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Which bike should I buy for single track and woods riding?

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I enjoy riding flowing single track and double track with some small technical sections, nothing insane. I'm also way too cheap to spend thousands of $$$ every riding season on maintenance and rebuilds. I've owned a dual sport 1987 XL185 that was underpowered but predictable and a 1991 YZ125 that was overpowering and exhausting in technical stuff (though I'm not a fan of 2-stroke exhaust and noise).

I'm 6'1" and 200 lbs with riding gear.

I've narrowed down my choices to Honda CRF250L (heavy and underpowered but low maintenance), Honda CRF250X (smooth power but expensive maintenance), Husky TE250 (smooth power and easier maintenance than CRF250X), Husky WR125 (super light weight and easy maintenance but 2-stroke) and KDX200 (cheap, lightweight but 2-stroke).

I realize that the CRF250L is more road oriented and closer to my vintage XL185 - I'm considering putting on more aggressive tires and raising the bars. I like that the CRF250L engine has a 8,000km service interval though it is greatly underpowered. I don't mind trailering a bike, so road worthiness is not a deal breaker. I'm concerned the CRF250L will be cramped for my 6'1" size and I've read that the rear suspension is too soft and sags significantly for anyone over 180 lbs.

The CRF250X seems like the best choice for single track and woods riding but I've read that rebuilds can be expensive and complicated. I've ridden the CRF250X a few times and it feels slightly bogged down at lower rpm.

The TE250 frame and design look easier for rebuild/maintenance and people have said it is more agile (I've raced mountain bikes most of my life so I appreciate a maneuverable bike).

I'm only considering the 2-stroke WR125 and KDX200 because they are super lightweight and should have a smoother power delivery and better low-end grunt than my old YZ125 on the trails. I'm not a fan of the sound or smell of 2-strokes but if it makes the riding experience that much better I would consider a 2-stroke.

Hoping to get some feedback before the spring riding season.

 

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Did you mean the TE250 (two stroke) or FE250 (4-stroke)?

I would not recommend a CRF250L.  I've ridden one and it's a 320 pound dirt scooter basically.  

I'm in Michigan too.  Where do you ride?

The great news is we have tons of choices today.  You really need to decide on two-stroke versus 4-stroke first.

In 4-strokes look at...

Yamaha WR250F (not WR250R which is a different bike) -  enduro bike

Yamaha YZ250FX cross country race bike

KTM 250 or 350 EXC-F - street legal enduro race bikes

Husqvarna FE250 or FE350 - street legal enduro race bikes

KTM 250 or 350 XCF-W - cross country race bikes

Husqvarna FX250 or FX350 - cross country race bikes

Beta - they are a boutique brand but make great bikes.  I won't list them all here u less you decide you are interested.

 

I would not consider the Honda CRF250X.  It's a very old design and all the bikes above are simply better.

 

In 2-strokes...

KTM 150 / 250 / 300 XC-W - Enduro race bikes

Husqvarna TE150 / TE250 / TE300 - Enduro race bikes

Yamaha YZ250X - YZ250 made to be more of an enduro bike

Beta - boutique bikes that are really good.  Let us know if you are interested.

Kawasaki KDX200 / KDX220 - great enduro bikes for their day

Based on the gut feeling I'm getting from you I think a Yamaha WR250F (not WR250R) should be on your radar.  Easy 4-stroke power, yamaha reliability and a good bike for the Michigan trails.  Or if you want to go a little racier, the Yamaha YZ250FX.

Doc

 

 

 

 

Edited by Doc_d
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Thanks Doc for the feedback.

I meant the FE250 4-stroke.

You're 110% right that I need to decide between 4-stroke and 2-stroke. I loved the light weight of my YZ125 but wasn't a fan of the abrupt power delivery and fumes while negotiating tighter trails. Seems that 4-stroke is more my style.

A few people have suggested the WR250F though it's surprisingly difficult to find used. How does it's maintenance compare with a 2009+ CRF250X?

I love the buttery-smooth KTM clutch and the styling, but used XCF-W are hard to come by and pricey.

How does the Husky FX250 stack up against the WR250F and CRF250X in terms of reliability and handling? Would I notice a big difference between FX250 and FX350?

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I wasn't sure if you were looking for new or used.  But if you are looking for used bikes on a budget, I'd just skip the Huskys and KTMs.    Don't get me wrong, I ride a KTM 350 XCF-W and they are great bikes.  But they are pretty pricey even on the used market.

