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YZ250 2T vs. KTM 450/530 4T off road ride report


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Well took both bikes out for a little back to back comparo to really get an unbiased feel of each as a woods bike.

Keep in mind this is a comparison with a steel framed YZ with woods B class revalved suspension.

(prob. a little softer/compliant than a new stock mx aluminum vers)

You could name these bike "exact opposites" because they do the exact opposite of each other depending on speed and RPM.

The bikes:

2002 YZ250

FMF Fatty

13 oz. Steahly FW

Rejetted and retimed

Too Tech woods B suspension

MX 51 90/90-21 120/80-19 tires

Stock gearing 14/50

Stock brakes

2009 530EXC

FMF 4.1 open can

Rejetted/aggressive timing map/desmogged

Stock suspension 2 clicks softer compression/3 clicks stiffer rebound

M12 90/90-21 140/80-18 tires

Lower gearing 14/48 (15/45 stock)

Stock brakes

The terrain varied from single track to hillclimbs to open fire roads to mixed trails with some track like jumps.

Handling

530EXC: First thing I noticed was how the 530 didn't feel 30lb. heavier than the YZ as long as you were moving. (225lb. vs. 255lb.)

This is prob. due to KTM running a slightly steeper head angle.

As the bike slowed down though in the tight areas, if I had to lean it over or do a quick pivot in a tight spot, you then felt it.

Also the 530 sits about 2 inches higher than the YZ.

But not as bad as assumed. At any speed from 2nd gear up, the bike could be thrown around in a way that I forgot it was a 530 4T.

The stock suspension is pretty good. With 2 clicks less compresssion and 3 clicks more rebound,

it was taking everything from rocks to whoops to ruts with no harshness or bottoming.

The rebound is really necessary though because the thing wants to jump back in the air with the stock settings.

On a couple jumps that were the equivalent of moderate doubles on a track, the bike was stable and controlled,

but again the extra rebound was critical. Without it the bike kept wanting to launch me into a stoppie or launch a wheelie after landing.

The high speed whoops really impressed me. I was in 5th doing an indicated

55 mph through a whoop section and the thing just floated through them with no headshake.

The mass of the bike makes body position less critical for headshake (high speed) but more critical for maneuverability (low speed).

So you're moving forward and backwards more at slow speeds and just centering yourself at high speeds.

This is the exact opposite of the YZ. You still move around at slow speeds

on the YZ but the point where it's critical changes to the high speed regime.

As long as you did this it felt like there really weren't any compromises handling wise 2nd. gear up on the 530 in off road conditions.

1st. gear, as long as you're moving and centered side to side, it also felt good.

Stopping in 1st and leaning over required more effort and concentration than with the YZ.

Also compression braking is huge on the 530. Where I'm pretty aggressive with the rear brake on the YZ250 to help it pivot and turn,

you have to re-learn this on the 530 because it only requires a light tap

or no rear brake at all and the bike will pivot and turn as the weight shifts from the compression and big piston.

Again, exact opposite behavior characteristics and techniques.

YZ250: This was funny.

It literally felt like I climbed on a powered mountain bike after the 530.

The thing is so tossable at slow speeds it feels like you just think it and it goes there.

You trade away a little high speed stability to get the low speed handling but each person can tune this to their liking.

My bike is set up for maneuverability so it amplifies the low speed handling with 10mm dropped clamps and 3 7/8 sag.

Also since the suspension is setup to ride higher in the stroke to remove harshness,

this allows a softer compression setting which makes body position more critical at high speeds.

I do this to make the YZ have more of an RM feeling of agility in slow/tight areas.

The tradeoff is I have to be careful in high speed whoops because the bike will headshake if I'm too far forward.

So this is the exact opposite of the 530. Not sensitive to body position at slow speeds and critical at high speeds.

I could still blitz the whoop section in the YZ but my weight had to be back to prevent the instability.

In 1st./2nd. gear single track, the YZ really has an advantage with needing less effort for abrupt direction changes or pivoting.

It was much easier to scrub jumps or pivot turns with the rear brake on the YZ due to this side to side agility.

If you like this technique, the YZ is more fun. If you don't, the YZ requires too much effort/skill.

Some without experience may even miss the advantages of the 2T agility in which case the 4T feels almost as good.

