As most of you know I choose my "core" evaluators wisely here at Keefer Inc. I don't just hire fast dudes that rip. They have to first have a good heart, be kind, haul ass, be able to joke around, be able to write, be able to evaluate, have a firm handshake, feel things on a track and of course translate that back onto your computer screen. Dominic Cimino is all of those things. This is why he is one of only a very few that I call my "core" guys. He is your normal hard working, blue collar rider that can give you all some honest feedback about any first impression. If you want to listen to what I think you can click on "Podcasts/Keefer Tested" and listen to my first impressions of both machines right there. However, if you prefer to read yours, here are Dom's initial thoughts. -KK
New bike season is always hot and heavy, and KTM kicked off the festivities today at Chaney Ranch with their 2019 250SX-F and 350SX-F new model introductions. For all you readers out there in Keefer Land, this is my first impression of both bikes, which on paper and in person, are practically identical. They utilize the same 2019 chassis (which is all new for this year and going onto all SX-F models), each bike has updated body work & ergonomics, a new Pankl transmission, and more... which I’m getting to in just a second.
First off, the 350 - I personally own a 2016 with a decent amount of upgrades, so this quick comparison might come in handy for those in the same scenario looking to renew. Of course nothing compares to a new bike... they are just so crisp in every way. But beside that, the 2019 350SX-F power-plant is noticeably improved. It’s response is quicker - when you flick the clutch, it wakes up (but do not confuse this with torque, because the 350 will never be a 450). What I mean is, the lag-time to get into the revs’ is much less, and KTM can attest to these improvements by way of these updates (from air to exhaust): updated air box, fuel management system, velocity stack, and exhaust pipe/muffler. The cylinder head has been downsized (and most of the components associated with it) to claim about 200 grams of weight savings overall. As for the transmission, Pankl Racing Systems is owned and operated by KTM, which allows them the ultimate control in production and quality-control of superior transmission components. Does it make the bike go faster? No. All of the gear ratios were retained from last year. Just know that everything is of better quality overall.
The 250SX-F motor has also been improved with similar updates listed to that of the 350 above. A standout feature to make mention of is the split injection inside the fuel control unit, which in specific areas of the fuel map, greatly improve throttle response. Ignition timing has been revised, as well the exhaust cam being retarded 1.5 degrees, all of which combine for a better power output and an easier way to rev out to it’s 14,000 max rpm. The new 250s have come a long way, and this bike is really fun to ride!
Both the 250 and 350 see revised suspension settings, including new pistons in both the fork & shock, as well as updated dampening cartridges (keep in mind, each bike has it’s own specific settings). Each year KTM continues to get better in the suspension realm, and 2019 is feeling good so far, but further testing on different tracks will really help see where these bikes land in later tests. As for the chassis and ergonomics, both bikes feel great. The shrouds are narrower, the radiators have been lowered, and the new body-work not only looks beautiful, but allows you the ultimate freedom to move as you wish when in the cockpit. I did notice the front end being slightly twitchy at speed and also push in some areas, but keep in mind our debut test track wasn’t the best place to really dig into the nooks & crannies. On another note, for all you weight-weenies out there, KTM continues to innovate new ways to trim weight everywhere on their motorcycles. For 2019, here is what the bikes weigh in at: 250SX-F - 218lbs. 350SX-F - 219lbs. 450SX-F - 221lbs. It’s pretty damn impressive, considering how many other changes they make every year to get better than the rest.
So, should I sell my 2016 350 to upgrade to a 2019? I mean, that’s ultimately what we are getting at, right?? If you are asking me this question right now after only one day of riding the new bikes - my answer is no. I have not had enough time to dissect it thoroughly, and I love my 2016. But, I will tell you that the 2019 250SX-F is a damn fun bike and this year’s shootouts could be very interesting, knowing what’s on the horizon in Japan-land. Nonetheless, stay tuned to keeferinctesting.com for more 2019 bike intros, tests, and long-term updates on these new steeds coming your way soon. New bike season is amongst us... “new bike, who dis?”