Honda had a problem with valves that affected several years of their bikes but I believe they were fixed by 2009.  I'd put the reliability of the Yamaha Wr250F and 2009 Honda CRF250X in the same category.  But I'd give a slight nod to the Yamahajust because they really do build some durable motors.  The big difference is the WR250F has been continually upgraded.  It has a 6 speed gear box and later years have fuel injection.  The Honda CRF250X hasn't been updated forever and still has a 5 speed.

I really think based on your description you'd enjoy a 4-stroke enduro bike.  But it is a scary proposition buying them used,. Rebuilds can be very expensive.  I feel much better about buying a used 2-stroke than a used 4-stroke for that reason.  But I wouldn't get a 2-stroke if you don't like the power deliver, fuel range, etc.  

If you do decide on a 4-stroke, I'd consider sending every Yamaha dealer in the state an email and see if any of them might have a new 2017 model (WR250F or YZ250X) still on the floor that they might be willing to deal on.  If you can swing buying new and maintain it right you'll have piece of mind and a bike that will last you a long time.  If you pay $4K for a used 4-stroke bike and it ends up needing a rebuild , tires, sprockets, chain, fork seals, etc...  You can run the price up to near the price of a new bike pretty quick.  So just do all the math and see what makes sense.  If you do buy a used 4-stroke look for something with very little use even if you have to pay up for it.  A $4K bike that has little use will be cheaper in the end than a $2K bike that needs a full rebuild plus a bunch of other parts.

Doc

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Sorry I missed your question about an FX250 vs. WR250F/CRF250X.  The FX250 is the cutting edge of competitive cross country bikes.  It's going to be lighter, faster and more nimble that the WR250F.  KTM motor reliability is good but the FX250 makes a lot of power for it's size so I'd give the WR250F the nod on longevity just because it's not as high strung.  To be honest it's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.  The Yamaha equivalent of the Husky FX250 / KTM 250 XC-F would be the Yamaha YZ250FX.  Those bikes are very comparable in almost every respect.  Pick your favorite color.

250 vs 350?  I have a 350 and really like it.  The power on the 350 isn't overwhelming like a 450, it's just got more everywhere than the 250.  It's easy to ride and fast.  I think I'd be just as happy on a 250 because I'm not that fast of a rider.  But I also think when I make stupid mistakes, the 350 has more grunt to save me.  I make hill climbs all the time and think, "I shouldn't have made that".

My 350 is an XCF-W which is different than KTM XC-F and Husky FX.  The XCF-W line was discontinued because it was almost identical to the KTM EXC-F and Husky FE lines.  So the XCF-W, EXC-F and FE lines have a different motor than the XC-F and FX lines.  The XCF-W, EXC-F and FE motors make less total horsepower but have heavier flywheels and more low end torque.  The XC-F and FX lines have the motocross engine which has less flywheel weight and less bottom end but really impressive mid-range and top-end power.

Doc

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YZ250 or a KDX220 that has been well maintained. KTM and Huskys are amazing bikes but expensive to fix and parts (if you dont have a local dealer) are hard to find “on the spot”. But overall i think with riding trails you will much happier on a 2 stroke. I recently got a yz250 and the place we ride at i rode my old 250f there and would barely try any of the semi hard hillclimbs and trails. On the YZ250 i have a lot more confidence than on that 250f.

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WR250F is a great woods bike...my wife's trail bike. I have a WR450F but prefer her WR250F in the woods. The WR450F rocks where I can open it up but is liking to wrestling a bear in tight stuff.

The 250L is not a woods bike nor a Highway bike but it is a great DS for gravel roads or twisty county pavement. My DS is a DRZ400S and is a tank out in the trails but awesome on the gravel and highway. We own one of the first CRF250L's, purchased in 2012 and have rode it on all kinds of situations from the beach to the mountain tops. Very smooth and dependable but too heavy in the trails in our opinion...much rather ride the WR's in the trails.

However, the Africa Twin is the best I've had for dual track and highway.

Here's a snapshot of our bikes just for your verification of our knowledge on the subject:

IMG_1552.thumb.JPG.8775643618d4b56a34f3c158b563a384.JPG

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@Oldmossyspokes I concur...  I have a DRZ400S and my buddy has a CRF250L.  Great bikes for gravel, paved back road exploring, daily commutes into town to run errands, etc.   I actually love my DRZ400S for it's low maintenance and flexibility but compared to my KTM or a bike like a Yamaha WR250F in the woods, there's no comparison.

