AND THE RIDE?
The 250E impresses immediately. Obviously it’s very light, but when you sit on it the suspension doesn’t immediately collapse, the way it can on some soft-spec’d trail bikes. It stays stood-up – albeit lower than your average enduro, the seat height is 915mm, not 950-970mm – and everything about it feels like a regular enduro, the way the bars, seat and pegs combine.
There is an ignition key, though, which is damn useful – something that’s been dropped from most competition models these days (making pub/bar/cafe and even tea room lunches a fractious matter for trail riders) – and given this is a carbureted model it can need a bit of choke to start.
The engine pulls well enough, there’s some decent torque from low revs, but equally importantly the six-speed box is well-spaced and slick shifting. On the road it’s actually quite adept. The test bike came with stock 14-tooth countershaft sprocket (keen off-roaders might seek to gear down with a 13T) and got up to a highway limit of 60mph (100km/h) quite readily. In fact it was quite easy to stop at fifth gear thinking that was the top ratio, given it was pulling fairly low revs and making decent speed; so sixth could almost operate as an overdrive – much better than being short-geared and breathless.
The motor sounded a little like an air-cooled motor (making a metallic throb) when cold, but once warmed-through became quieter and smoother. Its not a revver like the latest 250cc four-stroke racers, instead its best performance is to be found in the low-to-middle range, feeling more like a Honda XR250 of old than a KTM 250EXC-F – which is actually a good thing.
The Fantic held the road well, too, wasn’t skittering at all, despite its light weight and enduro tyres. For daily commutes it would be quite adequate. The saddle was firm, enduro style, but surprisingly comfortable, quite possibly better than that found on Honda’s CRF250L which is arguably too soft for longer journeys.
If there was a sense of wanting more in any aspect it was probably the brakes, both needed a fairly meaningful squeeze to get to maximum effect and the feel was a little wooden. Sometimes a simple change in brake pad brand can make a big difference here, so it would be worth checking out alternative brake pad manufacturers.
The Fantic took to the off-road like a natural – as you’d expect. It’s not going to chase down any modern enduro weapons, it has neither the power nor the suspension for that, but for regular trail riding at steady speeds it was spot-on.
It has quite a spacious cockpit for the standing rider and while at 1.82m (6’0”) I’m usually finding myself either stooped or cramped, on the Fantic there was enough space for a natural standing riding position while the bars were wide enough to allow a properly braced elbows-up stance.
Tight cornering was not quite on the money, though, not sure if that’s due to the geometry or the Mitas front tyre (maybe even the tyre pressure). Most trail riders wouldn’t have a problem here, but coming from razor-sharp enduro bikes there was a slight vagueness that was probably exacerbated by the tricky muddy conditions we found.
However, the Fantic revealed its chops in two particular challenges we encountered. The first was a wet chalk climb (with steps created by wood planks) and here the Fantic tractored up the slippery terrain easily in second gear at low revs (despite the tall gearing). The second challenge was another climb, again on chalk, only much steeper and following deep narrow channels, footpeg high. We were down to first gear on this one, but again the engine displayed a real resistance to stall and would use its bottom end plonk to pull itself effortlessly to the top, giving the rider an easy time.
Bearing in mind the 90kg (200lb) rider, the suspension did a decent job, pitching somewhere near the upper end of trail quality (not quite enduro tough), but given this bike isn’t intended to be ridden WFO through special tests, again it was fit for purpose.