10 Hardcore 250cc Dirt Bikes For New And Experienced Riders
What’s The Best 250 Dirt Bike For All Skill Levels?
Updated August 27, 2018
Looking for a new 250cc dirt bike? Which one are you thinking of buying? We’ve put together a list of some of the most capable two fifties on the market to help ease your search. These models are great choices for beginners, but they’re also good options for experienced riders – because as appealing as that burly 450cc looks, it may not be the best choice for your riding style. But don’t take our word for it, go out and give a few a test ride – and if you think a 250cc dirt bike is a better choice for you, read on, because we’ve listed 10 of our favorites here for you!
A 250cc dirt bike is a great choice for both new and experienced riders, because they offer the best mixture of power and maneuverability, without having a daunting engine size and overall weight. Why is that important? Generally, if you’re new to off-road riding you should expect to have a few wobbly moments, and drop the bike on occasion…so you want something light enough that you can lift back up, and with enough power to move you and overcome obstacles, but not so much that an accidental twist of the throttle over a harsh bump propels you into the nearest tree at high speed. 125cc bikes are great, but if you’re looking for something that you can ride on the roads as well, without being at the mercy of passing traffic, you’re going to want something with a little more grunt.
What 250cc Dirt Bike Brands To Look Out For
With that in mind, what brands do you look out for? You might be thinking that a specialist bike manufacturer would be the obvious choice. Sure, there are some exclusive brands out there like Sherco, Gas-Gas, or Montesa, but they’re best left to those who know what they’re looking for in a dirt bike, as in professionals with specific needs and requirements. They make fantastic bikes, but while a top of the line trials machine from Montesa looks like an attractive option, consider its practicality, service costs, and parts network…as an all-round, do-all 250cc dirt bike, it’s not a great choice when compared to the offerings from the world’s bigger manufacturers, is it?
And that’s why we recommend the likes of well-established names like Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, and Husqvarna. Not only do they offers a wider range of dirt bikes, from road-legal enduro machines to competition spec motocrossers, they also offer easy servicing, access to parts and replacements, and a wide range of aftermarket accessories too. The best way to search for your 250cc dirt bike of choice is to visit each of their websites individually and scroll through their options and specifications, but to point you in the right direction, we’ve selected a few of our favorite models to help your search along. So, without further ado, here’s out 250cc dirt bike shootout!
10 Outstanding 250cc Dirt Bike Models
#10. The Kawasaki KX250F
If you’re in the market for a dedicated, off-road only, closed course 250cc dirt bike, then the Kawasaki KX250F is worth investigating. Priced at a very attractive $7,749, it’s a model that Kawasaki promise can be ridden straight into a competition from straight out of the box. And we’ve ridden it, and they’re not lying. However, the best thing about this motorcycle is the adaptability and modification that can be done on it. Equipped with Showa inverted forks, a fully adjustable rear shock, an overall weight of 230 lbs and a powerful engine, it’s a great dirt bike for those looking for superb handling and easy ergonomics, wrapped up in a competition-spec package.
The engine itself is a race developed 249cc four-stroke single cylinder unit, engineered to deliver power exactly where you need it and when you need it. Mated to a steadfast 5 speed gearbox that promises bolt action reliability, the Kawasaki KX250F is a dirt bike that needs to be ridden to understand its worth, and we recommend you take one out for a rip. Don’t forget your ear plugs though, because the stock exhaust isn’t exactly stealthy.
#09. The Honda CRF250X
The Honda CRF series is a mainstay of off-road world, and the CRF 250cc dirt bike models are always rated highly. This particular model, the Honda CRF250X isn’t the most advanced machine on the list, but it’s one of our favorites nonetheless. In fact, he CRF250X hasn’t really changed that much over the years, and that’s not a negative point, it’s a testament to Honda’s engineering skills. At the heart of the CRF250X we have Honda’s compact Unicam 250cc single cylinder engine that still brings a carburetor to the fight rather than evolve into fuel-injection, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it allows for smoother power delivery than jumpy like on its fuel-injected rivals. It’s got decent torque in the low revs, with surprising grunt in the midrange, but it ultimately suffers in the top end but that’s fine for a calm all-round machine for all skill levels.
The engine pulls around 29 horsepower, but power isn’t everything. The suspension is great, especially for new riders and while it might feel a little soft in places, it’s ideal for mild rides. The suspension is good, and the brakes are even better, with Nissin units at the front and rear to help get you stopped on time. Other extras include a few plush add-ons, including Renthal handlebars as standard. Not bad for $7,599.