Until you start pushing and maneuvering the 2T harder you don't notice the difference much.

This may be one reason that guys who learned on 4T's don't think 2T's really offer any agility advantage.

Once again, the 2T rewards technique but requires more rider involvement and input.

Edited by carver
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Power

530EXC: Weird. On the street the bike has a definite powerband feeling but on the dirt it feels absolutely linear.

This is because the torque is so abundant when the powerband comes on,

the rear tire on dirt just slips/spins faster regardless of speed and you don't feel the transition.

So at low RPM the motor feels like this monster electric/diesel motor that can't be stopped.

I literally tried to run two gears high up an incline and if 1/3 throttle gave 3000 rpm then no matter what, you were getting 3000 RPM.

Coming off the 2T it almost feels freaky. Wherever you put the throttle, that's the RPM you're getting for that throttle position, period.

Somewhere above about 5000 RPM it livens up and has more of a MX 4T feel to it although it's still more linear than my old YZ 4T.

Probably the easiest engine to ride that I've ever felt. You can be really lazy or screw up and all you have to do is twist and bam, all is fixed....lol.

YZ250: Back on the 2T, the lack of bottom end becomes really obvious.

This is not to say the YZ250 won't lug, it will. But it lugs and you get whatever power it can put out there until you pull yourself out of that RPM

and it can get back on the powerband (or you slip the clutch) whereas with the 530, you can let it drop down to what feels like 1000 RPM

and twist the throttle and lite up the rear tire....big difference.

Another way to put this is you actually have to have better throttle control at low RPM with the 530 and

better throttle control with the YZ250 at high RPM because that's where each engine makes the throttle change have the biggest difference.

This just adds to the idea that the YZ250 is easy to ride in tight, slippery conditions because it's light and the engine won't kill you at low RPM.

The 530 makes you concentrate at slow speeds because it requires more effort and that monster motor will launch you if you grab too much throttle.

At higher speeds the 530 becomes easier as you don't feel the mass anymore and the throttle won't kill you while the YZ gets a little more nervous and

pipey and feels like the 530 did at low speed where you have to pay attention to what you're doing with being on the pipe and body position.

Overall though, once in the 2T powerband, the traditional viewpoint of the 2T feeling more hyper and the 4T feeling more relaxed and lazy applies.

Transmissions

530EXC: They call it a wide ratio 6 speed but it's really a close-wide ratio.

1-3 are close, 4th spaced a little wider and 5th and 6th are wide.

With the stock gearing of 15/45 you can't even shift into 6th at 55mph because it will buck...it's that tall.

With the 14/48 off road first is great and 6th will still do 90+.

For really tight stuff you could go 14/50 or even 13/50 and still have 80 on top with a complete rock crawler first.

Shifting is smooth and solid.

The damn hydraulic clutch has me spoiled now, you almost forget you're using it because it's so buttery smooth and easy.

YZ250: I used to want a wide ratio WR box on my YZ, but now I actually prefer

using the sprocket for the area I'm going to and having the close box.

There were a couple of times on the 530 that 4th was running out and 5th was too tall.

That bike could handle it because of the motor but with the YZ250, not so much.

It's really nice having a close gear nearby all the time with the 2T and unless you're really going from tight woods/rocks to

open desert (rare), imho you can make the close box really nice.

Depending on the riding area I run anywhere from 15/48 (more open) to 14/48 (single track plus open) to 14/50 (single track plus fire road) to

13/50 (tight up to fire roads) to 13/52 for tight rocks/climbs stuff.

Once you get past the idea of swapping sprockets for the riding area you're going to, it's nicer to have closer gears imho.

Overall

The YZ250 has a more exciting/lively/agile feel and you have to be a little more on your game to keep the speed up on it.

But in return, it takes less energy to hold on to and maneuver and has a more exciting/fun personality.

The 530EXC though was better than I thought it was going to be, and frankly if I wasn't so familiar and used to two strokes,

I'd say it was the best off road bike I've ridden. Because the 530 is up about 10hp on the YZ (47 vs. 57) on the top

and probably 20hp in the bottom-mid, it is easier to be lazy on or make mistakes and just twist the throttle.

All the maneuverabilty tricks on the 2T can be applied to the 4T but then you start noticing the effort

over a 2 hour period that you're putting out to push the 4T bike so hard.

