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Deciding between a 200 EXC, 250 EXC or 300 EXC?

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A mate started a thread asking for advice as he's trying to choose between the KTM 200 EXC, 250 EXC or 300 EXC. Got a fair bit of useful advice so thought I'd stitch it together into a vid. Dropped the tex in below too if anyone wants to add extra comments. I know there's a few threads about the 200 v 250 then others on the 250 v 300 but thought it might be handy to cover all three...

 


 

KTM 200 EXC - lightest, cheapest & awesome in the tight stuff

The 200EXC gets a lot of rave reviews but is surprisingly overlooked by many dirt riders. As any experienced rider knows, outright power can actually slow you down and some of the biggest fans of 200s are those who know they can ride these faster and better in tight gnarly terrain. 

 

The 200 has a completely different engine design to its bigger brothers which is significantly lighter. Prior to 2009, it also had a smaller and lighter frame, making it around 4kg lighter and a real weapon in technical terrain. Now that is shares the same frame as the bigger bikes, it's only about 2kg lighter. But it still feels much lighter, in part to less rotating mass but mainly because the power is easier to handle when riding hard. 

 

This bike is great for tight difficult terrain and for the rider who enjoys riding on the pipe and plenty of gear changes to keep the engine singing. The low end grunt is surprisingly good for such a small bike, and it can be beefed up with mods like shaving the head and an FMF Gnarly pipe. 

 

KTM 250 EXC - good all rounder & cheaper than its big brother

The 250EXC is pretty much identical to the 300 except for the top end and CDI. The surprising thing is it usually sells for close to $1000 cheaper (at least down under), which also just happens to be how much it costs to buy the 300 conversion kit, either direct from KTM or through Slavens. So some riders buy the 250, knowing they can get the conversion kit later if they want the extra grunt. The piston kits are also significantly cheaper for the 250 than the 300.  

 

The 250 definitely has more power than the 200 across the rev range, but it's particularly noticeable at the low revs. And the three power valve springs transform the power characteristics. The green spring results in a nice flat power curve, while the red spring sees the bike leap into action with a motorcross type hit of power from 5700rpm as the valve kicks open. The yellow spring is in between these, and the favourite choice for many riders.

 

For the average rider, the 250 has more than enough power and in fact there are riders who find the 300 a bit intimidating and have downscaled as a result. Mind you, there are also very experienced riders who prefer the 250 as it is easier to rev and ride motocross-style.  

 

You can lug the 250 around at incredibly low revs without it stalling, but it simply can't have the low down grunt of the 300 - it's true there is no replacement for displacement. Like the 200, you can pick up improve the bottom and mid-range power through mods such as an FMF Gnarly pipe, shaving the cylinder head or fitting the SX head from the motorcross range. But seriously steep hills will see you either changing down a gear or slipping the clutch when the 300 would still grunt away like a bush pig. 

 

KTM 300 EXC - the torque meister

The 300 EXC is definitely the torque monster, with more grunt than the 250 but about the same top end power. As already mentioned, some riders find the extra power too intimidating, but it does come down to riding style as well. Quite a few riders simply lug the bike around like a four stroke, keeping the revs low and not changing gear as often. It has been said the 300 works well for the lazy rider, which is true. But of course it's the most popular engine size in extreme enduros because the top riders have the skill to make the most of all that power. 

 

The suspension on all three bikes is pretty good if you are around 70 to 80kg, but after that you'll probably be making changes to suit you. It would be hard to really make a wrong choice on these bikes, as there is so much you can do to set them up the way you want. For example, if you bought a 300 and find it a bit too powerful, you can always use the soft map, install the green spring, and even lower the compression with thicker gaskets. 

 

Personally I've ridden quite a few 300s and I was surprised that the power difference isn't all that great - we are only talking about 50cc after all. In tight technical terrain there are definitely times the milder low down response of the 250 is a big advantage. But there are definitely huge hills where the 250 EXC needs to be dropped down into first gear or some clutch feathering is needed, whereas the 300 has the grunt to keep chugging along. 

 

So is the 200, 250 or 300 best for me?

In the end, you'll probably need to get a test ride to know for sure. If most of your riding is tight technical terrain, the 200 EXC is worth thinking about, and remember it is way cheaper than a 300! One of the great aspects of these bikes is their flexibility - you can't really make too big a mistake with whatever you buy... if you find the 200 a bit lacking in power you can beef it up with shaving the head, a different pipe and change the valve spring. Likewise with the 300, if it's too much of a handful then put it on the soft mapping, the green spring and maybe even a thicker base gasket to lower the compression. 

 

And don't forget, while KTMs are still very popular there are plenty of awesome enduro bikes coming out from other European brands nowadays that are well worth a look and come in much nice colours than orange. 

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I think i will try a post 2008 200 EXC. Unfortunately there is no where oone arround for a testride.

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I had no indecision, knew I wanted a 300, but I wish I could ride it like the guys in the video.

Edited by Trailryder42

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You want fun like a 125? Get the 200. You want extreme torque for hill climbs but not the fun "snap" of a big bore 2 stroke. Get the 300. Imo if you want the best of both, get the 250.

 

i'm starting to think the same way. i wanted a 300 but there were no decent secondhand ones around, so opted for a 250 from a guy i know who looked after it meticulously. coming off an FE570 i really missed the low down grunt and was tempted to spend the $900 on the 300 conversion kit...

 

but i've ridden a few 300s on our rides and in the technical terrain the extra grunt easily means wheel spin and the front wheel popping up higher than needed. the 250 feels more manageable in these situations. the only time i really miss the grunt now is on long steep climbs where the 250 starts to bog down in second gear... but i've started to learn slipping the clutch (something i've been meaning to learn on hill climbs for years) and it's not much of an issue nowadays. 

 

so yeah, i reckon the 250 is a great compromise, and it's usually close to a thousand dollars cheaper so you have the option of buying the 300 kit if you want the extra grunt. win win.

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