The latest instalment in our long term test KTM 250 EXC TPI takes us to The Tough One hard enduro in the UK.
The Tough One is a brutal event, this year more than ever on a tougher course that tested even the likes of Graham Jarvis and Travis Teasdale.
Three laps into The Tough One I had a stinker. Four or five minor moments on the KTM 250 EXC TPI had epic consequences – not for the EXC, it came away from yet another hard event with no more than a few extra scratches.
But just by timing one rocky climb wrong, bouncing sideways into a tree off some roots, spinning out sideways across a camber and ending under a holly tree, it all ended up with a rider blowing out of his arse.
Photo Credit: Jonty Edmunds
Lost energy in a long extreme race is like watching money fall down the drain hole. You know it’s bad but there’s nothing you can do – plus it only gets worse.
Which it did, much worse and much too quickly. I went from doing my usual thing ticking away to slogging round looking more like my grandad. I ended the race demoralised and shattered.
This is enduro? Dirt bike life? I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not either but phew, this one was surely a hard one!
Hard Part Bolt-Ons
Parts fitted to the 250 EXC for the Tough One were some old and some new: the KTM Powerparts wrap-around hand guards I used for Ezerberg got a dusting off, same too with the front Kriega grab strap.
Photo Credit: Jon Pearson
The KTM Powerparts front disc guard plus fork leg protectors have only ever been off for cleaning and are still going strong. I fitted a new exhaust guard from KTM on the TPI’s big header pipe.
The stock header pipe has taken a few knocks in its life. Actually it is pushed off kilter slightly and touches the bottom of the right-side radiator. Some dents are looking ugly too.
KTM Power Parts Exhaust Guard
I also fitted a new AXP Racing chain guide. It’s a solid part and did its job keeping the chain on and protecting the sprocket. I had to stick with standard gearing though – the 53 tooth rear sprocket I had been running (52 is standard) was too big and fouled on the AXP guard.
AXP Chain Guide
I re-used a set of Mitas tyres, the EF07 rear I’d used part way through 2017. That previous event was so slick it hardly made an impact but they don’t look so good anymore! The single green band EF07 works well with an extreme (soft) mousse.
Mitas EF07 Tyre
Inside, I ran the Gibson Speedy Mousse mousses front and rear, which have worked well for two extreme races: this one in the cold of northern European winter just as consistently as the warm summer race I did with them last year. (We’ll run a proper tested feature on these coming soon on Enduro21).
Two-stroke or four stroke what’s the verdict?
Running a TPI 250 since the middle of 2017 has meant plenty of thinking time about the two-stroke versus four stroke debate. It’s a debate I’ve had in my head for years.
More explosive power and a lighter front end on a two-stroke? I get that and I love the way it rips up hills like they aren’t there. I felt it from the launch in May 2017 at Erzberg and it remains true with this well-used test bike of ours.
I’m not convinced I don’t prefer a four strokes though – the jury is still out. I’ve spent a lot of time on 4Ts and watching Jarvis turning out on a 250F Husqvarna this year is disproving the theory two-strokes are best for hard enduro – that could just be Graham though.
AXP Sump Guard and Polisport Engine Cover
Something about the long and linear TPI power delivery means I can hit the sweet spot of the power, adjust the revs with tiny differences in throttle openings to find the power and drive up even the biggest of hills. Better with a 300TPI? Not that I’ve noticed I’ve never been found wanting more on the 250.
But up a climb, bank, stack of logs or tyres though, if the back wheel gets spinning, I find I often can’t get it back under control as quickly as I think I should. The wheel spins for longer, even though I think I’ve caught it.
Photo Credit: Jonty Edmunds
In that way the TPI feels different to the carbed EXC250, in my view.
If this two-stroke is going to keep me hooked I need to make it softer at the bottom and thesea re changes which would suit my riding style – they wouldn't suit everyone.
Making the bottom-end of the power delivery softer and more lazy would suit this lazy, ex-trials rider!
I’m still undecided but one thing's for sure, the TPI 250 has put up with a lot this year and never missed a beat. The Tough One was no exception.
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.email@example.com