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NEW KTM FREERIDE E-XC BREAKS COVER

KTM have pulled the covers off the new Freeride E-XC, with a host of improvements to the bike giving riders even more performance and battery life.

The 2018 Freeride E-XC is powered by a state-of-the-art electric motor which makes  18 kW of power at its peak. The new motor (not an engine as the E-XC uses no fuel) is fitted into a re-designed composite frame that KTM assures us provides even better stability.

Thanks to a new PowerPack battery, the E-XC now boasts a 50% capacity increase, which translates to up to one and a half hours of riding time with just one battery charge. New for 2018 also is the adaption of  energy recuperation technology when coasting or braking for an additional range boost. KTM claims the battery has a quick charging time, too, while also providing 70 % of its initial capacity after 700 charge cycles.

In addition, the nimble little Freeride also scores a new set of  WP Xplor 43 USD forks with enhanced sensitivity, and a new WP PDS Xplor shock absorber with improved progression and adjustment options out back.

Harnessing the newfound power is down to the rider, with  three riding modes – Economy, Enduro and Cross – to pick from.

As an EV, it’s easy for beginning riders to just jump on and have a blast with no clutch or gear shift lever to worry about. Seat height is also confidence inspiring, coming in at just  just over 900mm. KTM hope that this combined with its extreme cross-country agility, will ensure that the Freeride E-XC will be the ultimate electrically powered machine for both beginners and experienced riders.

New bodywork with new graphics, trim and colours, a new dashboard and re-positioned ignition lock provide further benefits over the previous model. 

This latest e-powered machine is part of KTM’s long-term commitment to e-mobility, which began over 10 years ago in KTM’s research and development department in Mattighofen, Austria.

KTM’s CEO, Stefan Pierer says the company is committed to producing further electric options in the future.

“The new KTM Freeride E-XC marks the next step in development of e-mobility within KTM and is a continuation of our commitment to this segment. We know that e-mobility will change the landscape of travel in the future, and our vision is very clear. Looking ahead to 2025 we expect to have a wider range of models available with a focus in the commuting arena. We also plan crossover machines with our collaboration with PEXCO, as well as using our e-mobility expertise in other applications.”

The Austrian brand plans a range of machines for the future including e-mini, and an e-scooter, as well as maximising its partnership with PEXCO with a new possibility to produce crossover products in the bicycle sector. The vision is clear, and by 2025 KTM will increase emphasis on machines from 250 watt to 11kWh due to market suitability and efficiency.

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2017 Honda CRF250R

2017 Honda CRF250R – Singular Philosophy

With spy pictures showing what might be coming next year for the red lites bike, we hooked up a test of the 2017 CRF250R to see if the current model is past its use by date.

 Words: Mark Pics: Alick

 

It isn’t surprising that the 2017 Honda CRF250R has a familiar feel. Why? Well, because it’s essentially identical to the 2016 model we’d tested a year previously. Yep, Honda spent all their resources updating the CRF450R for 2017, with the flagship model being given a complete revamp that saw the likes of a new motor, a new frame and updated everything. So, the poor 250R missed out on the love. But is that a bad thing?

The Package

At the heart of the 250R is Honda’s tried and tested Unicam powerplant, a single overhead cam, 249cc, liquid-cooled, single cylinder four-stroke. It’s not cutting edge, and after Suzuki’s RM-Z250, it’s making the least horsepower out of the current crop of leading 250Fs. But as with many things, it’s not always how much you’ve got but more importantly how well you use it, and the 250R is designed to let you use everything it’s got.

There’s a four-valve head to help the gases flow, and Honda chose to give the 250F twin pipes to keep it in the family silhouette of its bigger brother, the CRF450R. Whether twin pipes do anything to the power is debatable, especially as the Honda isn’t winning any maximum horsepower awards and surely the twin cans add to the overall weight figure of the small CRF which is relatively high at 105.6kilos ready to ride. But they do look cool and there is still something about riding the Honda with its twin shooters out the back.

The last major update for the CRF250R was back in 2015 when it received the handy map switch button, Showa SFF TAC air forks, a larger diameter exhaust, a big disc rotor and a stiffer shock spring. The switchable mapping was a great addition, with the ability to choose between stock, aggressive and mellow depending on the conditions you’re riding in. With maps theoretically able to be switched on the fly, you need to hold the button in for three seconds to get the selector working and make sure the throttle is fully closed, so it’s really a set while you’re stopped scenario. But it’s certainly a useful addition to have and is something most CRF owners would use on a regular basis.

