I have been riding a 2010 Husaberg 390 for the past few years and getting restless. I kept hearing of other guys that switched from the big four strokes to small two strokes, some being very happy with 125s even in the woods.
So when I had to get the next size up for my son, I picked up a 2013 KTM 150 XC and proceeded to run it in. Fell in love with it, so much so that I got one for myself as well.
Here's the low down on downsizing to a small two stroke.
Of course I miss the magic button. Of course I sometimes miss the fuel injection and easy-riding of the big four stroke, but I am stoked every time I go out with how light and nimble the thing is and what you can do with it. And... when you get on that gas and the power comes on, it is more exhilarating, perhaps because you have to work for it.
The big four strokes are like cruisers: plenty of power at all times. But they are also big and heavy. The 150 is a full size bike but so light (it is 40 lbs lighter than my 390) and all that weight is up top, not at the bottom. You notice it!
In 20 hours I didn't wipeout once. I find that the bike is so light that you can correct any big mistake easily: change lines mid corner, pull it up over a log. Also, when I blow a corner, it is much easier to stop, won't go as far out as the heavyweight.
Also, I weigh only 150 lbs. Moving on top of a heavy bike doesn't alter its behavior much, but moving on top of a light bike does. So I can actually use my body to a much larger influence on the lighter jack rabbit.
I also get to ride it for longer without getting as tired, since I don't have the extra 40 lbs to tug on. I can do 4 hour rides and still do laps in the parking lot, while with the big 390 at the end of a 4 hour ride I almost pass out :)
The brakes are the same and they simply freeze the 150 in mid-flight... it's that light and this extra maneuverability gives you more confidence to take risks and carry more speed into turns.
Likewise, the 40lbs less help when the power hit comes, with acceleration.
Yes - the little bike doesn't make as much power at the bottom of the throttle - all you heard is right. However, for my 150 lbs, the 150 cc motor has plenty of pull at the bottom to cruise around if that's what you want. It will get boring fast, so you get used to shifting it quite a bit...
When the power comes on though, it makes as much as the big 390: both bikes in fact produce 39 hp - one everywhere while the little bike just at the top, when the engine is screaming.
Don't think it's all bad though - less power at the bottom makes the bike easier to deal with in the woods, as it doesn't pull away any time you roll the throttle. You have to want it to pull away - all that power is usually very close by and comes on quite abruptly.
Don't think it's uncontrollable - there is plenty of warning if you roll on the throttle smoothly. If you chop the throttle, you loose traction. Also, on the KTMs, the power hit is a setting: you can customize it by adjusting the power valve.
Continue to part 2: differences in maintenance and riding technique: KTM 150 XC vs Husaberg FE 390 Maintenance.