2018 Yamaha YZ65

Blue Haze

Words: Trev Pics: Paul

Filling the gap, Yamaha has released their ‘race ready’ YZ65 to make sure Kiwi kids first taste of racing can be on a blue machine. We found some willing participants to put the newest (and smallest) Yamaha motocross machine through its paces – on a school day…

If you thought you were already spoilt for choice from the boys and girls in blue, get ready for the newest addition to their motocross range. Bridging the gap between the PWs and the YZ85, the YZ65 is a real contender for the young aspiring motocross riders of the future. There was a rumour around the BRM Towers that a little blue 2-stroke would be arriving soon, so I started to rub my hands together at the thought of checking out the biggest (or smallest) thing happening in the Yamaha youth motocross scene since the last 60cc was made somewhere back when tight jeans were still cool. The YZ65 is packed with high quality features and was designed by the same engineers that bring us the larger capacity machines, so it can be assumed that attention to detail is paramount. Yamaha have really made this a priority and taken all steps to ensure this latest member of the ‘Blu cRU’ lives up to expectations.


The Yamaha YZ65 really looks the part, with YZ450F inspired (race-bred) bodywork styling and shiny, blue Excel® 12 (rear) and 14 inch (front) rims. The only thing that would make this YZ65 look cooler would be a ‘first-place’ trophy sitting on the seat. The proof is in the pudding here that Yamaha really want to offer their customers the full spectrum with respect to product range and have designed the YZ65 to grow with its rider (and we all know how fast kids grow!) The aluminium triple clamps on the YZ65 have two position settings which means that the rider actually has four options as to how the tapered handlebars are mounted. For the smaller rider, the handlebars can be moved down and back. When ‘Little Jonny or Jane’ sprouts a bit, the handlebars can be moved forward and up. The frame is a ‘semi-double cradle’ system, made from steel tubing with a removable aluminium subframe, handy for those who want to learn how to tinker with the rear shock or carb on their bike, which should hopefully keeping the production cost down for parents.

The new 64.8cc liquid-cooled engine is claimed to be the most advanced in its class, with a ‘race-developed’ crank case reed valve induction system designed for instant throttle response. If you can say all that in one breath, then you might also just be able to hold your breath long enough to find out how much this bike will sell for in New Zealand and how it compares to its competitors. The powerful little Premix engine promises smooth delivery and great performance right from the get-go. Low-down torque, potent mid-range and free revving top-end are all available, so both beginning riders and the more advanced can get to hone their skills on the YZ65.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a 2-stroke Yamaha without the famous YPVS (Yamaha Power Valve System). While some ‘power valve systems’ are driven off exhaust pressure, Yamaha had the genius idea to make the YPVS centrifugally driven, meaning a change of pipe, or motor mods won’t affect the YPVS.

The bouncy bits are taken care of with traditional coil-spring 36mm KYB® inverted forks on the front, ensuring a forgiving, yet ‘planted’ front-end feel for confident cornering, and the triple clamps have been designed a little wider, enhancing stability. Being KYB forks, you can rest assured that the race DNA has made it all the way down to the YZ65. At the dirtier end of the bike, the ‘link-less’ KYB Monocross aluminium swingarm gives improved response and comfort, and unless the kids ate too many Happy Meals for lunch, the back-end shouldn’t bottom out, even on the most demanding of tracks.

Yamaha made the rear shock ‘link-less’ to keep maintenance to the minimum, so you can spend more time on the track and not be replacing perishable bits frequently. Both ends have adjustable settings for rebound and compression damping, so you can fine-tune to your heart’s content and also make adjustments depending on those Happy Meals. Out of the crate, the YZ65 comes fitted with a set of quality Maxxis Maxxcross SI tyres, with 60/100-14 on the front and 80/100-12 on the back.


You may ask, “why build a 65cc bike when you already have an 85cc?” Yamaha started thinking about making the YZ65 a couple of years ago to compete with KTM, who have had massive success in the 65cc market for quite a while and wanted to keep their customers’ bottoms on blue seats. The market is maturing (meaning buyers know what they want and are expecting a lot more than before), so to be on top of their game (and the market) Yamaha stepped up and are giving the youngsters and their parents what they have asked for.

This means that features normally reserved for the bigger bikes are making their way down to the smaller capacity machines, such as the close ratio 6-speed gearbox. The reasoning behind this is that the bike can be used on a wider range of tracks, be more usable and last for longer as the rider grows from 7 – 12 years old, ready to move into the 85cc class. As you would imagine, Yamaha have made sure everything on the YZ65 is built to last, with ‘dependability’ being a keyword in their marketing strategy.

