Exclusive First Ride: KTM RC250 Race Bikes

Date :

December 03, 2014

Exclusive First Ride: KTM RC250 Race Bikes

KTM has quickly gained credibility in the MotoGP paddock since the 2012 inception of the Moto3 support class. With 34 race wins and five combined rider/manufacturer World Championship titles already to the Austrian maker’s credit, it’s no surprise to see KTM’s RC250R-based machines become the most common bike on the grid. Recently, at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, I had the pleasure of riding a trio of KTM Moto3 race bikes.

RC250R Production Racer
KTM Factory Moto3 machines are derived from this bike, a $55,000 machine that serves as merely a starting point to go racing. Transforming this bike, with its steel trellis frame and liquid-cooled 249cc DOHC single, into a competitive package requires a host of KTM race kit parts that add another $37,000.

Even in standard form, the homologation special is a potent circuit scratcher with a lion’s heart. The four-stroke single’s 13,500 rpm rev ceiling produces in the neighborhood of 51 horsepower. Equipped with a counter-balancer and 50mm equivalent oval throttle body, this pavement-pounding thumper provides impressively smooth power delivery channeled through a slick-shifting, close-ratio, six-speed gearbox. With its large muffler can and standard two-into-one Akrapovic exhaust (with a dedicated head pipe for each exhaust port) the Production Racer has a bark that’s much more muted than that of the other KTMs I tested that day.

A tall first gear and final sprocket combination calls for engine revs and clutch slip to get underway down pit lane. Once rolling, there’s ample torque throughout the bottom half of the rev range to easily motor up to the meat above 10,000 rpm. A shift light on the dash, together with a quickshifter that allows for effortless clutchless upshifts, help keep the bike on boil. Revs drop about 2000 rpm in the lower gears, and the spread tightens with each upshift. Clutch pull is feather light, and the anti-hop clutch makes smooth work of downshifts, even when braking hard into first-gear corners.

Red Bull RC250RBR Rookies Cup
A breeding ground for talented young riders (age 13 to 18) to develop skills and catch the attention of established teams, the Red Bull Rookies Cup class is an effective first step onto the MotoGP world stage. The bikes they race, identically prepared KTM RC250RBRs in Red Bull livery, have sealed engines that are off limits to any tuning to level the playing field and allow the cream to rise.

The most notable difference between the Rookies Cup bike and the Production Racer is its open-megaphone, twin-pipe exhaust. Stands to reason: The Cup kids are out to get noticed, and the ear-splitting volume of these machines certainly does turn heads!

Another key difference: The Rookies Cup bike has a 500-rpm-lower rev limit that is intended to extend the service life of the engine. On the track, it feels like the engine makes peak power at its 13,000-rpm redline. And since there’s no tapered-off over-rev, it’s easy to inadvertently bump the rev limiter. I am not alone in doing this; I hear frequent engine stutter from the two Rookies Cup racers also testing that day.

With its RC250R 35mm WP fork and single Brembo four-piston caliper with floating rotor, there is a generous amount of fore-aft chassis pitch, a reminder to me that I weigh a good deal more than the kids for whom the bike is intended. Even still, stability under hard braking is superb for such a compact machine, and cornering clearance feels limitless.