250 TWO-STROKE MX SHOOTOUT: FULL TEST
The 250 two-stroke is alive and nicely in 2020. Austria, Japan and Italy all supply present bikes for the MX purist. Some are extra trendy than others, however all have suspension and brakes that we might have solely dreamed of 20 years in the past when the two-stroke was in its heyday. It’s time to set the four-strokes apart and examine the 2020 two-stroke motocross bikes from Husqvarna, KTM, TM and Yamaha.
Husqvarna’s first World Championship got here in 1959 with Rolf Tibblin and the ancestor of this bike, the TC250. As everyone knows, the lineage from that bike to this one is something however direct, however the truth stays that the Husqvarna marque remains to be right here with the TC250 to serve the devoted. This explicit bike has the engine that was redesigned with a counterbalancer in 2016. The motor didn’t look that completely different, however the change was apparent to anybody who rode the bikes again to again. The vibration stage was diminished dramatically. What the brand new motor didn’t get was additionally attention-grabbing. The facility-valve design was unchanged (nonetheless operated by a ball-ramp mechanism and adjustable by means of an exterior square-headed bolt), and it didn’t get electrical begin or gasoline injection like different fashions within the line. Final 12 months the bike received a extra inflexible body and new bodywork. It nonetheless has a lot of gadgets that separate it from the KTM model. The Husky will get Magura hydraulic clutch elements with a smaller piston within the grasp cylinder. It has a subframe that’s built-in with the airbox, D.I.D rims and a ProTaper handlebar.
The Husky has an unbelievable motor with immediate response and ideal carburetion. It’s very, very quick on prime, makes a ton of low-end energy and is fairly easy. It additionally has a handlebar-mounted map change that allows you to relax the ability ever so barely for low-traction conditions. The Husky weighs 215 kilos with out gasoline, as measured on our scale. That makes it a simple bike to manhandle. Once you mix that with considerably fast dealing with traits, it’s an amazing bike for tight tracks. Different robust factors are the simplest clutch pull within the group, wonderful Brembo brakes and an absence of vibration.
With a lot energy and so little weight, the TC250 generally is a demanding bike to experience. Timing the hard-hitting powerband with the take-off ramp of a brief soar requires good focus. You may try to regulate the ability supply with the exterior adjuster, however that solely appears to vary when, not how onerous it hits. The suspension is nice, even when it’s not the very best within the group.
Two-stroke lovers will adore the TC250. It has all of the traits they love. It’s gentle, responsive and easy. It isn’t essentially beginner-friendly, however a rider drawn to the attract of a two-stroke will most likely be something however a newbie.
If anybody firm can take credit score for the present revitalization of the two-stroke, it’s KTM. There has by no means been a mannequin 12 months when the 250SX didn’t get the great things. Every time the KTM four-strokes received a brand new chassis or new suspension, so did the KTM two-strokes. The corporate’s devotion is made clear by the collection of bikes on this very take a look at. Two of them are manufactured in the identical manufacturing unit—the KTM manufacturing unit. A lot has been written in regards to the similarities and variations between the 2 makes, so it is going to suffice to say that the Husqvarna TC250 and the KTM 250SX differ in a handful of options, together with bodywork, airboxes, subframes, clutch elements, rims, seat cowl and handlebars. There are slight suspension valving variations, too. Each bikes received a brand new counterbalancer-equipped motor in 2016 and a brand new body in 2019. Each have five-speed gearboxes and Mikuni carbs. They don’t get TPI gasoline injection or electrical begin. These final two options, in addition to the six-speed gearbox, can be found on the off-road variations—the 250XC and the 250XC-W.