So you end up letting the motor work for you and relaxing a bit.

Either way, you won't be disappointed with one if you decide to add it to the stable.

Misc. 450/530EXC

The 450/530 has separate oil for the engine and transmission which is a little bit of an extra step to maintain.

The magic button, like everyone says, is just awesome.

Not as big of a deal on the YZ250, but when you're trying to kick a 500+cc 12:1 piston on a rut infested woods trail, it is ooohh so nice.

The brembo brakes are powerful, almost too much on slippery trails/rocks as they require a sensitive touch.

If you really want to, BajaDesigns makes a rear peg kit for it to cruise with someone.

One of the beauties of the 450/530 is the ability to plate it in California.

So you can Supermoto the bike when you're not off roading on it.

This is an absolute hoot and a half and I may be in Jail by the time you read this.

4th gear wheelies into rear wheel slides into a stoppie is just too much fun! (a 530 holds the off road bike stoppie distance record of 188 feet....lol)

Also, you'll read about people saying the E-start is too weak or the bike is hard to start etc., etc......well, here you go.

004-1.jpg

Edited by carver
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Nice write-up and nice bikes you got there!

Now, the question: Which one you really like most, say in gnarly, tight, technical stuffs, and what mods to either bikes would you add more?

In MX, no doubt, the YZ250 will stomp the 530EXC.

P.S.

Also subscribe to your sprocket change(s) rather than a full-WR transmission mod on the YZ.

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Thanks Chas and la_trevi.

I think the YZ250 requires a more experienced rider to be as fast as someone on the 530.

An inexperienced rider will be faster on the 530 because it is more forgiving due to the

easily accessible power getting you out of anything within reason.

Once someone can use the YZ250 fully, they should be faster on it because of the agility.

Personally the YZ250 is more fun and I like how my speed on it requires my skill vs. just twisting the throttle.

In gnarly, tight technical terrain, the YZ will have the maneuverability advantage but

you'll have to have two stroke experience to keep your momentum up with the powerband.

In other words, most people would be better in a trials situation with a 4T because it's easier to maintain power/momentum,

but most of the pros still choose a two stroke for the weight agility advantage.

You need the skill to exploit it and so it depends on each individual rider and their ability level.

From a subjective standpoint, two strokes are more fun and that's partially because they make you ride harder.

I like the YZ250 better but I like the two stroke challenge, response and feedback.

On an MX track, with a suspension revalve, honestly, I think the 530 could stay with a YZ250 or YZ450 for most average riders say B/C level.

The power is so broad and useable and the bike is only about 10lb. heavier than a 450F that it just needs suspension to handle doubles/triples.

And for lighter riders say under 180lb., the stock suspension with the clickers

turned up to about 4-6 might be ok. I've seen a couple lighter guys at Glen Helen national track with them.

The lights fall off and they're mid pack, but they're pretty darn fast........one guy, as a joke, was riding one

and putting on his turn signals in the turns, lol........he's pretty fast and half the pack couldn't pass him.

Add to that they don't beat you up. You just have to make sure the suspension doesn't bottom over the doubles/triples and

break your wrists or worse, your back. That nice plush suspension is great off road though.

As far as mods go, for off road, the MX biased YZ has the following needs imho:

Important:

Jetting

Timing

Spark Arrestor

Gearing

Oring Chain

Skidplate

Suspension Revalve

Heavy Duty Tubes

Flywheel Weight

Reserve Petcock

Brush Guards

Rad Guards

Foldable levers(depending on brush guards)

Optional:

Thicker nickel plated pipe like Fatty/Gnarly

18" rear wheel

Larger tank

Handlebars/clamps to match your height

22.5 clamps for agility

RB head mod for squish

Rekluse clutch

Throttle cam

Steering stabilizer

Larger footpegs

Fork bleeders

You can also add a lighting coil if you want to do night work.

The KTM comes with much of the above so the list is a little smaller

Important:

Jetting

Gearing

Heavy Duty Tubes

Rad Guards

Foldable levers(depending on brush guards)

Optional:

Larger tank although stock is pretty good

Handlebars/clamps to match your height

Revalved suspension

Rekluse clutch

Throttle cam

Steering stabilizer

Edited by carver
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Man, you have a good way of explaining things in details ๐Ÿ˜

I fully subscribe to what you said regarding well-experienced riders on 250 2-stroke - YES, they keep on winning by the lot in hard technical enduro races (Roof of Africa, Erzberg, Last Man Standing) with their 2 strokes and beating a lot of also experienced riders in 4 strokes.

