With the Grand Prix season now done and dusted the factory kindly offered the Championship-winning bikes to a few slect test riders – and T+MX bagged former GP ace PAUL MALIN. So over to Paul to give you the lowdown on the flying 250 SXFs of Marvin Musquin and Steffi Laier.

250SX-F

Marvin – Take 1

My first impression of this bike was that it had a really strong engine although I preferred his handlebars of 2009. Both bikes came equipped with Renthal but this year he ran the taper version without the cross bar, so maybe not quite the same bend but the equivalent in that shape bar.

Also his lever position didn’t quite feel as comfortable as the 09 bike, thus putting me slightly on the back foot before I’d really got to ride it. You need to be comfortable on a bike, and obviously Marvin is at one with his own set up, but when you ride someone else’s bike you want to be able to adapt your own lever/bar position to feel settled, and this being a factory test, we leave everything as it is; we ride it how they ride it.

The upshot was I needed a few laps to get into it, never really feeling that comfortable on it and as a result, wasn’t pushing like I wanted to and the consequence was that the feeling from the forks was very harsh, almost like riding a mountain bike without front forks … solid is a word I would prefer to use actually, thus resulting with a bit of the dreaded arm pump!! And if you’ve ever felt like Popeye then you also know that every aspect of trying to do things to the max on a motocross bike then go out of the window, and it takes more than a can of spinach to sort that out, that’s for sure!

Actually if I recall, on the hard pack track where we did the test in ‘09, Marvin’s bike felt more harsh than Nagl’s set up, but I thought that as we were now on a slightly softer terrain, the solid feeling would have mellowed off. As for cornering, again due to not being able to push, and feeling like I was wrestling with the bike, I then found my next problem came in the turns; couldn’t attack the braking bumps, couldn’t chuck it in crack open the throttle and go! I would have had an easier time in the ring on WWF night or whatever it’s called now.

As for the power though, in a straight line again, that critical gearing ratio came into play, and third and fourth gears were just sublime. It’s not hard hitting but you really feel its immense pulling power to the point that you feel that everyone is almost at an unfair advantage.

Marvin – Take 2

So, you can probably gather that my first impression of Marvin’s title winning 250SX-F was not exactly glowing, but later on in the day I got another chance to test his trusted steed and my reaction was much better.

The thing is, Marvin’s bike was the first bike I rode, I had to re-familiarise myself with the track having not been there for over a year, we have a limited time on the bike and we’re trying to get images for the feature also. So, after a lap or two I started to push, except I wasn’t quite ready to do so, tried to go too fast too soon, and on a bike that you’re not familiar with … well, you already know what happened.

I was pleased to get a second ride, because now I was warmed up, knew the circuit and had completed more than a few laps. Had I felt like I did after the first session I would have been more than a little disappointed. All I can say is I’m thankful for that second ride, because with the way this bike is set-up with the hard front end, you need to attack.

You have to, it’s a must in order to get the best out of it in terms of realising its full handling potential. If you can do that, and push it, suddenly you feel you’re riding a completely different bike altogether. No more was there a harsh feeling, but instead a bike that was able to soak up all the nadgery bumps that awaited on the approach to the turns.

The other big gain here was that I was now approaching the turn faster, was able to use the extremely sharp Brembo front brake in a way I wasn’t able to before AND I was able to hit the turn, crank it over, get on the gas and get outta there. And here’s another thing; my corner speed was higher which meant that in some cases I didn’t need to drop down to second gear in the turn, I could now carry third and what a huge difference this made because now I didn’t even have to shift mid-turn, I was already there, and going away. And this is why this bike is SO good.

And if I could find this much of a gain from a second ride, imagine how hard and fast the guys that are riding these bike are going and how much better their bikes work for them?

250SX-F

Steffi Laier

Unfortunately Steffi was at the back of the queue when it came to the process of handing out the factory goodies, and as a result was left with the 2009 chassis with PDS, which to her would have been what she was used to. There is a different ignition, and heavier flywheel because she has the bike fitted with electric start so the power is not as strong as the full factory MX2 bikes, and notably so.

With Steffi’s bike the power seemed softer and you felt that you had to work a bit harder to get the most out of it. Also, she was still running the old PDS chassis, so no linkage and again the differences were subtle, maybe not as stable coming into the turns at the rear end, but she also ran a slightly softer rear shock setting so you were pushing the shock through the stroke much quicker, although not bottoming but the ride height was certainly affected as a result – but she is a little lighter than me no doubt and let’s not forget the bike is set up for her.

Like all of the bikes Steffi’s came equipped with a good strong front brake, but with a bit more forgiveness than the factory guys have been using this year and the front end seemed to track pretty good coming into the turns. The lack of punch from the motor due to the electric start meant attacking the final rhythm section before the finish line in the same way as I was able to on Marv’s bike, was a big no-no and as a result lost time through that particular section.

But it’s amazing how much different Steffi’s bike feels now compared to Marvin’s. In 2009 she still ran electric start and so would have had a less responsive engine, but this year the gains on the Factory bike seem to have increased ten-fold particularly the motor. And the overall feeling of the chassis has changed for the better with the new linkage, thus leaving Steffi’s bike feeling a bit dated by comparison, so expect the double WMX World Champ to be chasing a third title with the updated linkage version in 2011.

Interestingly, the MX2 team had the option to run electric start but decided after doing so that it was not for them – and rightly so, and when it comes down to weighing up the options, the pro’s and cons if you like, if you have to tone down a very good, strong engine to make way for an easier starting option as in the electric start then you’re probably going to go with keeping the power advantage all day long, because on this test you could really feel the loss in response and overall the feeling was more of a lazy engine – but hey, compared to the rest of the bikes on the WMX grid, Steffi’s bike was still the strongest, was still a factory bike and it got the job done.

So it’s not all bad!