Holy smokes, this bike is quick! The KTM comes on robust, hits onerous and pulls like a monster. That makes it an extremely enjoyable experience heading in the right direction. It’s additionally the lightest bike of the group, if solely by 1 pound (214 kilos with out gasoline). The KTM’s airbox has a less-complicated design than the Husqvarna’s. It’s additionally slightly extra open and is probably the rationale for the KTM’s stronger hit. The bike handles very like the Husqvarna; it’s fast steering and tremendous simple to handle in turns. We love the rear suspension, and we just like the WP Xact air fork, which is similar mannequin that comes on all of KTM’s and Husqvarna’s MX bikes. The one on the 250SX appears to supply extra suggestions (in a great way). The brakes are wonderful.
The KTM is a beast. The onerous hit may be intimidating, particularly on tracks with poor traction. Not like the Husky, the 250SX has no map change. There is a milder map pre-programmed into the ECU, however you’ll have to purchase an adjunct change to entry it. The KTM’s clutch pull is slightly stiffer than the Husky’s. The Brembo grasp cylinder has a 10mm piston, whereas the Husky’s Magura grasp cylinder has a 9.5mm piston.
As you may count on, the KTM is similar to the Husqvarna in efficiency. There are a handful of noticeable variations, and so they all push the KTM in the direction of the knowledgeable aspect of the dial. It’s just a bit harder-hitting and harder-edged.
Innovation is now not the unique property of huge firms. Perhaps it by no means was, however now that we now have entry to bikes just like the TM 250MXE, that truth is clearer than ever. TM is a tiny Italian firm, and but the MXE is essentially the most technologically subtle bike on this comparability. To start with, it’s the one electric-start two-stroke MX bike on the American market. It additionally has an digital energy valve that’s way more superior than the one which Honda was creating when it gave up on two-strokes so way back. The TM has a counterbalancer, similar to the KTM and the Husky, and despite the fact that this mannequin has a Keihin carburetor, the corporate has TPI gasoline injection in its bag of methods. That is the one bike on this group with a twin-beam aluminum body. It has a KYB fork and a rear shock that’s made in-house by TM. The elements are all first-class. It has a hydraulic clutch with a Brembo grasp cylinder, a Brembo entrance brake and, in an odd mixture of elements, a Nissin rear brake.
The TM is a superbly made bike. The hubs are machined from billet, as are most of the small elements. Even the body has a hand-made look with high-quality welds–nothing performed by a robotic. You may’t assist however just like the bike as quickly as you hit the starter button. It has a kick-start lever, however we by no means used it. The starter provides an affordable 10 kilos to the bike’s weight; it’s 225 kilos with out gasoline. It nonetheless feels gentle. In efficiency, the TM has type of an enduro-bike energy supply. It has plenty of energy simply above idle, then a really easy midrange. Within the higher revs it has a really robust hit. The counterbalancer shaft appears to lend the motor substantial flywheel impact. In outright velocity, it’s not removed from the KTM and Husky, however it has a totally completely different, slow-revving really feel.
The motor isn’t as robust because the others within the decrease midrange, the place you typically end up in tight turns. It additionally free-revs slowly, so it doesn’t essentially reply to a fast hit on the clutch. The bike has a map change, however it doesn’t actually have an effect on the general character of the powerband. The motor makes appreciable mechanical noise, which takes some getting used to. The suspension isn’t unhealthy, however it feels unbalanced. The rear finish feels muddy and useless, whereas the entrance could be very energetic. You may chase all of it day with clickers with out making a lot progress. General consolation isn’t a powerful level. The bike has a really stiff really feel.
The TM is an off-beat bike. You must be taught its quirks and habits. For those who rode nothing else, it could turn out to be your regular. In outright efficiency, it offers up nothing.
It’s simple to ignore the YZ250 as an unchanged relic from one other period. However, when you rode the 2020 YZ250 again to again with a 2005 mannequin, you’ll notice how far it has are available suspension, brakes and ergos. The YZ has modified ever so steadily in important methods. Alternatively, the large elements, that means the body and the motor, have gone unchanged for a really very long time. We’re simply fortunate they have been in a very good place after they have been frozen in time. The aluminum body has a central spine that many individuals take into account the very best work that Yamaha has ever performed. It nonetheless has a Mikuni carb and a five-speed gearbox. You gained’t see a lot new expertise on the Yamaha: no counterbalancer, no hydraulic clutch and no electrical starter.