Thanks for the response.

Thanks Chas and la_trevi.

I think the YZ250 requires a more experienced rider to be as fast as someone on the 530.

An inexperienced rider will be faster on the 530 because it is more forgiving due to the

easily accessible power getting you out of anything within reason.

Once someone can use the YZ250 fully, they should be faster on it because of the agility.

Personally the YZ250 is more fun and I like how my speed on it requires my skill vs. just twisting the throttle.

In gnarly, tight technical terrain, the YZ will have the maneuverability advantage but

you'll have to have two stroke experience to keep your momentum up with the powerband.

In other words, most people would be better in a trials situation with a 4T because it's easier to maintain power/momentum,

but most of the pros still choose a two stroke for the weight agility advantage.

You need the skill to exploit it and so it depends on each individual rider and their ability level.

From a subjective standpoint, two strokes are more fun and that's partially because they make you ride harder.

I like the YZ250 better but I like the two stroke challenge, response and feedback.

On an MX track, with a suspension revalve, honestly, I think the 530 could stay with a YZ250 or YZ450 for most average riders say B/C level.

The power is so broad and useable and the bike is only about 10lb. heavier than a 450F that it just needs suspension to handle doubles/triples.

And for lighter riders say under 180lb., the stock suspension with the clickers

turned up to about 4-6 might be ok. I've seen a couple lighter guys at Glen Helen national track with them.

The lights fall off and they're mid pack, but they're pretty darn fast........one guy, as a joke, was riding one

and putting on his turn signals in the turns, lol........he's pretty fast and half the pack couldn't pass him.

Add to that they don't beat you up. You just have to make sure the suspension doesn't bottom over the doubles/triples and

break your wrists or worse, your back. That nice plush suspension is great off road though.

As far as mods go, for off road, the MX biased YZ has the following needs imho:

Important:

Jetting

Timing

Spark Arrestor

Gearing

Oring Chain

Skidplate

Suspension Revalve

Heavy Duty Tubes

Flywheel Weight

Reserve Petcock

Brush Guards

Rad Guards

Foldable levers(depending on brush guards)

Optional:

Thicker nickel plated pipe like Fatty/Gnarly

18" rear wheel

Larger tank

Handlebars/clamps to match your height

22.5 clamps for agility

RB head mod for squish

Rekluse clutch

Throttle cam

Steering stabilizer

Larger footpegs

Fork bleeders

You can also add a lighting coil if you want to do night work.

The KTM comes with much of the above so the list is a little smaller

Important:

Jetting

Gearing

Heavy Duty Tubes

Rad Guards

Foldable levers(depending on brush guards)

Optional:

Larger tank although stock is pretty good

Handlebars/clamps to match your height

Revalved suspension

Rekluse clutch

Throttle cam

Steering stabilizer

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Thanks lt and hh

Yeah if they were both dirt only the YZ would edge out the EXC, but with the

plate + sumo thing, they are really two very different bikes and fun

to have both of to mix it up and change the ride.

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Good comparison. I think one of the things that could also be mentioned is that you were comparing a 2000 dollar bike with a 5000+ bike. Cheap Mofos like myself notice these things. Actually, after re reading your post, your list of mods was pretty extensive for both bikes. It was longer for the yz, but the exc is the new plated one, and those cost even more. Who knows how much you would have to pay for either one of these things.

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Mike, I think that was one of the cool points with the article, or report. Bikes not really similar, but they get compared. Just like we do in real life. Find a group of 5-6 guys in a group, and listen to them compliment or bash each others machines and choices.

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my 06 yz $5500 new is great in the woods and i can hoist it over logs and such, handling is good once you learn how to weight the pegs. my 2008 450 excr $7500 new the extra weight really keeps the rear planted in the chop but man it's a pig when you have to pick it up or get in a tight spot, rings were shot too at 160 hours. the ktm really does turn and handles better the faster you can ride it. OR SO I AM TOLD. as said 2 different bikes. YAMI for technical woods and KATOOM for the open desert or dualsporting.

