2018 Yamaha YZ250F
Words: Chris Pics: Mat
In the battle for supremacy in the 250F class, power is king. The YZ has plenty of it in abundance, but for 2018, has the unchanged machine from the bLU cRU still got what it takes in a hotly contested class? There was only one way to find out…
For 2018, yeah, Yamaha didn’t do anything significant to the YZ250, instead shifting all their efforts to the MX1 class YZ450F machine. It did receive the 2017 factory racing look, with the sweet looking blue rims and new decals on the shrouds. But pretty much, that’s it. No engine mods, no suspension updates. Just the same bike you could have walked out of the dealer door with in 2017. But, make no mistake…this is still a very good machine, with loads and loads of lovely torque on offer.
With no new mods to speak of, a quick run-down on the specifications of the YZ is in order, because what it does have is still pretty impressive. The engine is the Yamaha’s biggest feature that will draw someone into this bike. Laid out in a reverse fashion, the intake comes from above, and fires down into the front of the engine, before exiting the rear of the bike. The header, now technically a ‘rearer’ swoops around the engine 360 degrees and exits out the back through a large muffler. This is a unique design compared to every other manufacturer, while utilising the reliable DOHC set up with two inlet valves and two exhaust vales. Whether it’s the reverse design of the engine, or the internal setup from the Yamaha R&D team, this 250 feels to produce the most torque out of any other bike in its class.
The incredible amount of torque from right down low, through to a massively punchy mid-range is really exciting. The throttle response is light and instantaneous, allowing you to use the power from the engine in the blink of an eye. And as such, the engine allows you to ride a gear higher than other bikes, and short shifting through the gears and utilising the mid-range gets the YZ up to speed really quickly.
It starts to lose ground on bikes like the KTM when you start to get up to the top end and try to over rev the bike. Riding it like a 125 high in the RPM won’t allow you to get the best out of this bike. Riding it more like a 450 in the meat of the rev range will produce not only the excitement but the speed and punch out of the corners without having to rev it to the moon.
Being a larger rider and now eligible for the vet class, this is the ideal engine set up for me, who likes to use the torque to my advantage and not scream the thing down the track. This makes the YZ really easy to ride and allows you to ride relaxed and calm, as you power out of corners and click another gear at about 7500 revs. A great all-round engine that will cater for all level of riders.
While many manufacturers have gone down the air fork route, then promptly returned to the reliable spring set up, Yamaha never took the bait. The YZ250F’s Air Oil separate (AOS) front forks are regarded as being amongst the best in the class and it is easy to see why. Their plush action, ease of use and reliability make them high on the list of racers around the world.
Two Days To Tango
As we received the bike brand new, it took an hour or so to really bed in and start to work well around the track – check the side bar for clicker settings that we found worked best for us. But when they did, the comfort level and planted nature of the YZ really came into its own. We did have the benefit of a pretty well-groomed track at Patetonga for our initial ride and photoshoot, but riding on ANZAC day at Moto Central provided plenty of braking bumps and choppy sections as the day wore on.
The front-end worked best through ruts and tacky ground, getting good traction and pulling the YZ through the corners with ease. When the track started to dry, the front wanted to start pushing through the corner when getting back on the gas. The tyre combo is the Dunlop GeoMax MX52, which works well on the back but not so well on the front. I think the YZ would benefit from running the MX3S on the front as that is a better tyre. It would be one of my first modifications to the YZ in terms of getting better grip and front-end steering.
The rear MX52 hooked up well and the rear suspension, even though a little soft, was very good over the choppy braking bumps and fast sections. I could feel the rear going through the stroke on the larger G-outs but it wasn’t enough to unsettle the bike or make it hard to control. Another testament to the quality of the YZ’s suspension package.
Landing off jumps and drop offs felt smooth and comfortable, while throughout the whole track you couldn’t miss the planted feeling of the Yamaha. Even through it has no electric start, which we expect for 2019, it is still one of the heaviest bikes in its class. Quite a few kilos heavier than its rivals from Austria. But don’t be afraid of weight, because that is where you get that solid planted feeling from. It had great high-speed stability because of this and it doesn’t dance around the track. You are less likely to lose control of the YZ over the rough stuff and it still corners fine. If you have bad technique you might struggle on the YZ initially, but some practice on proper riding style and the YZ can turn as good as nearly anything.
The larger feeling shrouds will also give you a larger feeling when sitting on the bike, but out on the track that feeling melts away as the easy riding and torquey engine more than make up for any downfalls.
Interestingly, Yamaha use an unnamed, third party company to provide the handlebars, which is why Yamaha can run the branded bar pad. Even though it’s not a household name, the bend of the YZ is very comfortable, and with the four-way positioning options, you can get a comfortable set up no matter your size.
Dare To Be Different
The other unique features on the YZ is of course the gas tank and the airbox. The gas tank sits under the very flat seat – which I like by the way – and moves the weight to the centre of the bike to help with that planted feeling. The airbox, which is light, sits up high where a normal fuel tank would reside, and is accessed using Dzus clips for a quick and easy change. This set-up makes the cockpit on the Yamaha very different from any other bike in its class and has the added feature of keeping mud away from your fuel cap and allowing you to get well forward on the bike and get your weight on the front wheel.
The rest of the Yamaha is as you would expect – quality components that work well. The Nissin brakes are strong, the transmission is smooth and precise with a good gearing ratio. I would stick with stock gearing as going up a tooth would shorten the top end up even more and going down a tooth might mess with the already solid bottom end pull. The clutch lever gives a great feeling on the fingers, and the muffler – even though it’s quite big – is tuned perfectly. Don’t be too quick to go aftermarket here either – you don’t want to compromise that great bottom-end.
Yamaha don’t do things on a whim. They are a calculated manufacturer and make decisions purely on performance, not because it’s new and cool. The biggest downfall of this bike is that it is missing that electric leg. For 2018, the YZ450F got the starter button, but is over a kilo heavier than the 450 Honda and over 5kg heavier than the KTM.
Like we said, weight isn’t a huge issue…to a point. It gives a bike that planted feeling around the track, but there is a limit – especially when talking about 250F bikes. We are expecting electric start for 2019, but will that tip it over the scales weight-wise, or does Yamaha have something up their sleeve? It is an exciting time to be riding dirt bikes and we can’t wait to find out.