2020 KTM 250sxf First Impression

I got the call from the Man Swapmoto to meet at Glen Helen for the 2020 KTM 250sxf intro and I couldn’t be more excited. Working with the Swapmoto Live team as a test rider is something I’m extremely proud about afte years of just Orange the gloves are off and I’m ready to share the knowledge I ained from 15 years at the BIG Orange Machine. All of the Photos and video are credit to Swapmoto Live.


“After 15 years being a part of a team that developed KTM SX and SX-F models, I took an 18-month break from throwing a leg over the orange machines and started some new projects of my own. Being a part of the Swapmoto Live team as a test rider, I can now ride all the brands because I no longer have a conflict of interest with an OEM, and that’s exciting! That said, the 2020 KTM 250 is the first model year since 2004 that I have not given any feedback on for settings or direction.

“In 2019 the KTM SX-F models were all-new from the ground up, so for ’20 KTM really worked on refining an already great package. Once I hit the track, I felt very comfortable on the bike. The ergonomics are really comfortable and the Brembo controls set the standard for the industry. Thursdays at Glen Helen have some of the fastest riders in the world with the most dynamic features when it comes to terrain, so the balance of the motorcycle is extremely critical. The balance of the 250 SX-f is great. I was able to charge down the hills and attack the rough sections with a lot of confidence. After a few laps and getting up to speed it was pretty clear that as good as the balance was, the fork was just too firm even for me. The XACT 48 fork is harsh on slap-down landings and the front end would want to climb out of the ruts on the exit of turns, so I struggled on the exits of turns. I came in to see the techs at KTM and adjusted the compression by going 3 clicks softer on the fork and 3 clicks faster on the shock to put more pressure on the front end of the bike so it would allow it to finish my turns better.  After another riding session, it was clear these changes were definitely the right direction for me. I had more comfort and traction on the bike front and rear with and the only negative feedback was I had more feedback to my hands from the extra movement in the fork with the wheel speed being more under heavy braking. I ran the sag at 104 and recommended air pressure in the fork.

“Once I got the chassis set up, I started pushing the motor harder and harder. The KTM 250s have always created some of the most horsepower in the class but they lack the bottom end snap the makes a little bike really exciting and fun to ride. This year they added a really nicely constructed airbox cover to allow more air into the airbox that helps with the bottom-end response. I’ll be honest: as nice as the airbox cover looks, I wasn’t impressed with any power gains from it, but it is a nice feature if you like to change air filters more often. The bike creates great power from the mid to top and it really starts to get exciting in the high RPMs just as it always has. I have to say that what stood out to me right away was how poorly the bike shifted under load. With a 14-50 gearing package I was able to run second gear out pretty far through turns but the shift from second to third was hard at times. The KTM 250 SX-F also has multiple maps and traction control but I find having a slower map and traction control is a waste. I don’t feel the racer wants to make their bike slower, so I just left the bike in map two for the most aggressive, hard-hitting power. Beginner riders may like map one.

“Overall the 2020 KTM 250 SX-F is a weapon. Its strongest characters are the chassis balance, ergonomics, top-end horsepower and its controls. Don’t let the air fork scare you; it’s a really well-functioning fork, and the shock is phenomenal at speed, but I think the team at KTM missed the target market a little on the dampening. The target market for that bike is 130 to 165 pounds and I feel with my speed and weighing in at 168, I shouldn’t have had to soften up the bike to get comfortable. Although the fork is easy to adjust the air spring, you can only soften it up so much before the balance is off and you have to change the rear spring for lighter riders. Yes, the bike is improved but I still want some more excitement on the front side of the motor.”

For more information on the 2020 KTM 250sxf click here and head over to Swapmoto Live