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You almost need two or more bikes for different purposes. However, think about the overall cost of multiple machines with multiple mods (c'mon who leaves 'em stock?), and you could almost have the big pumpkin with the sumo kit. Truly could use it for most anything.

Now, if you're like me and ride old, clapped out bikes, you could have a bike for every day of the week! I've got my dualsport (DR 350S...pretty darn good most everything but WOT freeway), my off-road (IT 250, old as the dirt it rides on...surprisingly capable), and my sport bike ('90 600 Katana...plenty fast to lose my license). That's about $4500 worth of bikes...none perfect, but each gets the job done. Now, about that MX bike....

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It's easy to see how someone could question 7.5K for a new KTM 450/530,

but after riding this thing in every possible condition it kind of feels like a bargain.

I mean, it was ridden on rutted out woods, whoops, jumps, singletrack and hillclimbs on Wed. at about the same speed as my YZ,

and did a great job, then on Thurs. with the sumo's on, it was wheelied and powerslided over to Starbucks and the grocery store...lol..

in the People's Republik of Kalifornia no less....legally...(except for wheelie/powerslide)

Also, with the economy the way it is, many dealers will throw in much of the stuff I listed as nice things to have.

Mine came with

2nd. set of knobbies

Skidplate

Brush guards

JD jet kit

FMF pipe

Spark arrestor

Two baffles (loud/quiet)

Bleeders

Grips

Oil

Oil filter

Air filter

Sprockets

And a warranty

All included in the 7.5K.

It starts making sense, especially after riding one in all of it's multiple capabilities.

If someone really wants to save money, then my $2K 2002 YZ250 with $1K suspension/woods mods ($3K total)

isn't a great deal either. A nice '99-'01 YZ250 is basically the same bike and can be had nicely setup for $1.5K easy

and if you look for awhile or the guy needs to sell, $1K. So it's really not about the money imho

but having the ride/characteristics you want and these are all great bikes.

Edited by carver
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It's easy to see how someone could question 7.5K for a new KTM 450/530,

but after riding this thing in every possible condition it kind of feels like a bargain.

I mean, it was ridden on rutted out woods, whoops, jumps, singletrack and hillclimbs on Wed. at about the same speed as my YZ,

and did a great job, then on Thurs. with the sumo's on, it was wheelied and powerslided over to Starbucks and the grocery store...lol..

in the People's Republik of Kalifornia no less....legally...(except for wheelie/powerslide)

Also, with the economy the way it is, many dealers will throw in much of the stuff I listed as nice things to have.

Mine came with

2nd. set of knobbies

Skidplate

Brush guards

JD jet kit

FMF pipe

Spark arrestor

Two baffles (loud/quiet)

Bleeders

Grips

Oil

Oil filter

Air filter

Sprockets

And a warranty

All included in the 7.5K.

It starts making sense, especially after riding one in all of it's multiple capabilities.

If someone really wants to save money, then my $2K 2002 YZ250 with $1K suspension/woods mods ($3K total)

isn't a great deal either. A nice '99-'01 YZ250 is basically the same bike and can be had nicely setup for $1.5K easy

and if you look for awhile or the guy needs to sell, $1K. So it's really not about the money imho

but having the ride/characteristics you want and these are all great bikes.

My YZ is in over 7.5k with my mods but I feel I have ended up with a bike similair to if I called up Yamaha and I said I want 100% custom bike for me, I want it to have A, B, C, D, E, etc and work kickass for only my needs. And I can definately toss my YZ around in the woods way more than my WR450.

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My YZ is in over 7.5k with my mods but I feel I have ended up with a bike similair to if I called up Yamaha and I said I want 100% custom bike for me, I want it to have A, B, C, D, E, etc and work kickass for only my needs. And I can definately toss my YZ around in the woods way more than my WR450.

I believe you covered/justified it all in just 2 sentences man! ๐Ÿ˜

There's nothing like a custom-made 250 2-stroke? ๐Ÿ˜

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I have a very similar setup to you, and I must say, I agree with about 99% of your assesment. I have an 05 street legal 525 with an offraod and sumo setup. I have an 02 yz 250 that is primarily my harescramble scoot. Where we differ is I'm riding/racing gnarly, rooty, eastern style trails , also, I'm assuming your bigger/in better shape than me. I'm a small guy and I'm struggling with my yz toward the end of a race wearing me down even with a gnarly pipe fww revalved susp etc. My exc never seems to wear me out cause you can get "lazy" with it when you get tired and click it up a gear or three.