The Yamaha doesn’t have essentially the most energy, however it does have wonderful manners. It’s very crisp and responsive, with wonderful output within the decrease midrange, proper the place you want it most. It additionally revs slightly extra controllably than the KTM or Husky, so it’s simple to make use of partial-throttle openings to take care of poor traction. The Yamaha is essentially the most secure of the 4 in a straight line. It’s predictable and by no means does something that you just don’t see coming from a good distance away. In true Yamaha style, it has essentially the most trouble-free suspension. That is mainly the identical fork used on the present four-stroke Yamaha MXers, and it’s excellent.
In outright acceleration, the Yamaha is the slowest of the 4, if solely by a small margin. It additionally vibrates essentially the most. That’s an indication of the instances; at one time we thought of this motor to be practically vibration-free. Requirements change. In general dealing with, too, the Yamaha has an old-school really feel. The others all have faster steering. We will’t actually say this can be a weak level, as a result of we’re nonetheless followers of this explicit period in bike body design, however riders who’ve come of age lately may assume the YZ250 has a classic really feel. The cable-actuated clutch has a stiffer pull than the others, and the brakes are simply satisfactory. The YZ250 weighs 218 kilos with out gasoline.
The YZ has weathered the years nicely. It at all times had an amazing motor, and Yamaha was good to maintain updating the suspension 12 months after 12 months. That permits the bike to go wheel to wheel with extra trendy bikes. Veteran riders will nonetheless love the YZ250, despite the fact that its age is displaying. On the finish of the day, it’s slightly slower, slightly heavier and slightly extra dated than the others.
When two-strokes overthrow the world, this would be the pecking order
We’re not right here to decide on the very best motocross bike on the planet. That’s been tried many instances. However, the two-stroke-versus-four-stroke winner will proceed to be onerous to name. That is extra simple. In a world dominated by two-strokes, who will sit on prime?
FIRST PLACE: HUSQVARNA TC250
In a really cool circle of motocross life, the unique king of motocross has returned to say the throne. The Husky could be very a lot a contemporary bike. The motor is as updated as something within the four-stroke world. It has present options resembling a hydraulic clutch and a counterbalancer. It’s crisp and easy. It’s gentle and quick. The Husqvarna has every thing that the two-stroke devoted demand and sufficient outright efficiency to attract outsiders into the fold.
SECOND PLACE: KTM 250SX
The individuals aboard the KTM mothership know precisely what they’re doing. There’s simply sufficient distinction between the KTM 250SX and the Husqvarna TC250 to attraction to a distinct crowd. The KTM is a bit more aggressive, making it the bike most definitely to finish up in a professional race. In 2019 it was the one two-stroke to qualify for an out of doors nationwide. The one motive that it completed behind the Husky right here is as a result of the marginally (very barely) extra conservative nature of the TC250 is a greater match for the ready-made two-stroke fan base.
THIRD PLACE: YAMAHA YZ250
Watch out for anybody who doesn’t just like the YZ250. He’s most likely a serial killer or another harmful misanthrope. This can be a enjoyable bike with out critical flaws. Time has caught as much as it in outright efficiency, however it’s nonetheless an exquisite bike. The truth that it’s nonetheless right here for us to check and revel in virtually 20 years after its preliminary design is an affidavit to its high quality.
FOURTH PLACE: TM 250MXE
We’re surprised by the general workmanship of the TM. We don’t perceive how a small firm like this could battle KTM and Yamaha to a standstill, however it’s spectacular. In the long run, the TM stays a really off-beat bike that was by no means supposed for the lots. It’s slightly bit heavier and slightly bit costlier than the opposite bikes within the group. Nonetheless, when you’re in search of an electric-start two-stroke motocross bike, it’s the one one.