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2001 250 MOTOCROSS SHOOTOUT

January 8, 2001
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2001 250 MOTOCROSS SHOOTOUT

Honda CR250R vs. Husky 250CR vs. Kawasaki KX250 vs. KTM 250SX vs. Suzuki RM250 vs. Yamaha YZ250
Sorry, the predictions were wrong. The two-stroke motocrosser isn’t dead. Like any decent horror movie psycho, it just keeps coming back. Yeah, there are some amazing four-stroke race bikes out there and they’re getting better all the time. But someone forgot to lock up all the two-strokes in a time capsule; under the pressure they’re getting better too. So now we’re starting the official millennium and 250cc, two-stroke motocross bikes are still winning championships, still selling like crazy and still on top.
For 2001, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki refined bikes that were mind-blowing last year. Suzuki, KTM and Husky made major changes to get back in the game. So now we have six realistic contenders for the spotlight in the January 2001 issue of DIRT BIKE. And you won’t find a camshaft or titanium valve in the bunch. Here’s the short version of the shootout.
HONDA FACTS
* New Mikuni TMX38 carb
* Still the only aluminum frame in class
* Optional 20-inch wheel
* Stiffer spring rates, lighter damping
* Weighs 223 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5899
HONDA HIGHS
* Good mid-range power
* Excellent overall handling
* Stiffer suspension is actually more plush
* Easy to work on
* Best front brake
HONDA LOWS
* Unexceptional low-end power
* Slight vibration
* Stretch chain
* Budget bars
HUSKY FACTS
* Marzocchi fork
* Sachs shock
* Weighs 229 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5679
FINE ITALIAN FARE
* Well finished
* It finally turns
* Good bars, chain, graphics
* On the fly clutch adjust
* Good brakes
* Spread-out rider position
MEATBALLS
* Weak power
* Notchy shifting
* Soft suspension
KAWASAKI FACTS
* Power Jet Keihin carb with TPS
* New porting with smaller intake
* Bigger exhaust sub ports
* Straight-rate rear spring
* Weighs 230 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5799
GREEN ESTEEM
* Broad powerband
* Excellent suspension package
* Reversible bar mounts
* Vastly improved front brake
* Durable coating on exhaust pipe
GREEN GOOFS
* Big, heavy feeling
* Needs optional 20-inch wheel
* Cheap bars, chain, graphics
* Soft seat
KTM FACTS
* No-link PDS rear suspension
* Narrower body work
* Revised porting
* Weighs 225 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5898
SX SUCCESS
* Great power
* Side access airbox
* Oversize aluminum handlebar
* Slim mid-section
* Excel rims
* Regina chain
* Good brakes
* Excellent hydraulic clutch action
KTM MISFIRES
* Abrupt low-end power delivery
* All-or-nothing rear suspension
* Shorty levers are too short
* Screen printed graphic wears off
SUZUKI FACTS
* New engine with internal waterpump
* Two-stage power valve
* Keihin carb with Power Jet and TPS
* New, narrower body work
* KYB suspension
* Weighs 224 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5899
YELLOW MAGIC
* Easy to turn
* Responsive motor
* Narrow and light-feeling
* Good brakes and controls
YELLOW FEVER
* Power hits hard
* Most fragile graphics of all
* Grabby clutch (when cold)
* Cheap handlebar and chain
YAMAHA YZ250 FACTS
* New Nissin front master cylinder
* Changes in porting, reed, silencer
* Power Jet, TPS Keihin carb
* Weighs 227 pounds without fuel
* Price: $5799
YAMAWINNERS
* Broad, smooth powerband
* Easy to ride
* On-the-fly clutch adjuster
* Excel rims
* Good brakes
YZ WHY ME?
* Cramped riding position
* Plastic looks old quickly
* Cheap chain, bars
RATINGS
Notes and gripes from test riders
POWERBAND
1. Yamaha YZ250
2. Kawasaki KX250
3. KTM 250SX
4. Honda CR250
5. Suzuki RM250
6. Husqvarna 250CR
Look at the dyno chart if you want to know which makes the most peak power–for a change, the test riders agree with the numbers. This rating, on the other hand, is for the effectiveness of that power. The Yamaha’s smooth torque puts it in front barely over the KX. The Honda makes the most peak, but lacks low end.
TURNS
1. Suzuki RM250
2. Honda CR250R
3. Yamaha YZ250
4. Husqvarna 250CR
5. Kawasaki KX250
6. KTM 250SX
The fact is that the top three all are excellent in turns. The bottom three generate complaints of different sorts. Your results may vary.
STABILITY
1. Honda CR250R
2. Kawasaki KX250
3. Husqvarna 250CR
4. Yamaha YZ250
5. KTM 250SX
6. Suzuki RM250
For a change, the stability ratings aren’t just the turning ratings turned upside down. The Honda always goes straight when it has to. The Yamaha has mild, but uncharacteristic, headshake. The Suzuki is more stable than any RM in the past, but still hunts for the right line at speed.
FORK
1. Kawasaki KX250
2. Honda CR250R
3. Yamaha YZ250
4. Suzuki RM250
5. KTM 250SX
6. Husqvarna 250CR

None score perfectly in this department, but the top four are very close to the mark. The KX is a little stiff for light riders, but perfect for pros. The Yamaha has some harshness on chop. The Husqvarna is just too soft in stock form, although works well if resprung.
SHOCK
1. Yamaha YZ250
2. Honda CR250R
3. Kawasaki KX250
4. Suzuki RM250
5. KTM 250SX
6. Husqvarna 250CR
Is it possible to have a four-way tie? The Japanese bikes have a distinct edge in the suspension department and all are excellent. The KTM feels stiff on little bumps and soft on big bumps. The Husqvarna, again, is too soft overall.
DETAILING
1. Husqvarna 250CR
2. KTM 250SX
3. Honda
4. Yamaha YZ250
5. Suzuki RM250
6. Kawasaki KX250
Husqvarna and KTM are class acts, with top notch components, easy access filters and the KTM gets bonus points for the hydraulic clutch. The Honda shows quality in most areas–if we could only get rid of those steel bars and that stretchy chain. The YZ’s on-the-fly clutch and Excel rims give it a boost, while the Kawasaki and Suzuki have quickly blown-out seats and lots of rattles.
CONCLUSION
Now, get your wallet out
Last month, test riders nearly fought in the streets during our 125 shootout. This time, they act like loving brothers in harmony and perfect agreement. The Yamaha YZ250 is almost a unanimous winner in this year’s 250 shootout. There were a few riders who cast maverick votes on particular tracks, but even they voted the Yamaha ticket on other tracks. The YZ’s motor is what puts it in front–it’s almost always the easiest and fastest bike to ride. It’s only real weak point is an old-fashion layout, but some riders even like that.
In second is the Honda. It’s the best handling and the most powerful, but not that friendly. The smoother powerband translates to a loss of low-end torque. So Honda must continue on its search for a novice motor to go with its pro-level overall package.
After that, the image blurs. The Suzuki, Kawasaki and KTM all could be third, depending on what you want. Most riders would rank them in that order. The Suzuki offers handing in turns, the Kawasaki has a great motor and the KTM has overall quality. On the other hand, each bike has flaws. The Husqvarna sits lonely in sixth, waiting for an updated motor and stiffer suspension. We’ll report on a real, live production Husky as soon as we can get our hands on one.
But in the meantime, we’ll be out riding the YZ.

 

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