My KTM is Cool
When I brought home a new KTM 250XC in July 2009, seven
years had passed since my last purchase of an Austrian woods
machine. That bike, a 2002 300MXC, was unfortunately not
one of KTM's better efforts. I raced it for a year, then switched
to Kawasaki KX250's for the next 6 years. The 300MXC
became primarily my enduro and general purpose trail bike.

When the Japanese manufacturers abandoned the two-stroke
motocross and off-road market (save for Yamaha and its
YZ250), by then KTM had developed a lineup of off-road bikes
very similar in purpose as my KX250's. These XC models were
designed to accomplish what I had done with my
woods-converted KX250's: combine the handling and power
delivery of a motocross bike, toned down just enough to make
nice for hare scrambles and GNCC-type racing. Enduro racing
and all-around trail riding were left to KTM's XC-W models.

Compared to my old 300MXC, pretty much everything was new.
There may be a few parts interchangeable with the 300MXC,
but not many. Check out the photos below for some of the
highlights.
And here's why....
Hand it to the Austrians, they know how to make a
bike look pretty...oh, so pretty. Of course, it did
not stay pretty for very long!
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when KTM introduced electric start on 2-stroke dirt bikes. The extra weight seemed
unnecessary on a motorcycle that is already very easy to start. But with advances in materials and design, the 250XC
weighs no more than my old 300MXC. The E-start adds another handlebar-mounted button beside the throttle,
resembling a kill switch. Push that button and the engine fires in about half a second. A kick-start lever is still in its usual
place on the right side of the engine, just in case the battery fails to cooperate.

The starter mechanism is placed in a location similar to the Hebo hydraulic clutch slave cylinder on my old KX250s,
meaning it's tucked nicely out of the way and protected by both the left side of the exhaust pipe and my boot. The
battery is located in the airbox. The battery was not the strongest in terms of amps, so I upgraded to a Yuasa YTZ7S
6-amp battery. It's a tighter fit under the seat, but gave me a little quicker cranking speed.
The best part about the tool-less air box cover is that is has no
weird, expensive fasteners that come undone or fall off. This cover
just pops on and off. I like it. The seat now has just one bolt for
removal, under the fender. I'm not so sure about that...if you ever
had to remove the seat when the bike is muddy, the bolt may be
more difficult to access.
Back side of the airbox cover. Extremely easy to remove; no more
difficult to install than the old style covers.
Here's a shot of the battery upgrade, with the seat
removed. This replaced the stock 4-amp battery.
The new battery is taller and barely fits under the
seat, but it does fit perfectly inside the plastic
battery case. The stock battery isn't powerful
enough to fire the engine very well for
dead-engine starts.
Here's the odd-looking fender/side panel that KTM has been
using for several years now. Initially, I wasn't sold on it, but it's
held up well. Custom number graphics usually come as two
pieces - one part for the side panel and one for the airbox. The
small-ish side panels don't cover the silencer, which does get a
little scratched up. And if you loop out and destroy the fender,
you're buying a fender
and side panels.
Another KTM original - the quarter-turn gas cap. Push on the
orange button, turn slightly and the gas cap pops off. The first
generation caps leaked, but apparently these do not.
And while we're on the subject of gas, this is
almost a foolproof petcock. Almost. If the lever is
rubbing your leg, the fuel is probably off.
This hasn't changed: a heim bearing on the lower shock
mount. KTM finally went back to linkage a couple years
after this. But for 2009, after more than 10 years of
refinement, the heim still lived.
Another part unchanged from previous KTM's: the quick
release brake pin. The cotter pins on my previous KTM's
never stayed put and I expect the same for this one. It will be
replaced with a regular cotter pin.
Oversized, crossbar-less handlebars now come standard. Note the E-start button on the right. Hydraulic clutches are still
standard on KTM's.
Finally, a strong front brake! This one holds its own
against any Japanese bike I've ever owned.
KTM now uses Brembo clutch master cylinders. Gone are the
days of endless debate over Magura's definition of mineral
oil. DOT4 brake fluid is pretty much self-explanatory.
Sometimes it's the details that matter. Along with the
interesting spring anchor for the kickstand, just enough
aluminum has been removed from the kickstand so it
doesn't interfere with the upper torx-head bolt. Nice work.
Another nice touch is the cable guide. It integrates pretty well
into the number plate and is attached with a single plastic
screw. Once you try to squeeze an enduro computer wire
through here, however, it gets a little too tight. I ditched the
guide in favor of a zip tie.
True to its enduro roots, KTM still has its rotors stamped
out with a magnet-sized hole for an enduro computer
sensor pickup.
Check this out - a cap for the swingarm bolt, to keep out
mud and crap from the hollow bolt. Wonder how long before
it becomes trail junk....
And how 'bout this: my favorite all-around front tire
comes stock! The rear tire is a Bridgestone M404,
another decent all-around tire that I used frequently back
in my Missouri racing days.
Sweet rims. The black paint will begin chipping off about 10
minutes after your first ride.
...and a fork compression adjuster that doesn't require tools.
But it wouldn't be a KTM without some quirks. Note the
clearance between the spark plug cap and the center
frame rail. Yep, it's tight.
Here we have a DCI box that doesn't interfere with the
steering stops. First one of these I won't have to relocate
under the frame.
Gotta love the KTM front number plate graphics.
Funky fork guards
I dumped these silly things in favor of the previous style
guards, because the OEM's interfered with SealSavers. I
actually went without SealSavers for about the first 9
months I owned this machine, which was just enough time
for the seals to begin leaking. Never again.
Click on the photo and check out the bolt heads. That's
right, now I have a choice: will I use a standard socket, or
will I grab a Torx driver? So now if I strip a bolt head, I'm
not totally screwed!
So as always, KTM continues to implement new and
innovative ideas with its dirt bikes. We'll see how
well these changes translate to everyday riding and
racing. However, after a short break-in ride at a
friend's backyard motocross track, the 250XC feels
more like a traditional Japanese MX'er than any Euro
bike I've owned, which is a definite compliment to
KTM and its engineering development. It's also the
first Euro bike I've owned in which the jetting felt
just right, with no adjustments. I'm excited....stay
tuned for updates.