2020 KTM 250 SX-F First Ride Review

KTM’s 250F has more power and better suspension settings for 2020.

2020 KTM 250 SX-F kicking up dirt.
After receiving a major overhaul in 2019, the KTM 250 SX-F features some minor updates in 2020.Jeff Allen

Like the entire full-size lineup of KTM's motocross bikes, the 250 SX-F received several updates in 2019. Just to name a few of the many changes, it had a new frame with a 2-percent increase in longitudinal stiffness and a 10-percent increase in torsional stiffness, revised WP suspension settings, and the engine received a new throttle body, exhaust system, and starter battery. For 2020, KTM made some minor changes to further refine its 250 four-stroke motocross bike and invited us out to Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, to ride it for the first time.

Engine

2020 KTM 250 SX-F with an optional perforated airbox cover.
The 250 SX-F, along with the 350 SX-F and 450 SX-F, now comes with an optional perforated airbox cover for 2020.Jeff Allen

KTM now includes an optional perforated airbox cover when you purchase any one of its 2020 four-stroke motocross models: the 250 SX-F, 350 SX-F, or 450 SX-F. In comparison to having the non-perforated cover on, the ventilated piece gives the engine more bottom-end thrust and increases its already-great mid-to-top-end power as well. This is still an engine that works best when ridden aggressively and in the higher rpm, so having that extra power down low is beneficial, especially for vets and novices. The KTM has made some of the highest horsepower figures of any 250 four-stroke motocross bike on our in-house dyno the past few years, and we’ll be curious to see what it churns out with an engine that has more airflow.

2020 KTM 250 SX-F jumps.
With the perforated airbox cover installed, the 250 SX-F engine has a harder-hitting bottom-end and is noticeably stronger throughout the entire rpm range.Jeff Allen

The two handlebar-mounted maps and traction control are unchanged for 2020. Map 1 has a very linear power delivery from bottom to top, while map 2 offers slightly more midrange. Second gear handles both tight and more wide-open corners well, and a quick stab of the hydraulic clutch gets the bike into the higher rpm quickly. The Brembo unit withstands excessive clutch slipping without fading too. Third gear pulls long enough to alleviate the need to shift to fourth on most straightaways, and the bike can easily pull fourth gear up Glen Helen’s notoriously long and steep uphills with its remarkable top-end power.

Suspension & Chassis/Handling

2020 KTM 250 SX-F with WP Xact fork and shock.
The WP Xact fork and shock have revised settings. The fork uses a new piston and the shock has a new compression adjuster as well.Jeff Allen

Beginning with the 2019 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition, WP renamed the fork and shock to Xact. This model of suspension components will come on the SX motocross and XC cross-country bikes for 2020. The air fork is the same as the former AER 48 fork, just with a different designation. The same can be said for the shock. The mechanical differences from last year’s WP units are that the fork has a new piston and different setting, both of which are designed to help “break the crust,” or allow for easier movement, in the initial part of the stroke. The shock has a revised setting and a new compression adjuster for 2020 as well.

The new fork setting does exactly what it’s intended to do. There is a suppler feel at the top of the stroke, which is most noticeable when hitting braking bumps. This makes for a plusher feel throughout the stroke, as the fork retains its impressive bottoming resistance from last year. Our two test riders—one an AMA Supercross pro and the other a novice—both made minor adjustments to the fork compression (three clicks stiffer for the pro and two clicks softer for the novice), and those were the only adjustments they made to find their ideal setting on the rough Glen Helen track.

2020 KTM 250 SX-F turning and kicking up dirt.
The WP Xact fork has a suppler feel in the initial part of the stroke.Jeff Allen

Like the fork, the shock has a plush feel and is progressive. Minor shock setting changes were made during the latter part of our test day when the track became much rougher, including stiffening the rebound three clicks to prevent the bike from kicking forward on bump-filled jump faces.

With the revised ergonomics that were introduced on the latest generation of SX-Fs last year, all of the bikes benefit from being slim from the radiator shrouds back to the number plates. The Brembo brakes are phenomenal due to how powerful, yet easy to modulate they are. The Neken handlebar is on the rigid side and some test riders would prefer a bar with a shorter length. The seat is flat, comfortable, and easy to move around on.

How Does The KTM 250 SX-F Ride?

KTM took an already-great bike and made it even better for 2020. The 250 SX-F has a powerband that is usable by everyone from novice to AMA pros, and is stronger throughout the rpm range with the new optional perforated airbox cover. The suspension updates make for a plusher ride in choppy terrain and retain the impressive bottoming control, while the chassis retains its neutral handling, agreeable ergonomics, and high-quality components.

Gearbox

2020 KTM 250 SX-F with rider jumping and looking over shoulder.
With a more powerful engine that was already fast to begin with, more suspension comfort, and high-quality components, the KTM 250 SX-F continues to solidify its place as one of the best 250 four-stroke motocross bikes on the market.Jeff Allen

TECH SPEC

PRICE $ 9,099
ENGINE 249.9cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Steel central double cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION WP Xact 48mm fork adjustable for air pressure, compression damping, and rebound damping; 12.2-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION WP Xact shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping; 11.8-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc
REAR BRAKE Brembo 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc
WHEELBASE 58.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 37.4 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.9 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 218.3 lb. (w/ all fluids except fuel)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT ktm.com