#08. The KTM 250 SX
The KTM 250 SX isn’t for the casual off-road rider, this is a 250cc dirt bike for real enthusiasts that can make the most of the powerful 250cc two-stroke engine, and capitalize on the chassis nimble handling. If you’ve ever considered buying the KTM 450 SX-F but haven’t actually taken one for a ride yet, then hold up, and buy this one first. Offering an incredible power to weight ratio thanks to the engine’s two-stroke nature, and the lightweight chassis, this is a bike that could be used by beginners, but it really should be left to those who know what they’re doing.
It’s powerful, but the power isn’t everything. KTM have equipped the narrow bodied machine with some very nice parts to elevate it to the next level. The most significant of these additions includes the hardy suspension system from WP Suspension, one of KTM’s subsidiary companies, which turn this road legal machine into something more at home in competitions. If you really want to make the most of your KTM 250 SX, then there are no shortage of aftermarket goods to help you fine tune this dirt bike into whatever you need it to be. Prices start from $7,699.
#07. The Yamaha YZ250F
The Yamaha YZ250F is one of the most potent 250cc dirt bike machines that you can buy straight from a dealership, so don’t be fooled by its classic and approachable Yamaha blue livery – it looks like a gentle motorcycle, but it’s an aggressive SOB and needs to be handled correctly. It’s a motocross motorcycle, so it’s definitely not built for the road and comes without all the street-legal goods you’d need to make it so. If you’re serious about taking your dirt riding to the next level and have a spare $7,699 in your wallet, this is a worthy choice.
At the heart of the YZ250F you’ll find a potent four-stroke liquid cooled, 250cc single cylinder engine with a cool reverse cylinder head arrangement that puts out plenty of power in the low revs and tweaked to deliver more than enough throughout the mid and top end. Combined with a lightweight frame and paired with awesome KYB forks up front and an adjustable monoshock on the rear, the YZ250F offers exceptional power but in a highly maneuverable chassis. It’s no wonder that Yamaha have won so many competitions with it.
#06. The Kawasaki KLX250
250cc dirt bike or small capacity adventure motorcycle? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. To some, the KLX250 shouldn’t qualify on this list, but since we consider a good dirt bike to be one that you can enjoy all the time, then the KLX250 is a great option. It’s great off road, it can hold its own on the asphalt, and that’s probably why Kawasaki class it as an adventure motorcycle rather than an out and out dirt bike. For starters, that ultimately versatility and real-world, every day, practicality is why we rate this 250cc dirt bike so highly. Sure, it’s great to have purpose built, competition only machinery, but it’s just as nice to have one you can ride anywhere you like, seven days a week. That’s what should make it appealing to those of all skill levels, too.
At its heart, the KLX250 is powered by a compact and economical fuel-injected engine that offers decent power delivered thanks to quite a responsive throttle, though in truth it lacks torque for anyone looking to do serious off-road riding…and by serious we mean, big-boy-serious off-road riding – but for the vast majority of us, the KLX250 has plenty. It’s also a little on the heavy side weighing in at around 304lbs, but let’s not forget that it’s a capable road bike too, so that explains the extra bulk. We think the KLX250 is a great beginner bike, or an ideal second bike for more experienced riders. And with a price tag of only $5,349, it’s a cheap date.
#05. The Suzuki RM-Z250
Suzuki’s RM-Z250 is a bit of an opinion divider. Historically, it’s a fantastic motorcycle that manages to finish up nice and high in competitions, but there are plenty of riders who have a hard time with it. If you’re looking for an easy, plug ‘n’ play 250cc dirt bike then the Suzuki RM-Z250 might not be the best option out there. However, if you’re ready to go full nerd, trawl through forums, and fine tune the smaller aspects of this bike, then you may well find yourself falling head over heels in love with it. Because properly setup to your own specification, these things rip. In stock form, it’s a decent enough 249cc four stroke dirt bike with inverted forks, an adjustable rear shock and an overall weight of 234 lbs. But it can be so much more than that with a little time and patience.
The handling is excellent, it’s got fantastic rear wheel traction, and the chassis really excels in tight turns over hard ground, and the engine is just as good in the bottom end, and the mid…but it ultimately falls flat in the top. This problem can be remedied with the addition of some Suzuki aftermarket parts and a little tinkering. The suspension, however, is another one. Finding the ultimate suspension setting is going to take a lot of trial and error, but once you’ve found the sweet spot, the KYB units really come into their own. If you want to get your hands dirty, and like to fiddle around things, then the Suzuki RM-Z250 will be worth the $7,749 asking price. If you want instant gratification, look elsewhere.