The digital CDI ignition and 28mm Keihin carb will definitely be put to the test as the kids thrash it out on the motocross track over the next couple of years. Yamaha Engineers started making the YZ250 back in 1973 so I guess you could say there is over 45 years of experience gone into the production of this much-awaited machine.


As I watched the thick fog hover over the surface of the Karangahake Gorge, I started to doubt whether the sun would make an appearance for our one and only chance to test the YZ65 on a well-designed ‘privately owned’ motocross track just south of Auckland. Appointments had been set and certain ‘youngsters’ whom shall remain nameless, (Jed, Reuben and Cooper) had taken temporary leave from other educational activities to assist us with our YZ65 test day. But as always, we could guarantee there would be at least four seasons today. So, we packed up our brand-spanking new Yamaha, some fancy photo gear and headed north through the fog.

When we arrived we were introduced to the excitable crew. Eleven-year-old Jed Ottaway would be today’s test pilot for Yamaha’s new YZ65.  A ‘softly spoken’ lad who looked cool, calm and ready to rip apart the freshly groomed, private dirt track. And to our amazement, the clouds departed, and the sun began to shine. The family and local sheep came out to watch, and we all got to work while the lads hit the berms and table-tops. The young Jed-i quickly began to display his raw talent and was soon throwing the YZ65 around like an Imperial Trooper.


After numerous hours of clicking buttons, finding vantage points and dodging flying mud, we sat down for healthy lunch (supplied by our wonderful hosts) and had a chat with the boys. Jed thought the bodywork and styling of the Yamaha was cool and it was great that the handlebars could be adjusted so quickly to suit different sized riders. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable with the KYB coil-spring suspension and he started boosting into the air on the Yamaha straightaway – and the boys were getting some really serious air-time! Jed reckoned the suspension was harder than his usual ride, but that meant the landings from the bigger jumps were more controlled, giving him the confidence to jump further.

And with the ample torque being pumped out of the Yamaha, it meant Jed could get the YZ of the sharp corners and into jumps easily without needing to bother the clutch. We could hear the sound of the Yamaha as it approached us, revving much lower than the other bike on the track, but he was still getting plenty of low down torque to launch off the ramps. In and out of the berms, the Yamaha looked very agile and comfortably handled the ruts and tight turns. When you’ve got a young rider, having a power delivery that doesn’t require much clutch use is a distinct advantage as they’ve got more than enough to be thinking about already.

The clutch also felt like it would be good for race starts, and there were no complaints about the 198mm ‘wave styled’ single front disc brakes, either. But the boys did notice that the Yamaha had more of a ‘sit in’ feel to the riding position, something that would be comforting for smaller riders, although the fact it has a long, left shroud and a short right shroud felt a little peculiar to the boys and would take a bit of getting used to.

As the handling and performance margins on the different models becomes so close, the younger riders seem to acquire initial personal preferences on how quickly it takes to get used to a new bike set up, rather than just how different it feels to another model. If they can customise it to suit their height and weight, have smooth, usable power, handle like a dream and last, it’s a winner. Yamaha’s YZ65 is highly adjustable and comes fully loaded, ready to race you might say. Therefore, the YZ65 will tick a lot of customers’ boxes. There may be many factors that come into play to get to the victoYZone, but Yamaha have, at the very least, taken care of one bit of the equation.

2018 Yamaha YZ65 Specifications

Price – $6,799

Engine Type – Liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, reed-valve

Displacement – 64.8cc

Bore x Stroke – 43.5 x 43.6mm

Compression Ratio – 9.6:1

Lubrication System – Premix

Fuel Management – Keihin Carburettor

Ignition – CDI

Starter System – Kick

Fuel Tank Capacity –  4-litres

Final Transmission – Chain

Transmission – Constant mesh 6-speed

Frame Type – Steel tube

Suspension Front – Telescopic forks, 215mm travel

Suspension Rear – Swingarm, 269mm travel

Brakes Front – Hydraulic single disc, 198mm

Brakes Rear – Hydraulic single disc, 190mm

Tyres Front – 60/100-14 Maxxis Maxxcross SI

Tyres Rear – 80/100-12 Maxxis Maxxcross SI

Length  – 1613mm

Width  – 762mm

Height  – 1003mm

Seat Height – 749mm

Wheelbase  – 1143mm

Ground Clearance – 267mm

At A Glance

The KYB suspension is fully adjustable, and you can fine-tune it to how many ‘happy meals’ they’ve eaten for lunch

Dependability is a ‘key-word’ in Yamaha’s marketing strategy

Features normally reserved for the bigger machines are now on the YZ65

Six-speed gearbox makes the YZ65 more versatile

Linkless rear shock for easy maintenance

Maxxis tyres

YPVS – power valve is centrifugally driven

Styled with the family look