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I can relate to this write up. I used to own a KTM525 (got stolen) and for the last year and a half have been riding the YZ250 and having ridden both it would be nice to be like the OP and actually own both. Honestly I'm much happier on the YZ with the lighter weight and mechanical simplicity and it seems like the Japanese ergos work better for my size (5-8, 155), the KTM always felt large and a bit awkward handling wise. To me it seems like a full twist of the throttle is about the same on both , which is usually way more than needed for the riding I do (woods, trails). The only real advantage the KTM525 had was on long hillclimbs (almost too easy really), now I'm back to screaming up the hills at 8000 rpms but hey, that's part of the old school fun of the two stroke isn't it.

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I have a very similar setup to you, and I must say, I agree with about 99% of your assesment. I have an 05 street legal 525 with an offraod and sumo setup. I have an 02 yz 250 that is primarily my harescramble scoot. Where we differ is I'm riding/racing gnarly, rooty, eastern style trails , also, I'm assuming your bigger/in better shape than me. I'm a small guy and I'm struggling with my yz toward the end of a race wearing me down even with a gnarly pipe fww revalved susp etc. My exc never seems to wear me out cause you can get "lazy" with it when you get tired and click it up a gear or three.
I can relate to this write up. I used to own a KTM525 (got stolen) and for the last year and a half have been riding the YZ250 and having ridden both it would be nice to be like the OP and actually own both. Honestly I'm much happier on the YZ with the lighter weight and mechanical simplicity and it seems like the Japanese ergos work better for my size (5-8, 155), the KTM always felt large and a bit awkward handling wise. To me it seems like a full twist of the throttle is about the same on both , which is usually way more than needed for the riding I do (woods, trails). The only real advantage the KTM525 had was on long hillclimbs (almost too easy really), now I'm back to screaming up the hills at 8000 rpms but hey, that's part of the old school fun of the two stroke isn't it.

Yeah, agreed, I think what we're all saying, kind of the same thing, is the KTM is easier to be lazy on and conserve energy,

but if you decide to really hustle the bikes around by doing lots of

countersteering/scrubbing/sliding/stopping/starting/pushing on both bikes, then the YZ is easier/less tiring.

I notice that sometimes I'm more tired on the YZ but it's only when I'm going significantly faster than on the KTM.

So I can conserve energy on the KTM (ride lazy) but it's at a pace the YZ doesn't like which makes you push the YZ harder to it's efficient zone,

which to stay with on the KTM, would make you even more tired trying to do that pace with the KTM.

Put another way, at 70-80% of max pace, the KTM is easier because you're not physically

pushing it around and the easy engine torque does the work/movement,

but at 80-100% pace, now you start feeling the mass of pushing the bike around and the YZ starts taking less energy to go that pace.

I'm surprised at how good both bikes are at going fast but they really come at it from two different directions.

One, the KTM, from a motor with massive torque from 1000-9000 rpm that always is in the powerband and masks the mass

to two, the YZ, that rewards a faster pace with lighter mass and better movement/efficiency,

but you have to put out effort to get up to riding that speed, then it's more efficient there.

This is probably one of the reasons some of the top off road riders are going to 200's, and some, 125's.

At a Pro pace, you're trying to conserve energy while still winning a race, so lazy is out and any extra mass at a race pace makes you pay.

I have noticed that since spending more time training/in the gym, the mass difference is less noticeable though.

Also terrain variation makes a big difference. You see videos of "technical" or "single track" that would be almost fireroads compared to really hard terrain,

so depends also upon how much of your body you have to use to get the bike to do what you want from the difficulty of the terrain.

The more you can use momentum/gyro motion/torque to maneuver favors the KTM

while the more you use bodily force/inputs to manipulate the bike favors the YZ.

Riders who are more of the weekend warrior type who like letting the bike do the work will like the KTM more

where riders who like to attack the terrain and see riding as more of a physical exercise will prob. like the YZ more.

Edited by carver
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