With many manufacturers struggling to get the whole air fork thing working properly (many aftermarket suspension outfits have made a decent job of supplying spring/oil replacement inserts for many) the Honda Showa units show that air suspension can work and work well. With masses of adjustment available via the air valves which control the three adjustable  chambers in the left leg, there’s a traditional clicker adjustment for the damping cartridge in the right. The CRF forks are sublime in their action and can be tailored to handle anything from the Centre Point jump at Taupo to the tracks at your local trail ride. If there’s one thing the CRF250R does excel at, it’s being versatile.

A few other modifications creeped in for the 2016 version, with the piston and connecting rod swapped out for lighter versions in an effort to make the powerplant react faster, while the compression ratio was lifted to 13.8:1 from 13.5:1. Titanium exhaust valves were slotted in place of the steel ones and the intake and exhaust ports were reshaped, with the result being a boost in horsepower of 1.6hp. A resonator was added to the exhaust and finally, the fork legs were made 5mm longer.

The rest of the CRF is standard Honda. The Renthal handlebars are universal across the CRF range as is the aluminium perimeter frame, which Honda have fined-tuned over the years until they got to this point where everyone agrees the little CRF is a dream handling bike. The cockpit itself is compact, especially with the ’bars in the stock position, but that’s not a bad thing as it gives you the feeling of control over the 250R especially if it’s a younger rider moving up from a 125cc machine.

Styling isn’t exactly what you’d call cutting edge, with 250R still rocking the same silver wheels they have over many versions of the CRF range, while the styling is typical Honda reserved. It doesn’t exactly scream ‘look at me’ but then not everybody wants to be the attention grabbing one in the paddock. Kicking the CRF over does, however, make you a little bit more noticeable, with the larger exhaust openings giving the 250R a throatier bark than previously.

Still Got It

Firing the 250R into life, and again it’s nothing new. The kickstart isn’t ornately designed like the RM-Z250 and there’s no electric start, yet. But the Honda does fire into life easily every time after the initial startup which requires a couple of prods of the lever. Choosing which map you want is the next thing to do, with a press of the button showing you which map is selected by corresponding flashing lights. It’s quick and much simpler than changing plugs, and the difference is noticeable out on the track. We’re not really sure why you’d want to go for the mellow map, but standard and aggressive provide smooth fueling and ample power for most occasions.

Being the only single overhead cam (Unicam) powerplant in the segment, it gives the CRF an advantage in some areas but is negative in others. Firstly, power is down, with the Unicam motor not able to reach the heady rev ceilings of the double overhead cam powerplants of the opposition. The CRF produces maximum power of around 39horsepower at 10,600rpm where some of the others in the paddock are making up to  five horsepower more and revving to over 14,000rpm. When you’re only talking about the relatively small amounts of power produced by 250Fs, five horses is a big deficit, as is the extra 4,000revs. In a race environment, you’d think that the Hondas would get demolished, with the competition able to hold onto revs longer without shifting and being able to tap into the extra mumbo. But the CRF has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Safe and steady isn’t always a bad thing, especially when you’re trying to get power to the ground, hit jumps and negotiate ruts, berms and holes, and the CRF cossets the rider letting him get on with the business in hand. Okay, having extra horsepower is nice, but getting power to the ground is what gives you the advantage and the Honda with its lower revving powerplant and excellent Showa suspension somehow manages to find drive in even the trickiest of terrain. The shock received a stiffer spring and updated damping for 2016 and the changes have given the CRF a planted feel, with the rear tracking what’s going on at the front rather than feeling loose and trying to overtake it or step out.

The Honda’s aluminium perimeter frame hasn’t been modified for over three years, and you can see why the engineers have decided to leave it alone with the way the CRF manages to combine light steering with a stability through corners that others can only dream of. The Honda doesn’t get flappy no matter how ham-fisted you are with your throttle action, and on the fast straights there’s the safety net of the Honda Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD) to keep the front wheel pointing straight and true.

Despite being one of the heaviest 250Fs in the paddock (and even heavier than some of the current crop of 450s), the CRF’s kilos disappear as soon as you’re moving, again thanks to the excellent chassis which lets you get away with anything while keeping the Honda stable and steady. In the air the CRF is as controllable as any of the other 250s and the 49mm SFF TAC Showa forks absorb even the gnarliest landings with 310mm of suspension travel.

