If you are considering a 2-Stroke enduro bike the 2013 KTM 250 XC-W is no doubt at the top of the shopping list, and with good reason. No manufacturer has been more successful the past few years when it comes to off-road racing in general. Of course having the best riders and excellent factory support is an important part of the Austrian company’s racing exploits, but it’s all for nothing without highly capable motorcycles. There is no question the $8199 250 XC-W is just that.
The real question is how does it stack up against its competition. Looking at the specs the 250 XC-W has all of the tech one expects from KTM. A revised engine and new clutch are aimed at upping the KTM’s game, and the WP suspension is set up specifically for the XC-W. Even so, we’ll cut to the chase and spill the beans – the 2013 KTM 250 XC-W finishes behind the Beta and Husaberg in our shootout. But even though the score sheet might not look it, the differences were minimal and difficult to notice.
Firing up the KTM with the electric start button or the kick-starter is easy and quick. Not much time is needed on the choke for warm up and the throttle response is crisp and snappy after the first blubbery clean out rev. On the trail power comes on strong off the bottom and spins up quickly. Even down in the lowest rev ranges, the XC-W doesn’t fall on its face. On the flip side, however, the strong power profile in the mid and top does make for more work when the trail gets tight or slippery.
“KTM’s engine package in my opinion feels like a motocrosser,” says our Associate Editor, Frankie Garcia. “It has a ton of power, but just spins and fights for traction especially in the drier terrain we rode in.”
Because of the snappy engine character that revs quickly, our team rated in just behind the Beta. The power profile can be mellowed out via electrical plug that is either open or closed, but we ran all of the bikes in the most aggressive mode. KTM even offers a handlebar mounted accessory switch for jumping between maps on the fly.
Other excellent features on the KTM include the always precise and smooth Brembo hydraulic clutch actuation mated to a new Damped Diaphragm Steel clutch. The DDS clutch has an outer hub and primary gear that is machined from a single piece of steel. This allows for a more reliable system that uses thinner plates while a diaphragm spring dampens the hub for increased durability. It all translates to the usual buttery lever pull that we’ve come to expect from KTM.
Suspension duties on the 250 XC-W are handled by a 48mm WP upside-down fork and a WP PDS rear shock that have both been tuned specifically for the XC-W rather than running the same valving and spring rates as on the XC model. The MotoUSA crew deems the KTM to be on the stiffer side of the spectrum in comparison to its rivals. This is great for pounding through whoops or airing it out, but it is a tiring ride in the small choppy sections or in the rocks. The bike liked to deflect a bit if the rider wasn’t 100% committed to pounding through obstacles.
“A stiffer set-up Enduro may talk to your hands and feet the best, but this makes for a tiresome body after multi-day rides,” explains our local guide Brian Steeves. “Having a few more plush inches at the top of the stroke would have made the ride a lot more friendly.”
In the handling department the 250 XC-W is a scalpel, but we all know when you play with sharp instruments you need to be careful. The stiffness of the suspension makes for a quick turning bike when the traction is there to compress the fork, but if the trail was loose the front would push wide or knife depending on the throttle application. Changing direction is lightening quick, but with that quickness comes some nervousness when hustling. If you are a rider that likes to be kept on your toes the KTM is for you; attention is paramount to keeping the XC-W on line.
Just like its close cousin the Husaberg, the 250 XC-W, has a tallish 37.8-ich seat height. Shorter inseams will be challenged to get both feet down on uneven ground. On the move, the tall seat makes for a roomy cockpit that makes the transition from sitting to standing easy. The tall bars also work well for standing up and doing work, but they do feel a bit ape-hanger-like when seated. Even so, the bend is excellent and gives tons of leverage to muscle the bike around in the trees and brush.
KTM is the king of braking in the off-road world thanks to its top-shelf Brembo set up. Initial bite is strong but controllable, with the feel and modulation first rate. Every manufacturer really needs to take notes from Team Orange in this arena.
At the end of the trail it became apparent that we liked the KTM just a little bit less than the Beta and Husaberg. The slightly nervous feel and snappy powerband has us just too on-edge for all-day shredding. There were more situations that you found yourself fighting the Katoom, than the other two. These three bikes are very close in every category, but the 2013 KTM 250 XC-W has just a few more faults than the others. It’s a great bike in an even greater class of 2013. Think of it as the salutatorian rather than the valedictorian.