#04. The KTM 250 XC
There are plenty of motorcyclists out there who insist that the KTM 250 XC is not only the best 250cc dirt bike on the market, but the best of all the engine categories too. In truth, it really is one of those rare gems that excels at whatever off-road job you need it for. Technical riding? No problem. Fast and furious trail riding? It does it well. Can you tune it into anything you want? Pretty much. Off-road, motocross, and more, the KTM 250 XC is a great option. Powered by a powerful 250cc two-stroke engine that can embarrass its four stroke equivalents, and give bigger 450cc four strokes a run for their money, you’ll have a lot of fun with one of these.
The engine is almost fully tunable, with power-valve adjustments, but there’s more to it than the power plant. The KTM 250 XC also comes equipped with new rear linkage suspension, and a cool WP AER 48 air fork up front, allowing for greater handling and a superior ride experience. Fully fueled, the KTM weighs in a 236 lbs, so imagine that powerful two-stroke engine mated to a nimble chassis, and with that overall weight…you’ve got an off-road weapon on your hands. All for a price that starts at $8,999.
#03. The Yamaha WR250F
Similar in nature to the YZ250F, the Yamaha WR250F is another 250cc dirt bike from Iwata, but this version is a little tamer, a little more watered down, and ultimately, a road-legal and more accessible version of the YZ. And while detuned and distilled might not be everyone’s cup of tea, don’t forget that we like our dirt bikes to be as practical as possible, without too much compromise – and the WR250F is exactly what we like. And don’t be tempted to opt for the 450 version simply because this one is a little down on power…oh no, because this enduro machine comes with this warning sentence from Yamaha: “Many riders prefer to punt a 450cc machine in the bush, but here’s the news – most of us would be quicker on this new WR250F…” and if that’s what Yamaha say, well, you’d better listen.
Ultimately though, the WR250F is a tamer and road legal version of the YZ250F, offering more manageable and controllable power, softer suspension, lower noise and exhaust emissions, and all the road legal stuff you need, like headlights, a side stand, et cetera, et cetera. The engine is the same reverse cylinder head equipped 250cc single cylinder unit found on the YZ250F, with a revised air intake, a tweaked frame, and adjusted stability. And most importantly, a slightly higher price of $8,099.
#02. The Honda CRF250L Rally
Next up, we’ve got the Honda CRF250L Rally. Essentially, this beauty is a regular CRF250L dirt bike that has been treated with some awesome Paris-Dakar styling and a few extra goodies to give you a slightly different riding experience. Like the Kawasaki KLX250, this is a bike that also has road riding in mind, but can keep its head above water when thrown into the deep end of an off-road situation. Rather than label it as a 250cc dirt bike, this is more like a small capacity dual purpose adventure bike that just happens to be excellent at everything. We obviously rate it quite highly because of its outstanding practicality.
The engine is a powerful 249.6cc liquid-cooled single cylinder engine that produces a modest 24 hp, geared towards mild off-road riding but with enough presence to let other road users know that you’re there. For light trail riding, a good deal of scrambling, and getting stuck in the mud, the CRF250L is a great choice, for real competition though…look elsewhere. What it lacks in competition specification it makes up for with everyday usefulness, since it comes equipped with LED lighting, dual-sport tires, and the option of having ABS too. And since it comes with a price tag of $5,149, you can buy that and pick up a cheap second hand dirt bike with your change.
#01. The Husqvarna TE250i
The Husqvarna TE250i gets our number one spot for many reasons. Firstly, Husqvarna have put all of their off-road knowledge into this bike, and it shows when you ride it. Secondly, it offers the perfect compromise of road-legal riding and hard enduro style off-road ability. And lastly, it’s a god damn fuel-injected two-stroke, and hopefully the first in a long line of two-stroke engines that could redefine modern motorcycling. The engine itself boasts a set of modern fuel injectors that are located at the transfer ports, delivering the correct amount of fuel to the engine depending on the situation. This method keeps fuel consumption down, and lowers emissions, whilst offering exceptionally smooth power delivery at the same time.
That’s all very well, but how does that translate into real riding? Easily in fact. The secret behind the Husqvarna TE250i’s success lies in its smooth power delivery. It’s powerful in the low rpms, but it also brings some serious power to the mid-range, all without that snap and grab feel that usually plagues 250 two-strokes. And to make things better, the power continued into the top end without feeling sluggish. If that wasn’t enough, Husqvarna have also treated the TE250i with upgraded suspension, in the form of an Xplor fork up front and a DCC shock at the rear – suspension units designed specifically for hard enduro riding that are near impossible to bottom out, no matter how hard your landings. All in all, the powerful engine, light frame, and advanced suspension make for a highly maneuverable 250cc dirt bike, that offers nothing less than the best of traction and comfort, all wrapped into a road-legal package. Prices start from $9,599…