But it’s the powerplant that most would call into question, that is, before they’d ridden a CRF250R. Okay, it’s down on power and doesn’t have the rev ceiling of the others, but the CRF is still there on a drag to the line, with the balanced nature of the Honda letting you get on the gas earlier and harder than the competition without the fear of it biting you in the arse. The Honda just gets on with the job in hand, it isn’t fancy or do any clever tricks, it just does what it does well. The gearbox needed to be good as you’re shifting more to keep within the meat of the power rather than revving the motor out, but the Honda gearbox is one of the best with cogs able to be shifted at any revs without fear of missing a selection. Once again, it’s been developed over the years and Honda are obviously happy they’ve got it right.

Mr Versatile

Hitting the trails on the CRF250R and you can understand why you see many of these models doing double duty between moto tracks and trail rides. The CRF doesn’t feel sharp and ultra-focused like a race bike, and as such, is a perfect weapon for dodging some trees. The cockpit, and the saddle especially, is comfortable for a day of riding and the planted feeling of the suspension and chassis allows you to ride hard in the roughest terrain, while the squick steering lets you make a mockery of tight single track.

It’s also in this environment that the Unicam motor comes into play, with a healthy low-to-mid range surge in the power delivery ideal for the trails. You don’t want to be screaming around at 14,000rpm to get the most from your engine in the trees, and the power in the middle of the CRF’s delivery makes trail work a breeze. And if the going gets slippery or if you’re riding cross country and the tracks open, well there’s the option of the switchable mapping to alter the Honda’s power characteristics to suit.

Honda Confidence

It might not be the latest and greatest, but over the years of development of the CRF250R Honda have got to this point where it ticks all the boxes, well almost. Okay, we all think we could do with more power, and maybe we’re right. There’s a time and a place where maximum horsepower rules, and if that’s what you’re after, then you need to shop elsewhere.

But with the CRF250R, Honda have proven that the rest of the package can make up for a deficit in the engine department. A solid, confidence-inspiring chassis, great suspension and easy ergonomics all go to make the CRF250R still competitive. It’s just whether your head can cope with the fact you’re down on power compared to the guy pitting next to you. Get past that and you’re going to find the CRF250R is still a competitive machine, which at its current special price of $11,995 means you get all the advantages of great Honda build quality at an extremely competitive price.

 

Honda CRF250R Specifications

Price:  $11,995

Engine: 249cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, Unicam

Bore and Stroke: 76.8mm x 53.8mm

Compression Ratio: 13.8:1

Suspension Front: Showa 49mm SFF-TAC Air Fork 310mm stroke

Suspension Rear: Showa mono shock, Pro-Link Linkage 317.6mm stroke

Brakes Front: 260mm Hydraulic wave disc

Brakes Rear:  240 mm Hydraulic wave disc

Tyres Front: 80/100-21

Tyres Rear:  100/90-19

Rake Castor Angle: 27°23′

Wheelbase: 1,489mm

Ground Clearance: 322mm

Trail: 118mm

Kerb Weight:  105.6kg

Fuel Capacity: 6.3 litres

Dimensions:  2,181mm(L) x 827mm(W) x 1,271mm(H)

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2017 Beta RR 350

The 2017 Beta RR 350 – More Than Enough

In a world where bigger is ‘better’, Beta have come along to stamp out the age-old mantra and carve out a piece of the off-road market for itself in the form of the RR350.

Words: Chris Pics: Paul

 

Yeah, 350cc engines are by no means new to the market. Just take a look at a certain Austrian brand and their very extensive range of dirt bike capacities, including their own 350cc varieties. But that’s about it for the mid-capacity four-strokes, unless you drop down 50cc to say the Sherco or Gas Gas 300. Okay, 50ccs doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s strapped to a 110kg hunk of metal, in reality, it can make a big difference.

In fact, it’s clear that Beta like the beat of their own drum a lot when you see that their range of four-stroke bikes consist of the 350, 390, 430 and 490cc capacities. Not at all your typical engine sizes, but then again, Beta isn’t your typical manufacture either.

Having been in the motorcycle game since 1948, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Beta actually started focusing on off-road motorcycles. Setting out in the trials community where they gained a reputation of producing some of the best trials bikes in the world, more recent times have seen Beta launch an aggressive enduro bike range. Starting in 2005 and utilising KTM engines from previous years to get the ball rolling, they eventually brought everything in house in 2010 when the new RR models were launched.

What’s New

Well, not the chassis, as that remains virtually the same as the 2016 model. But in the suspension department, the Sachs forks have been increased by 5mm from last year to provide longer travel, while some factory fork oil has been used to reduce heat build-up and friction inside. Out back, the Sachs shock has a new high and low speed compression adjustment system designed to give a more accurate and independent feel/change from each other meaning your adjustments to the clickers should be much more noticeable. The newly designed triple clamps are lighter while also being more rigid giving the front-end a solid, planted feeling. And for the aesthetics, silver rims supplied by Excel complete with silver nipples, black spokes and black rim tape are not only lighter but they make the wheel sets look bad-ass, too.

