durability in the rough and tough off-road terrain, but the titanium system itself is still very durable. The 250 XC-F is a very top-end heavy bike, with most of its power made in the higher RPMs, so we sought after an exhaust that would help with the bottom to mid range. We feel the FMF system did just that. It broadened the power so that the bike wouldn’t have to be revved to the moon at all times, but instead can be ridden more like a YZ250F. Riding a gear high through corners or short shifting when the terrain gets rough and choppy is much more feasible with the FMF system. For more info on this system, check out a full Product Test coming soon.
With the two major components taken care of, we’re left with more personal touches and some durability items. GPR Stabilizer has taken care of us for years and we have ridden plenty of miles with their V4 Stabilizer at our hands. Additionally, with their Pro Kit triple clamp installed, we were able to avoid raising the bars significantly. Click HERE for a Product Test on the GPR unit. Our cockpit also comprises Mika Metals Handlebars, AME Grips, and an ARC Clutch Lever. The soft compound and sticky feel of the AME Grips helps prevent blisters over a long weekend of racing and is one that I don’t race without (we pay for these grips). Additionally, we installed an ARC lever in case of a crash taking out the clutch lever, but still prefer the feel of a stock front brake lever on this bike.
An IMS 3.0 Gallon Tank w/ Dry Break is a necessity for our 90+ minute races and pitstops. We can confidently go the range now, and when pitting, we’re in and out in a matter of seconds. The fit and finish of the IMS tank is perfect, and it doesn’t affect the handling or ergonomics of the bike much. We tested a two-stroke tank last year which is nearly identical save for the electronics and fuel pump sitting in the tank and were quite pleased then too.
The drivetrain was left with stock 13/51 gearing as it has plenty of gear for what we’re doing, even though we rarely use the 6th gear in the tranny. Mika’s Hybrid Rear Sprocket is an aluminum/steel combo package with the outer ring constructed of steel and the inner of aluminum. This helps retain durability without adding a significant amount of weight to the rear wheel. The sprocket doesn’t last as long as some other steel sprockets we’ve tested, but it lasts longer than an aluminum spec sprocket. Additionally, a TM Designworks Slide-N-Guide Kit was installed for its durability and functionality. We’ve gotten hundreds of hours out of their chain guides, with many miles smashing rocks and logs, so we know the durability is up to par. A Bullet Proof Designs Swingarm Guard installs on the chain guide tabs to help protect it against hard hits and tearing the tabs off. TM Designworks’ plastic Rear Disc Guard was also used for a little lightweight protection. I’ve gone through my fair share of rear rotors so I try to keep them protected at some capacity, even when racing the GP’s. Works Connection Elite Axle Blocks were the last component to the drivetrain. The gains are small, but do help in the performance of the bike. It helps the rear end smoothen out in acceleration chop and find traction when otherwise it’d be bouncing around a little more. Check out our review HERE.
The last component to the build was a set of Maxxis Tires and Nuetech Nitro Mousse’s. My tally of flat tires when riding/racing is quite high, so mousse’s are a must for me. We’ve had great luck with the Nitro’s getting several months of use out of them with ease. As long as we keep them lubed, they last seemingly forever without sacrificing performance. Check out our in-depth analysis on Nitro Mousse’s HERE. We also have years of experience with Maxxis Tires in the dirt so we installed some Maxxis Maxxcross SI/MX ST Tires depending on the terrain. The SI is Maxxis’ standard tire that works well everywhere and has been around for years. The MX ST is the latest offering and is built more around supercross and motocross racing than off-road racing. Still, when the conditions are soft, the rear tire works great. It lacks significantly when the dirt gets hard and slick and it will start tearing off side knobs quickly, so softer races are ideal for the MX ST tire. We stuck with an SI front for now since we are familiar with how it works in all conditions.
And there you have it. Our 2020 KTM 250 XC-F Build is complete. Overall, the bike is a solid package in stock form, but we feel we were able to improve it based on where we felt it lacked. The WP Pro Components are a welcomed addition for the racing we partake in and the nasty conditions we have to go through. Additionally, the FMF Exhaust helped suit the bike more to our riding style where the rev limiter isn’t being tapped in most of the time. The other smaller parts put the finishing touches on the bike to get it comfortable for us to race at semi high speeds. We were able to get a few races in to start the year, but were hampered by some injuries and a lack of racing as of late. Still, the bike finished 9th Pro 2 in a competitive field at the Glen Helen round of the NGPC Series. We’re going to continue testing with the bike and provide some long term updates, along with additional product tests throughout the year so stay tuned for more reading on our pumpkin build!
Check out some race footage aboard our 2020 KTM 250 XC-F ~