Attend any local dual-sport motorcycle event and you’ll see a lot of orange plastic, and for a good reason. KTM has a virtual lock on the high-performance dual-sport motorcycle market with a proven formula—start with a potent off-road chassis and motor as the base platform. Tune and augment it to meet minimum standards for street legality set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Euro 4 emissions regulations.The 350 and 500 EXC-F models have proven to be the stalwarts in the class, with the larger 500 being the most popular by far, but in 2017 KTM did something interesting – they introduced the smaller, KTM 250 EXC-F.
As of the time of writing, the unofficial word on the street is that KTM will not be importing the 250 EXC-F to the U.S. market as part of its 2020 model year offering. So, with the proverbial clock ticking, we set out to get our hands on one of the last available models to see if KTM made the right decision.With countless hours of seat time across twisted single-track, dusty jeep trails, and wide-open tarmac, here are the 14 Fast Facts that you need to know about the soon to be hard-to-find, 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F.1. The 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F is a serious off-roader that shares virtually the same chromoly steel chassis and DOHC engine platform as the KTM 350 EXC-F. This is not a motorcycle intended primarily for street use and the occasional foray into the dirt. Instead, it is imbued with the same high-performance pedigree as its larger displacement siblings.2. We swapped the stock Continental TKC 80 adventure tires for Dunlop D606 DOT-legal rubber. KTM ships the 250 EXC-F with road-quiet adventure tires to decrease the decibels for the third-gear drive-by sound test to meet Euro 4 compliant emissions. Although great for big adventure bikes, the TKC 80s are not ideal for lightweight dual-sporting, while the Dunlop D606s are proven and predictable.3. The 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F is completely street legal, with engine performance to match. With the evaporative charcoal canister concealed in the downtube of the frame and an intake reed valve hidden in the airbox, KTM did an outstanding job of keeping the smog and sound-reducing paraphernalia out of the way. An exhaust screen on the muffler tip limits the air flow through the engine, but it matches up well with the lean throttle body settings to provide a quiet and subdued power delivery.4. If you’re wondering if the street-legal version of the KTM 250cc powerplant pumps out enough ponies to keep up with the pack, the answer is an absolute and unequivocal—it depends. The motor is tame, really tame, but the power is there. Like any smaller displacement bike, you have to find and use it to your advantage. Of course, for the newbie-to-average rider, having a docile power delivery over a long day of riding is an advantage in and of itself.5. Fully adjustable WP Xplor suspension is the real deal. Just like the off-road race models, the Xplor suspension is a big differentiator on the 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F compared to other quarter-liter dual-sport motorcycles. The stock settings work well for single track chop for my 170-pound body mass. The compromise comes in that it’s relatively soft and a bit twitchy in the rear when the speeds increase and the whoops get deeper. Fortunately, there are a plethora of shops with W.P. expertise that can tune the suspension for increased (or decreased) weight and rider ability.6. Stock gearing is a bit tall, and that works very well on the tarmac. I was able to cruise comfortably in the 65-70 mph range without jaw-rattling effects. That is plenty fast for the average trail-to-trail link up. Sixth gear acts as the perfect overdrive, and is really only practical for use on the street.7. The 250 EXC-F eats tight and gnarly single-track for breakfast, but big sandy or rocky hill climbs are its Kryptonite. As long as vast amounts of power aren’t necessary to zap up a rocky dry waterfall, the handling and plush suspension work extremely well on knuckle-busting goat trails. For long power-draining hillclimbs, the tallish gearing and lack of low-end grunt in the low-rpm range require a good run-up to clear the top. I stalled in the middle of a rocky hill climb and had to use a lot of clutch plate to get going again from a dead stop in first gear.8. Brembo brakes, front and rear, are flawless. They have a nice initial bite, yet are capable of slowing the 250 EXC-F down on the dirt, as well as the pavement.9. Instrumentation is sparse, yet all that’s needed. The only thing that might be nice, and it’s something you don’t see on serious off-road dual-sport motorcycles, is a gas gauge on the LCD.10. The 1980s called—they want the rearview mirrors back. Those units are huge, heavy, vulnerable, and ugly. You will notice that we took them off for our action photography. There are several aftermarket solutions to this eyesore on an otherwise beautiful motorcycle.11. The handguards are nice units, and something every dual-sport motorcycle should have. We’re glad that KTM includes them, as the color-coordinated guards integrate perfectly with the rest of the design.12. There is nothing in the market that can compare to the 2109 KTM 250 EXC-F. The highly reliable low-maintenance Japanese 250cc dual-sport machines are more oriented toward street and commuter use, as well as casual trail riding. Beta offers a range of high-performing dual-sport motorcycles, but its smallest displacement offering is 350cc. So, the 250 EXC-F is truly in a class of its own.13. Both experienced and nascent dual-sport riders can benefit from riding the 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F. An experienced rider that blasts single-track exclusively will appreciate its light weight, sweet power delivery, and great handling. It will also work for lighter-weight riders who may be new to dual-sporting. The 250 EXC-F is a capable, über-approachable (as long as its 37.8-inch seat height isn’t an issue) motorcycle that can keep up with the larger group. That translates into more miles and more fun with less frustration.14. With the 250 EXC-F apparently omitted from the 2020 lineup, now is the perfect time to pick up a new one on the cheap. A quick internet search is all it takes to see that plenty of dealers are lowering the price of the 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F from an MSRP of $9799 to $7999 and lower. And that folks, is an absolute bargain for anyone looking for a lightweight, super-capable dual-sport machine. But the clock is ticking….Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE:
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends, the weekly podcast brought to you by Ultimate Motorcycling. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
Motos and Friends is brought to you by Yamaha. You can check out the amazing YZF-R7 at your local Yamaha dealer, or of course at YamahaMotorsports.com. The YZF-R7 is an amazing supersport machine that is comfortable too!
In this week’s first segment, Editor Don Williams takes the smallest BMW ADV bike on an urban adventure in Los Angeles. The BMW G 310 GS is a full size motorcycle with a modest engine, so of course we wonder if it is a little too underpowered and might struggle. Don put it through its paces and gives us his take.
In the second segment, Neale Bayly and Kiran Ridley have returned from the Ukraine to Paris where Kiran is based.
Kiran is an award winning photojournalist, and as an accomplished documentarian, he has covered stories as diverse as drug smuggling around the Mexican border, to the devastation of the Australian Bush Fires, to the tragedy of the Mediterranean migration crisis. Neale and Kiran reminisce about their motorcycle adventure in the Ukraine, and their observations and experiences with the incredibly resilient people of Ukraine, who have been put through such brutal hardship.