The Africa Twin is another bike I'd love to add to my stable.  I doubt I could sneak it in without the wife noticing though.  :lol:

If you had to keep only one bike between the Honda CRF250L and the Suzuki DRZ400S which would it be?  I think the DRZ is a little more capable and flexible, but I just wish they'd add a 6th gear and fuel injection to the DRZ.  

Doc

Edited by Doc_d

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I would feel the bikes if you can and go from there Yz has good suspension from what I know. I used to ride a 450 I am same height but I way 160 I transferred back to 2 strokes quieter and cheaper to work on. Any woods bike is going to be a blast to ride so you'll be happy and learn the bike no matter which you get. The 350s are something I've always wanted to try with fuel injection and wp suspension they are probably going to be sweet. Either or pick a flavor and ride it for a year. We could all tell you our opinion on what's the best but it won't suffice. Find one that's in your price range that you feel good sitting on and go from there. You got this we believe in you 

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9 hours ago, Doc_d said:

@Oldmossyspokes I concur...  I have a DRZ400S and my buddy has a CRF250L.  Great bikes for gravel, paved back road exploring, daily commutes into town to run errands, etc.   I actually love my DRZ400S for it's low maintenance and flexibility but compared to my KTM or a bike like a Yamaha WR250F in the woods, there's no comparison.

The Africa Twin is another bike I'd love to add to my stable.  I doubt I could sneak it in without the wife noticing though.  :lol:

If you had to keep only one bike between the Honda CRF250L and the Suzuki DRZ400S which would it be?  I think the DRZ is a little more capable and flexible, but I just wish they'd add a 6th gear and fuel injection to the DRZ.  

Doc

If I had to pick one, between the CRF250L and the DRZ400S (which I don't) it would definitely be the DRZ however I tip the scales at 230lbs, am 6'-4" and have long legs..38" inseam. I actually switched out to a custom seat on my DRZ, adding another inch to the height to get a good fit. Yes, sixth gear would be nice on the DRZ, BUT, sixth doesn't thrill me on the 250L as it can barely pull it without a serious set on mods. We did put RaceTech suspension on our 250L which made a night and day difference in the lumpy stuff but for a 250cc engine it doesn't even come close to the explosive power of the WR250F (after the free mods). The 250L does behave well with the gearing changed for the woods but then it struggles to go 55mph on the hard pack.

We love our pretty much stock 250L and DRZ as casual dual sport machines in the mountains but after many miles traveled, we upgraded to the Africa Twins for use where we know we'll hit some highway and interstate and won't be doing any single track. (yes, I'm a super lucky !@#$%^ to have a wife that's into owning many machines).

In the woods, even as a casual rider, the 250cc Dirt Bikes/ MX bikes (not DS) are our preference over anything. Doesn't really much matter which brand, we have buddy's that cover almost every color of bike and the MX machines just feel better in the woods. We, opinion, prefer to have Wide Ratio (WR) transmissions in the woods, many people prefer straight up MX transmissions but are typically more aggressive riders that really haul the mail through the forest trail systems. The best thing the WR F's sport is the exceptionally low maintenance for the casual rider. We've been riding our 2009's since the model year came out and have just did regular oil and filter changes, had the valves adjusted a couple of times and keep up the brake pads, tires and chain & sprockets. Neither one of them has ever broke down and they both are still like new...really, as in same as off the show room floor, less scratches and dirt stains. Our WR's have been in the desert from the whoops of Mattawa to the challenges of the D100 race and the Iron Man poker run. We've rode many enduro's and poker runs from Lil' Natchez to Tahuya and the Shelton Valley Enduro Riders offerings, in the rain...great machines for all that. We have never seriously considered attempting to ride organized Enduro or Poker run type events on our DS machines but had a lot of fun riding Dual Sport runs on them and they are great for Bike Packing in the mountains..

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IMO go 2 stroke, light weight. I've owned 3 KDX's (250's & 200/220) and rode nothing but single track woods. The oem exhaust is fairly quiet (but heavy) for a two stroke and fuel economy was fantastic. 75 mile loops on a tank of fuel (3.2 g) light nimble trail bike with plenty of low end grunt (tractor type grunt). 06 was the last year for those I think. 

