VILLOPOTO’S KAWASAKI SR250
Pro Circuit’s R-304 carbon fiber silencer purred like a kitten on Ryan’s
factory SR250. We miss the sound of factory two-strokes at the races.
The factory Kayaba forks have been discontinued for years now. Bones
Bacon had to go on a treasure hunt to find parts to update the settings.
James’ full SR250 from back when? Mitch, Bones
or Ryan did not know for sure, but it probably is.
After Ryan raced this bike at the Straight
Rhythm, we asked him if we could test it.
Ryan agreed on the spot, but he said that we
needed to get Mitch’s approval as well. Mitch
said that we could have Ryan’s SR250 for one
day and one day only—and that he would have
Ryan Villopoto come with the bike. Ryan and
Bones met us at Glen Helen on a Wednesday
to ride the bike. Ryan got dressed and mounted
the SR250 first to ensure that the old dog was
primed and ready to go. He spun laps on the Pro
Circuit Supercross track, which is located left of
the Glen Helen Talladega first corner. The bike
sounded nice and crisp, and we were all eager
to ride it.
We kept the MXA test riders on the Glen
Helen outdoor track to keep them from running
out of talent before the Pro Circuit test track ran
out of whoops. Although the suspension was set
up for Supercross, the faster we went on the outdoor track, the better it was. It was, of course,
stiff, but once we broke through the first few
inches of travel, the suspension was plush and
progressive. Even Ryan was surprised how well
the bike handled on the outdoor track.
If anyone remembers the 2005 Kawasaki
KX250, it was a horrible-handling bike. It didn’t
turn, the rear end was all over the place and the
powerband was all top-end. Ryan’s SR250 didn’t
have any of those qualities. His SR250 tracked
great into the corners, laid over well, tracked
through the apex and exited with precision.
The rear end was planted and tracked with the
front. The characteristics of the production bike
and the works bike couldn’t have been more
different. The benefit of having the unlimited
resources of a factory team is that you can fix
just about anything.
You have to remember, this engine is 13 years
old and based on the best knowledge available
from more than a decade ago. It is often said
that factory technology is about five years ahead
of production bikes, so let’s call the SR250 8
years old. However you slice it, Ryan’s SR250
put the power to the ground with a classic two-stroke delivery that was surprisingly easy to
ride. It was lacking the modern bottom end of
a 450 four-stroke Supercross bike, as Ryan commented, but as an outdoor bike it pulled hard
and long on the big hills and straights of Glen
Helen. To compare, this engine didn’t have the
hit of the new-age KTM 250SX, but it killed it
on the top-end and over-rev front. Although this
was a 2005 Supercross engine, it felt like an outdoor engine more than a Supercross powerplant.
Heck, maybe this was James’ 2005 outdoor
engine. It sure felt like it, but no one will ever
know, as its designation has been lost in time.
Overall, Ryan Villopoto’s Kawasaki SR250 bike
was a blast to ride—unlike our experience with
the production 2005 KX250. It also felt like we
were riding a piece of history. This bike has
nostalgia written all over it. It should be sitting
in a museum somewhere with a sign that says,
“Do not sit on it.” Luckily, Ryan Villopoto wanted
to get it dirty. Thanks, Ryan, for letting us ride
your piece of history. It was one heck of a ride. ❏