Keeping on the looks theme, Moto1 had supplied the 350 in a custom graphics kit with white plastics. It certainly made the Beta standout, although the regular red is also distinctive. There is a really cool digital meter with a new layout and design, while also having plenty of features perfect for the enduro rider in all of us and even features a battery voltage meter which is a nice touch.

In the power department, the 350cc engine is a DOHC, 249cc single, using a 6-speed transmission and hydraulic clutch. Other cool touches that come stock are wavy discs, a cool black swingarm and anodised cases, push-button seat release, a bashplate and factory aluminium footpegs. It’s a pretty good looking machine with plenty of fruit to back up the look. Another aspect about owning a Beta will mean you’ll probably be the only one in the pits with a 350 RR… for now that is.

Italian Muscle

No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t really need a 450. This couldn’t be any truer right now with the newly crowned overall NZ Enduro Champion riding a 300cc four-stroke, beating out all the 450s and the big bore two-strokes. The Beta 350 is a very smooth ride from the initial twist of the throttle, right through to the limiter. The engine doesn’t have a big punch to it and can feel like it’s taking a while to get up to speed. But it is also quite deceptive in that regard, too, as ground speed does increase pretty quickly – you just can’t really feel it. The speed comes more from revving the bike as opposed to lugging it. It has some good torque, but if you want to really rip you’ll be on the pipe like a 250F.

First gear is super low, and making it excellent for feet-up slow riding like when you’re negotiating tight trails or tricky obstacles. Anything above that and the gear becomes obsolete. The remaining five more ratios up are very well spaced out and you shouldn’t be left wanting for a good selection in any situation. Top gear is quite tall and as such doesn’t do a lot of hard pulling. You’ll cruise like a champion though in quite low revs, and even though it is very smooth, it is still very responsive off the throttle. The EFi system matched to the Beta powerplant works in perfect harmony, making you feel connected to every aspect of the engine’s reactions to your input. Smooth and steady can win the race as they say, and this engine has the potential to make you as smooth as glass, despite your best efforts to upset it.

Still Sorted

In the feel department, the Beta 350 had a real ‘sit-in’ riding positioning to me. I think it’s largely due to the plush, enduro style suspension and the positioning of the handlebars and levers. I adjusted the ’bars to get a roomier feel, but compared to the Beta 300 2T, it still didn’t feel as ‘on top’. The four-stroke is only 5kilos heavier than the 300, but it feels like a lot more when taking it off the stand and manoeuvring it around the pits. Once you’re on the track though, and the 350 loses that larger feeling as you throw it into a sand berm and power out comfortably and in control.

The balance of the chassis and the response from the steering is fantastic – you can flick it from left to right at a decent clip and it will comfortably do what you tell it to without too much disagreement. The bike feels tight underneath you and the frame is easy to grip with both your ankles and knees. It seems to feel right at home in the meat of the power and winding back and forward through single trail and fire breaks at about three quarter pace. The front forks are sublime and eat up the track in front of you, creating a smooth ride and very little feedback through the ’bars. The rear-end follows seamlessly and never did I get the back popping out of a rut, or wanting to come around on me. When you really wind the bike out however, the suspension which has been doing a great job until now, starts to show a little chink in its damping ability. On high speed G-outs both the front and rear will blow through the stroke, telling me that I needed heavier springs for my weight and ability. The rebound and damping settings seem to work well at lower speeds, so some springs will most likely alleviate that issue and lighter riders will probably never experience an issue at all. At the end of the day, every bike needs a certain amount of tinkering to suit the rider, speed and conditions and the Beta is no different. What was really impressive about the Beta is that it felt comfortable pretty much right away. That seems to be the norm for steel framed bikes, with the added flex over an aluminium style frame making the ride more comfortable and less rigid.

Better Beta

For a bike that doesn’t have a specific capacity design and doesn’t fit into the norm, for me, the 350 is where it’s at. There’s plenty more poke than a 250 but nowhere near the bark of a 450, which can quite often get you into trouble. But you’ve heard that already from previous 350 tests no doubt. What you might not have heard is that the Beta is a solid, well-developed machine and worthy of a look in, should you be after a 350 specifically. Especially this model, the RR racing version where you get all the fruit that makes this bike what it is, compared to the stock RR 350. And if you are someone who likes the beat of their own drum, don’t get what everyone else has – go your own way. Beta might be that way if you give it a chance. This bike is more than enough for any off-road rider.