PS-Ive always described my KDX's as performing like a 4 stroke, they are extremely tame compared to a yz  

 

Edited by Builderdude
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I too am an avid mountain biker and I went with a 2017 te 250 and i couldn’t be happier. It rides like a mountain bike in that it feels nimble and easy to maneuver. It’s also quite light at @220 lbs or so. The range is excellent as well. I really couldn’t be happier. 

I will add I rode 1400 miles and 95 hours last year without any mechanical problems. I’ll be doing a top end this winter but that’s about it. 

 

Edited by Guest

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25 minutes ago, Montanahusky said:

I too am an avid mountain biker and I went with a 2017 te 250 and i couldn’t be happier. It rides like a mountain bike in that it feels nimble and easy to maneuver. It’s also quite light at @220 lbs or so. The range is excellent as well. I really couldn’t be happier. 

I will add I rode 1400 miles and 95 hours last year without any mechanical problems. I’ll be doing a top end this winter but that’s about it. 

 

While I agree the two strokes are lighter than the 4 strokes and the TE250 is an excellent example, I do insist upon the facts.  It weighs 225 lbs dry.  Add in a couple gallons of fuel and you are close to 237-240 lbs.  Still lighter than 4 strokes esp the Japanese 4 strokes.

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20 hours ago, Edgecombe said:

Why not a good ole xr400? Change the oil and clean the filter, then ride.

There is a mouthful of fact. The old XR's run for decades with little more than routine maintenance. We sold our last XR200 (a 1989 model) in 2010 and it was still going strong. The only reasons we upgraded to the WR's is we were tired of kick starting bikes and because we could. We rode XR's in the trails for many years leading up to that change and loved those old machines. 

One more favorable mention of the vintage bikes: I rode a 1986 Yamaha IT200 2-stroke for my Enduro bike for years and it was exceptional for trail riding. It was amazingly tractor like for a 2-stroke but did lack in suspension after suspension became more sophisticated with the modern offerings. I miss the IT200 and wish I would have upgraded the suspension and kept it sometimes, after a long day of wrestling my 450F.

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Would a XR250R have less maintenance and be more reliable than a CRF250X? I know the CRF250X has newer and better components, but would a XR250R be significantly worse? 

I'm coming to the conclusion that if I want a bike that will let me ride single track at a leisurely pace I should get a XR250R. If I want something a bit more performance oriented I should go with a WR250F (as the CRF250X is more outdated and more maintenance). If I want cheap performance than an old KDX220. If I want race-level performance than a KTM 300XCW or Husky FE250. Would that be an accurate assumption? 

Also, does anyone have any experience with the Beta Xtrainer? Seems like a well spec'd bike at a low cost. 

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21 minutes ago, bob_slinger said:

Would a XR250R have less maintenance and be more reliable than a CRF250X? I know the CRF250X has newer and better components, but would a XR250R be significantly worse? 

I'm coming to the conclusion that if I want a bike that will let me ride single track at a leisurely pace I should get a XR250R. If I want something a bit more performance oriented I should go with a WR250F (as the CRF250X is more outdated and more maintenance). If I want cheap performance than an old KDX220. If I want race-level performance than a KTM 300XCW or Husky FE250. Would that be an accurate assumption? 

Also, does anyone have any experience with the Beta Xtrainer? Seems like a well spec'd bike at a low cost. 

That is a good summary for the most part...the old XR250R's are tanks...the old XR200R's are better for trails IMO.

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25 minutes ago, bob_slinger said:

I'm coming to the conclusion that if I want a bike that will let me ride single track at a leisurely pace I should get a XR250R. If I want something a bit more performance oriented I should go with a WR250F (as the CRF250X is more outdated and more maintenance). If I want cheap performance than an old KDX220. If I want race-level performance than a KTM 300XCW or Husky FE250. Would that be an accurate assumption? 

Also, does anyone have any experience with the Beta Xtrainer? Seems like a well spec'd bike at a low cost. 

What ever you get for trails do yourself a huge favor and make it electric start...kicking bikes out in the trails sucks. AND keep it on a battery tender when not riding, dead batteries suck just as much as kicking.  :ride:

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While electric start would be super nice, any 2 stroke I’ve ever owned once warmed would pop right off when kick started. 

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