i ran my R in the woods for 5 years, i wouldnt use anything else. 2-strokes are ideal for XC racing. they're light weight and very agile. the key to XC is to be fluid. you dont need a broad powerband because you should be staying in a relatively small RPM range. XC isnt smash the gas from tree A to tree B its find the way to be the smoothest from tree A to tree B. races go from 2-3 hours, you need to be fluid to stay fresh that whole time. this is where the weight and handling advantage of the 250R pay off. its no coincidence that the bike pro's still predominately run 2-strokes. find what gearing works for you and your riding style. start off at stock gearing, if it revs out too quick in the lower gears, go up a sprocket. i ran 14:38 with 20" XCR's. a stabilizer is necessary, i think the fast flexx bars are more of a luxury. practicing and getting comfortable on the bike is going to help the most. make a loop with mixed terrain and run it till you cant hold on any more. work on keeping your RPM's constant. work on your clutch control in the tight stuff, and work on being fluid on the bike and the trail. its much faster in the long run.