ATV TEST: 2020 CAN-AM DS 250

Sticking with sport quad roots By the staff of Dirt Wheels

In the hands of an experienced operator, the 2020 Can-Am DS 250 is easy to ride in a spirited fashion.

Most of us didn’t start off riding fast and agile straight-axle sport quads or exceptionally capable big 4×4 rigs. Instead, we started small. Three-wheels, or four, we began riding on machines smaller than Can-Am’s DS 250. Once we had sure footing and a real understanding of how an ATV works, we could step up to a new realm of off-road enjoyment. The DS is a great transitional machine to allow you to progress to life with roost and wheelies, or a perfect quad that will be fun for years to come. We picked up our $4,199 2020 Can-Am DS 250 and started putting miles on it!

The rider area of the DS 250 suits the tallest riders. Shorter operators may wish the comfortable seat were lower.

READY TO GO

Can-Am offers the DS 250 in a restrained form. The engine sits in a frame that looks like it can pack in a much larger powerplant; however, the 249.5cc four-stroke looks comfortable in it. Fuel delivery is performed via a Keihin PTG 23 carburetor. A choke lever is mounted on the left handlebar to aid the starting procedure. The liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine turns over easily with a push-button electronic starting system and shuts down with the push of the engine cut-off switch or twist of the ignition key. The only display items in the center of the handlebar are a neutral light, reverse light and an oil/temperature light.

Once air, fuel and spark create the fire of life in the DS, power from the engine is transferred through its crankshaft to a fully automatic, belt-driven, continuously variable transmission. Forward, neutral and reverse are your three gear options. You change them with a gated hand shifter on the right side of the 3.3-gallon fuel tank. Once the thumb throttle is pushed open, power transfers through the engine and transmission to a chain-driven, solid-axle rear end. The thumb throttle housing has an adjustable throttle limiter screw built into it.

A slim width of 40.5 inches makes the DS nimble, so it manages tight terrain well. Front suspension travel comes in at 5.5 inches on each side via dual A-arms. Can-Am installed 22-inch front tires and 20-inch tall rear tires on the DS. They offer good grip and clearance.

STAY IN SUSPENSE

Can-am built the DS 250 for riders with a wide range of experience and ability. With that in mind, the suspension system is comfortable and adjustable. The front end utilizes independent dual A-arms with five-position spring-preload-adjustable coil-over shocks. It offers 5.5 inches of wheel travel on each front corner. The rear end of the DS employs a mono-shock with spring preload adjustability connected to a swing arm to offer 6.7 inches of wheel travel. 

The swingarm-style suspension offers a smooth ride in the rear of the Can-Am. It offers 6.7 inches of wheel travel.

The cockpit of the Can-Am is roomy enough for riders up to 6 feet or so in height. For those on the shorter end of the height spectrum, the DS will feel a bit tall and wide. Steel foot pegs with plastic heel guards take care of foot traction, and a hydraulic disc rear brake is controlled by a foot lever on the right side of the machine. The dual hydraulic front brakes are actuated via a hand lever on the right side of the handlebar.

Can-Am also installed a hand-operated brake lever that controls the rear brake, in conjunction with the pedal, on the left side of the handlebar. A parking brake is built into the front brake lever so the DS won’t roll away when left unattended.

The stock grips are harder than we prefer for comfort. There is a choke lever and more on the left end of the handle bar.

TESTING TIME

Our first test rider gleefully swung a leg over the DS 250 and fired it up. The engine produces a quiet roar with the aid of an exhaust that is restricted to meet stringent government standards. Once the machine warmed up, our rider slowly pressed the throttle. For a few seconds, we didn’t think the DS was going to move. The rpm went up, then went up some more, and then the CVT belt finally grabbed and the ATV gained momentum at a slow pace. We were perplexed. The engine should produce more get-up-and-go for a 250 four-stroke. It felt more like a modest 110cc. A little research revealed that Can-Am installed a plastic governor that prevents the carburetor slide from opening up all the way. That’s an easy fix! We do not recommend removing it, but we thoroughly test machines.

We allowed an entry-level rider to take a few trips on the DS, and within two hours she was pushing past the stock power limits, so it was time to liven up the Can-Am. After we lessened the throttle limiter and removed the governor, the DS felt a lot less sparse in the power department. We still believe it is a little underpowered for a 250, but it is smooth and very usable. Part of its lack of output could be due to its hefty 429-pound weight. That is over 40 pounds heavier than Honda’s TRX250X and over 20 pounds heavier than Yamaha’s performance YFZ450R. The rear tires can break loose occasionally, but forward momentum isn’t too strong.

A gated shifter offers forward, neutral and reverse gear selections on the right side of the machine.

Can-Am’s DS 250 has sport-quad-style suspension. The independent front end soaks up chop well, but charging hard into the really rough stuff isn’t going to be the smoothest. A swingarm, straight-axle rear end allows the 250 to slide corners if you enter them at a quick pace, but this narrow ATV requires caution for spirited operation. A tall-feeling center of gravity, and a width of 40.5 inches means flat-track racing may be out of the question. On the plus side, the DS’ seat is on the more comfortable end of the spectrum. We believe that when you are sitting down, somehow the seat magically ads some extra travel to the rear end.

The braking capability is strong, and the front Kenda 22×7-10 tires aid the effort while simultaneously providing traction to turn the machine. The rear Kenda 20×11-9 tires dig well in most terrain. The sitting and standing riding positions are quite comfortable on short and long rides, but the hand grips could benefit from a softer compound.

The single-cylinder 249.4cc powerplant is paired to a fully automatic, CV-style transmission.

END RESULTS

It is quite clear that Can-Am built the DS 250 as a machine for entry-level riders to enjoy our favorite sport, yet it has plenty of capability for the more experienced. The suspension is smooth and supple for most types of riders. It hobbles over rocky terrain, scoots through the desert, and you can play in some smaller mud puddles if you wish. The rider fitment is roomy, and the fit and finish are high quality. If you plan on racing through the woods or barreling down big whoop sections in the desert, this ATV won’t suit you, but if you are newer to riding and just want to enjoy our sport at your own pace, we can’t think of a much better machine to choose! Go to www.can-am.brp.com to check out the full lineup of 2020 ATVs and UTVs.

This ATV has aggressive good looks in the style department. We like the 2020 color scheme.

2020 CAN-AM DS 250

Engine Single-cylinder, OHV, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke

Displacement 249.4cc

Bore x stroke N/A

Startera Electric 

Fuel system Carbureted

Fuel capacity 3.3 gal.

Transmission Automatic CVT

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Dual A-arms w/ 5.5”

Rear Dual A-arms w/ 6.7”

Brakes:

Front Dual hydraulic discs

Rear Hydraulic disc

Tires:

Front 22×7-10

Rear 20×11-9

Length/width/height 72.0”/40.5”/43.5”

Ground clearance 10.2”

Wheelbase 47.0”

Curb weight 429 lb.

Colors Can-Am Red & Black

Price $4,199

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