 

2017 Beta RR 350 Specifications

Price: $14,499

Engine: 349cc single cylinder, 4-valve, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, electric start with back up kick starter.
Bore x stroke: 88mm x 57.4mm
Ignition: DC-CDI with variable ignition timing
Lubrication: Twin oil pumps with cartridge oil filter. Separate oil for engine and clutch
Fuel System: 42mm Electronic fuel injection
Transmission: 6-speed
Final Drive: O-ring chain Frame: Molybdenum steel/double cradle with quick air filter access
Front Suspension: 48 mm Sachs closed cartridge fork, adjustable compression and rebound
Rear Suspension: Aluminium body Sachs shock w/adjustable rebound and hi/low speed compression
Wheelbase: 1490mm
Seat Height: 934mm
Ground Clearance: 320mm
Footrest Height: 411mm
Steering Rake/Offset: 26.5degree rake/23mm
Offset Dry Weight: 106kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 7.5 litres

Husqvarna Steps into the Future

Husqvarna Motorcycles recently launched the all-new, fuel-injected TE 250i and TE 300i machines – with the new models featuring what Husqvarna call “unprecedented advantages in terms of performance, rideability, fuel consumption and ease of use.”

The introduction of fuel-injection by Husqvarna into their 2-stroke range marks a bold new step into the future of offroad motorcycling. We can’t wait to get our hands on the 2018 bikes here in NZ later this year!

For all the action from the international launch of the Husqvarna TE 250i and TE 300i in Canada, grab issue #146 of Dirt Rider Downunder on sale Monday September 11 at all good retailers. 

2018 Honda CRF250R Revealed

Just as was expected after images of Honda test rider Takeshi Katsuya riding a strange mishmash of a bike leaked online, Honda have dropped a new CRF250R on us, complete with DOHC POWER!

Honda’s next generation CRF250R is on its way with plenty of exciting upgrades with the wait for this all-new race beast certainly seeming like it was worth it. It’s now rocking Dual Overhead Cams, baby!

The 2018 CRF250R has more engine power, upgraded stability and traction as well as a re-designed dual exhaust and titanium intake system to help get you that holeshot.

The most notable of changes found in the CRF250R are all to do with that new heart between the frame. A new compact DOHC engine with rocker arms, higher valve lift, larger valve diameter and a higher rev limit mean that there’s an extra 5 per cent power-to-weight and peak power at 2000rpm higher.

A new straight intake layout and dual exhaust system further enhance the power and speed range of the entire engine. The dual cannons looks the business too which always helps! Adapting an advanced Scavenge Pump system reduces engine friction and ‘pumping’ losses at high rpm which results in upgraded engine efficiency. 

The chassis hasn’t been ignored however, with the 2018 CRF250Rs redesigned chassis giving the rider absolute control of the new powered-up DOHC engine.

Changes to geometry and dynamic parameters of the frame’s performance should also give the CRF250R enhanced starting performance, front-end stability and rear wheel traction.

The shorter wheel base on this 18YM distributes riders weight onto the rear wheel for far better rear wheel grip.

Weight reduction from a new titanium tank, lower engine mount and lower rear shock mounts give the CRF250R a lower centre of gravity and greatly improve overall stability and offer anti-front end lift.

Front suspension is now steel-sprung 49mm Showa USD front forks and smooth surface plastics make the CRF250R look more like its bigger motocross brother – the CRF450R.

For 2018, the CRF250R is also equipped with a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery. Electric Start is now standard for superior start / restart and recovery especially in cold conditions where the lithium battery can sustain temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius. Notably the kick starter has been removed. Sorry die hard one leggers.

The three engine modes; as with the 2017 model are available on the 2018 CRF250R to maintain its versatility whereby riders can select from 3 different Engine Modes to accommodate different riding conditions and riding skills: Mode 1: Standard, Mode 2: Smooth and Mode 3: Aggressive.

Leaked images of this new machine circulated back in May where the 18YM CRF250R made its race debut at the Japan MX Championship in Hiroshima; ridden to victory by four-time 250cc class Champion in Japan, Takeshi Katsuya.

2018 Honda CRF250R, with a new compact DOHC engine with rocker arms, higher valve lift, larger valve diameter and a higher rev limit resulting in a +5% power-to-weight and peak power at 2000rpm higher.

Honda hopes this redesign will ensure the CRF250R achieves outstanding hole shot start acceleration and provide racers with exactly what they need and makes it Honda’s most competitive, durable and formidable 250cc race machine to date.

We can’t wait for a fang!