To an old-school forty-something who has only ever owned two-stroke dirtbikes, KTM’s 250EXC TPI is witchcraft. Yes it’s a two-dinger, a stinkwheel as Kevin Schwantz used to refer to them, but not, Jim, as you know it.
For a start, it has, erm, electric start. And a sidestand. And an oil pump, so there’s no tedious mucking about with 35:1 premix ratios in a dark shed first thing in the morning. And tickover. But the big, big thing is there are no carbs for the EXC is fuel injected. See, witchcraft.
And for that reason, it doesn’t behave quite like an old-school two-stroke dirtbike either. Yes, it still has the Moulinex power delivery but it doesn’t arrive all in one lump - it’s progressive and there is always something there when you roll off and on and throttle - unless you’re right at the bottom of the range, then it feels like a carbed bike running rich - but it doesn’t do that, it runs lean if anything.
And it’s an absolute monster. But in a nice way, like Sully rather than Jason Voorhees. It will scare you in the beginning but you get used to it. And muscle memory, as you apparently can’t have fat memory, lasts a long time.
It took only a few minutes to get fully adjusted to the EXC and then it was like I had been riding it forever - something in my head that got put away in a cupboard many years ago got loose and it was the most natural thing to ride in the world, even on wet-leaf strewn surfaces.
The rear spins like there’s no tomorrow, and it does it in every gear like a good two-stroke is supposed to, but that’s what makes it fun. But it’s smooth and clean power courtesy of the TPI (transfer port injection) system. The patented EFI system with two injectors mounted on the transfer ports of the cylinder makes the engine much smoother to ride and reduces the fuel consumption drastically - it’s a global game changer in terms of technology and has taken KTM ten years to develop because it had to be right.
Its fuel injection is flawless and a country-mile ahead of carbs which blocked jets and fouled plugs, and generally made life a little less than rosy. The bike makes the meat of its power from mid-range upwards so you need to keep in singing, and that just encourages more behaviour which some people might deem as bad.
The EXC is a not a bike on which you should get your intentions mixed up with your capabilities and to a total novice, it might be slightly overwhelming if that novice is a road-bike rider used to an inline four-lump and the relatively sluggish power delivery that goes with them.
It feels urgent - that is urging you on to try that a little quicker, or with more throttle mid-turn. And the WP suspension is more than up to the job on the enduro runs it undertook for us. There were times where it felt a little soft and a click here and there made quick work of changes. Not that anyone around here is good enough to notice anything significant it just makes you feel more important than you actually are.
It’s confidence inspiring in the way it goes about its business. The EXC soaks up everything you throw at it and more. Byway action was the long and short of our test time as it’s all real world here, kids, (we even buy our own gloves and goggles) and there was nothing it wouldn’t do well– like Rachel in the fifth year at school.
As it’s light so therefore manouevrable, changing ruts at speed is not a problem as a tweak of the throttle is enough to lighten the front but not enough to warrant a rear-brake stamp. Forgiving is never a word associated with two-strokes but this is – it deals with even the most ham-fistedness with aplomb.
Speaking of which, it crashes well. Following a deviation from the photographer’s chosen path, a trip over the bars and two landings (first a bounce, then a thump) on a right shoulder – which put the joint out of action for a week – incurred zero damage for the bike and our wallet, which is always nice.
Although it feels like a two-stroke motocrosser, it isn’t. It has lights and a number plate, so it goes on the road. It doesn’t have indicators or mirrors, so be careful of the increasing amount of hard-of-thinking drivers when making your way from one byway to the next. And yes, you do have to be careful of the Maxxis knobblies on tarmac – they don’t provide a whole lot of grip and that’s because they’re not supposed to.
At the business end of eight grand, the EXC is a lot of motorbike if you’re that way inclined and if you’re not, you need to get with the programme. Injected two-strokes are the future, and it looks like that future is orange…
Engine type: Liquid-cooled, two-stroke, single
Bore/stroke: 66.4 x 72mm
Seat height: 960mm
Ground clearance: 370mm
Weight: 103kg (dry)
Fuel capacity: 9L