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Old 06-12-2013, 11:45 AM   #36059
Ronin ADV
Gear addict
Ronin ADV's Avatar
Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Northern Sierras
Oddometer: 594

I have been meaning to write up a comparison of these two bikes for a while and after some recent additional questions from some other riders I figured I would get around to it.

My Bikes:

2010 Yamaha WR 250 R
Engine mods: AIS removal, EXUP removal, Graves servo, Airbox, mod, FMF power programmer
Exhaust: FMF Q4 with Powerbomb header
Uni filter
3.5 gallon Safari tank
Gearing 13/47
Scotts damper
Highway dirt bike guards / Pro taper bars
Armor – various (skid plate, case save, rad guard, etc)
Wolfman racks
Pro Moto billet rear rack
Renazco seat

2013 KTM 500 EXC
Stock engine, desmogged
Exhaust: Akropovic
13 liter KTM (Acerbis) tank
Gearing 13 / 48
Scotts damper
Highway dirt bike guards / Pro taper bars
Armor – various (skid plate, rad guard, header guard, etc)
Pro Moto billet rear rack
Renazco seat

Me: 6’1”, 185 lbs, 46 years old, Intermediate skill / aggressive rider. Dual sport / enduro / trail rider. No MX / large jumps.

Riding area / conditions: I ride in the northern California Sierra mountains. The surface is dirt, gravel and rocks of all sizes. No real sand. Mix of Forest Service roads, overgrown old roads, and singletrack. Twisty canyon / mountain pavement to get to dirt. Most rides 80-120 miles.


As you would expect the advantage clearly goes to the EXC. This bike has tons of power and torque. It will throttle wheelie / loft the front in the first several gears. It becomes very easy to just blip the throttle and get the front up over obstacles at a variety of speeds. The bike idles high by design and can surge a bit in the bottom of first. It really begs to be ridden fast. On the other hand all that torque also allows it to just dig in and tractor up really well in steep and loose stuff. I don’t tend to ride up past 80 on the pavement (mainly due to tires) but I have talked to other 500 riders who have had the bike up over 100 mph.
The WR is a very different animal. First off I did the usual mods to maximize the power. This of coarse is a matter of much debate and many will contend that the mods are unnecessary and maybe even bad. That was not my experience and I feel that the bike felt much more snappy after the mods. “Snappy” of coarse is relative and the KTM is in whole other league. This is not to discount the WR and I think that it is routinely underestimated in the power department. For a 250 it will still get up to 80 on the road and has plenty of power for the vast majority of dirt. It also has really nice smooth delivery of power and I think is actually better in super slow first gear stuff where the KTM requires much more clutch management. Just understand that the WR takes much more overall gear management and on the road you get to WOT pretty easy. It also doesn’t torque like the EXC and wheelies take more effort.


The stock suspension on the EXC was just about perfect for me. I know some guys find it soft and certainly if you are doing MX, bigger jumps, or are heavier that would be true. For the type of riding I do, it allows good control and a generally cush ride.
The stock suspension on the WR is terrible. It had a bucking bronco feel especially in the back. It constantly tried to vault me over the front bars in rougher stuff at speed. After I had the suspension overhauled by Trail Tricks it is a different bike and now has a very cush, controlled ride.
Both bikes benefit from a damper

Comfort / ergonomics:

I put risers on both bikes as well as pivot pegz and replaced the stock seats. The stock seat on the WR was fair, the stock seat on the EXC was a torture device. Renazco seats fixed things on both bikes.
For whatever reason, the WR still feels more comfortable on longer rides. I think part of this is that I feel a lot less vibrations. I can stand all day on the WR but get lots of vibrations into my legs when standing on the EXC. Nonetheless, the EXC feels so planted overall that I feel I can stay in control while seated most of the time.
One other factor here is the weight. I never really thought the WR was a heavy bike, but compared to the EXC it sure feels like one. The light weight of the EXC makes it much easier to throw around and manage in tougher terrain and is overall less fatiguing. After riding the EXC, I really don’t want to ride anything heavier at least in the harder stuff.
A bit about height. Neither is a short bike, and while the WR is tall the EXC feels really tall. On the other hand is has great clearance and coupled with its power characteristics, it is a easy bike for clearing obstacles, logs, etc.

Reliability / Maintenance:

I have had no major issues or failures on either bike. The EXC has performed flawlessly. I do however spend more time with basic / preventative care on the bike. I like working in my shop so this really isn’t a big deal to me. The EXC has 15 hour service intervals and I am careful to stay on top of it. One nice thing about the KTM is that it is so well engineered that it is very easy to work on. There are only a couple bolt sizes on the majority of the bike and it is designed well for easy assembly / disassembly (skid plate: 1 bolt, seat: 1 bolt, side panel: no bolts, gas tank: 1 bolt, fuel line: quick disconnect). You can rack up a fair cost in filters / fluids. The bike however, in my eyes at least, just exudes quality and finish and you can really see where your extra money went.
The WR is also easy to work on and it has the virtue of ridiculously long service intervals. It’s pretty much a gas and go bike and I rarely have to think about checking or maintaining something. Cheap (at least relative to the EXC) and reliable pretty much sums it up.


Which is the “better” bike? I think this question is fundamentally flawed as they are slightly different tools. I like to think of the two as the difference between a racehorse and a packhorse.
The WR is smooth and reliable. It’s comfortable to ride and has long service intervals and a heavier sub-frame. If I was going on a tour or out in the middle of nowhere for a longer time, I would take this bike. Dependable, solid, packhorse.
On the other hand the EXC is a grin producing, powerful ride. It just begs to go faster, to loft the front, to push things a bit more. For day rides, especially in harder stuff (except maybe slow first gear stuff like rock crawling), this is the bike. In fact, once I started riding my EXC I thought I would sell my WR. Then I got back on the WR and realized what a good bike it is. Each has its place and you have to decide what are your individual priorities.
For me at this time, I’m keeping both

(Obviously the above is just my opinion. If you don’t agree with me, that’s cool. Just don’t get your knickers in a twist because you think I insulted your bike.)
2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison

Ronin ADV screwed with this post 06-12-2013 at 01:14 PM
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